Adjudicating Between World-views: Part 3 – Which World-views Are We Talking About?

In the first part of this series I talked about what we are going to be doing, and briefly about why one would want to undergo such an investigation. We saw that every world-view answers the major questions of Origin, Meaning/Purpose, Morality, and Destiny.

The second part dealt with describing how we test each answer given to the questions to see if they are likely to reflect truth or be false. The three criteria, or tests, are as follows:

Logical consistency – Is the answer given logically coherent? Do all the answers as a whole cohere together? 

Empirical adequacy – Is the answer given supported by or contradict known evidences and experiences concerning the issue?

Experiential relevance – What does this world-view look like in action? Can one consistently live this world-view in actuality?


There are many different world-views: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Hinduism, New Age views, Atheism, etc. And on top of that, within each of these world-views there are different branches which may have minor or major divergences.

There is a common belief (perhaps in some cases a genuine concern) that says something like this: “Because there are so many different religions and world-views – how do we know which one is true? How can one even begin to scratch the surface of whether they are true or false?”

The answer, quite frankly, is two fold. The first answer being that we can study each of the major world-views and study them. One doesn’t need to go to university to do so, it just takes some committed reading to understand the very basics and core assertions of each world-view. There are many compact sources in which all the essentials of the major world-views are explained in simple and effective methods. One can easily research on what some of these sources are.

The second answer being that we can take all of these different world-views and group them into a few “basic world-views”. That’s exactly what we will be doing here. We will be grouping the major world-views into three basic types. This way we can get an overview of what their core assertions are, and we can actually make some conclusions without having to go in-depth into each and every specific world-view.

The truth is, really, most religions are really either additions or mutations of previous religions. For example: Buddhism is a derivative of Hinduism. Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i have their source flowing from ancient Judaism. There are some other views, such as Confucianism and Shintoism which have flowed from some form of national traditions. So we aren’t looking at a plethora of completely different views (but that’s not to say that their core beliefs aren’t different – each mutation usually changes some core belief).


In order to get some traction, as I said, we will be addressing three basic divisions of world-views. Without further wait, I will present each one of what they basically assert:

Atheism: There is no God of any sort. The term “God” usually refers to a supreme being which created the universe, or which exists outside the universe, or exists independently of the universe. Atheism is synonymous with the terms naturalism and materialism – as nature, or physical reality, is all that exists. There is no supernatural realm.   

Monism: Monism really focuses on the concept of oneness. The universe and the ultimate reality are one in essence (as in pantheism). Most forms assert that humans are really, in their essential essence or nature, divine in that we are all really one with the ultimate reality. One may notice that most forms posit that humans are under an illusion of some sort – whether that’s in regards to an individual’s actual existence (as in Buddhism) or the (asserted) fact that we are really one with the ultimate reality (as in Hinduism). The ultimate reality (or entity) is usually referred to as impersonal, undifferentiated, and/or unknowable (although, as in Hinduism, there are sub-gods which reveal wisdom to people). The goal of life to is reach enlightenment (which will be touched on later). The supernatural exists in some form. Polytheistic views can fit under this category as well.

Theism: Theism says that there is a personal God who has created the universe. This being is necessary in it’s existence and is uncaused – that is, eternal or timeless – as it created physical time. This being is one in it’s own essence, and the universe is separate from it. This being, in some way, acts in nature and holds humanity accountable for our moral actions (although the details of that topic do differ from each version of Theism). Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all examples of types of Theism. Of course, the supernatural realm exists in Theism.


There we go! So far, I think this is the easiest post to understand which is part of this series. There isn’t really much more to say about this.

Next time we’ll begin to look at how these world-views answer the questions of Origin, Meaning/Purpose, Morality, and Destiny.



  1. Bahai is not a derivative of Hinduism. It’s a monotheistic Abrahamic religion, born out of Shiah Islam, and originating in Iran. See the wikipedia article,
    or the BBC religions page ( ), or read some Bahai material for yourself.

