Dimensions of Abrahamic and Babi-Bahā’ī Soteriology

Dimensions of Abrahamic and Babi-Bahā’ī  Soteriology:

Some Notes on the Bahā’ī theology of the Salvific and Redemptive role of Bahā'-Allāh.

Stephen Lambden UC Merced.

1980s and under revision 2017-8.

IN PROGRESS - Last Updated 06-03-2018

Turn to me and you are saved, all ends of the earth!
As I am God and God alone, I swear by myself. . . that every knee
shall bow to me, and every tongue swear loyalty (Isa. 45:22-23.)
. . . the rules of my religion I send forth to light up every nation (Isa. 2:4.)

I now appoint you to bring light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the world's end” (Isa. 49:6.)

... that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust... ( Matthew 5:45, AV-KJV trans.).

God is kind to all; He is the giver of bounty to all alike, even as His Holiness Jesus Christ has declared that God "sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust;" that is to say, the mercy of God is universal. All humanity is under the protection of His love and favor, and unto all He has pointed the way of guidance and progress. (`Abdu'l-Baha, FWU,  84).

His Holiness declared that the Father "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." The meaning of this declaration is that the mercy of God encircles all mankind; that not a single individual is deprived of the mercy of God; and no soul is denied the resplendent bestowals of God. The whole human race is submerged in the sea of the mercy of the Lord and we are all the sheep of the one divine shepherd (Abdu'l-Baha, FWU.,  105)

 

Gk. Soteria = "Salvation".

______________________

The word soteriology (Gk. sozein = "to save"; soter = "saviour", "deliverer"; soteria, "salvation") indicates the theology of the redemption and salvation of human beings. In Christian terms it is that part of systematic theology which "seeks to interpret the saving work of Jesus Christ" (Hopper, 1992:452). While Christology indicates the doctrine respecting that Galilean messianic claimant viewed by millions as Jesus the Christ (fl. 1st cent CE) and variously estimated as being human yet "God"-divine, soteriology has to do with the saving work, status and influence of Jesus Christ.

Soteriology encompasses such doctrines as atonement (loosely), the salvific consequences Christ's death on the cross and its effect on the past and future status of "sinful" individuals. This is related to the doctrine of justification which has to do with God's act of declaring or making somebody "righteous" through the "righteousness" of Christ" and to that of sanctification (Lat. sanctificare) the making of someone pure or holy. Closely related are questions include those of “repentance”, "sin" and the "forgiveness of sin", the means of grace and man's final individual destiny which constitutes personal eschatology.

These above and related concerns and teachings are central to the faith and attendant theology of many Christians. Bahā'īs, in ommunicating their own religion, their own "theology" of the (Per.) maẓhar-i ilāhī (“Divine Manifestation” / “Divine Theophany”), have, in recent years  done little to articulate Bahā’ī soteriological teachings. In Bahā’ī dialogue the relationship of the seeking individual to God is often completely bypassed in favour of a listing of socio-economic perspectives and global solutions to world problems which (important though they are) bypass the very rich soteriological and related Bahā’ī doctrines. The latter doctrines pertain to and highlight the importance of the abiding search for individual spirituality and intellectual integrity within and without the universe of Bābī-Bahā'ī discourse.In presenting their religion to the general public, contemporary Bahā’īs have generally neglected soteriological scriptural texts. The personal relationship of the individual with God through Bahā’-Allāh and the interior dimensions of the Way to God, are not often in the forefront of Bahā’ī religious dialogue and proclamation. What Baha’-Allāh has accomplished for collective or individual salvation, for the redemption of humankind, is not frequently articulated even though Baha’-Allāh himself frequently voiced these teachings in innumerable scriptural alwāḥ (“Tablets”) addressed to a wide variety of individuals, groups and nations.

For several decades,  presentations of Bahā’ī doctrine have frequently been impersonal and socio-economically oriented; sometimes almost soulless and lacking in the deep and mystical truths. Varieties of the `twelve principles’ (important thought they undoubtedly are) are often selectively set forth in a depersonalized manner. This is unfortunate.Bahā’ī theological issues need much more scholarly attention.Bahā’ī dialogue sometimes appears too cerebral or impersonal. The desire not to appear "evangelical" or to act like "born-again" Christian preachers has consciously or unconsciously left many western Bahā’ī communities unable to highlight the theology of the inner path of the individual.

There is, a good deal in Bahā’ī sacred scripture that bears upon the question of individual and collective salvation. The purpose of these notes will be to highlight, and in a tentative manner explore, some neglected soteriological-theological areas of Bahā’ī doctrine. Bahā’īs need not be intimidated by the `born-again’ style, the salvation-soteriological language of evangelical Christians. As it is the case that "In, Protestantism, salvation is conceived basically in terms of a restoration of a broken personal relationship [with CHRIST / GOD]" (Harvey 1964:192), Bahā’īs would do well to assure their audience of the claim to a renewal of personal relationships with God through Bahā’-Allāh. This eschatological relationship is a renewal of a relationship with all past founder prophets, divine messengers or manifestations of God. One cannot adequately believe  in Baha'-Allah and be abstracted from the past and ongoing salvific roles of the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab and many more besides.  Like Christ, the founder of the Baha'i religion offered personal salvation to his devotees though servitude to humanity in faith and spirituality. Bahā’ī soteriology is closely related to Islamic – especially Shī`ī-Shaykhī -- theology and soteriology,  Islamic soteriology. 

Bahā’ī soteriology has its most central roots in Islam or more specifically in Shī`ī-Shaykhī Islam as it was expressed in 19th century Qajar Persia and transformed by the Bab. Concern with "sin" and personal salvation are not very marked in Islam though the Qur'ān does include soteriological terminology and Shī`ī Muslims make much of the salvific importance of the immaculate persons of the (Twelver) Imams who are the loci of salvation and wilaya (providential guidance and grace). The doctrine of 'original sin' which became central to Christian thought from the early centuries via the thought of Tertullian (d.c. 180 CE), Augustine (d. 430 CE) and others, was never adopted within the Qur'ān or mainstream Islamic thought.  Muslims adopted and sometimes articulated a concept of fiṭrah (a qur'ānic term see Q. ADD) meaning (loosely) "innate nature", the pristine, individual proto-faith infused status of humans at the genesis of their existence. This concept was generally adopted in line with various Qur'an texts and ḥadīth statements attributed to the Prophet or the Shī`ī Imams.  Repentance (tawbah) and the striving for ethical and moral self-improvement is central to Islamic spirituality as it is to Babi and Baha'i spirituality.

Baha'is believe on the basis of the teachings of the central figures of their religion,  that every human being is born pure and without any taint of so-called `original sin' (not directly a biblical concept). All human beings are born unique and given special, potential  gifts by God which they must strive to discover and express in this world as a preparation for those after death.His or her eessence or immaterial and immortal soul (nafs/ruh) will live on forever in an endless succession of the infinite worlds of God.  The "spiritual "world" they inhabit and the form they assume therein, will be in accordance with their inner condition and their varying receptivity to the grace of God channeled through his divine manifestations (mazhar-i ilahi) and other exalted angelic souls.  Individual themselves are the generators of their worldly and after worldly  "heaven" and "hell" which are not  actual terrestrial or celestial locations. All have some measure of "good" (heavenly) and bad (hellish) qualities. There is no end to human progress and perfection. Salvation is for all eternity something otherworldly; something never completely realized though its foundation is regarded by Baha'is as  that religious "faith" which is centered in wisdom, service to humanity, spirituality and good deeds. It presupposes a relationship with that holy or sacred dimensions, with transcendent and ultimately apophatic Reality, sometimes inadequately gendered  as "He", "She" or "It" as the Deity or Godhead.

