1. 'Do you believe that Christ is God?:'
Suggestion: Explain how this is a true statement, using the teaching of the Manifestation as Mediator between God and man and the following passage from the Kitáb-i-Íqán:
`From these incontrovertible and fully demonstrated statements strive thou to apprehend the meaning of the questions thou hast asked, that thou mayest become steadfast in the Faith of God, and not be dismayed by the divergences in the utterances of His Prophets and Chosen Ones.
`Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: "I am God!" He verily sspeaketh 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. Thus, He hath revealed: "Those shafts were God's, not Thine!"[Qur'án 8:17.]. And also He saith: "In truth, they who plighted fealty unto thee, really plighted that fealty unto God."[Qur'án 48:10.] And were any of them to voice the utterance: "I am the Messenger of God," He also speaketh the truth, the indubitable truth. Even as He saith: "Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but He is the Messenger of God."[Qur'án 33:40.] Viewed in this light, they are all but Messengers of that ideal King, that unchangeable Essence. And were they all to proclaim: "I am the Seal of the Prophets," they verily utter but the truth, beyond the faintest shadow of doubt. For they are all but one person, one soul, one spirit, one being, one revelation. They are all the manifestation of the "Beginning" and the "End," the "First" and the "Last," the "Seen" and "Hidden" --all of which pertain to Him Who is the innermost Spirit of Spirits and eternal Essence of Essences. And were they to say: "We are the servants of God," this also is a manifest and indisputable fact. For they have been made manifest in the uttermost state of servitude, a servitude the like of which no man can possibly attain. Thus in moments in which these Essences of being were deeply immersed beneath the oceans of ancient and everlasting holiness, or when they soared to the loftiest summits of divine mysteries, they claimed their utterance to be the Voice of divinity, the Call of God Himself. Were the eye of discernment to be opened, it would recognize that in this very state, they have considered themselves utterly effaced and non-existent in the face of Him Who is the All-Pervading, the Incorruptible. Methinks, they have regarded themselves as utter nothingness, and deemed their mention in that Court an act of blasphemy. For the slightest whispering of self, within such a Court, is an evidence of self-assertion and independent existence. In the eyes of them that have attained unto that Court, such a suggestion is itself a grievous transgression. How much more grievous would it be, were aught else to be mentioned in that Presence, were man's heart, his tongue, his mind, or his soul, to be busied with anyone but the Well-Beloved, were his eyes to behold any countenance other than His beauty, were his ear to be inclined to any melody but His voice, and were his feet to tread any way but His way.'
[Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 178-180.]
Further Suggestion: Also use the information in the above quote in conjunction with the analogy of the Manifestation as the perfectly polished Mirror reflecting all of God's qualities and attributes to the absolute and perfect degree. Below are some quotes on this analogy:
`But upon the plains, the mountains, the trees and fruits, only a portion of the light shines, through which they become visible, and are reared, and attain to the object of their existence, while the Perfect Man is in the condition of a clear mirror in which the Sun of Reality becomes visible and manifest with all its qualities and perfections. So the Reality of Christ was a clear and polished mirror of the greatest purity and fineness. The Sun of Reality, the Essence of Divinity, reflected itself in this mirror and manifested its light and heat in it; but from the exaltation of its holiness, and the heaven of its sanctity, the Sun did not descend to dwell and abide in the mirror. No, it continues to subsist in its exaltation and sublimity, while appearing and becoming manifest in the mirror in beauty and perfection.
`Now if we say that we have seen the Sun in two mirrors - one the Christ and one the Holy Spirit - that is to say, that we have seen three Suns, one in heaven and the two others on the earth, we speak truly. And if we say that there is one Sun, and it is pure singleness, and has no partner and equal, we again speak truly.
`The epitome of the discourse is that the Reality of Christ was a clear mirror, and the Sun of Reality - that is to say, the Essence of Oneness, with its infinite perfections and attributes - became visible in the mirror. The meaning is not that the Sun, which is the Essence of the Divinity, became divided and multiplied - for the Sun is one - but it appeared in the mirror. This is why Christ said, "The Father is in the Son," meaning that the Sun is visible and manifest in this mirror.
`The Holy Spirit is the Bounty of God which becomes visible and evident in the Reality of Christ. The Sonship station is the heart of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the station of the spirit of Christ. Hence it has become certain and proved that the Essence of Divinity is absolutely unique and has no equal, no likeness, no equivalent.
`This is the signification of the Three Persons of the Trinity. If it were otherwise, the foundations of the Religion of God would rest upon an illogical proposition which the mind could never conceive, and how can the mind be forced to believe a thing which it cannot conceive? A thing cannot be grasped by the intelligence except when it is clothed in an intelligible form; otherwise, it is but an effort of the imagination.
`It has now become clear, from this explanation, what is the meaning of the Three Persons of the Trinity. The Oneness of God is also proved.'
['Abdu'l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, Pages: 113-115.]
`For Christ was like a clear mirror which was facing the Sun of Reality; and the perfections of the Sun of Reality - that is to say, its light and heat - were visible and apparent in this mirror. If we look into the mirror, we see the sun, and we say, "It is the sun." Therefore, the Word and the Holy Spirit, which signify the perfections of God, are the divine appearance. This is the meaning of the verse in the Gospel which says: "The Word was with God, and the Word was God";[cf. John 14:11; 17:21.] for the divine perfections are not different from the Essence of Oneness. The perfections of Christ are called the Word because all the beings are in the condition of letters, and one letter has not a complete meaning, while the perfections of Christ have the power of the word because a complete meaning can be inferred from a word. As the Reality of Christ was the manifestation of the divine perfections, therefore, it was like the word. Why? because He is the sum of perfect meanings. This is why He is called the Word.
`And know that the proceeding of the Word and the Holy Spirit from God, which is the proceeding and appearance of manifestation, must not be understood to mean that the Reality of Divinity had been divided into parts, or multiplied, or that it had descended from the exaltation of holiness and purity. God forbid! If a pure, fine mirror faces the sun, the light and heat, the form and the image of the sun will be resplendent in it with such manifestation that if a beholder says of the sun, which is brilliant and visible in the mirror, "This is the sun," it is true. Nevertheless, the mirror is the mirror, and the sun is the sun. The One Sun, even if it appears in numerous mirrors, is one. This state is neither abiding nor entering, neither commingling nor descending; for entering, abiding, descending, issuing forth and commingling are the necessities and characteristics of bodies, not of spirits; then how much less do they belong to the sanctified and pure Reality of God. God is exempt from all that is not in accordance with His purity and His exalted and sublime sanctity.'
['Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp.206-207.]
2. 'Christ is greater than all of the other Prophets since He had no human father, only God the Father':
`The honor and greatness of Christ is not due to the fact that He did not have a human father, but to His perfections, bounties and divine glory. If the greatness of Christ is His being fatherless, then Adam is greater than Christ, for He had neither father nor mother.'
['Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 89.]
Read Chapter 18, The Greatness of Christ is Due to His Perfections,' in Part 2 of Some Answered Questions by 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
3. 'If the Holy Spirit is not God then what is It?':
`The fifth spirit is the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is the mediator between God and His creatures. It is like a mirror facing the sun. As the pure mirror receives light from the sun and transmits this bounty to others, so the Holy Spirit is the mediator of the Holy Light from the Sun of Reality, which it gives to the sanctified realities. It is adorned with all the divine perfections. Every time it appears, the world is renewed, and a new cycle is founded. The body of the world of humanity puts on a new garment. It can be compared to the spring; whenever it comes, the world passes from one condition to another. Through the advent of the season of spring the black earth and the fields and wildernesses will become verdant and blooming, and all sorts of flowers and sweet-scented herbs will grow; the trees will have new life, and new fruits will appear, and a new cycle is founded. The appearance of the Holy Spirit is like this. Whenever it appears, it renews the world of humanity and gives a new spirit to the human realities: it arrays the world of existence in a praiseworthy garment, dispels the darkness of ignorance, and causes the radiation of the light of perfections. Christ with this power has renewed this cycle; the heavenly spring with the utmost freshness and sweetness spread its tent in the world of humanity, and the life-giving breeze perfumed the nostrils of the enlightened ones.
`In the same way, the appearance of Bahá'u'lláh was like a new springtime which appeared with holy breezes, with the hosts of everlasting life, and with heavenly power. It established the Throne of the Divine Kingdom in the center of the world and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, revived souls and established a new cycle.'
['Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 145.]
4. 'I am satisfied with Christianity and have no need for Bahá'u'lláh':
"At one time the Master was asked, 'What shall I say to those who state that they are satisfied with Christianity and do not need this present Manifestation?' His reply was clear: 'Let them alone. What would they do if a former king had reigned and a new king was now seated upon the throne? They must acknowledge the new king, or they are not true subjects of the Kingdom. Last year there was a springtime. Can a man say "I do not need a new springtime this year - the old springtime is enough for me"? No! The new spring must come to fill the earth with beauty and brightness.'"
[Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 120.]
5. 'If Satan isn't a real being, then what is He?':
"'Abdu'l-Bahá was once asked, 'What is Satan?' He replied in three words: 'The insistent self'."
[Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 10.]
6. 'The Bible says that Christ will return on the clouds but Bahá'u'lláh came into the world the way everyone else does.'
Suggestion: Remind them that Jesus also came into the world the first time through the womb of His mother and explain to them the true meaning of "the clouds". Refer to the following quotes:
"Verily, the Cause of God hath come upon the clouds of utterances and the polytheists are in this day in great torment! Verily, the hosts of revelation have descended with banners of inspiration from the heaven of the Tablet in the name of God, the powerful, the mighty! At this time the monotheists all rejoice in the victory of God and His dominion, and the deniers will then be in manifest perplexity."
[Bahá'u'lláh: Bahá'í World Faith, Page: 204.]
". . . however, as the thick clouds of oppression, which obscure the day-star of justice, remain undispelled, it would be difficult for the glory of this station to be unveiled to men's eyes. These thick clouds are the exponents of idle fancies and vain imaginings, who are none other but the divines of Persia. At one time We spoke in the language of the lawgiver; at another in that of the truth-seeker and the mystic, and yet Our supreme purpose and highest wish hath always been to disclose the glory and sublimity of this station. God, verily, is a sufficient witness!"
[Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 14-15.]
"Say: He Who is the Unconditioned is come, in the clouds of light, that He may quicken all created things with the breezes of His Name, the Most Merciful, and unify the world, and gather all men around this Table which hath been sent down from heaven."
[Bahá'u'lláh: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Page: 46.]
"It is evident that the changes brought about in every Dispensation constitute the dark clouds that intervene between the eye of man's understanding and the Divine Luminary which shineth forth from the day spring of the Divine Essence. Consider how men for generations have been blindly imitating their fathers, and have been trained according to such ways and manners as have been laid down by the dictates of their Faith. Were these men, therefore, to discover suddenly that a Man, Who hath been living in their midst, Who, with respect to every human limitation hath been their equal, had risen to abolish every established principle imposed by their Faith - principles by which for centuries they have been disciplined, and every opposer and denier of which they have come to regard as infidel, profligate and wicked, - they would of a certainty be veiled and hindered from acknowledging His truth. Such things are as "clouds" that veil the eyes of those whose inner being hath not tasted the Salsabil of detachment, nor drunk from the Kawthar of the knowledge of God. Such men, when acquainted with those circumstances, become so veiled that, without the least question, they pronounce the Manifestation of God as infidel, and sentence Him to death. You must have heard of such things taking place all down the ages, and are now observing them in these days.
"It behoveth us, therefore, to make the utmost endeavor, that, by God's invisible assistance, these dark veils, these clouds of Heaven-sent trials, may not hinder us from beholding the beauty of His shining Countenance, and that we may recognize Him only by His own Self."
[Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, , pp. 26-27.]