    Shinto also is not derived from Hinduism, it comes from Japan and has no similarities to Hinduism: see

    1. Thanks for the correction Sen! You are right in both of your points, and I have modified the post to reflect these corrections. I apologize for misrepresentation if you are an adherent of any of these views. Baha’i and Shintoism are not views I have personally directly studied, although I have planned on taking the chance in the near future.

      I’m not sure where my impression of Baha’i coming from Hinduism spanned from, other than perhaps hearing about the view in conjunction with Hinduism (which I may have made a faulty inference to connect the two) and some seemingly Monistic doctrines of Baha’i, such as the unity of all religions (although from what I now understand it to be, the claim is that of a progressive revelation of the same God as opposed to simply including all the specific doctrines of the other religions).

      I was also under the impression that Shintoism was brought out of Buddhism (thus retroactively from Hinduism) – but in fact, (as you pointed out) although Buddhism did become a major influence on the Shinto view, Buddhism only came into play around 500-600 A.D. – after Shinto was already established.

      I would disagree however with the claim that Shinto has no similarities to Hinduism. Perhaps not essential or core similarities, but both do posit a sort of polytheism from what I understand of Shinto, especially since the Shinto cosmological origins involved multiple deities. Both also emphasize community over individuality. Both are also very intertwined into each respective culture. There may be some more similarities; however, as I said, I’m not very studied in the area of Shinto.

      I appreciate your comments and corrections Sen, and hope to hear more of your thoughts on these issues!

  2. If by monism you mean the belief that the universe and the ultimate reality are one in essence, then no, Bahai is not monist. It teaches an absolutely transcendent God, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers…” Baha’u’llah writes: “Regard thou the one true God as One Who is apart from, and immeasurably exalted above, all created things. The whole universe reflecteth His glory, while He is Himself independent of, and transcendeth His creatures. This is the true meaning of Divine unity. He Who is the Eternal Truth is the one Power Who exerciseth undisputed sovereignty over the world of being, Whose image is reflected in the mirror of the entire creation. All existence is dependent upon Him, and from Him is derived the source of the sustenance of all things. This is what is meant by Divine unity; this is its fundamental principle.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 165)

    1. I would be interested to know how Baha’i would answer to the idea that Jesus called himself God (as opposed to simply a prophet or messenger).

      1. In Bahai theology, as in Christian theology, Christ has two natures, divine and human. In Christian theology this is called the “Hypostatic union.” Christ is pre-existent, and is born of Mary; he “knows everything” (John 21:17 and he “grows in wisdom”, he says “why do you call me good, no-one is good but the Father” and “no-one knows the hour but the Father,”

        Baha’u’llah writes:

        [God] hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence. These sanctified Mirrors, these Day-springs of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. … Even as He hath said: “There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and them; except that they are Thy servants, and are created of Thee.” This is the significance of the tradition: “I am He, Himself, and He is I, myself.”
        (The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 99 : )

      2. I would agree, as you pointed out, that Christ has two natures as described – and with the orthodox understanding of the theological term “Hypostatic Union”. In the quote from Baha’ullah it is said “There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and them; except…(they) are created of Thee.”

        So would it be safe to say that as an adherent of Baha’i you would not agree that Jesus was fully God – even as far to say Jesus is the creator of the universe?

        I suppose an even clearer distinction would be whether you agree or disagree with the statement, “Jesus is not simply a divine and created being, but he is an uncaused self-existent being – that is to say, he is fully God.”

  3. I would say Jesus is both a divine and created being, and the creator of the universe. The Logos in Bahai scripture is often called the Primal Will. The universe is created through the Primal Will:

    No sign can indicate [God’s] presence or His absence; inasmuch as by a word of His command all that are in heaven and on earth have come to exist, and by His wish, which is the Primal Will itself, all have stepped out of utter nothingness into the realm of being, the world of the visible.
    (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 98)

    and this Primal Will in turn, is the divine nature in the hypostatic union. The Bab writes:

    It is this Primal Will which appeareth resplendent in every Prophet and speaketh forth in every revealed Book. It knoweth no beginning, inasmuch as the First deriveth its firstness from It; and knoweth no end, for the Last oweth its lastness unto It.
    (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 126)


    If, however, thou art sailing upon the sea of creation,  126  know thou that the First Remembrance, which is the Primal Will of God, may be likened unto the sun. God hath created Him through the potency of His might, and He hath, from the beginning that hath no beginning, caused Him to be manifested in every Dispensation through the compelling power of His behest, and God will, to the end that knoweth no end, continue to manifest Him according to the good-pleasure of His invincible Purpose.