The Concept of Salvation (Najat) in the Qur'an and Select Islamic Traditions.

From the Arabic triliteral root N-J-W comes the verb نجا najā / (II) najjā = "to escape, be delivered" while from the verb is formed
the noun نجاة najāt = "deliverance”, “salvation". This verbal noun najāt ("salvation") occurs only once in the Qur'ān. God, through the Prophet Muhammad, calls the people "to salvation" while they call him "to the Fire" of hell (Qur'ān 40:41[44]). The verb najjā ("to deliver, rescue…), however, is quite common occurring around 40 times (see Kassis, 837-839). This doubtless reflects the Christian rooted concern with issues soteriological.

Shī`ī Soteriology

In Imami Shī`ī Islam, the recognition of the divinely appointed Imam is viewed as fundamental to the wellbeing of humanity and to the attainment of individual salvation. Individual salvation demands recognition of the locus of Reality in the person of the successors of the Prophet Muhammad who are known as the Imams; for twelver Shī`ī Muslims the line of twelve Imams extending from the first Imam `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661) up till the awaited twelfth messianic Imam or Qā’im (“Ariser”), named Imam Muhammad al-Mahdī believd to have been born in the mid 8th century CE and existing today in ghaybat (“occultation”) pending his Christ-like eschatological second coming or “return”. In the oration ascribed to the first Shī`ī Imam and fourth Sunnī Caliph, `Alī son of Abū Ṭālib known as the Khuṭbah al-ṭutunjiyya (“Sermon of the Gulf”), a distinctly Shī`ī soteriology is expressed in the following third paragraph:

O People! turn ye repentantly unto my party (shi`ah, Shī`ī Islam) and adhere to a pledge of fealty unto me. Be persistent in the [Imami Shī`ī] religion (al-dīn) with the excellence of certainty (bi-ḥusn al-yaqīn). Adhere steadfastly to the successor [legatee] (waṣī) [= Imam `Alī himself] of your Prophet (nabī, Muhammad) through whom is your salvation (najat). By virtue of his love (ḥubb),on the [eschatological] Day of Assembling (yawn al-hashr), is your safe haven  [place of salvation] (manjāt)” (K-ṭutunjiyya cited Rajab al-Bursī, Mashāriq anwār, 166).

Having said this `Alī, as the locus of wilaya or providential salvation through intimacy with God, makes numerous elevated claims. They include a Christ-like `I am’ saying rooted in the Gospel of John:

فأنا الامل والمأمول

“I am the hope and I am the One hoped for (cf. Q. 15:3; 18:46).

انا الواقف على الطتنجين

I am the one who is stationed over the two Gulfs (wāqif `alā al-ṭutunjayn)

I am the one who beholds the "two Easts" and the "two Wests"

(al-maghribayn wa'l-mashriqayn) (cf. Q. 55:17)….

اناعليوثوثا

“I am the Truth”

 `-L-Y-U-TH-U-TH-A

= Gk. Έγç ..[ή] άλήθgια , ego eimi aletheia ) (John 14:6a).

The Baha'i Doctrine of the continuing  Salvific Potency of past,  pre-Babi-Baha'i Religions

Early Qajar dialogue and Christian soteriology.

In the early-mid Qajar period a number of European Protestant missionaries and orientalists wrote anti-Islamic tracts in which Muhammad and the Qur’an were denigrated and the need for salvation through Christ alone underlined. Henry Martyn (d. 1812) the English translator of the New Testament into Persian and the German polemicist Carl Gottlieb Pfander (c.1805-1865) in particular, penned several works in which evangelical Jesus-centered Christian perspectives about sin, salvation and judgment, were propagated amidst anti-Islamic polemic. Translated early into Persian (1831) and other languages, the latter’s Miftāḥ al-asrār (“Keys to the mysteries”) was very much on these lines and called for Shī`ī responses as did Pfander’s better known Mīzān al-ḥaqq (The Balance of Truth) (Persian, 1836,1839…). Shī`ī mujtahids responded with treatises about the taḥrīf (“corruption”) of the Bible and the importance of imamocentric faith and salvation through the Islamic wilāya (“providence”) centered in the Prophet Muhammad and his infallible successors the rightly guided Imams.
ADD

Bābī-Bahā’ī Soteriology.

This word نجات "salvation" (Ar. najat) and related Arabic and Persian words are very much present in the voluminous Arabic and Persian Bābī and Bahā’ī scripture. In fact the presence of weightly soteriological concepts consonant with a new era of judgment and divine guidance are common. A few examples from the writings of the Bāb and Bahā’-Allāh will follow with occasional notes.

Select Passages from the writings of the Bāb,

The writings of the Bab are addressed to all humanity, all nations of the world and of the cosmos and spiritual worlds beyond. This is clear from the persons addressed in the very early Qayyum al-asma' (mid. 1844) or Tafsir Surat Yusuf  (Commentary on the Surah of Joseph) :

"God hath written salvation (al-najāt) for such as ride the Ark (al-fulk) with you" (QA 68:275. cf. Qur'ān 7:62[64];10:73 [74];26:119),

In Persian Bayān V:5 we read,

"Seek ye refuge in God from whatsoever might lead you astray from the Source of His Revelation and hold fast unto His Cord, for whoso holdeth fast unto His allegiance, he hath attained and will attain salvation (najāt) in all the worlds" (Per. 58-9; trans. SWB: 85)

The Persian Bayān of the Bāb has clear soteriological dimensions…

ADD EGB Index LXXXIX Salvation : "action in accordance with the precepts of the Bayān suffices to secure --  [salvation] of the Day of Resurrection, VI,8; what ----is VI,15; how good ---- is, VII,2." ibid, p.LVII on Bāb: "salvation is obtained by belief in him V,11.

“Now consider the Revelation of the Bayan. If the followers of the Qur'án had applied to themselves proofs similar to those which they advance for the non-believers in Islam, not a single soul would have remained deprived of the Truth, and on the Day of Resurrection everyone would have attained salvation” (the Bab, SWB: 119)

In the above extract, as elsewhere in his writings, the Bāb makes acceptance of his person and revelation the key to eschatological salvation.

Select Alwāḥ (Scriptural Tablets) of Bahā’-Allāh and writings/speeches of `Abd al-Baha'.

In part due to Shī`ī and Christian influences, soteriological language and motifs are quite common in the numerous Arabic and
Persian alwāḥ (scriptural Tablets) of Bahā’-Allāh. In his Lawḥ-i iḥtirāq “ (The Tablet of Conflagration”), popularly known as the  “Fire Tablet”, for example, Bahā’-Allāh utilizes the motif of the “Ark of salvation” when he supplicates God during a period of extreme difficulty (the during the early Acre or West Galilean period c. 1871-2):

“Bahá is drowning in a sea of tribulation:

Where is the Ark of Thy salvation O Saviour of the worlds?”