`And now, with reference to His words: "And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." These words signify that in those days men will lament the loss of the Sun of the divine beauty, of the Moon of knowledge, and of the Stars of divine wisdom. Thereupon, they will behold the countenance of the promised One, the adored Beauty, descending from heaven and riding upon the clouds. By this is meant that the divine Beauty will be made manifest from the heaven of the will of God, and will appear in the form of the human temple. The term "heaven" denoteth loftiness and exaltation, inasmuch as it is the seat of the revelation of those Manifestations of Holiness, the Day-springs of ancient glory. These ancient Beings, though delivered from the womb of their mother, have in reality descended from the heaven of the will of God. Though they be dwelling on this earth, yet their true habitations are the retreats of glory in the realms above. Whilst walking amongst mortals, they soar in the heaven of the divine presence. Without feet they tread the path of the spirit, and without wings they rise unto the exalted heights of divine unity. With every fleeting breath they cover the immensity of space, and at every moment traverse the kingdoms of the visible and the invisible. Upon their thrones is written: "Nothing whatsoever keepeth Him from being occupied with any other thing;" and on their seats is inscribed: "Verily, His ways differ every day." They are sent forth through the transcendent power of the Ancient of Days, and are raised up by the exalted will of God, the most mighty King. This is what is meant by the words: "coming in the clouds of heaven."'
[Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 66-67.]
`And now regarding His words, that the Son of man shall "come in the clouds of heaven." By the term "clouds" is meant those things that are contrary to the ways and desires of men. Even as He hath revealed in the verse already quoted: "As oft as an Apostle cometh unto you with that which your souls desire not, ye swell with pride, accusing some of being impostors and slaying others." These "clouds" signify, in one sense, the annulment of laws, the abrogation of former Dispensations, the repeal of rituals and customs current amongst men, the exalting of the illiterate faithful above the learned opposers of the Faith. In another sense, they mean the appearance of that immortal Beauty in the image of mortal man, with such human limitations as eating and drinking, poverty and riches, glory and abasement, sleeping and waking, and such other things as cast doubt in the minds of men, and cause them to turn away. All such veils are symbolically referred to as "clouds."
`These are the "clouds" that cause the heavens of the knowledge and understanding of all that dwell on earth to be cloven asunder. Even as He hath revealed: "On that day shall the heaven be cloven by the clouds." Even as the clouds prevent the eyes of men from beholding the sun, so do these things hinder the souls of men from recognizing the light of the divine Luminary. To this beareth witness that which hath proceeded out of the mouth of the unbelievers as revealed in the sacred Book: "And they have said: 'What manner of apostle is this? He eateth food, and walketh the streets. Unless an angel be sent down and take part in His warnings, we will not believe.'" Other Prophets, similarly, have been subject to poverty and afflictions, to hunger, and to the ills and chances of this world. As these holy Persons were subject to such needs and wants, the people were, consequently, lost in the wilds of misgivings and doubts, and were afflicted with bewilderment and perplexity. How, they wondered, could such a person be sent down from God, assert His ascendancy over all the peoples and kindreds of the earth, and claim Himself to be the goal of all creation, - even as He hath said: "But for Thee, I would not have created all that are in heaven and on earth," - and yet be subject to such trivial things? You must undoubtedly have been informed of the tribulations, the poverty, the ills, and the degradation that have befallen every Prophet of God and His companions. You must have heard how the heads of their followers were sent as presents unto different cities, how grievously they were hindered from that whereunto they were commanded. Each and every one of them fell a prey to the hands of the enemies of His Cause, and had to suffer whatsoever they decreed.'
[Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 71-74.]
Further suggestion: Note the following verse from the Book of Matthew: "And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:"[Matthew 25:32.]
It is these "clouds" which help to separate the sheep from the goats:
The fulfillment of the prophecies of Christ and of the Bible has been over a period of a hundred years or more matter of common knowledge and remark in the West. But the full extent of that fulfillment is only seen in Bahá'u'lláh. The proclamation of His Faith was made in 1844, the year when the strict exclusion of the Jews from their own land enforced by the Muslims for some twelve centuries was at last relaxed by the Edict of Toleration and "the times of the Gentiles" were "fulfilled."1 The Advent has been long delayed and has fallen in a time of oppression and iniquity of religious unreality and disbelief, when love for God and man had grown cold,2 when men were immersed in material business3 and pleasure. The Prophet came like a thief4 in the night and was here in our midst while people were wrapped in deep spiritual slumber. He tried and tested souls, separated the spiritual from the unspiritual, true from false believers, the sheep from the goats;5 and the people taken unawares
1Luke c. 21, v. 24
2 Matt. c. 24, vv. 12, 48
3 Matt. c. 24, v. 38
4 Matt. c. 24, v. 43
5 Matt. c. 25, v. 33
[George Townshend,Introduction to God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi, p. iv.]
7. 'no one else can be as great as Jesus because he came back from the dead. All the other prophets (including Bahá'u'lláh) just died, so of course Jesus is the best.':
Read Chapter 18,,The Greatness of Christ Is Due To His Perfections,' in Part 2 of Some Answered Questions by 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Read also Chapter 23, "The Resurrection of Christ", in Part 2 of Some Answered Questions.
8. 'I know that Jesus has not returned because I didn't see Him (referring to Bible verse which says every eye will see Him)':
Suggestion: Point out that many references in the Bible are symbollic and do not have a literal meaning and "every eye" does not refer to physical eyes but to the spiritual ones that enable a person to see and recognize spiritual truths. Every spiritual eye will be enabled to see Him upon His Return.
See also question #6 which explains the "clouds" upon which Christ will return.
9. 'How do we know that Bahá'u'lláh is not one of the "false prophets" which Christ warned us about?':
'Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
`Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit'.[Matthew: 7:15-18.]
Suggestion: Point out that Christ also emphasizes that 'Ye shall know them by their fruits. . .' Refer to and study thoroughly Part 5 of Thief in the Night. In it, Hand of the Cause William Sears thoroughly explores and explains this question of "false prophets" as well as giving some of the 'fruits' of Bahá'u'lláh.
10. 'Do you believe in the Holy Trinity?':
'Abdu'l-Bahá devotes a whole chapter to this question. Read Chapter 27, 'The Trinity,' in Part 2 of Some Answered Questions, pp. 13-115.