    And know thou that He indeed resembleth the sun. Were the risings of the sun to continue till the end that hath no end, yet there hath not been nor ever will be more than one sun; and were its settings to endure for evermore, still there hath not been nor ever will be more than one sun. It is this Primal Will which appeareth resplendent in every Prophet and speaketh forth in every revealed Book. It knoweth no beginning, inasmuch as the First deriveth its firstness from It; and knoweth no end, for the Last oweth its lastness unto It.

    In the time of the First Manifestation the Primal Will appeared in Adam; in the day of Noah It became known in Noah; in the day of Abraham in Him; and so in the day of Moses; the day of Jesus; the day of Muhammad, the Apostle of God; the day of the ‘Point of the Bayan’; the day of Him Whom God shall make manifest; and the day of the One Who will appear after Him Whom God shall make manifest. Hence the inner meaning of the words uttered by the Apostle of God, ‘I am all the Prophets’, inasmuch as what shineth resplendent in each one of Them hath been and will ever remain the one and the same sun.
    (Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 125)

    1. Thank you for your reply Sen! Firstly I’d like to just ask another question in order to clarify my understanding. Concerning the final paragraph (which was a quoted), it says that the Primal Will appeared in Adam, Noah, etc. You indicated that the Primal Will is the logos, or the creator of the universe. This final paragraph you quote says that the logos, or Primal Will, appeared in Adam. Does this mean, for example, that Adam (and the following prophets) was the logos in human form, or that the logos acted through Adam – who was a mere man, or perhaps another view?

  4. I think it’s neither that Adam is the logos in human form, or that Adam is a mere man and the logos is separate and acts through him, but rather that there’s a union of two natures in one person. So Christ is the second Adam (etc) – the hypostatic union is the characteristic of all of them.

    Compare to the human being, who is both animal (and mineral), and human. The human nature transcends nature and therefore, each individual’s human nature (soul, rational spirit) transcends that person’s animal and mineral nature. But the person is not simply the soul acting through an instrumental body: the person is body and soul combined, fully animal and fully human.

    1. So how you describe the logos? In other words, “What is it?” Is it a person, a spirit, a force, a nature, or perhaps another description?

      Just as a side note which is perhaps pertinent, I would disagree that a “person” is defined as being a body and soul combined. I think the Christian writer C. S. Lewis put it well in these words, “I have a body. I am a soul.” I think the argument that Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland has established, called the problem of the enduring self, is one argument that would demonstrate it is the soul, or immaterial self which is the enduring “I”; that is, the actual person. I think other arguments for substance dualism may provide additional warrant, but Moreland’s definitely would demonstrate that it is the “ghost in the machine” which is the “I”, or the actual identity. Implications of this would mean that a soul can exist apart from a body and that the person still endures. But that’s a side note, I’d be more interested in hearing about your thoughts on the first question.

      Thanks for you time Sen!

  5. Anonymous · · Reply

    I would not start with speculation about the logos being a person or a force etc., but rather start with how we get to the Logos concept in the first place. In one sense it comes from the understanding that the creation’s existence, and its being the object of God’s love and revelation, are not two different things. It’s not as if God stumbled upon a universe, and decided, hey, I should reveal something. Baha’u’llah (speaking in the voice of God) writes:

    Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. (The Arabic Hidden Words)

    and an islamic tradition (referenced in Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-e Aqdas, subject of a commentary by Abdu’l-Baha) says,

    I was a Hidden Treasure. I wished to be made known,
    and thus I called creation into being
    in order that I might be known.

    This implies that the will-to-be-known, manifest historically in those figures whom the Bahais call the Manifestations of God, and also manifest in the Spirit’s more diverse activities in the world, is prior to creation and the ’cause’ (in one or other of that word’s many senses) of physical existence.