The Lawḥ-i Haft Pursish (Tablet of the Seven Questions)

O [Zoroastrian] HIGH priests! Ears have been given you that they may hearken unto the mystery of Him Who is the Self-Dependent, and eyes that they may behold Him. Wherefore flee ye? The Incomparable Friend is manifest. He speaketh that wherein lieth salvation. Were ye, O high priests, to discover the perfume of the rose-garden of understanding, ye would seek none other but Him, and would recognize, in His new vesture, the All-Wise and Peerless One, and would turn your eyes from the world and all who seek it, and would arise to help Him. (Baha'u'llah, The Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, p. 105-6).

In his Lawḥ-i Haft Pursish (Tablet of the Seven Questions) addressed to the Zoroastrian Ustād Javān Mard, "salvation" (najat) is related to that "wisdom" which is born of spiritual insight. In response to a fourth question about his latter-day advent as the expected Zoroastrian messianic Shāh Bahrām, Bahā’-Allāh states that it is "insight" (bīnā'ī) which leads to "wisdom" (dānā'ī) and results in that true faith which is salvation. "Keenness of wisdom (dānā'ī-yi khirad; lit. `the wisdom of wisdom') he further teaches, derives from "insightful vision" (bīnā'ī-yi baṣar) (see Daryā-yi -Danish, 68f).
 

"The fourth question: "Our books have announced the [future] appearance of Shāh Bahrām with manifold signs for the guidance of mankind" :O friend! "Whatsoever hath been announced in the Books hath been revealed and made clear. From every direction the signs have been manifested. The Omnipotent One [yazdān] is calling, in this Day, and announcing the appearance of the Supreme Heaven [mīnū-yi a`ẓam]" (PDC: 77)." The world is illumined by the lights of His appearance, yet rare indeed are the eyes endowed with insight. Ask of the one true God to bestow insight upon His servants. Insight leadeth to wisdom (dānā'ī) and hath ever been the cause of salvation. Keenness of wisdom (dānā'ī-yi khirad) is derived from insightful vision. Were the peoples of the world to gaze with their own eyes, they would see that the world is, in this Day, illumined with a new radiance. Say: the Day-Star of Wisdom (khurshīd-i dānā'ī) is manifest and the Sun of Knowledge (āftāb-i dānish) evident. Happy the one who attaineth thereunto, who seeth clearly and hath recognised Him" ( trans. Shoghi Effendi and  Shahriar Razavi , BSB 7:3-4 [June 1992] ).

Similar statements are found, among other places, at the end of Bahá'u'lláh's first Ṭarāz (Ornament) where we read,

"in the estimation of men of wisdom (sāḥibān-i ḥikmat) keenness of understanding (again, dānā'í-yi khirad) is due to keenness of vision" (see Tablets of Baha’u’llah 35 and the Persian original)..

Note also :

O concourse of divines! Be fair, I adjure you by God, and nullify not the Truth with the things ye possess. Peruse that which We have sent down with truth. It will, verily, aid you, and will draw you nigh unto God, the Mighty, the Great. Consider and call to mind how when Muhammad, the Apostle of God, appeared, the people denied Him. They ascribed unto Him what caused the Spirit (Jesus) to lament in His Most Sublime Station, and the Faithful Spirit to cry out. Consider, moreover, the things which befell the Apostles and Messengers of God before Him, by reason of what the hands of the unjust have wrought. We make mention of you for the sake of God, and remind you of His signs, and announce unto you the things ordained for such as are nigh unto Him in the most sublime Paradise and the all-highest Heaven, and I [Baha'-Allah], verily, am the Announcer, the Omniscient. He hath come for your salvation, and hath borne tribulations that ye may ascend, by the ladder of utterance, unto the summit of understanding.... Peruse, with fairness and justice, that which hath been sent down. It will, verily, exalt you through the truth, and will cause you to behold the things from which ye have been withheld, and will enable you to quaff His sparkling Wine...  (Baha'u'llah, The Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, p. 77)

WE [Baha'-Allah], verily, have come for your sakes, and have borne the misfortunes of the world for your salvation. Flee ye the One Who hath sacrificed His life that ye may be quickened? Fear God, O followers of the Spirit (Jesus), and walk not in the footsteps of every divine that hath gone far astray... Open the doors of your hearts. He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) verily, standeth before them. Wherefore keep ye afar from Him Who hath purposed to draw you nigh unto a Resplendent Spot? Say: We, in truth, have opened unto you the gates of the Kingdom. Will ye bar the doors of your houses in My face? This indeed is naught but a grievous error. (Baha'u'llah, The Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, p. 91)

The Lawḥ-i ibn-i dh'ib (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf).
In his last major work the Lawḥ-i ibn-i dh'ib (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, c. 1891 CE) Bahā’-Allāh at one point alludes to Qayyūm al-asmā’ LVII when he addresses the antagonistic Muslim cleric Shaykh Muhammad Taqī Najafī (d.1914):

"O Shaykh! Seek thou the shore of the Most Great Ocean, and enter, then, the crimson Ark which God hath ordained in the
Qayyúm-i-Asmā for the people of Bahā. Verily, it passseth over land and sea. He that entereth therein is saved (NJW), and he
that turneth aside perisheth" (ESW 164, trans. Shoghi Effendi, 139).

The Kitāb-i `ahd (Book of the Covenant)
The final lines of Bahā’-Allāh’s Persian Kitāb-i `ahd (Book of the Covenant) or (more correctly) (Ar.) al-Kitāb al-`Ahdī (lit. “The Book of My Covenant”) contains an explicit and important reference to Bahā’ī soteriology:

"That which is conducive to the regeneration of the world (hayāt-i `ālam) and the salvation of the peoples and kindreds of the earth (najāt-i umam) hath been sent down from the heaven of the utterance of Him Who is the Desire of the world [Baha'-Allah]  Give ye a hearing ear to the counsels of the Pen of Glory. Better is this for you than all that is on the earth. Unto this beareth witness My glorious and wondrous Book." (TB:223).

It is indicated above and in many other Baha'i sacred writings, that, on one level, salvation in the Baha'i religion has to do with a faith relationahip with the Manifestation or succession of Manifestations of God; with the contemporary Messenger of God and the previous founder prophets of earlier great world religions. It involves an inner faith condition generating and generated by  insight, vision and gnosis. It is founded upon a relationship with the sacred, divine revelations, the Holy Books which inspire the mind, move the heart and result in a moral, ethical faith way of life. Faith is inner knowledge and a resultant all-surrouding love . Savation is the approproation of this spiritual condition.

Salvific "Crucifixion" as Martyrdom From Age to Age.

