What Are the Baha'i Taught About Jesus?By Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon
The Christology of the Church and the teachings of Baha'u'llah about Christ's mission are on essential questions irreconcilable.1-Huschmand Sabet, The Heavens Are Cleft Asunder
In our study of some 40 Baha'i books and periodicals, we discovered a significant number of denials of the Gospel teachings and the person and work of Jesus Christ. Yet Udo Schaefer claims, "One thing, however, must be stressed. The attitude of the Baha'i towards Christianity is clear: he acknowledges its divine origin and believes in the Word of God as testified by the Gospels."2 It is odd, then, that the Baha'i believer entirely leaves out the Gospels in his "independent investigation of truth." For if the Gospels are uncorrupted, and this is historic fact, then Jesus taught that He and His words were eternally authoritative and that He alone, the Person of Jesus, was the only way to God (Matt. 24:35; Jn. 14:6). "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Lk. 9:26).
It is a sign of the times-and quite disquieting, if not surprising-to see how people can sincerely claim to be true followers of Christ and yet accept such comprehensive denials of the person and work of Christ as found in Baha'i. Baha'i theology denies the Incarnation, the virgin birth, the unique deity, the saving death, the miracles, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ.3
Despite this comprehensive denial of Jesus Christ, we are told that "a person cannot be a Baha'i unless he believes in Jesus Christ"! Obviously, then, Baha'is believe in "another Jesus" (2 Cor. 11:4 NAS), and not the biblical Jesus.
The Baha'i view of Christ is radically different from the biblical view. Jesus is called "the Spirit of God" and is equated with the Holy Spirit; that is, the Spirit of the Baha'i God, who allegedly inspired the biblical prophets.4 Baha'u'llah5 is a far superior revelation of God than that found in Jesus. Baha'u'llah declared: "O Jews! If ye be intent on crucifying once again Jesus, the Spirit of God, put Me to death, for He hath once more, in My person, been made manifest unto you . Followers of the Gospel! 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."6
Baha'u'llah was "a fuller and more glorious Revelation" of God than Jesus Christ despite Scripture telling us that Jesus Christ is the radiance of His [God's] glory [cf. Col. 1:15; 2:2-3] and the exact representation [Gk. charakter] of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Anyone who reads the Gospels will see at once that a fuller revelation of God than in Jesus is not possible.
In keeping with their exalted view of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'u'llah himself, and modern Baha'is apply biblical texts that refer to the second coming of Christ to the coming of Baha'u'llah (for example, Isa. 9:2-7; 11:1-2; 40:1-5). In Thief in the Night, William Sears spends almost 300 pages attempting to prove that Old Testament prophecies refer to Baha'u'llah and not to Christ. Sears attempts to make Baha'u'llah more or less literally fulfill biblical prophecy but then he declares in midstream that Christians misunderstand the Bible today because they take it literally and not symbolically!7
For example, Isaiah 53 is applied to the Persian Baha'u'llah8 despite the fact that the prophecy refers to the Hebrew Messiah (and also to the Jewish nation's rejection of the Messiah). How can Isaiah 40-55 possibly predict Baha'u'llah when so much of it (for example, chapter 53) was already fulfilled at the time of Christ, 1900 years before Baha'u'llah even existed? And why does Sears leave out Isaiah 53:6 and 12, which refer to the Messiah dying for our sins? Did Baha'u'llah claim to do this, or are those verses omitted because Jesus did?9
Because Baha'is seek to deal with biblical data concerning the Messiah, they should abide by the biblical data in its entirety. What does the Bible say about the Messiah? The Messiah was Jewish, and of course will be Jewish when He returns in His second Advent (see Isa. 11:1-2 NAS, out of "the stem of Jesse," King David's father). Baha'u'llah was not Jewish, a descendent of King David, but Iranian. Very specific and dramatic signs are to accompany the Messiah's return (see, for example, Matt. 24), none of which were present for Baha'u'llah's arrival. The Messiah would not have human birth at His return (2 Thess. 1:7-10), but Baha'u'llah did. The Messiah would return directly from heaven to Jerusalem (Acts 1; Zech. 14), but Baha'u'llah did not. The Messiah would set up an immediate worldwide Kingdom (Zech. 14), which Baha'u'llah apparently forgot.
It may not be appreciated by Christians enamored with Baha'i just how thoroughly Baha'u'llah erases Jesus Christ. The Jesus Christ of the Gospels is simply no longer relevant. Thus "when Baha'u'llah instituted the great Feast of Ridvan" on April 21, 1863, as a declaration of his own "power and sovereignty," he called it "the Day of God." Townshend comments, "Now it was that Jesus Christ [Baha'u'llah] ascended His throne in the power of God the Father. Now it was that He took upon Himself the scepter of the fullness of God's might and thus set Himself as Supreme Overlord of all that is in heaven and on earth."10
Baha'u'llah had no misgivings at all with usurping Christ's glory for himself. He tells us, "I am the One Whom the tongue of Isaiah hath extolled . Jesus, the spirit of God hath once more, in My person, been made manifest unto you."11 According to Dr. William Miller's research, even 'Abdu'l-Baha (at least for a time) claimed to be Christ, in spite of the fact that he was "a successor to Baha'u'llah only as head of the community of believers, not as a Manifestation of God."12 However, he eventually repudiated the claims, as they apparently caused him some embarrassment: "I am Abdul' Baha and no more"; "I am not Christ, I am not Eternal God."13
Other Baha'is deny that Jesus is the Christ. Referring to John 8:58, where Jesus declares His eternalness, George Townshend states, "Believers know that He [Jesus] spoke not of the individual Jesus but of the Eternal Christ. The Christ... which spoke through Jesus... had not confined its energies, its appearances, its utterances to the Hebrews alone."14 In other words, "the Christ" is kind of a universal divine Spirit that speaks through all religions. But the Bible clearly states: "Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ" (1 John 2:22).