Also refer to the following excerpt:
"But as to the question of the Trinity, know, O advancer unto God, that in each one of the cycles wherein the Lights have shone forth upon the horizons (i.e., in each prophetic dispensation) and the Forgiving Lord hath revealed Himself on Mount Paran (see Habbakkuk 3:3, etc.) or Mount Sinai, or Mount Seir (see Ezekiel 35), there are necessarily three things: The Giver of the Grace, and the Grace, and the Recipient of the Grace; the Source of the Effulgence, and the Effulgence, and the Recipient of the Effulgence; the Illuminator, and the Illumination, and the Illuminated. Look at the Mosaic cycle: The Lord, and Moses, and the Fire (i.e., the burning bush), the Intermediary; and [at] the Messianic cycle: The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost the Intermediary; and in the Mohammedan cycle: The Lord, the Apostle (or Messenger, Mohammed), and Gabriel (for, as the Mohammedans believe, Gabriel brought the Revelation from God to Mohammed). Look at the sun and its rays and the heat which results from its rays; the rays and the heat are but two effects of the sun, but inseparable from it; yet the sun is one in its essence, unique in its real identity, single in its attributes, neither is it possible that anything should resemble it. Such is the essence of the Truth concerning the Unity, the real doctrine of the Singularity, the undiluted reality as to the (Divine) Sanctity.
"But as to the question concerning the atonement on the part of the Holy Redeemer, I have explained this to thee by word of mouth in a plain and detailed manner, devoid of ambiguities, and I have made it clear to thee as the sun at noonday."
[`Abdu'l-Bahá,Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá Vol 1, Pp. 117-118].
Also refer also to the answer to question 11 below.
11. 'Who was Christ, and what was He? What is your belief about Him?':
See Chapter 6: Christ in Some Answered Questions.
See also the Master's talk in the Promulgation of Universal Peace given on 23 June 1912,in which the following passage is found:
`. . . In His day Christ was called Satan, Beelzebub, but hear the bells now ringing for Him! He was the Word of God and not Satan. They mocked Him, led Him through the city upon a donkey, crowned Him with thorns, spat upon His blessed face and crucified Him, but He is now with God and in God because He was the Word and not Satan. Fifty years ago no one would touch the Christian Bible in Persia. Bahá'u'lláh came and asked, "Why?" They said, "It is not the Word of God." He said, "You must read it with understanding of its meanings, not as those who merely recite its words." Now Bahá'ís all over the East read the Bible and understand its spiritual teaching. Bahá'u'lláh spread the Cause of Christ and opened the book of the Christians and Jews. He removed the barriers of names. He proved that all the divine Prophets taught the same reality and that to deny One is to deny the Others, for all are in perfect oneness with God.
`In London some of the Christians said we were deniers of Christ. We say Christ is the Word of God. We are gathered here this morning for His mention. The bells have called us together in love and unity. This house is the temple of God. All are welcome! Very welcome!'
Also reference the following which can be found in Abdul Baha on Divine Philosophy, file 08:
`Our belief in regard to Christ is exactly what is recorded in the New Testament; however, we elucidate this matter and do not speak literally or in a manner based merely on blind belief. For instance, it is recorded in the Gospel of St. John, "In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God." The majority of Christians accept this matter literally, but we give a logical explanation that no one need find occasion to reject.
`The Christians have made this statement about "the word," the foundation of the trinity; but philosophers state that the trinity as regards the identity of divinity is impossible.
`We explain this subject as follows: By the "word" we mean that creation with its infinite forms is like unto letters and the individual members of humanity are likewise like unto letters. A letter individually has no meaning, no independent significance, but the station of Christ is the station of the word. That is why we say Christ is the "word" a complete significance. The universal bestowal of divinity is manifest in Christ. It is obvious that the evolution of other souls is approximate, or only a part of the whole, but the perfections of the Christ are universal, or the whole. The reality of Christ is the collective center of all the independent virtues and infinite significances.
`For example, this lamp sheds light and the moon illumines the night with its silvery beams, but neither light is self created. His Holiness the Christ is like unto the sun; his light issued forth from his own identity. He received it not from another person therefore we give him the comprehensive title of the "word." By this we mean the all-comprehending reality and the depository of the infinite divine characteristics. This "word" has an honorary beginning and not a beginning of time. For instance, we say this person has precedence over all. This precedence comes to him through the station and honor which he now holds in life, but it is not a precedence of time. In reality the "word" has neither beginning nor ending. The letters of the "word" are those qualities which appeared in Christ and not his physical body. These attributes were from God like unto the rays of the sun reflected in a clear mirror. The rays, the light and the heat of the sun are its qualities which have become manifest in the mirror. It is evident that these qualities were ever with God, even at this time they are with him, they are inseparable from him because divinity is not subject to division. Division is a sign of imperfection and God is the perfect one
`It is clear that the attributes of divinity are co-equal and co-existent with the essence. In that station there is absolute unity. This in brief is the exposition of the station of the Christ.
[`Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Abdul Baha on Divine Philosophy, file 08, pp. 148-149.]
12. 'Is your aim to found a new religion?':
`Our aim is to free the foundation of religion from its moss grown dogmas; to dispel the black impenetrable fog of creed so that the regions may be flooded and illumined. May these foul clouds never return; may the rays of the eternal sun encircle all countries, for verily the resplendent sun of reality shines from age to age.'
[`Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Abdul Baha on Divine Philosophy, file 08, p. 157.]
13. 'What is the relationship of Christ and Bahá'u'lláh with God?':
Reference the following passage, which uses the analogy of the mirror:
`But the proceeding through manifestation (if by this is meant the divine appearance, and not division into parts), we have said, is the proceeding and the appearance of the Holy Spirit and the Word, which is from God. As it is said in the Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God"; [John 1:1.] then the Holy Spirit and the Word are the appearance of God. The Spirit and the Word mean the divine perfections that appeared in the Reality of Christ, and these perfections were with God; so the sun manifests all its glory in the mirror. For the Word does not signify the body of Christ, no, but the divine perfections manifested in Him. For Christ was like a clear mirror which was facing the Sun of Reality; and the perfections of the Sun of Reality--that is to say, its light and heat--were visible and apparent in this mirror. If we look into the mirror, we see the sun, and we say, "It is the sun." Therefore, the Word and the Holy Spirit, which signify the perfections of God, are the divine appearance. This is the meaning of the verse in the Gospel which says: "The Word was with God, and the Word was God"; [John 1:1.] for the divine perfections are not different from the Essence of Oneness. The perfections of Christ are called the Word because all the beings are in the condition of letters, and one letter has not a complete meaning, while the perfections of Christ have the power of the word because a complete meaning can be inferred from a word. As the Reality of Christ was the manifestation of the divine perfections, therefore, it was like the word. Why? because He is the sum of perfect meanings. This is why He is called the Word.'