“Consider how all the Prophets of God were persecuted and what hardships they experienced. His Holiness Jesus Christ endured affliction and accepted martyrdom upon the cross in order to call men to unity and love. What sacrifice could be greater? He brought the religion of love and fellowship to the world. ..” (`Abd al-Baha' B cited SW, Vol. 17, p. 285)
“Martyrdom makes the spirit of utter dedication to the service of God so real that it ignites in other hearts a like flame of divine devotion. The martyrdom of Christ on the cross conquered and changed the hearts of untold millions.” (From an Essay of Muhammad Faḍil-i Mazandarani in SW, Vol. 14, p. 173)

From at least the time of his Arabic Jawāhir al-asrār (Gems of the Mysteries) and Persian Kitāb-i īqān (The Book of Certitude) (1861-2 CE), Bahā-Allāh, unlike mainstream Sunnī and Shī`ī Muslims, cited and commented upon biblical texts and accepted the historicity of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth (d. c. 32 CE). He referred to Jesus in his Book of Certitude as a “Youthful Nazarene” (ADD refs.) and pictured him as one pre-existent and eternal who existed in a state of sublime, eternal and spiritual sovereignty subsequent to his actual, historical crucifixion and apparent “death” on the cross. Bahā'-Allāh's rejection of trenchant biblical taḥrīf ("falsification") from the early 1860s, meant that he affirmed Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross. In his Kitāb-I īqān ... 

Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension in the Qur’an (4:157-8).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above somewhat ambiguous verses of the Qur’an (4:157-8]) have been translated by Arthur J. Arberry (d. Canbridge, 1969) as follows (transliteration added):

…[156b] and for their [Jewish] unbelief, and their uttering against Mary a mighty calamity, [157] and for their saying, `We slew (qatalnā) the Messiah (al-masīḥ), Jesus son of Mary (`Īsā ibn Maryam), the Messenger of God (rasūl Allāh) – yet they did not slay him (mā qatalū-hu), neither crucified him (wa mā ṣalabū-hū), only a likeness of that was shown to them (shubbiha lahum). Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him; they have no knowledge of him, except the following  surmise; And they slew him not of a certainty (wa mā ṣalabū-hū ), [158] —no indeed; God raised him up ( rafa`-hu Allāh `ilay-hi) to Him; God is Almighty, all-Wise. “

These  qur’anic verses are interpreted by many Muslims to mean that Jesus was not literally crucified several traditions having it that the unclear شُِّهَ  لَهُمْ  shubbiha la-hum, "it seemed to them" (interpretations and translations of this phrase vary considerably) indicates that another was crucified in his place (e.g. Judas Iscariot). Bahā’ī sources do not follow this post-qur’anic Islamic position but accept the literal truth of the crucifixion and understand  Q. 4:157 in a way that does not contradict the biblical accounts of the death of Jesus upon the cross. `Abd al-Bahā’ has interpreted Q. 4:157   in the following, non-literal way:

“In regard to the verse, which is revealed in tile Qur’ān [Koran], That His holiness, Christ, was not killed and was not crucified [=Q. 4:157], by this is meant the Reality of Christ. Although they crucified this elemental body, yet the merciful reality and the heavenly existence remain eternal and undying, and it was protected from the obsession and persecution of the enemies, for Christ is Eternal and Everlasting” (from a `Tablet of Abd al-Baha' dated  June 8th 1911 to Thornton Chase cited in English in Star of the West, Vol. 2, No. 7, p. 13).

Such interpretations allows for deep salvific senses to be given to the crucifixion of Jesus. For Bahā’īs Jesus death on the cross was of cosmic soteriological import not something which never took place. Jesus the maẓhar-I ilāhī (Manifestation of God) never ceased to be or “died” away around 33 CE., but from the moment of his physical death eternally lived and lives on for the enlightened betterment and spirituality of humankind. In various alwāḥ (scriptural Tablets) `Abd al-Bahā’ has stated that the eternal reality of Jesus bestows salvation from the unseen kingdom of God where he ever shines resplendent. For Bahā’īs Jesus did not die on the cross but his Logos-like Reality was “lifted up” to God. From the “many mansions” of the unseen realms through the power of the Holy Spirit , he continues to inspire to spirituality and to the progress of civilization. There follows some annotated passages from select writings of Bahā’-Allāh

Among the many further soteriologically oriented themes in the writings of Baha'-Allah is his identification with the crucified Jesus. Like Jesus he was “crucified” by the peoples of the world and their corrupt rulers for the sake of humankind and its attaining salvation or true eternal life. The following passages from diverse alwāḥ (scriptural Tablets) express aspects of this typological soteriology and its present day, eschatological implications. `Abd al-Bahā’ taught that all the messengers or manifestations of God sacrificed themselves for the sake of humanity. They accepted the  “cross” of sacrifice and persecution for progress and salvation of humankind:

The `Tablet to a Christian Priest of Constantinople’ (Lawḥ qissīs-i naṣrānī SL).
The early (-mid.). Edirne [Adrianople] (c. 1864-6?) Tablet of Bahā'-Allāh written in response to one of the قسيسين نصارى "Priests of the Christians" of Constantinople [Istanbul]) (referred to as the madīnat al-kabīra “Great City”) may have been addressed to one of the missionaries resident in Constamtimople-Istanbul.  It is cited in the Tablet printed in the 1893 compilation Iqtidarat va chand lawh-i digar  (Powerful Realities and select other Tablets…) , pp. 78-104 and in the Kitāb-I badī` and elsewhere. Juan Cole has translated and entitled the  Iqtidarat Tablet the "Tablet to the Son" (Lawḥ-i Ibn ) though this phrase occurs in the `Tablet to the Priest of Constantinople’ cited therein not in the Tablet he translated. This `Tablet to a Christian Priest of Constantinople’ includes two well-known passages relating to the  crucifixion of Jesus which have close parallels or recensions in the Kitāb-i badī` as well as other Arabic and Persian Tablets of Bahā'-Allāh from the Edirne and later West-Galilean (`Akkā= Acre) periods; including, for example, his early Edirne Kitāb al-asmā' (Book of Names) ADD refs. (pp.91-95 in Persian). These paragraphs relating to the crucifixion of Jesus are found in Iqtidarāt, 91and ADD (and INBA 38: [328], etc). and versions of these texts were included in English translation in Gleanings XXXVI and XLVII. What follows are the texts translated by Shoghi Effendi (as identified and printed in the Persian-Arabic 1984 original language edition of Gleanings entitled Muntakhabātī az athār-I ḥadrat-I Bahā’- Allāh = section 36 and 47 pp. 62 and 72).  The often paraphrastic English translation of Shoghi Effendi reads, along with a few added transliterated additions:

In the slightly rewritten-paraphrased translation of Shoghi Effendi this text reads as follows (as printed in Gleanings XXXVI): "Know thou that when the Son [of Man or Mary or God] (al-ibn = Jesus) yielded up His breath to God the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit" (Baha'u'llah GWB XXXVII / 85-86; 1892: 93). 

This important passage does not interpret the effect of Jesus' crucifixion as an act of atonement. It does not focus upon the forgiveness of “sin”. Rather, it presents Jesus' selfless sacrificial death as an event of supreme cosmic importance generating earthly capacity for  creativeness on many levels. It is not merely focused or centered on tokens of individual salvation but on the consequences of the global empowerment and regeneration of all things; through the power of inspiration in both the areas of the arts and sciences. For Bahā'-Allāh Jesus died a regenerative sacrificial death, a kind of martyrdom, the redemptive power of which regenerated all things. The "death" of the Son of Man-Mary-God on the cross so diffused the divine grace that a greater capacity for progress was universally realized in accordance with human capacity.