    In another sense, historically, we reasoned our way to the logos concept from the Person of Christ. Having found he is both human and divine, we call the divine nature of Christ, “the logos.” Logos was an existing philosophical term, used in the platonism and by Philo of Alexandria. But we cannot turn the process around and say that since the logos is force, a nature, a spirit, therefore the divine nature of Christ is X Y Z. That would be fitting Christ into our philosophical categories. We have to go the other way, and say “logos” is a term that was available, and it is applied to the divine nature of Christ as evidenced in the historical person, Jesus, and — because we understand that God’s self-revelation is prior to, not following after, creation — it is applied equally to God’s Will to love, reveal, and create.

    I agree that the soul endures, and the body does not. However the animal spirit – embodied as it is in a succession of bodies, through procreation – is enduring in its own way and is part of ourselves. We are mineral plus animal plus human, not humans who merely control a physical body. Therefore, bodily suffering is real suffering. This is important partly because body-denial is psychologically unhealthy, and fosters unhealthy religious expressions such as asceticism and flagellation, but also because the reality of Christ’s self-sacrifice is diminished if his body is not part of himself, but merely an automaton that his spirit instructs, like a remote-control robot. Proceed five meters straight ahead – stop by the suspicious package – take photos – transmit images – explode yourself. Nobody gives a thought for the robot’s self-sacrifice, or the nobility of the operator who gave the instructions.

    1. Thanks once again for your engaging comments.

      I think one of the most interesting parts in the New Testament is the first section of John’s Gospel. Of course, the reason is because of John’s usage of the term ‘logos’. I find it most interesting that John says that the logos was with God, and was God. But then in the next few verses after verse 1 we see John referring to the logos as “him” or “he”. And we know from the context that Jesus is the “he”.

      So John is saying that Jesus, a person, who is the logos, was with God and was God. Of course this makes sense within the concept of the Trinity – where God is a compound unity: 3 persons unified in 1 essence.

      Now, from what I understand of your comments, one reason God created the universe is because He wanted to be known (please correct me if I misunderstood).

      I think one of the strengths that only Orthodox Christianity can offer is that IF God is only one person then this means that God – without creation – could not be fully called “love” (John goes on to say that “God is love” – which I think you would agree with, God himself should be the full embodiment of love). God could love “himself” per-say, but experience tells us that the fulfillment of love in it’s most complete form is when one person “loves” another person. Love in it’s fullest requires more than one person.

      But if God in His own being is only one person, then He cannot be the full embodiment of love. So I don’t think we could really say “God is love” in this sense.

      On the other hand, as John implies to us from the section I mention at the beginning of this comment, IF God is by definition a community or plurality of persons (not essence) then we could most definitely say on this concept that God – without creation – is fully in his own being the full embodiment of love.

      So love isn’t defined by God ‘loving’ creation – but yet creation is fully a reflection of the love which already existed in God.

      I’d also like to comment on the last paragraph in your comment. I agree that our bodies are an integral part of us in that the sense that we experience is fully real. I wouldn’t say, as you said, that we are “humans controlling a physical body” – as if the soul-body connection is like a person using a remote control robot, which implies the soul is completely separate from the body. It would be more like an embodied soul, or a soul “with skin on”. I suppose the “feeling” issue would be sort of like the matrix (if you’ve seen the movies) in that when they are connected to the virtual world, their body still experiences the pain. That’s because it is the brain that is the sole processor of the senses.

      It’s not the body that experiences the pain, all the body does it transmits signals to the brain, which may trigger other neurological effects, but yet it is the soul (being integrally connected to the brain) that actually “feels” the pain – therefore what happens to the body is completely real for the soul. No physical object “feels” anything. Only creatures that posses the “ghost in the machine” experience the senses – because it is the immaterial part of a creature that experiences these things.

      Lastly, you mentioned about Christ’s self-sacrifice. Do you believe Christ actually died physically? If so, why did He have to die? And according to the sources we have, what provoked the Jewish leaders to kill him?

      I appreciate your thoughts on these topics. Thanks Sen!