[`Abdu'l-Bahá,Some Answered Questions, p. 206.]
`His Holiness Christ said: "The Father is in me." This we must understand through logical and scientific evidences, for if religious principles do not accord with science and reason, they do not inspire the heart with confidence and assurance.
`It is said that once John of Chrysostom was walking along the seashore thinking over the question of the trinity and trying to reconcile it with finite reason; his attention was attracted to a boy sitting on the shore putting water into a cup. Approaching him, he said, "My child, what art thou doing?" "I am trying to put the sea into this cup," was the answer. "How foolish art thou," said John, "in trying to do the impossible." The child replied, "Thy work is stranger than mine, for thou art laboring to bring within the grasp of human intellect the conception of the trinity."
`Let us, free from past tradition, investigate the reality of this matter. What is the meaning of the father and the son?
`This fatherhood and sonship are allegorical and symbolical. The Messianic reality is like unto a mirror through which the sun of divinity has become resplendent. If this mirror expresses "The light is in me" it is sincere in its claim; therefore Jesus was truthful when he said, "The Father is in me."
`The sun in the sky and the sun in the mirror are one, are they not? and yet we see there are apparently two suns.
`The Jews were expecting the coming of the Messiah, lamenting day and night, saying: "O God, send to us our deliverer!" But as they walked in the path of dogmas, rather than reality, when the Messiah appeared they denied him. Had they been investigators of reality, they would not have crucified but would have recognized him instantly.'
[`Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Abdul Baha on Divine Philosophy, file 08, pp. 152-153.]
14. 'What is the similarity between the Cause of Christ and that of Bahá'u'lláh? and what relation do they hold toward each other?':
` The foundation of the religion of God is one. The same basis which was laid by Christ and later on was forgotten, has been renewed by His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh. Each divine revelation is divided into two parts. The first part is essential and belongs to the eternal world. It is the exposition of significances and realities. It is the expression of the love of God, the knowledge of God. This is one in all the religions, unchangeable and immutable. The second part is not eternal; it deals with practical life, transactions and business and changes according to the evolution of man and the requirements of the time of each prophet.
`These laws are the reflex on this plane of the divine law and symbolize a medium for turning the thoughts of humanity toward justice. The mundane laws change as the horizon of man extends, till it encompass the universe.
`For example, during the days of His Holiness Moses, the foundation and the origin of the religion of God spelled morality and that was not changed in the Christian dispensation, but certain differences crept in through the change of the second part of the religion. During the Mosaic period the hand of a person was cut off in punishment of a small theft; there was the law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This was according to the spirit of the age, but as these laws were not expedient in the time of Christ, they were abrogated. Likewise divorce had become so universal that there remained no fixed laws of marriage, therefore His Holiness Christ forbade divorce.
`According to the exigencies of the time, His Holiness Moses revealed ten laws for capital punishment. It was impossible at that time to protect the community and preserve social security without these severe measures, for the children of Israel lived in the wilderness of Tah, where there were no established courts of justice and no penitentiaries. But this code of conduct was not needed in the time of Christ. The history of the second part of religion is unimportant, because it belongs to the customs of this life only; but the foundation of the religion of God is one and His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh has renewed that foundation.
`The cause of Christ was wholly spiritual. He changed nothing save the Sabbath day, certain laws of conduct and the law of divorce.
`All the precepts of Christ deal with the knowledge of God, with the oneness of the world of humanity, the moral relations between the hearts and spiritual susceptibilities. His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh created these merciful sentiments in the most complete form and deposited them in the hearts of men. This is in keeping with the teaching of Christ, because it is the reality and reality changes not. Is it possible to say that divine unity is divisible, or the knowledge of God, the oneness of the world ofhumanity, universal justice, the solidarity of the human race are they ever subject to transformation? `No, I declare by God they are immutable, for they are the reality.'
[`Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Abdul Baha on Divine Philosophy, file 08, pp. 150-152.]
15. 'Jesus said: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." [John 14: 6.], therefore only Jesus can bring salvation.':
Suggestion: Remind them of the following verse from the Gospel of John, in which Jesus clarifies His words by saying "As long as I am in the world":
"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." [John: 9:5.]
Also explain the Oneness of the Prophets, the Manifestation as the Mediator between God and man, how Jesus was the Way during His dispensation and that it was actually the Holy Spirit speaking through Christ Who was saying He was the only way, but since the Holy Spirit reappears in each successive Manifestation, that Manifestation becomes the Way during His dispensation.
But also remember that Jesus also said:"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." [John 8:12.] so don't try to tell them that they are following the wrong Manifestation, which could start an argument and thus undo all the teaching you've done with them.
16. Some may use the following parable to claim that Christ is the only true Shepherd and that all others, including Bahá'u'lláh, are the thieves and robbers spoken of in the parable:
010:001 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
010:002 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
010:003 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
010:004 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
010:005 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
010:006 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
010:007 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
010:008 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
010:009 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
010:010 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
010:011 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
010:012 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
010:013 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
010:014 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
010:015 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
010:016 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. [John 10: 1-16.]
Suggestion: Point out that Bahá'u'lláh did enter by "the door": the Báb. It's all a matter of interpreting the Scriptures spiritually rather than materially. He also said that He would return in "the clouds". If all were to be interpreted literally, there would have to be a "door" somewhere in those "clouds".
Also point out that Jesus said in the above parable: 'All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.'[John 10:8.] He said, 'All that ever came before me'-- before not after; He may have been simply referring to those false Christs who appeared before Him claiming to be the Messiah--referring to them as thieves and robbers.
Recall, too, the phrase in that passage that says 'I am the door of the sheep'. Bahá'u'lláh is Christ returned in the glory of the Father, but, as a Manifestation Himself and keeping in mind the oneness of the Prophets, the Báb was also the return of Christ and, therefore this part of the parable is also fulfilled. The section listing some of the similarities between Jesus and the Báb might also come in handy for this question.