And secondly Gleanings XLVII (47).

O Jews! If ye be intent on crucifying once again Jesus, the Spirit [ تصلبواالروح ] of God, put Me to death, for He hath once more, in My person, been made manifest unto you. Deal with Me as ye wish, for I have vowed to lay down My life in the path of God. I will fear no one, though the powers of earth and heaven be leagued against Me. Followers of the Gospel! (malā’-al-injīl) If ye cherish the desire to slay Muhammad, the Apostle of God, seize Me and put an end to My life, for I am He, and My Self is His Self (lit. `This is his essence (dhāt-ihi). Do unto Me as ye like, for the deepest longing of Mine heart is to attain the presence of My Best-Beloved in His Kingdom of Glory. Such is the Divine decree, if ye know it.
Followers of Muhammad! If it be your wish to riddle with your shafts the breast of Him Who hath caused His Book the Bayán to be sent down unto you, lay hands on Me and persecute Me, for I am His Well-Beloved, the revelation of His own Self, though My name be not His name. I have come in the shadows of the clouds of glory, and am invested by God with invincible sovereignty. He, verily, is the Truth, the Knower of things unseen. I, verily, anticipate from you the treatment ye have accorded unto Him that came before Me. To this all things, verily, witness, if ye be of those who hearken. O people of the Bayán! If ye have resolved to shed the blood of Him Whose coming the Báb hath proclaimed, Whose advent Muhammad hath prophesied, and Whose Revelation Jesus Christ Himself hath announced, behold Me standing, ready and defenseless, before you. Deal with Me after your own desires." (GWB XLVII pp. 100-101 trans. Shoghi Effemdi [original added])

Here Bahā’-Allāh clearly identifies himself as the return of Christ ready to suffer as Jesus did the first time.

The Kitāb-i Badī` (“Wondrous [Revolutionary] Book”, 1867 CE).

Arguing against an Azalī-Bābī view of the legitimacy of dissimulation on the part of Jesus and other messengers of God in his lengthy Persian Kitāb-i Badī` (1867 CE), Bahā’-Allāh includes the following Arabic words pertinent to Jesus and the cross that his opponent might progress “from the Kawthar (Fount) of the Bayān of the Beauty of the All-Merciful to the [Bahā’ī] Orchard of Splendours” even specifically mentioning Jesus’ being nailed upon his beloved cross:

“When he [Jesus] saw the cross (al-ṣalīb), he [willingly] bore it through his own self (bi-nafsihi) (cf. NT ADD). Then he embraced it,
saying 'Come hither, O my dear cross! I have awaited thee for thirty and three years, diligently enquiring after thee for I desire to die fastened [upon thee] with nails (mufattish an `alayk) out of love for my sheep (ḥubb an li-aghnāmī).” (K-Badi`, ms.. 209)

In his Kitāb-i Badī` Bahā’-Allah states that “the specific text of the Book” (naṣṣ-i kitāb = Bible-New Testament) has it that every day
in the [Jerusalem] Temple the Christian “Cause of God” (amr-Allāh) was publicly taught by a fearless Jesus. In saying this he was evidently
attempting to counter those who were happy with Mīrzā Yaḥyā as one fearfully hiding away from society. Mīrzā Mihdī Gilānī, Bahā’-Allāh’s
Azalī opponent, as specifically notes in the Kitāb-i badī`, held that Jesus was secreted away in places of retreat (maqarrhā). This Bahā’-
Allāh regards as a supremely unjust estimate of Jesus. Hence his writing the above Arabic paragraph about Jesus and his welcoming of the cross. In a subsequent paragraph Bahā’-Allāh also continues by paraphrasing the Arabic into Persian and stating:

“Give ear unto that which he [Jesus] said at the moment when all the Jews had gathered to kill that Holy One [Jesus]. When the
cross was presented and the blessed eye fell upon it he [Jesus] said, `Come! Come! For thirty and three years I have awaited and
yearned for you”. (mss. 209-210).

In the light of this the Azalī apologist Mīrzā Mihdī Gilānī has not been able to comprehend the true, elevated station (maqām) of Jesus.
There have been differences of opinion regarding the implications of the Gospel and other accounts of the last days of Jesus. Bahā’-Allāh
argues that the Gospels-Injīl have it that Jesus, “that Ancient [Pre-Existent] Guileless One (sādhij-i qidam), was hung on the cross and that
Jesus, “the Spirit” (al-rūḥ) was resigned to the Will of God. After 36 (3 X 12 hours or loosely 3 days) Bahā’-Allāh further summarizes and
adds that Jesus “came alive” (zindih shud) and was lifted up to heaven (ascended to heaven). Islamic tradition of the “people of the Furqān [=Qur’ān]” (Muslims) he also notes, assert that Jesus was taken up to heaven before all of this; before his suffering on the cross. Bahā’-Allāh claimes that God had informed him of the reality of this matter. Most of the people, however, remain unaware of the truth of these even

In the Kitāb-i badī` Bahā'-Allāh also shows his close relationship with the ascended, celestial Jesus when he represents Jesus as addressing him so to underline his fervent eschatological, sacrificial yearning:

`And at this moment this Spirit (al-rūḥ = Jesus) addresseth thee [Bahā'-Allāh] and says [speaking as you]: `Come! Come ye hence! O Concourse of deniers [of the truth of Bahā'-Allāh] with your swords, your spears and your arrows! I indeed do ardently yearn [for death, the cross] just as He [Jesus] had ardently yearned. By He in whose hand is the Self of Ḥusayn! Nay My very Being! exceed- ingly strong is my yearning and great indeed is my expectation [for sacrificial death] but you fail to comprehend" (K-Badī` ms, 210).

It is important to note that in the above passage Bahā'-Allāh equates his Logos-like Being as the Person-Self of Ḥusayn, a component of
his own personal name like that of the martyred third (Twelver) Imam. Like Jesus Ḥusayn wa a major Shī`ī Islamic paragon of sacrifice or
martyrdom. Like Jesus and the third Imam Ḥusayn who was martyred at Karbala in 680 CE., Bahā'-Allāh yearned for sacrifical martyrdom,
for "death" upon the cross of this transient, mortal world. In many scriptural Tablets Bahā'-Allāh equates himself with Imam Ḥusayn whose
eschatological "return" he claimed to be.In the Kitāb-I badī` we also read of Bahā'-Allāh's claim to be the return of Jesus and invites the Jews to crucify him ( تصلبوه ) once again:

"He [Bahā'-Allāh] at every moment addresses the concourse of the Jews (malā' al-yahūd) [saying]: `O Concourse of vipers! By God! The Promised One (al-maw`ūd) hath come unto you. This is assuredly the Spirit (al-rūḥ = Jesus). If ye be intent on crucifying him [yet again] then accomplish that which ye desire and be not of those possessed of patience'

In similar fashion in his Kitāb-i badī`. Bahā'-Allāh also addresses to Christians and Muslims:

The he [Bahā'-Allāh] addresses the Concourse of the Gospel [Christians] (malā' al-injīl) and says: `If ye be intent on disputing
with Muhammad, the Apostle of God then this is assuredly Muhammad among you. So carry out what you desire to do to him for
he hath indeed laid down his spirit [life] in the path of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.' (Ms. K-Badī`, 93).