  6. I do not think that God needs an object of love, to love, or that God needs an object of knowledge to know. One cannot reason by analogy from the human condition to the nature of God. The Bab is His Risaliy-i-Dhahabiyyih says:

    “.Even as God hath no need for another besides Himself, likewise He hath no need in His knowledge for the existence of objects of knowledge. In truth, the Essence hath no connection with anything. Verily, the cause of the contingent existences is one creation of God, and it is the Will. God created the Will, from itself without a fire coming to it from the Divine Essence. All of the existences were created by the intermediary of this Will, and this Will always tells of God’s own being and reflects nothing but Him. (Provisionally translated by Keven Brown from Nicholas’ French translation in Le Beyan Arabe, pp. 10-12. see Brown, ‘A Brief Discussion of the Primal Will in the Baha’i Writings’ see )

    Similarly, there’s a report (unfortunately not authenticated) that Abdu’l-Baha spoke of four kinds of love, the third of which is the love of God for Godself, and this is the source of all loves.

    Yes, Bahais believe that Christ died physically on the Cross. As to the historical dynamics of that, my reading of the historical evidence is that the Roman rulers executed him, partly as a precaution and partly to appease the Sanhedrin. Of these, I think the precautionary element is the larger – they knew that Jewish religious movements often led to revolt or unrest, so they hardly needed the urging of the Sanhedrin or of Herod Antipater. However on another level, he sacrificed himself because that was the Will of God – and the Romans or Jewish leaders only imagined they had done it and achieved a victory by it.

    1. Thanks again Sen. I would disagree with the idea that “one cannot reason by analogy from the human condition to the nature of God.” I think one can, although, of course, not exhaustively. If God is a rational, relational, and moral being then I think we can reason to God from our own experiences or “condition” – especially on the view that humanity is made in the special image of God. For example, our moral condition, or conscience, leads us to intuitively know that we are ultimately accountable to someone. We also intuitively know that there is a moral standard or measure (“the good”) – which, of course, I would present that God Himself is that perfectly moral/good standard.

      I think one can even argue to God from mere creation to God! Things like the order in nature exemplifies or reveals a “clue” about the fact that God is orderly, nature being rationally intelligible indicates the creators intelligibility (in that we can know about Him), the integration of systems in nature may reveal a “clue” about God’s own being, that He himself is an integration of persons into one essence or being. The Bible itself is clear that by mere general revelation from nature we are accountable to God! (Romans 1)

      I’m very interested in the Baha’i view of the resurrection. I’d like to ask a few more questions if you are interested in answering them.

      Why did the Jewish leaders condemn Jesus, that is, what was their main reason or charge? Was it well founded or a false charge?

      Why did God want Jesus to die? Was was the theological significance of Christ’s death?

      Thanks again Sen! Enjoy your day!

  7. What happened historically, for example at the trials of Jesus, is a historical question for which it is very unlikely we will ever get a solid answer with solid evidence. However I can tell you how the Bahai scriptures present it – which is history seen through doctrinal spectacles, or history told in order to teach religious truths.
    Baha’u’llah writes:

    Consider the Dispensation of Jesus Christ. Behold, how all the learned men of that generation, though eagerly anticipating the coming of the Promised One, have nevertheless denied Him. Both Annas, the most learned among the divines of His day, and Caiaphas, the high priest, denounced Him and pronounced the sentence of His death.
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 83)


    Similarly, call thou to mind the day when the Jews, who had surrounded Jesus, Son of Mary, were pressing Him to confess His claim of being the Messiah and Prophet of God, so that they might declare Him an infidel and sentence Him to death. Then, they led Him away, He Who was the Day-star of the heaven of divine Revelation, unto Pilate and Caiaphas, who was the leading divine of that age. The chief priests were all assembled in the palace, also a multitude of people who had gathered to witness His sufferings, to deride and injure Him. Though they repeatedly questioned  133  Him, hoping that He would confess His claim, yet Jesus held His peace and spake not. Finally, an accursed of God arose and, approaching Jesus, adjured Him saying: “Didst thou not claim to be the Divine Messiah? Didst thou not say, ‘I am the King of Kings, My word is the Word of God, and I am the breaker of the Sabbath day?'” Thereupon Jesus lifted up His head and said: “Beholdest thou not the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and might?” These were His words, and yet consider how to outward seeming He was devoid of all power except that inner power which was of God and which had encompassed all that is in heaven and on earth. How can I relate all that befell Him after He spoke these words? How shall I describe their heinous behaviour towards Him? They at last heaped on His blessed Person such woes that He took His flight unto the fourth Heaven.
    (The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 132)

