The Parable mentioning `The Lord of the Vineyard' - Some further Baha'i Texts and Interpretations.

Supplementary Notes :  The Parable mentioning `The Lord of the Vineyard', Some further Baha'i Texts and Interpretations in primary and secondary sources.

Stephen Lambden UC Merced.

Last updated 10-10-2017,

The Parable mentioning `The Lord of the Vineyard'  and its Baha'i Interpretations.

The `Lord-Owner-Master of the Vineyard' is mentioned in each of the three synoptic Gospels. In Greek this figure is κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος =  ho kurios tou ampelōnos  which the 1611 King James version renders "The Lord of the Vineyard".   As  κύριος  (KJV "Lord") can have the more mundane sense of `the owner' or `the master' or the like, this rendering is very rarely repeated or utilized in current or modern New Testament translations at Mark 12: 9 ,  Matthew 21:40 or Luke 20: 15b.

"What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others" (= AV-KJV) (Mark 12: 9 and parallels = Matthew 21:40; Luke 20: 15b).

Arabic, Persian and other versions and translations of "the Lord-master-owner" of the Vineyard" are of relevance here since these renderings of this phrase within the synoptic Gospels of the New Testament were available to or known by Baha'-Allah, `Abd al-Baha and other Baha'i apologists in the 19th century and beyond.  The Arabic version of κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος ("the Lord of the Vineyard)  by the American missionary Cornelius van Allen van Dyck (November 13, 1895) might first be noted as this translation was, from the 1860s, often cited by Baha'-Allah and much beloved of `Abd al-Baha'.

 

Citations and Interpretations of Baha'-Allah, `Abd al-Baha' and Shoghi Effendi.

At one other point in his God Passes By,  Shoghi Effendi refers to Baha'-Allah with the King James wording as "the Lord of the Vineyard". This especially as Mt Carmel (al-karm = "vineyard" in Arabic) is described as "the Hill of God and His Vineyard" :

"In that same year Bahá'u'lláh's tent, the "Tabernacle of Glory," was raised on Mt. Carmel, "the Hill of God and His Vineyard," the home of Elijah, extolled by Isaiah as the "mountain of the Lord," to which "all nations shall flow." Four times He visited Haifa, His last visit being no less than three months long. In the course of one of these visits, when His tent was pitched in the vicinity of the Carmelite Monastery, He, the "Lord of the Vineyard," revealed the Tablet of Carmel, remarkable for its allusions and prophecies" (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 194' see also GPB p.277).

Mirza 'Ali Ashraf, `Andalib (d. 1919),  E.G. Browne (d. 1936).and the "Lord of the Vineyard". 

From the late 19th century a succession of Baha'i apologists have interpreted the New Testament. synoptic  Gospel references to the `Lord [owner/master] of the Vineyard' as applying to Baha'-Allah, or to Christ and Baha'-Allah.It was thought to anticipate the sucession of religions or `progressive revelation such that various founder prophets and their wicked contemporaries were referred to (see the wider context).

Among the earliest such persons to interpret in the "Lord of the Vineyard references as cryptic references to Baha'-Allah was the learned poet Mirza 'Ali Ashraf Lahijani, `Andalib ("Nightingale", b. Lahijan [Gilan] 1853- d. Shiraz,1919) who had a spirited conversation about the application of this title to Baha'-Allah with the English Persianist Edward G. Browne (d. 1926). He raised the subject of this "prophecy" in Yazd in the spring of 1888. The conversation is recorded in Browne's classic `A Year Amongst the Persians : Impressions As To The Life, Character, and Thought of The People of Persia, Received During Twelve Months' Residence In That Country In The Years 1887-8' (1st ed. London : Adam & Charles Black, 1893) as based on or redacted from his unpublished personal diary written in Persia in 1888. After discussing the Jewish rejction of Jesus and the Christian failure to accept the prophethood of Muhammadm the "Comforter" the dialogue continues,

"Consider the parable of the Lord of the vineyard," he resumed after a while, "which is contained in your gospel. First, He sent servants to demand his rights from those wicked men to whom the vineyard was let; these were the prophets before Christ. Then He sent His own Son, whom they killed; this was Christ Himself, as you yourselves admit. And after that what shall the Lord of the vineyard do? 'He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others'" (Mark xii, 9).

Do you then regard Beha as the Lord of the vineyard, that is to say, as God Himself?" I enquired in astonishment. "What say your own books?" he replied. "Who is He who shall come after the Son?"

Browne was aghast at this seeming allusion to the advent of the Deity Himself and wondered about the intermediary mission of Muhammad. `Andalib  told him that Muhammad came to announce the advent of Baha'-Allah and (contrary to Baha'i doctrine) had it that the Arabian Prophet was lower in status than Jesus:.

"Well, but what then say you of Muhammad?" I demanded, "for if you accept this parable and interpret it thus there is no place left for him, since he comes after the Son and before the Lord of the vineyard." "He was a messenger sent to announce the advent of the Lord of the vineyard," replied 'Andallb. "Then," said I, "he  was less than the Son." "Yes," answered 'Andalib, "he was."