The Lawḥ-i Sultān addressed to Naṣir al-Dīn Shāh

In his largely Persian Lawḥ-i Sultān (c. 1868 [70]) addressed to the Qajar ruler Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh (d. 1896), Bahā'-Allāh at one point dwells on the rejection of past prophets. He makes mention of his suffering and yearning desire for sacrificial crucifixion:

"I have seen, O Sháh, in the path of God what eye hath not seen nor ear heard.... How numerous the tribulations which have rained, and will soon rain, upon Me! I advance with My face set towards Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Bounteous, whilst behind Me glideth the serpent. Mine eyes have rained down tears until My bed is drenched. I sorrow not for Myself, however. By God! Mine head yearneth for the spear out of love for its Lord. I never passed a tree, but Mine heart addressed it saying: `O would that thou wert cut down in My name, and My body crucified upon thee, in the path of My Lord!' (text  QA-K: 195 trans. SE cited PDC:42).
 

The Sūrat al-rūḥ (The Surah of the Spirit) ( c. 1866).

.This medium length Arabic epistle of Bahā'-Allāh to an as yet unidentified `Alī was written from Edirne (Adrianople) around the spring of 1866. It takes its name from the mention of Jesus, al-rūḥ (the Spirit) towards its beginning. Bahā'-Allāh mentions that which personified "Satan" (al-Shayṭān = Mīrzā Yaḥyā ?) had cast into the hearts of such as had opposed God, most likely meaning antagonistic (Azalī  inclined) followers of the Bāb. It appears that he responds in the Sūrat al-rūḥ to Muslim-Azalī notions about the fate of Jesus twisted so as to imply that Bahā'-Allāh would be "forgotten" after his death.

"And among the polytheists are such as assert, `When the Spirit (al-rūḥ = Jesus) died was his name perpetuated in the [earthly] dominion? for it was reckoned that there existed only a set number of those who believed [in him] and were possessed of manifest certainty. Say: By God! The Spirit (al-rūḥ = Jesus) never died! Nay, rather he bestowed immortality on all such as entered beneath his shadow. Thus indeed was this matter if you are among such as [truly] comprehend. He [Jesus] never prided himself about anything of whatsoever he created betwixt the heavens and the earth. For all this was created through his Logos- Speech (qawl) [ as you would realize] if you be among such as judge aright. If he prided himself over anything it was his pride over his own  Logos-Self (nafs); not in anything aside from it. All who dwell within the kingdoms of the heavens and of the earth and within the Omnipotent realm of the Command and of creation (jabarūt al-amr wa'l-khalq) took pride in it (Jesus' Logos-Self, as you would realize ) should you be numbered among the truly wise." (Athar-i qalam-i a`lā, 4:124).

The Sūrat al-mulk (The Surah of the Dominion) (1866; see AQA-K: 1-70).

In the course of an address to the `Inhabitants of Constantinople' [Istanbul] and elsewhere in his Sūrat al-mulk (Surah of the
Dominion) Bahā'-Allāh expresses his Christ-like desire to sacrifice himself for the sake of God:

"I have offered up my soul (rūḥī) and my body (jasadī) [as a sacrifice] befor God, the Lord of all the worlds" (S-Muluk, 24 GWB
LXVI: XX adapted Cf. S-Muluk: 30).

In the Kitāb-I badī` we also read of Baha'-Allāh's claim to be the return of Jesus. In this connection he invites the Jews to crucify him ( تصلبوه) once again:

"He [Bahā'-Allāh] at every moment addresses the concourse of the Jews (malā' al-yahūd) [saying]: `O Concourse of vipers! By God! The Promised One (al-maw`ūd) hath come unto you. This is assuredly the Spirit (al-rūḥ = Jesus). If ye be intent on crucifying him [yet again] then accomplish that which ye desire and be not of those possessed of patience'

In similar fashion in same Kitāb-i badī`, Bahā'-Allāh also addresses Christians and Muslims:

The he [Bahā'-Allāh] addresses the Concourse of the Gospel [Christians] (malā' al-injīl) and says: `If ye be intent on disputing with Muhammad, the Apostle of God. then this is assuredly Muhammad among you. So carry out what you desire to do to him for he hath indeed laid down his spirit [life] in the path of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.' (Ms. K-Badī`, 93).

A passage in the largely Persian Lawḥ-i Sultān (c. 1869 CE) of Baha'-Allah addressed to the Qajar ruler Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh (d. 1896), refers to the rejection of past prophets and to his suffering and yearning desire for sacrificial crucifixion for the sake of humankind:

"I have seen, O Sháh, in the path of God what eye hath not seen nor ear heard.... How numerous the tribulations which have
rained, and will soon rain, upon Me! I advance with My face set towards Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Bounteous, whilst
behind Me glideth the serpent. Mine eyes have rained down tears until My bed is drenched. I sorrow not for Myself, however. By God! Mine head yearneth for the spear out of love for its Lord. I never passed a tree, but Mine heart addressed it saying: `O would that thou wert cut down in My name, and My body crucified upon thee, in the path of My Lord!' (text AQA-K: 195 trans. SE cited PDC:42).
"The Ancient Beauty [Baha'-Allah] hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold [Acre, Palestine] that the whole world may attain unto true liberty" (GWB:XX).

“Consider to what extent the love of God makes itself manifest. Among the signs of His love which appear in the world are the dawning points of His Manifestations. What an infinite degree of love is reflected by the divine Manifestations toward mankind! For the sake of guiding the people They have willingly forfeited Their lives to resuscitate human hearts. They have accepted the cross. To enable human souls to attain the supreme degree of advancement, They have suffered during Their limited years extreme ordeals and difficulties. If Jesus Christ had not possessed love for the world of humanity, surely He would not have welcomed the cross. He was crucified for the love of mankind. Consider the infinite degree of that love. Without love for humanity John the Baptist would not have offered his life. It has been likewise with all the Prophets and Holy Souls. If the Bāb had not manifested love for mankind, surely He would not have offered His breast for a thousand bullets. If Bahā'u'llāh had not been aflame with love for humanity, He would not have willingly accepted forty years' imprisonment… all the divine Manifestations suffered, offered Their lives and blood, sacrificed Their existence, comfort and all They possessed for the sake of mankind" (Abdu'l-Baha, FWU., 89)..

As to the resurrection of the body of Christ three days subsequent to His departure: This signifies the divine teachings and spiritual religion of His Holiness Christ, which constitute His spiritual body, which is living and perpetual forevermore. (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha  1:192)

“Consider how all the Prophets of God were persecuted and what hardships they experienced. His Holiness Jesus Christ endured affliction and accepted martyrdom upon the cross in order to call men to unity and love. What sacrifice could be greater? He brought the religion of love and fellowship to the world. ..” ( AB cited SW, Vol. 17, p. 285)

If His Holiness Jesus Christ had not possessed love for the world of humanity, surely he would not have welcomed the cross. He was crucified for the love of mankind. Consider the infinite degree of that love. Without love for humanity John the Baptist would not have offered his life. It has been likewise with all the prophets and holy souls. If His Holiness the Báb had not manifested love for mankind, surely he would not have offered his breast for a thousand bullets. If His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh had not been aflame with love for humanity he would not have willingly accepted forty years' imprisonment (Abdu'l-Baha, FWU., 89).