Point out that Jesus said: And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. [John 10:16.] Bahá`u'lláh's coming fulfills the prophesies of all the major religions, therefore gathering together all of those "other sheep" as well as the Christians,thereby bringing about that "one fold, and one shepherd." If asked about these "other folds", refer to the following passage:
To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the "Everlasting Father," the "Lord of Hosts" come down "with ten thousands of saints"; to Christendom Christ returned "in the glory of the Father," to Shi'ah Islám the return of the Imám Husayn; to Sunní Islám the descent of the "Spirit of God" (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.[Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 94.]
Remember not to let them calling Bahá'u'lláh a thief and a robber incite you to argue with them. Defend Him with the Truth, with solid logical arguments, but without arguing. Remember, too, that just using His Name enlists the assistance of the entire Supreme Concourse and that Jesus Christ Himself is in the Concourse. Ask for His assistance as well to help open the eyes of one of His followers who may have let his love for Him blind him to any other Suns.
17. Some may claim that the miracles which Christ performed prove His superiority over all other Prophets.
Reference this passage on miracles by the Master:
`Question. - It is recorded that miracles were performed by Christ. Are the reports of these miracles really to be accepted literally, or have they another meaning? It has been proved by exact science that the essence of things does not change, and that all beings are under one universal law and organization from which they cannot deviate; and, therefore, that which is contrary to universal law is impossible.
`Answer. - The Holy Manifestations are the sources of miracles and the originators of wonderful signs. For Them, any difficult and impracticable thing is possible and easy. For through a supernatural power wonders appear from Them; and by this power, which is beyond nature, They influence the world of nature. From all the Manifestations marvelous things have appeared.
`But in the Holy Books an especial terminology is employed, and for the Manifestations these miracles and wonderful signs have no importance. They do not even wish to mention them. For if we consider miracles a great proof, they are still only proofs and arguments for those who are present when they are performed, and not for those who are absent.
`For example, if we relate to a seeker, a stranger to Moses and Christ, marvelous signs, he will deny them and will say: "Wonderful signs are also continually related of false gods by the testimony of many people, and they are affirmed in the Books. The Brahmans have written a book about wonderful prodigies from Brahma." He will also say: "How can we know that the Jews and the Christians speak the truth, and that the Brahmans tell a lie? For both are generally admitted traditions, which are collected in books, and may be supposed to be true or false." The same may be said of other religions: if one is true, all are true; if one is accepted, all must be accepted. Therefore, miracles are not a proof. For if they are proofs for those who are present, they fail as proofs to those who are absent.
`But in the day of the Manifestation the people with insight see that all the conditions of the Manifestation are miracles, for They are superior to all others, and this alone is an absolute miracle. Recollect that Christ, solitary and alone, without a helper or protector, without armies and legions, and under the greatest oppression, uplifted the standard of God before all the people of the world, and withstood them, and finally conquered all, although outwardly He was crucified. Now this is a veritable miracle which can never be denied. There is no need of any other proof of the truth of Christ.
`The outward miracles have no importance for the people of Reality. If a blind man receives sight, for example, he will finally again become sightless, for he will die and be deprived of all his senses and powers. Therefore, causing the blind man to see is comparatively of little importance, for this faculty of sight will at last disappear. If the body of a dead person be resuscitated, of what use is it since the body will die again? But it is important to give perception and eternal life - that is, the spiritual and divine life. For this physical life is not immortal, and its existence is equivalent to nonexistence. So it is that Christ said to one of His disciples: "Let the dead bury their dead;" for "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
`Observe: those who in appearance were physically alive, Christ considered dead; for life is the eternal life, and existence is the real existence. Wherever in the Holy Books they speak of raising the dead, the meaning is that the dead were blessed by eternal life; where it is said that the blind received sight, the signification is that he obtained the true perception; where it is said a deaf man received hearing, the meaning is that he acquired spiritual and heavenly hearing. This is ascertained from the text of the Gospel where Christ said: "These are like those of whom Isaiah said, They have eyes and see not, they have ears and hear not; and I healed them."
`The meaning is not that the Manifestations are unable to perform iracles, for They have all power. But for Them inner sight, spiritual healing and eternal life are the valuable and important things. Consequently, whenever it is recorded in the Holy Books that such a one was blind and recovered his sight, the meaning is that he was inwardly blind, and that he obtained spiritual vision, or that he was ignorant and became wise, or that he was negligent and became heedful, or that he was worldly and became heavenly.
`As this inner sight, hearing, life and healing are eternal, they are of importance. What, comparatively, is the importance, the value and the worth of this animal life with its powers? In a few days it will cease like fleeting thoughts. For example, if one relights an extinguished lamp, it will again become extinguished; but the light of the sun is always luminous. This is of importance.'
(`Abdu'l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, Pages: 100-102)
18. For interpretation of prophesy in the Bible relating to Muhammad's coming, refer to:
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 20-36. and
['Abdu'l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, p 145,and Chapters 11, 13 from Part 1.]
1. The following parable about the Lord of the Vineyard can be used to help explain Bahá'u'lláh's Station of the Father--the Lord of the Vineyard, as Christ's Station was that of the Son: Unfortunately, those who don't understand or accept the oneness of the Prophets, tend to place Christ higher than all other Prophets, since they believe He was more than a Prophet, thinking that He is the only begotten Son of God and, misunderstanding the Trinity, think He is God and therefore higher than all the Prophets. They need to be educated in the Oneness of the Prophets, the Station of the Manifestation, and the truth about the Trinity. You can reference the previous section as well as The Kitáb-i-Íqán for expositions on these subjects. Remember: 'Abdu'l-Bahá never argued religion with anyone. He simply explained to them how what they were saying was true, dispelling their idle fancies and vain imaginings with the Truth in an informative, knowledgeable, sincere and kindly way. Most Christians should be at least somewhat familiar with this parable and many will have heard an explanation of it up to the point where the Son is sent into the Vineyard. The Vineyard is this world which has been sown with the seeds of the Word of God. The husbandmen are the human race. The Lord of the Vineyard is, of course, God Himself, the Father. The Servants Whom He sent are the Old Testament Prophets, the Son is, of course Jesus Christ, Whom they also slew. Just as the Holy Spirit as the Son came in the form of the human temple of Jesus, so, too, did the Holy Spirit as the Father come in the form of the human temple of Bahá'u'lláh. The actual parable follows as recorded in the Book of Matthew:
021:033 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
021:034 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
021:035 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
021:036 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
021:037 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
021:038 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
021:039 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
021:040 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
021:041 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 fruits in their seasons.