  • `The Dialogue between Browne and `Andalib as registered in `A Year Amongst the Persians'. PDf.

Mirza Abu al-Fadl Gulpaygani (1844-1914).

An extract from Mirza Abu al-Faḍl Gulpayigānī, `Letters and Essays 1886-1913', p. 23ff.

… each of the prophets and messengers has himself stated that he was sent forth and dispatched by Someone Else. Each bore witness to this in his Book and in his prayers, [24] stressing that he was a servant, messenger, a son, Christ said in this regard, behind the veil of a subtle parable:

A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and when into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed, and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, "They will respect my son." But those tenants said to one another, "This is the heir; come let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others (= Mark 12:1-9).

..... That is, the Sovereign of the universe and Creator of the peoples brought the world into existence, adorning it with the most perfect form, and set the human race over it as a tenant. In every age He appointed one of His servants as a messenger to inquire into the welfare of the creation. But the people, ignorant wrongdoers, refused to recognize or accept him, greeting him with derision and haughtiness. Finally, He sent the  [25]  perfect, divine Word in the name of Sonship, and they slew him as well. Naturally, the Lord of all horizons on the Day of Encounter [= Baha'-Allah as the `Lord the Vineyard'] will manifest Himself, and deliver the world, the divine vineyard, over to the just and trustworthy.” ( J R. Cole trans. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, Letters and Essays 1886-1913, 23-24)

Early American and European Interpretations (1890s-). .

Early western Baha'is quickly interpreted the `Parable of the wicked husbandmen' ( or loosely, `Parable of the Vineyard') relative to Baha'-Allah being the `Lord of the Vineyard'. In this they were doubtless informed or  directly or indoirectly influenced by `Abd al-Baha' and Baha'i apologists from Persia and elsewhere. A number of early western Baha'is who visited `The Master' before he came to the West (1911-1913) visited him with many enquiries about biblical interpretation.

Ibrahim Kheiralla (1849-1929).

Ibrahim George Kheiralla was born in 1849 in Bhamdoun Mt. Lebanon, thirty miles from Beirut and died in 1929), His parents came from an Orthodox Melkite ("Church of Antioch") Christian background though he, from its inception in 1866, attended the Syrian Protestant College, now the `American University if Beirut'. Kheiralla became a Baha'i in 1889 and a few years later decided to  travel to America where he came to pioneer the growth of the Baha'i religion with considerable success; until that is, he contested the authority of `Abd al-Baha from around 1900. His often unorthodox or heterodox presentations of the Babi-Baha'i religions and their history, included a good deal of biblical interpretation. His lengthy, 545 page book entitled Behá 'U'lláh (The glory of God) (1st ed.  1900,  Ibrahim George Kheiralla; assisted by Howard MacNutt; 2nd ed, Chicago, I. G. Kheiralla, 1915) contains a preliminary  dedication in which Baha'-Allah is referred to as the `Lord of the Vineyard' :

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Isabella D. Brittingham (1852-1924).

Often instructed in Bible interpretation by `Abd al-Baha' himself, Isabella D. Brittingham  (1852-1924), for example, in her 1902 Baha'i bible-based   `The Revelation of Baha-ollah in a Sequence of Four Lessons' (Chicago:Baha'i Publishing Society, February 1902) several times refers to Baha'-Allah as the "Lord of the Vineyard".  Jesus the "Son" and Baha'-Allah the "Father" and "Lord of the Vineyar" are both referred to in the parable : "in His great parable of the Lord of the Vineyard Jesus Christ renews this prophecy, as found in St. Mark. 12th chap., four parties there being mentioned, two of which are the Father and the Son". Brittingham further taught that Jesus "was sent to preach the coming of the Father's Kingdom, not of His own Kingdom: to announce the advent of the "Lord of the Vineyard." He taught His little band of disciples to pray for the coming of that Kingdom. We find that Jesus often prayed to the Father" (Brittingham, The Revelation, 4-5).

Paul Kingston Dealy (d.1935).

Towards the very beginning of his early 1900s `The Dawn of Knowledge and the Most Great Peace' (composed 1901-2; 1st ed. Chicago: Bahai Publishing Society, 1903; 3rd  ed. October, 1908) another early American Baha'i (from March 1897) and pupil of Ibrahim Kheiralla, Paul Kingston Dealy (d.1935), wrote, "Jesus declared, Luke 4:43, that His mission was "to preach about the Kingdom of God," and all His parables and illustrations had direct reference to God's Kingdom here on earth; that the Lord of the vineyard would come Himself" (1908: 8). A few pages later he cites Isaiah 9:6 understood as a reference to the advent of Baha'-Allah as the Father "the One whom He [Jesus] declared was greater than He [Jesus]—"The Father, the Lord of the Vineyard, who would come and destroy the wicked husbandman who cast his son out of the Vineyard and killed him" (Luke 20:9; Mark 12:1)" (Dealy, The Dawn of Knowledge, 11). The Biblical reference to the advent of Baha'-Allah is the coming of "He, the Father, the Lord of the Vineyard" .. who would come "as a thief in the night" (p.19). Dealy further declared that "through Christ and the Prophets,... the Lord of the Vineyard would come Himself and "make the crooked things straight" (ibid, 13).