“What an infinite degree of love is reflected by the divine Manifestations toward mankind! For the sake of guiding the people they have willingly forfeited their lives to resuscitate human hearts. They have accepted the cross. To enable human souls to attain the supreme degree of advancement, they have suffered during their limited years extreme ordeals and difficulties. If His Holiness Jesus Christ had not possessed love for the world of humanity, surely he would not. have welcomed the cross. He was crucified for the love of mankind.
 
Consider the infinite degree of that love. Without love for humanity, John the Baptist would not have offered his life. It has been likewise with all the prophets and holy souls. If His Holiness the Bab had not manifested love for mankind, surely he would not have offered his life for a thousand bullets. If His Holiness Baha'u'llah had not been aflame with love for humanity he would not have willingly accepted forty years' imprisonment.” (` Abd al-Baha' cited from SW, Vol. 17, p. 39).

“Martyrdom makes the spirit of utter dedication to the service of God so real that it ignites in other hearts a like flame of divine devotion. The martyrdom of Christ on the cross conquered and changed the hearts of untold millions.” (From an Essay of Faḍil-i Mazandarani in SW, Vol. 14, p. 173).

"THE DIVINE prophets came to establish the unity of the Kingdom in human hearts. All of them proclaimed the glad tidings of the divine bestowals to the world of mankind. All brought the same message of divine love to the world. His Holiness Jesus Christ gave his life upon the cross for the unity of mankind. Those who believed in him likewise  sacrificed life, honor,  possessions, family, everything, that this human world might be released from the hell of discord, enmity and strife. His foundation was the oneness of humanity. Only a few were attracted to him. They were not the kings and rulers of his time. They were not rich and important people. Some of them were catchers of fishes.” (From an address of `Abd al-Baha' in New York cited Star-West, 15:254)

 

THE SALVIFIC POTENCY OF THE ETERNAL DIVINE MANIFESTATIONS.

And among the teachings of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh is that religion must be the cause of fellowship and love. If it becomes the cause of estrangement, then it is not needed, for religion is like a remedy: if it aggravates the disease, then it becomes unnecessary  (Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, 29)

Numerous passages within Babi-Baha'i sacred writings underline the ever-continuing salvific potecy of the Holy Spirit channelled through the various Founder Prophets of the great world religions; including Moses, the Buddhs, Jesus and  Muhammad. So too with many others whose names have been forgotten or lost in the mists of history, The doctrine of the essential oneness of religion(s) demands that the piety and spirituality of sincere individuals is never ignored or forgotten by God: The "rain" of the divine bounty, praise and forgiveness, ever falls - as the Gospels and other sacred writings indicate - upon all of God;s creatures. Religious triumphalism involving the sole salvation of a blessed elect, cannot be voiced by persons conscious of the mercifulness of the Deity and of the many pathways to human spirituality. 

It is the clear view of the Founders of the Baha'i religion, that  Manifestations of God and other exalted believers, have an existence in other realms or spiritual universes. They channel to humanity spiritual and scientific gifts and knowledge for the progress of human civilization, the salvation of individuals, and the progress of nations. From on high, as it were, Jesus  still exhorts the peoples of the earth to .turn in the direction of the Father of all, and to serve his elevated purpose. Muhammad likewise, ever summons all to Islam as it is renewed from age to age. Moses, the Buddha, Zoroaster and others directly and indirectly proffer salvation and beatitude towards all humanity. As `Abdu'l-Baha' fequently pointed out, it is never necessary to put down any great prophet figure in order to exalt another. The love of one comminicator of God's Truth is the love of all others and of all humanity.

Spanning several millennia, most major world religions have exclusivist and trimuphalist elements. An over emphasis on these aspects of religiosity would lead to the destruction of true religiosity. A just God makes salvation avaibable to all; his followers and devotees should not limit his power by making salvation an exclusivist phenomenon.

SELECT BABI-BAHA'I TEXTS OF EXALTATION AND CONTINUING SALVIFIC POWER.

Look how Abraham strove to bring faith and love among the people; how Moses tried to unite the people by sound laws; how the Lord Christ suffered unto death to bring the light of love and truth into a darkened world; how Muhammad sought to bring unity and peace between the various uncivilized tribes among whom he dwelt. And last of all, Bahá'u'lláh has suffered forty years for the same cause -- the single noble purpose of spreading love among the children of men -- and for the peace and unity of the world the Báb gave up his life. (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, 172)

 

  • The Person of Zoroaster - Some Baha'i exaltations.
  • The Grandeur of the Buddha  - Some Baha'i exaltations.
  • Moses the Manifestation of God - Some Baha'i exaltations.

O thou seeker of Truth! The Lord of Hosts became manifest in Moses and the children of Israel in a pillar of fire...     (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha  3:514)

The Exalted Person of Jesus - Some Baha'i exaltations.

In various alwāḥ (scriptural Tablets) of Baha;-Allah and `Abd al-Bahā’ has stated that the eternal reality of Jesus bestows salvation from the unseen kingdom of God where he ever shines resplendent. For Bahā’īs Jesus did not die on the cross but his Logos-like Reality was “lifted up” to God. From the “many mansions” of the unseen realms through the power of the Holy Spirit , he continues to inspire to spirituality and to the progress of civilization.
 

The Lawh-i Hartik (Tablet to David George Hardegg)

As for what thou hast mentioned, that a certain person hath supposed that there are no differences between us [Baha'is and Christians] with regard to the Spirit [Jesus], this is indeed the truth inasmuch as the Spirit [Jesus] is sanctified beyond being overwhelmed by differences or encompassed by symbolic expressions. He, verily, is the Light of Oneness among mankind and the sign of the Ancient of Days among the peoples. He who turneth unto Him [Jesus] hath turned unto He [God] who sent Him [Jesus] and he who rejecteth Him hath rejected He who caused Him to be made manifest and to speak forth. He hath ever been what He was and will ever remain the same as what He was; only the Effulgence of His Theophany in the Mirrors varies on account of Their different forms and colours (From the Tablet of Baha'-Allah to Georg David Hardegg, the Lawh-i Hartik (c. 1872-3), Trans Lambden. See further http://hurqalya.ucmerced.edu/node/239/ ),

In reality His Holiness Christ was glorified with an eternal sovereignty and everlasting dominion, spiritual and not temporal. His throne and kingdom were established in human hearts where he reigns with power and authority without end. (Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 74)

Then know that for the dominion of the reality of Christ there is no beginning and there is no end. Everlastingly that luminous Entity hath been sitting on the throne of might and everlastingly It will have a penetrating dominion over the worlds of existence. This dominion is eternal and everlasting and has no abrupt end. (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha 3:658)

... His Holiness Christ did not become manifest that we should merely believe in him as the Christ, follow him and adore his mention. All these are limited in scope and requirement whereas the Reality of Christ is an unlimited essence. The infinite and unlimited Reality cannot be bounded by any limitation. Nay, rather His Holiness Christ appeared in order to illumine the world of humanity, to render the earthly world celestial, to make the human kingdom a realm of angels, to unite the hearts, to enkindle the light of love in human souls, so that such souls might become independent, attaining complete unity and fellowship, turning to God, entering into the divine Kingdom, receiving the bounties and bestowals of God and partaking of the manna from heaven. (Abdu'l-Baha, FWU., 104)

"Christ is ever in the world of existence. He has never disappeared out of it... Rest assured that Christ is present. The spiritual beauty that we see all around us today is a result of the breathings of Christ..Christ is an expression of the Divine Reality, the Single Essence and Heavenly Entity, which hath no beginning or eding. It has appearance, arising, manifestation.and setting in each one of the Cycles" (`Abdu'l-Baha' in London, 31, 89). 