    Abdu’l-Baha writes,

    “”So, too, before the Seal of the Prophets, consider Jesus the Son of Mary. After the appearance of that Manifestation of the Merciful One all the doctors charged that Quintessence of Faith with misbelief and rebelliousness; until at length, with the consent of Annas, who was the chief of the doctors of that age, and likewise Caiaphas,* who was the most learned of the judges, they wrought upon that Holy One that which the pen is ashamed and unable to repeat. The earth with its amplitude was too strait for Him, until God took Him up into the heaven.
    (Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 74)

    “Caiaphas and Annas were the colossal pillars of the Mosaic Dispensation in the day of His Highness the Spirit; but as they did not acknowledge the Word of God, they fell from the apex of glory to the bottom of the pit of the greatest abasement. But Peter was a catcher of fish; as he turned his face toward the Word of God, the fame of his imperishable, deathless and immortal glory encircled East and West; and he found in the sovereignty of the Kingdom, eternal and everlasting majesty. It is the same in these days.”
    (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 223)

    As for the significance of Christ’s death, Baha’u’llah writes:

    “Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence  86  exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit.

    We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified.”
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 85)

    1. Thanks again Sen, I appreciate hearing your point of view.

      I’ll quote you here: “What happened historically, for example at the trials of Jesus, is a historical question for which it is very unlikely we will ever get a solid answer with solid evidence. However I can tell you how the Bahai scriptures present it – which is history seen through doctrinal spectacles, or history told in order to teach religious truths.”

      A few things I’d like to draw upon which are things that are fundamental to the discussion we are having.

      1) Do you think the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are historically reliable? They each claim to be recordings of actual history of which each author was either a) an eyewitness or b) the assistant of an eyewitness (John Mark was Peter’s assistant). How do you view them?

      2) Where do the Baha’i scriptures ultimately derive their knowledge about these events (Jesus’ life, death, etc.)?

      Another quote here: “Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified.”
      (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 85)”

      1) What does it mean for “the soul of the sinner (to be) sanctified” ?

      2) Do you believe (or is there an orthodox Baha’i position) that Jesus was risen from the dead?

      Thanks Sen!

  8. I don’t think the Gospels are historically reliable, or that they are written by the authors they were later ascribed to. However, given a source-critical approach, a great deal of valid historical information can be deduced from the Gospels, with more or less confidence. I should say that this is not a view that many Bahais would share: my perspective is shaped by doing biblical studies at a university level, with the languages and a source-critical approach to the texts. I think the evidence is that the gospels are considerably less historically reliable, and have a more complex textual history than, for example, Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah appear to suppose. On the other hand, perhaps they were just avoiding the question of text history, because history was not their concern.

    Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha’s picture of Jesus’ life and death comes primarily from the New Testament, sometimes drawing on stories about Jesus that circulated in the Middle East.

    “The soul of the sinner sanctified” seems self-evident. Sanctified is “made holy.” In this verse, the word translated as sanctified is tazakkat, — which etymologically relates to Arabic ZKW, which in the second form means “to increase, to justify, vindicate , vouch for, — rather than the more usual muqaddas which is more literally “make holy. The verse reads, slightly more literally translated, “the vindication of every soul in the [eyes of] the Lord of Strength and Might.

