First of all, I need to mention several caveats: (1) Much of what I will post is discussed in some detail in Michael Sours three volume work on Preparing for the Bahá'í/Christian Dialogue; (2) I approach this subject from an apologetical and rhetorical perspective. That is, from a stance of explaining the Bahá'í position to those who may initially be hostile or critical of the Bahá'í revelation. Those looking for deep hermeneutical analysis of Hebrew and Greek terms or lengthy historical arguments will be disappointed -- I save such discussions for my colleagues at the university; and (3) My approach is intended to attract the hearts and allay the fears of our Christian brothers and sisters -- it is not about engaging in philosophical hairsplitting and polemics (No small task for one such as I, since I teach philosophy). To paraphrase Aristotle, if a speaker does not consider his audience, he will fail to convey his message.
With that being said, let us begin. Probably one of the most initially difficult challenges Bahá'ís face when teaching more conservative and fundamentalist Christians is their charge that Bahá'u'lláh is the antichrist and false prophet mentioned in the scriptures. Given the biblical descriptions of such fearsome individuals, Christians have every right to be both concerned and anxious about the station of Bahá'u'lláh. Be this as it may, this is probably the easiest of all Christian challenges to deal with!
Definition: "Antichrist" (English) from "antichristos" (Greek): "anti" = against, opposed to, opponent of "christos," the Greek word for "Messiah" (Hebrew). Obviously, even from this very simple analysis, Bahá'u'lláh cannot possibly be the antichrist.
Biblical References: Using a concordance or computerized database, these are the only direct references to the antichrist:
1. 1 John 2:18-19, 22-23, 4:1-3
2. 2 John 1:7 (Note: these two epistles are located just before the
book of Revelations, the last book of the Bible.)
While the antichrist is "commonly identified with the Man of sin (2
2) and the Beast of Revelation 13," according to Dr. Henry Halley, minister and biblical lecturer, the "Bible itself does not make the identification" (Halley's Bible Handbook, new rev. ed., 1965, p. 673).
Based on these four references, here are the six characteristics of the Antichrist:
1. Denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22). In other words,
denies the Jesus is the messiah, the manifestation of God.
2. Denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22). In other words, denies
God and Jesus. 3. Denies that Jesus came in the flesh [was a historical being; had a body]. (1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7)
Obviously, given these first three characteristics, Bahá'u'lláh is clearly not the antichrist. For example, Bahá'u'lláh, far from denying Christ, lavishes numerous praises and honorific titles upon Him (for a more complete understanding, see Mike Sours new compilation "Jesus Christ in Sacred Bahá'í Literature")
SOME TITLES OF JESUS IN THE BAHA'I SACRED WRITINGS
1. Jesus (Kitab-i-Iqan [hereafter KIQ] 18, 1:17)
2. Christ (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh [hereafter TBA] 61, 6:11)
3. Jesus Christ (Gleanings [hereafter GWB] 83, #35)
4. Christ Jesus (Selections from the Writings of `Abdul-Baha
[hereafter SWA] 247, #202:5)
5. The Messiah (SWA 42, #19:11)
6. The Son (TBA 9, #2:2)
7. The Son of God (SAQ 63, PDC 99, WOB 105)
8. The Son of Mary (KIQ 130, 2:40)
9. The Son of Man (GWB 85, #34)
10. The Lord Christ (SWA 161, #139:6)
11. The Lord Jesus Christ (Paris Talks [hereafter PTA] 88)
12. The Lord of all Being (epistle to the Son of the Wolf [hereafter
ESW] 100, #156)
13. The Lord of the visible and invisible (GWB 57, #23)
14. That Holy Being (SWA 46, #20:2)
15. The Spirit (ESW 148, #213)
16. The Spirit of God (ESW 81, #130)
17. That divine Spirit (SWA 44, #20:1)
18. The Essence of the Spirit (Promised Day is Come [PDC] 109)
19. The Essence of Being (GWB 57, #23)
20. That Essence of Detachment (KIQ 119, 2:25)
21. The Word of God (SWA 44, #20:1)
22. The Author of the Gospel (KIQ 150, 2:58)
23. That peerless Beauty (KIQ 22, 1:21)
24. The Revealer of the unseen Beauty (KIQ 20, 1:19)
25. The Daystar of the heaven of divine Revelation (KIQ 132, 2:43)
26. His Holiness Christ (PTA 276)
Three other characteristics follow:
4. Equated with deceivers and linked with false prophets (1 John 4:1;
2 John 1:7)
5. The writer of 1 John indicates that the antichrist is already in
the world during the writing of these epistles, c. 100 C.E. (1 John
2:18, 4:3). Therefore, the antichrist is not merely associated with
the "end of time" but has been present from practically the
beginning of the Christian dispensation.
6. And most surprisingly, the Bible indicates that antichrists are
former Christians (1 John 2:19). Clearly, Bahá'u'lláh, born into a
Muslim family, and Himself a loyal Muslim, was never a Christian.
Thus, Bahá'u'lláh is not the antichrist mentioned in the Bible and we proved this by using only biblical references!
Here are the full biblical references to the antichrist:
"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also." (1 John 2:22-23, RSV)
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world." (1 John 4:1-3, RSV) Note: This passage indicates that Christians must seek out and investigate ("test the spirits") the claims to be from God.
"Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward." (2 John 1:7-8, RSV)
"Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us." (1 John 2:18-19, RSV)
The concept of the antichrist (i.e. anyone who opposes or persecutes Christ, or more generally, anyone who opposes the manifestation) is also found in the Bahá'í writings:
THE ANTICHRIST IN THE BAHA'I WRITINGS
"We do not believe in the Anti-Christ in the sense the Christians do. Anyone who violently and determinedly sought to oppose the Manifestation could be called an 'anti-Christ', such as the Vazir in the Bab's day, Haji Mirza Aqasi." (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance [hereafter LOG] #987, pp. 366-67; Note however, that Shoghi Effendi gives us the Biblical definition of the "antichrist")
"Siyyid Muhammad, the Antichrist of the Bahá'í Revelation ... the Antichrist of the Babi Revelation, Haji Mirza Aqasi ..." (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, [hereafter GPB] 164)
Abdu'l-Bahá broadens the definition of the antichrist to not only include anyone who opposes the manifestation, but also anyone who goes against Their teachings and laws:
"These wars and cruelties, this bloodshed and sorrow are Antichrist." (Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Univ. Peace [hereafter PUP] 6)
"Whenever discord prevails instead of unity, whenever hatred and antagonism take the place of love and fellowship, Antichrist reigns instead of Christ." (Abdu'l-Bahá, PUP 6)
In a few days I will post my notes on dealing with the charge that Bahá'u'lláh is a false prophet.