"The body is composed, in truth, of corporeal elements and every composition is necessarily subject to decomposition; but the spirit is an essence, simple, pure, spiritual, eternal, perpetual and divine. He who seeketh Christ from the point of view of His body hath, in truth, debased Him and hath gone astray from Him; but he who seeketh Christ from the point of view of His Spirit will grow from day to day in joy, attraction, zeal, proximity, perception and vision.  Thou hast then to seek the Spirit of Christ in this marvelous day. The heaven whither Christ ascended is not an infinite space. His heaven is much rather the kingdom of His Lord, the Munificent As He said, "The Son of Man is in heaven." It is known then that His heaven is beyond the boundaries that surround existence and that He is elevated for the people who adore.

      Pray God to ascend to this heaven, to taste of its food--and know thou that the people have not understood to this day the mystery of the Holy Scriptures. They believe that Christ was deprived of His heaven when He was in this world, that He had fallen from the heights of His elevation and that later He ascended to this elevated pinnacle that is to say, towards the heaven which doth not exist, for there is only space. They expect that He will descend from this heaven seated upon a cloud. They believe that there is in the heavens a cloud upon which He will be seated and by which He will descend; while, in reality, the clouds are vapors which rise from the earth and which do not descend from the heavens. The cloud mentioned in the Holy Scriptures is the human body, because it is a veil for them, like a cloud, which prevents them from seeing the Sun of Truth which is shining in the horizon of Christ." (`Abd al-Baha', BWF : 389).

You ask if, through the appearance of the kingdom of God, every soul hath been saved. The Sun of Reality hath appeared to all the world. This luminous appearance is salvation and life; but only he who hath opened the eye of reality and who hath seen these lights will be saved" (`Abd al-Baha', BWF : 389-90). .

Verily Christ came with His Kingdom from the beginning which hath no beginning and will come with His Kingdom to the eternity of eternities, inasmuch as in this sense Christ is an expression of the divine reality, the simple essence and heavenly entity which hath no beginning or ending. It hath appearance, arising and manifestation and setting in each of the cycles. (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha 1:137).

As to the resurrection of the body of Christ three days subsequent to His departure: This signifies the divine teachings and spiritual religion of His Holiness Christ, which constitute His spiritual body, which is living and perpetual forevermore. (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha  1:192)

Know thou that the Messianic Spirit and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit is always manifest, but capacity and ability (to receive it) is more in some and less in others. After the crucifixion the apostles had not in the beginning the capacity and ability of witnessing the Messianic reality. For they were agitated. But when they found firmness and steadfastness, their inner sight became opened, and thy saw the reality of the Messiah as manifest. For the body of Christ was crucified and vanished, but the Spirit of Christ is always pouring upon the contingent world, and is manifest before the insight of the people of assurance. (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha  1:193)

The Eternal Influence of the Disciples of Jesus.

Observe the gatherings of the disciples after Christ: Their light is still shining, their power is still revealing and their trumpets still resounding throughout the ages. Such is the spiritual meeting (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha  1:69)

In like manner, in the cycle of His Holiness the Spirit (Jesus Christ), note that there were twelve apostles under the shadow of the light of the Most High, and the Sun of Truth was manifested through those bright dawning-places like unto the phenomenal sun. Likewise, in the time of His Holiness Mohammed, consider that there were twelve dawning points of holiness who were the manifestations of confirmation. Such is the case.(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha 1:92).

The apostles were the Letters and His Highness Christ the Essence of the Word; and the significance of the Word, which is the Everlasting Outpouring, cast a splendor upon those Letters. Since a Letter is a part of the Word itself, it is intrinsically identical with the Word. (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha 3:538)

Address thou the maid-servants of the Merciful One, and say: "Verily, Mary Magdalene was a villager, but on account of her keeping firm in the Cause of Christ after His death, she was rendered successful in such a matter, whereby her face is shining and beaming forth on the horizon of the universe forevermore! And she surpassed even men in defending the fortress of the Cause of God against the attack of the hosts of suspicions. This is indeed a glorious condition! This is indeed a great matter! This is indeed a manifest light!" (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha 3:600).

Consider! The station and the confirmation of the apostles in the time of Christ was not known, and no one looked on them with the feeling of importance -- nay, rather, they persecuted and ridiculed them. Later on it became evident what crowns studded with the brilliant  40  jewels of guidance were placed on the heads of the apostles, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of John.    (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, 39).

Nearly two thousand years ago, Armenia was enveloped with impenetrable darkness. One blessed soul from among the disciples of Christ hastened to that part, and through his effort, erelong that province became illumined. Thus it has become evident how the power of the Kingdom works! (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 71)

The Exalted Person of Muhammad - Some Baha'i exaltations.

When the Light of Muhammad shone forth all Arabia was brightened. These oppressed and degraded peoples became enlightened  43  and cultured; so much so, indeed, that other nations imbibed Arabian civilization from Arabia. This was the proof of Muhammad's divine mission. (Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, 42)

APPENDIX : THE CHRISTIAN CROSS AND THE MYTH OF ITS DISCOVERY.

`Abd al-Bahā’ on the discovery of the cross
Several books have recently been written about the claimed discovery of the `true cross' of the crucifixion by Helena, the Christian mother of converted Roman Emperor Constantine (275-337). In a number of talks and tablets Aba al-Baha' commented on this tradition.

“…But at the time of the departure of the Blessed Beauty there were at least a hundred thousand souls who would sacrifice their lives for him. These same thoughts that you have now were also prevalent in Christ's time and so little did they care for him that it is not even known where he was buried. And three hundred years later, when St. Helen [the mother of Constantine the Great] went to the Holy Land, some people, thinking of their own personal benefit, went to her and said, 'We dug the ground here and found the cross on which they crucified his holiness, Christ This was the foundation of the tomb of Christ. It is not even known where the tombs of Mary and the disciples are. The Catholics say that the tombs of Paul and Peter are in Rome. Others say that they are in Antioch. (Abd al-Baha' in SW, Vol. 9, p. 23)

Select Bibliography

Harvey, Van A

  •  1964 A Handbook of Theological Terms. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Hopper, Jeffery,

  •  1992 `Soteriology' in Musser, Donald, W. & Joseph L. Price eds. A New Handbook of Christian Theology' Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 452-456.

Kassis, Hanna.

  • 1983 A Concordance of the Qur'an. University of California Press : Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.