021:042 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
021:043 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
021:044 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. [Matt: 21:33-44.]
2. The following is a well-known verse from the New Testament. Refer to Part 2 of Thief in the Night for some of the "fruits" of the Tree which is Bahá'u'lláh.
007:016 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
007:017 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
007:018 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. [Matt: 7:16-18.]
3. The following passage from the Gospel of John can be used to help explain how the greatest proof of the truth of the Manifestation is His Self and His Word. A passage from Bahá'u'lláh's Writings follows in support of this as well.
004:040 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
004:041 And many more believed because of his own word;
004:042 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. [John 4:40-42.]
`Say: The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth. This is, verily, an evidence of His tender mercy unto men.. .'
[Bahlá'u'llá'h,: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahlá'u'lláh, Page: 105.]
4. The following passage from the Gospel of John can also help to explain Bahá'u'lláh's Station in terms of what is revealed in the Bible. Following this passage are passages from Bahlá'u'llá'h's and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Writings expounding these verses.
016:012 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
016:013 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [John 16:12-13.]
`. . . Proclaim then unto all mankind the glad-tidings of this mighty, this glorious Revelation. 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.'
[Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Lawh-i-Aqdas, p. 12.]
`The revered minister read from the words of the Gospel, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." The century has dawned when the Spirit of Truth can reveal these verities to mankind, proclaim that very Word, establish the real foundations of Christianity and deliver the nations and peoples from the bondage of forms and imitations. The cause of discord, prejudice and animosity will be removed, the basis of love and amity be established. Therefore, all of you must strive with heart and soul in order that enmity may disappear entirely and that strife and hatred pass away. . .'
['Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 41-42.]
Jesus speaks again of the coming of the Spirit of Truth in the following passages. Notice how Christ says that 'he [the Father] shall give you another Comforter'. and that 'the Comforter'. . .is the Holy Ghost'
014:016 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
014:017 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. [John 14:16-17.]
014:026 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
5. Jesus phrased the following reply to His disciples in such a way that other Messengers besides Himself are clearly not excluded, although in this case 'him whom he [God] hath sent' was most likely a reference to Jesus Himself as the One Whom God had sent at that time:
006:028 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
006:029 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. [John 6:28-29.]
6. The following passage from the Gospel of John can be used in support of Jesus's greatness, power and Mission stemming from His spiritual perfections rather than His physical body upon which so many Christians base so much of their faith in Him.
006:061 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
006:062 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
006:063 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. [John 6:61-63.]
7. The following passages may be useful in explaining how God is known through His Manifestation, in this case Jesus, and the station of servitude of the Manifestation:
' Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.'[John 8:19.]
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.[John 8:42.]
013:004 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
013:005 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
013:006 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
013:007 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
013:008 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
013:009 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
013:010 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
013:011 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
013:012 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
013:013 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
013:014 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
013:015 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
013:016 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. [John 13:4-16.]
8. The following passage about doubting Thomas may help to show how it is actually not necessary to be able to see the holes in Jesus's hands and side in order to recognize Him. Indeed, though Jesus permitted this inspection from Thomas. He then says: 'blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.' [John 20:29.]
020:024 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
020:025 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
020:026 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
020:027 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
020:028 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.
020:029 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. [John 20:24-29.]
1. `. . .Moses and the prophets of Israel announced the advent of the Messiah but expressed it in the language of symbols. When Christ appeared, the Jews rejected Him, although they were expecting His manifestation and in their temples and synagogues were crying and lamenting, saying, "O God, hasten the coming of the Messiah!" Why did they deny Him when He announced Himself? Because they had followed ancestral forms and interpretations and were blind to the reality of Christ. They had not perceived the inner significances of the Holy Bible. They voiced their objections, saying, "We are expecting Christ, but His coming is conditioned upon certain fulfillments and prophetic announcements. Among the signs of His appearance is one that He shall come from an unknown place, whereas now this claimant of Messiahship has come from Nazareth. We know his home, and we are acquainted with his mother.
`"Second, one of the signs or Messianic conditions is that His scepter would be an iron rod, and this Christ has not even a wooden staff.
`"Third, He was to be seated upon the throne of David, whereas this Messianic king is in the utmost state of poverty and has not even a mat.
`"Fourth, He was to conquer the East and the West. This person has not even conquered a village. How can he be the Messiah?
`"Fifth, He was to promulgate the laws of the Bible. This one has not only failed to promulgate the laws of the Bible, but he has broken the law of the sabbath.
`"Sixth, the Messiah was to gather together all the Jews who were scattered in Palestine and restore them to honor and prestige, but this one has degraded the Jews instead of uplifting them.
`"Seventh, during His sovereignty even the animals were to enjoy blessings and comfort, for according to the prophetic texts, He should establish peace to such a universal extent that the eagle and quail would live together, the lion and deer would feed in the same meadow, the wolf and lamb would lie down in the same pasture. In the human kingdom warfare was to cease entirely; spears would be turned into pruning hooks and swords into plowshares. Now we see in the day of this would-be Messiah such injustice prevails that even he himself is sacrificed. How could he be the promised Christ?"
`And so they spoke infamous words regarding Him.
`Now inasmuch as the Jews were submerged in the sea of ancestral imitations, they could not comprehend the meaning of these prophecies. All the words of the prophets were fulfilled, but because the Jews held tenaciously to hereditary interpretations, they did not understand the inner meanings of the Holy Bible; therefore, they denied Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The purpose of the prophetic words was not the outward or literal meaning, but the inner symbolical significance. For example, it was announced that the Messiah was to come from an unknown place. This did not refer to the birthplace of the physical body of Jesus. It has reference to the reality of the Christ--that is to say, the Christ reality was to appear from the invisible realm--for the divine reality of Christ is holy and sanctified above place.
`His sword was to be a sword of iron. This signified His tongue which should separate the true from the false and by which great sword of attack He would conquer the kingdoms of hearts. He did not conquer by the physical power of an iron rod; He conquered the East and the West by the sword of His utterance.