Charles Mason Remey  (1874-d. Florence, Italy, 1974)

Extract from an article published in the Baha'i magazine, Star of the West

“In the parable of "The Lord of the Vineyard" (Matt. 21:33) Christ spoke of the prophets of God who were rejected by the world. He spoke of the coming of "The Son" who would be rejected and slain. (Here Jesus was prophesying of His own rejection by the world and of His crucifixion.) Then Jesus speaks of this "Latter day" coming, saying: "When the Lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will He do unto those husbandmen?" "They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruit in their seasons." This is one of the holy prophecies wherein is promised the coming of the Mighty Manifestation of God to the Earth, and the establishment of His Kingdom triumphant upon earth.  Humbly yours in the service of The Centre of The Covenant (Charles Mason Remey. IV:16,  31 December 1913   (SOW - Star of the West, Star of the West -  III:269)

John E. Esslemont  (1874 – d. Haifa, 1925).

Moses foretold a long period of exile, persecution and oppression for the children of Israel, before the Lord of Hosts  47 would appear to gather them from all the nations, to destroy the oppressors and establish His Kingdom upon earth. Christ said: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt. x, 34), and He predicted a period of wars and rumors of wars, of tribulations and afflictions that would continue till the coming of the Son of Man "in the glory of the Father." Muhammad declared that, because of their wrongdoings, Allah had put enmity and hatred among both Jews and Christians that would last until the Day of Resurrection, when He would appear to judge them all.

Bahá'u'lláh, on the other hand, announces that He is the Promised One of all these Prophets -- the Divine Manifestation in Whose era the reign of peace will actually be established.

This statement is unprecedented and unique, yet it fits in wonderfully with the signs of the times, and with the prophecies of all the great Prophets. Bahá'u'lláh revealed with incomparable clearness and comprehensiveness the means for bringing about peace and unity amongst mankind.

It is true that, since the advent of Bahá'u'lláh, there have been, until now, war and destruction on an unprecedented scale, but this is just what all the prophets have said would happen at the dawn of the "great and terrible Day of the Lord," and is, therefore, but a confirmation of the view that the "Coming of the Lord" is not only at hand, but is already an accomplished fact.  According to the parable of Christ, the Lord of the Vineyard must miserably destroy the wicked husbandmen before He gives the Vineyard to others who will render Him the fruits in their seasons. Does not this mean that at the coming of the Lord dire destruction awaits those despotic governments, avaricious and intolerant priests, mullas, or tyrannical leaders who through the centuries have, like wicked husbandmen, misruled the earth and misappropriated its fruits?

There may be terrible events, and unparalleled calamities yet awhile on the earth, but Bahá'u'lláh assures us that erelong, these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come." War and strife have become  48 so intolerable in their destructiveness that mankind must find deliverance from them or perish (Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, p. 47)

 “Christ teaches that the Kingdom of the Father is to be established on earth, as well as in heaven. He teaches us to pray: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In the parable of the Vineyard, when the Father, the Lord of the Vineyard, comes to destroy the wicked husbandmen, He does not destroy the vineyard (the world) also, but lets it out to other husbandmen, who will render Him the fruits in their season. The earth is not to be destroyed, but to be renewed and regenerated" (Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, p. 219)

William Sears (d. Autkin AZ, 1911-d. Tuscon AZ, 1992).

“Bahá'u'lláh pointed to the words of Christ: "For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father."[fn.15] The meaning of the station of the "Son" and that of the "Father" was explained by Christ Himself in beautiful and simple language in His parable of the Vineyard. In fact, the whole history of religion, Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings tell us, can be found in this one parable:

"A certain man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. [229]  And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others."[fn.16]

The meaning is this: The vineyard is the earth, the man who planted it is God, and the husbandmen to whom it was let out are the people of the earth, especially their leaders. The servant who was sent by God to claim the fruit was a Messenger or Prophet of God. The fruit He came to gather was the hearts of the people given in love for God and for their fellowman. They beat the Prophet (servant) and drove Him off. So God sent another Prophet (servant) unto the world (vineyard) to claim His right from His creation. But the people (husbandmen) stoned them, beat them, and killed them. Always dealing thus with God's Messengers. Finally the owner (God) sent his son (Christ) into the vineyard (earth) thinking surely they will honor Him and at last know the truth. But they crucified Him. Thereupon the owner (God) sent the Lord of the vineyard (Bahá'u'lláh), representing the Father Himself  into the vineyard (earth). His Mission was to destroy the wicked husbandmen who did not acknowledge and serve God, and to give the vineyard (earth) out to those who were worthy of the Truth of God.

This is the outward symbol of the inward truth explaining the meaning of a gradually unfolding religion, and of the station of the Son (Christ) and the Father (Bahá'u'lláh). One is not greater than the Other. Both are equal. The fullness of Their Message depends upon the age and the receptivity of the people to whom They appear. Their purpose and spirit is one, Their love for Each other great…     (William Sears, Release the Sun, p. 228)