Baha'is also deny Christ's physical resurrection and ascension. Abdu'l-Baha argued that, "The resurrections of the Divine Manifestations are not of the body... likewise, His [Jesus'] ascension to heaven is a spiritual and not material ascension."15 In essence, despite claims to the contrary, Baha'is believe Baha'u'llah was better than Jesus-much better.16
But a Baha'i view of Christ is not what we get from reading the Bible. The importance of Jesus and His words cannot be underestimated. Those who claim to believe in Him should listen carefully to what he says:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matt. 24:35)
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth. (Jn. 4:24)
For not even the Father judges any one, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (Jn. 5:22-23 NAS)
Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 Jn. 2:23 NAS)
Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me." (Jn. 14:23-24 NAS)
Perhaps Baha'is should also listen carefully to Baha'u'llah when he speaks of Jesus that"whatsoever hath proceeded after his blameless, his truth-speaking, trustworthy mouth, can never be altered...."17
Nevertheless, Jesus had absolute faith in a literal reading of the Old Testament (Matt. 19:4-5; Jn. 5:47; 17:17), which Baha'i denies, and He emphatically denied people's ability to self-perfect or save themselves (Jn. 6:29, 47, 63), which Baha'i affirms. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ is not some special creature whom God chose to dimly manifest His unknown being. He is God Himself: "for in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). He is above all rule and authority:
...which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:20-21 NAS)
"Thou has put all things in subjection under his feet." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. (Heb. 2:8 NAS)
One day every person will bow and worship Him:
Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11 NAS)
Indeed, no greater wisdom can be found anywhere than in Jesus, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). His relevance and reign was not for a temporal age, but forever:
to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Eph. 1:10)
according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Eph. 5:11)
because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb. 7:24-25)
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he will reign forever and ever." (Rev. 11:15)
For conservative, staunchly monotheistic Jews to say such things of a mere "man" is either utter blasphemy or absolute truth. Jesus' Jewish disciples conceded the latter for the following reasons:
1. Christ claimed to be God and performed attesting miracles, the quantity and quality of which have never been duplicated throughout history (Jn. 5:18; 10:30-33; 19:7).
2. He resurrected Himself from the dead to prove His claims (Jn. 2:19; cf. Matt. 27-28; Mark 16; Lk. 24; Acts 2:24; Rom. 4:24).
3. The Jews could turn to their divinely inspired Old Testament and see that the Messiah was to be God (Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2; cf. Matt. 22:43-46) not a Baha'i-type manifestation, and that Jesus had fulfilled Old Testament messianic prophecy in detail (as we documented in The Case for Jesus the Messiah).
This is why the Jewish authors of the New Testament told the world that Jesus Christ isthe radiance of His [God's] glory [cf. Col. 1:15,24] and the exact representation [Gk. charakter] of His nature and that He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). The Greek word charakter denies the Baha'i assertion that the "essence" of God cannot become incarnate. It means literally the "exact reproduction" and is a stronger word than "image," as in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15. As noted biblical scholar F. F. Bruce says in his Hebrews commentary (on Hebrews 1:3), "The substance of God [Gk. hypostasis] is really in Christ, Who is its impress, its exact representation [charakter] and embodiment. What God essentially is is made manifest in Christ."18
1 Huschmand Sabat, The Heavens Are Cleft Asunder (Oxford, England: George Ronald Publishing, 1975), p. 110.
2 Udo Schaefer, The Light Shineth in Darkness (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1975), pp. 4-5.
3 See John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1999), p. 22 for examples.
4 Shoghi Effendi, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah (Wilmette, IL: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1976), p. 57; 'Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith (Wilmette, IL: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1976), p. 49.
5 Baha'u'llah was born in Persia, November 12, 1817. Baha'is call him "the messenger of God for this age."
6 Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 101.
7 William Sears, Thief in the Night (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1975), pp. 203-208.
8 Ibid., pp. 156-159.
9 Sears also confuses the Holy Spirit with Christ (p. 172), and Christ with Satan (p. 174). He engages in selective use of date (pp. 150, 118), and he denies clear biblical teachings (on p. 122 he claims the Messiah would come from Assyria). The book has many such errors.
10 George Townshend, Christ and Baha'u'llah (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1977), p. 77.
11 World Order, Winter, 1966, p. 27.
12 Ibid., Fall, 1978, p. 17; William McLwee Miller, The Baha'i Faith: Its History and Teachings (South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1974), pp. 224-227.
13 Miller, The Baha'i Faith, p. 225.
14 George Townshend, The Heart of the Gospel (London, England, George Ronald, 1960), p. 80.
15 Abdu'l-Baha, Christ's Promise Fulfilled (Wilmette, IL: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1978), pp. 31-32; Schaefer, The Light Shineth in Darkness, p. 78; J. E. Esslemont, Baha'u'lla'h and the New Era (Wilmette, IL: Baha'i Publishing Truest, 1970), p. 222.
16 Townshend, Christ and Baha'u'llah, pp. 115, 65, 77; World Order, Fall 1978, p. 16.
17 Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith (Wilmette, IL: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1976), pp. 60-61; cf. pp. 15, 49, 51, 62, 72, 20.
18 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, New International Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), p. 6)
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