`He was seated upon the throne of David, but His sovereignty was neither a Napoleonic sovereignty nor the vanishing dominion of a Pharaoh. The Christ Kingdom was everlasting, eternal in the heaven of the divine Will.
`By His promulgating the laws of the Bible the reality of the law of Moses was meant. The Sinaitic law is the foundation of the reality of Christianity. Christ promulgated it and gave it higher, spiritual expression.
`He conquered and subdued the East and West. His conquest was effected through the breaths of the Holy Spirit, which eliminated all boundaries and shone from all horizons.
`In His day, according to prophecy, the wolf and the lamb were to drink from the same fountain. This was realized in Christ. The fountain referred to was the Gospel, from which the water of life gushes forth. The wolf and lamb are opposed and divergent races symbolized by these animals. Their meeting and association were impossible, but having become believers in Jesus Christ those who were formerly as wolves and lambs became united through the words of the Gospel.
`The purport is that all the meanings of the prophecies were fulfilled, but because the Jews were captives of ancestral imitations and did not perceive the reality of the meanings of these words, they denied Christ; nay, they even went so far as to crucify Him. Consider how harmful is imitation. These were interpretations handed down from fathers and ancestors, and because the Jews held fast to them, they were deprived.
`It is evident, then, that we must forsake all such imitations and beliefs so that we may not commit this error. We must investigate reality, lay aside selfish notions and banish hearsay from our minds. The Jews consider Christ the enemy of Moses, whereas, on the contrary, Christ promoted the Word of Moses. He spread the name of Moses throughout the Orient and Occident. He promulgated the teachings of Moses. Had it not been for Christ, you would not have heard the name of Moses; and unless the manifestation of Messiahship had appeared in Christ, we would not have received the Old Testament.
`The truth is that Christ fulfilled the Mosaic law and in every way upheld Moses; but the Jews, blinded by imitations and prejudices, considered Him the enemy of Moses.
`Among the great religious systems of the world is Islám. About three hundred million people acknowledge it. For more than a thousand years there has been enmity and strife between Muslims and Christians, owing to misunderstanding and spiritual blindness. If prejudices and imitations were abandoned, there would be no enmity whatever between them, and these hundreds of millions of antagonistic religionists would adorn the world of humanity by their unity.
`I wish now to call your attention to a most important point. All Islám considers the Qur'án the Word of God. In this sacred Book there are explicit texts which are not traditional, stating that Christ was the Word of God, that He was the Spirit of God, that Jesus Christ came into this world through the quickening breaths of the Holy Spirit and that Mary, His mother, was holy and sanctified. In the Qur'án a whole chapter is devoted to the story of Jesus. It records that in the time of His youth He worshiped God in the temple at Jerusalem, that manna descended from heaven for His sustenance and that He uttered words immediately after His birth. In brief, in the Qur'án there is eulogy and commendation of Christ such as you do not find in the Gospel. The Gospel does not record that the child Jesus spoke at birth or that God caused sustenance to descend from heaven for Him, but in the Qur'án it is repeatedly stated that God sent down manna day by day as food for Him. Furthermore, it is significant and convincing that when Muhammad proclaimed His work and mission, His first objection to His own followers was, "Why have you not believed on Jesus Christ? Why have you not accepted the Gospel? Why have you not believed in Moses? Why have you not followed the precepts of the Old Testament? Why have you not understood the prophets of Israel? Why have you not believed in the disciples of Christ? The first duty incumbent upon ye, O Arabians, is to accept and believe in these. You must consider Moses as a Prophet. You must accept Jesus Christ as the Word of God. You must know the Old and the New Testaments as the Word of God. You must believe in Jesus Christ as the product of the Holy Spirit." His people answered, "O Muhammad! We will become believers although our fathers andancestors were not believers, and we are proud of them. Tell us what is going to become of them?" Muhammad replied, "I declare unto you that they occupy the lowest stratum of hell because they did not believe in Moses and Christ and because they did not accept the Bible; and although they are my own ancestors, yet they are in despair in hell." This is an explicit text of the Qur'án; it is not a story or tradition but from the Qur'án itself, which is in the hands of the people. Therefore, it is evident that ignorance and misunderstanding have caused so much warfare and strife between Christians and Muslims. If both should investigate the underlying truth of their religious beliefs, the outcome would be unity and agreement; strife and bitterness would pass away forever and the world of humanity find peace and composure.'
['Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, ppm. 198-202.]
2. `. . . There is a reincarnation of the prophetic mission. Jesus Christ, speaking of John the Baptist, declared he was Elias. When John the Baptist was questioned, "Art thou Elias?" he said, "I am not." These two statements are apparently contradictory, but in reality they do not contradict. The light is one light. The light which illumined this lamp last night is illuminating it tonight. This does not mean that the identical rays of light have reappeared but the virtues of illumination. The light which revealed itself through the glass reveals itself again so that we can say the light of this evening is the light of last evening relighted. This is as regards its virtues and not as regards its former identity. This is our view of reincarnation. We believe in that which Jesus Christ and all the Prophets have believed. For example, the Báb states, "I am the return of all the Prophets." This is significant of the oneness of the prophetic virtues, the oneness of power, the oneness of bestowal, the oneness of radiation, the oneness of expression, the oneness of revelation.'
['Abdu'l-Bahá, The promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 167-168]
2A. Below is one of the references to Elias mentioned by 'Abdu'l-Bahá from the Gospel of Matthew:
017:010 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
017:011 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
017:012 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
017:013 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. [Matthew: 17: 10-13.]
3. `This humiliation will continue forever. The time may come when in Europe itself they will arise against the Jews. But your declaration that Christ was the Word of God will end all such trouble. My advice is that in order to become honorable, protected and secure among the nations of the world, in order that the Christians may love and safeguard the Israelitish people, you should be willing to announce your belief in Christ, the Word of God. This is a complete statement; there is nothing more. Is it not thoughtless, ignorant prejudice which restrains you from doing so? Declare that, verily, the Word of God was realized in Him, and all will be right.'
[`Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 414.]
5. See Capter 6, "Christ," in Part 1 of Some Answered Questions.