Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Who Do Baha'is Believe Jesus Christ Is?


 Who do Baha'is believe Jesus Christ is?

In the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament, God makes this Covenant:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."  [Malachi 4:5]

The people asked John the Baptist if he was the return of Elijah, and he said that he was not:

"Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' ... And they asked him, 'What then?  Are you Elijah?'  He said, 'I am not.'  'Are you the Prophet?'  And he answered, 'No.'"  [John 1:19-21]

But Jesus stated that John the Baptist was Elijah:

[Jesus said to them]  "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist ... And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"  [Matthew 11:11-15]

Abdul-Baha states in Chapter 33 of "Some Answered Questions":

"Then if John was Elias, why did he say, 'I am not?' And if he was not Elias, why did Christ say that he was? The explanation is this:  Not the personality, but the reality of the perfections, is meant -- that is to say, the same perfections that were in Elias existed in John the Baptist and were exactly realized in him....  Therefore when Christ said, 'This is Elias,' He meant:  This person is a manifestation of the bounty, the perfections, the character, the qualities and the virtues of Elias...."

Though there appears at first glance to be a discrepancy in the Scripture, we can approach the Scripture with confidence to find the unity of its meaning, as:

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..."   [II Timothy 3:16]
" ... for God is not the author of confusion but of peace ..."  [I Corinthians 14:33]

The Baha'i interpretation that the "return" means the return of the "bounty, ... perfections, ... character, ... qualities, and ... virtues" is supported by this verse from the Gospel:

[But the angel said] "He [John the Baptist] will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah..."  [Luke 1:17]

Sometimes Christians say that Elijah is a "type" of John the Baptist, meaning an archetype, and this means the same thing. The point is, that John fulfilled the promise of the return of Elijah.  This fact, that John the Baptist fulfills the prophecy of the Return of Elijah, illumines the relationship between Christ and Baha'u'llah.  And just as God promised that Elijah would return, Jesus promised One who would come after Him:

"However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  He will glorify Me ..."  [John 16:13]

This is often understood to be a prophecy of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  However, if read carefully, it can be seen that it is a prophecy of the appearance of the One to succeed Jesus.  In the following words, spoken by God to Moses, we see the terminology God uses to foreshadow the appearance of a Manifestation of God:

"I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."  [Deuteronomy 18:18]

This is universally understood by Christians to be a prophecy of Jesus Christ from the Jewish Scriptures, and accepted as such by Baha'i's.  Look carefully at how the "Prophet" is foretold in the previous verse, and compare it to these words of Jesus, describing the source of His own Revelation:

"For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life.  Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."  [John 12:49-50]

So Jesus claimed that prophecy in Deuteronomy as foretelling His appearance.  Now we can see that this prophecy by Jesus of the One to follow Him is in the same spirit, and again, refers to a Person:

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  He will glorify Me..."   [John 16:13]

'Abdu'l-Baha, interpreting these words of Jesus, states:

"Now consider carefully that from these words, 'for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak,' it is clear that the Spirit of truth is embodied in a Man Who has individuality, Who has ears to hear and a tongue to speak." [Some Answered Questions p. 109]

In confirmation of His being the fulfillment of this verse, Baha'u'llah writes in His Most Holy Tablet, His Tablet to the Christians:

"Verily, He Who is the Spirit of Truth is come to guide you unto all truth.  He speaketh not as prompted by His own self, but as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  Say, this is the One Who hath glorified the Son and hath exalted His Cause."  ["Tablet to the Christians," Tablets of Baha'u'llah p. 12]


Jesus promised that He would return bearing a New Name

Jesus promised that He would return with a new name, and He associated this name with the name of the "city of God," the "new Jerusalem."  The Bible associates this city with the name of Baha'u'llah, whose Name means "The Glory of God." Jesus said:

"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.  And I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.  And I will write on him My new name." (Revelation 3:12)
These are the words of Jesus Christ. In a red-letter Bible, this verse is in red.

There is only one other reference in the Bible to the "New Jerusalem," this "City of God." John saw this City, and said:

"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God." (Revelation 21:10)
That is, "Having the Glory of God" is the fulfillment of the divine promise that Jesus would return with a new name. In the Arabic translation of the Bible, it says that this holy Jerusalem has "Baha'u'llah."

Baha'is believe that Baha'u'llah is the promised return of Christ, and that His very Name is prophesied in the Revelation of John, as well as in Isaiah 35:2, where Isaiah promises that Mount Carmel -- the location of the World Centre of the Baha'i Faith -- would see the Splendor of God.  "Baha'u'llah" means "The Glory of God" and "Splendor of God."

WHO DO BAHÁ'ÍS BELIEVE JESUS CHRIST IS?

Exactly who the Bible says He is.  And the Bible presents Jesus Christ in a range of stations.

Baha'u'llah wrote:

"Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare, 'I am God!' He verily speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto.  For it hath been repeatedly demonstrated that through their Revelation, their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His name and His attributes, are made manifest in the world..."  (Book of Certitude, p. 178)
"In every instance, they have voiced an utterance that would conform to the requirements of the occasion, and have ascribed all these declarations to Themselves, declarations ranging from the realm of divine Revelation to the realm of creation, and from the domain of Divinity even unto the domain of earthly existence.  Thus it is that whatsoever be their utterance, whether it pertain to the realm of Divinity, Lordship, Prophethood, Messengership, Guardianship, Apostleship or Servitude, all is true, beyond the shadow of a doubt."  (Book of Certitude, p. 181)
Let's now see how Jesus Christ is presented in almost all of these stations mentioned by Baha'u'llah, in the Bible.

Divinity

The divinity of Christ is affirmed in the following verses of the Bible:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1
"I and My Father are one." John 10:30

The divinity of Christ is upheld in the Bahá'í teachings.  As Shoghi Effendi wrote:

"As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended. ... Such are the central, the solid, the incontrovertible principles that constitute the bedrock of Baha'i belief, which the Faith of Baha'u'llah is proud to acknowledge, which its teachers proclaim, which its apologists defend, which its literature disseminates, which its summer schools expound, and which the rank and file of its followers attest by both word and deed."  (The Promised Day is Come, pp. 109-110)

Lordship

The "Lordship" of Jesus Christ is stated in these Bible verses:

"For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Matthew 12:8
"You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am." John 13:13
"Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42
Prophethood

Jesus Christ is referred to as a "Prophet" in these verses of the Bible:

"I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."  Deuteronomy 18:18
"But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.'" Matthew 13:57
"Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem."  Luke 13:33
"So the multitudes said, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.'"  Matthew 21:11

Messengership

Jesus Christ is referred to as a "Messenger" in this verse of the last Book of the Old Testament:

"Behold, I send My messenger [John the Baptist] and he will prepare the way before Me.  And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant [Jesus], in whom you delight."  Malachi 3:1

That the "Messenger" is John the Baptist is confirmed in Matthew 11:10.

Apostleship

In this verse from the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as an Apostle:
"Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus ... "     Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews 3:1
Servitude

The servitude of Jesus is referred to in these verses:

"Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!" Isaiah 42:1 [Matthew 12:17-18 confirms that this verse refers to Jesus]
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men."  Paul's Epistle to the Phillipians 2:5-7

So, as Baha'u'llah explains in the Book of Certitude, Baha'is believe that Jesus contains all of these stations within Himself. When speaking of Him, we are speaking of a Being greater than a human being, so we must be careful to not attempt to contain Him within human concepts, or presume that our limited minds are capable of grasping His station, just as an animal can never grasp human nature. Only by using His own Words, and the Writings of Baha'u'llah, can we begin to understand His station.


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