    Yes, there is a scriptural Bahai position on the resurrection:

    The resurrections of the Divine Manifestations are not of the body. All Their states, Their conditions, Their acts, the things They have established, Their teachings, Their expressions, Their parables and Their instructions have a spiritual and divine signification, and have no connection with material things. For example, there is the subject of Christ’s coming from heaven: it is clearly stated in many places in the Gospel that the Son of man came from heaven, He is in heaven, and He will go to heaven. So in chapter 6, verse 38, of the Gospel of John it is written: “For I came down from heaven”; and also in verse 42 we find: “And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?” Also in John, chapter 3, verse 13: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

    Observe that it is said, “The Son of man is in heaven,” while at that time Christ was on earth. Notice also that it is said that Christ came from heaven, though He came from the womb of Mary, and His body was born of Mary. It is clear, then, that when it is said that the Son of man is come from heaven, this has not an outward but an inward signification; it is a spiritual, not a material, fact. The meaning is that though, apparently, Christ was born from  104  the womb of Mary, in reality He came from heaven, from the center of the Sun of Reality, from the Divine World, and the Spiritual Kingdom. And as it has become evident that Christ came from the spiritual heaven of the Divine Kingdom, therefore, His disappearance under the earth for three days has an inner signification and is not an outward fact. In the same way, His resurrection from the interior of the earth is also symbolical; it is a spiritual and divine fact, and not material; and likewise His ascension to heaven is a spiritual and not material ascension.

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 102)

    There is more, you can read it at

    1. Thanks again Sen.

      I’d like address this section of your comment: ” I think the evidence is that the gospels are considerably less historically reliable, and have a more complex textual history than, for example, Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah appear to suppose. On the other hand, perhaps they were just avoiding the question of text history, because history was not their concern.”

      What sorts of things from a source-critical approach have made you view the Gospels as “less” historically reliable?

      Even if a document has a “complex textual history”, does that necessarily equate to unreliability? After all, encyclopedias have an enormously complex textual history in their sources, but they are still considered all-together reliable.

      On the other hand, what sorts of things have convinced you that the Baha’i scriptures are historically reliable in the events they speak of?

      Thank you for the section on the resurrection. It seems that, from what I understand, the resurrection in it’s purpose was a spiritual fact or reason, but that Jesus did physically rise. from the dead. Is that correct?


  9. When I said that the gospels are considerably less historically reliable than Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah (seem to) suppose, I am thinking of both text criticism and source criticism. Text criticism of lower criticism deals with manuscript variants, it makes us aware that the apparent solidity that the received text has, because “everyone” uses it, is not historically true. There are numerous text variants and the possibility of errors. Source criticism or higher criticism looks for the sources from which the New Testament books were assembled. It shows that many of the books have a rather complex history in several stages, requiring some time to complete, although it also shows that some of the Pauline letters really were written as one letter, by Paul. Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha use a “received text” of the Bible (generally one of the Arabic translations), without reference to the translation issues, text-critical issues or the sources of the text. For them, it is simply the sacred text, and they explain its meanings. I do know that Abdu’l-Baha was aware of the Higher Criticism of his day, for he comments on it in passing, but it seems to play no role in his own interpretations of the Bible.

    Historical reliability, and complexity of text history, are in principle two different things, and I did not link complexity and unreliability in the way you have understood. An editor might compile a composite from three reliable eyewitness accounts, and produce something historically reliable. However if that editor does not identify his sources, and the sources are lost, we may not be able to *assess* the historical reliability. This is the case in the New Testament: even the identities of the editors are lost. Against that, we have multiple perspective on Jesus, and so far as they check against one another using independent sources, that gives us more confidence that together they give a more or less reliable picture of how the early Church saw Jesus – of the Kerygma – and of the major events in his life. For example, I see no reason to doubt that Jesus lived, and that he was crucified, although there is no single document that is so clearly reliable that it, in itself, establishes this irrefutably.

    Personally, I don’t believe in the physical resurrection, or the physical assumption, or a physical heaven to which Jesus flew up. I think that the physical resurrection, and the details of the Jerusalem narratives, are later developments in a retelling that begins rather with the bodiless Pauline form (as recounted in Acts):

    9.3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

    Acts is an early source, for while it refers to Paul it does not reflect the letters of Paul, and the letters of Paul are among the earliest of the New Testament books. So this gives us a picture of the meaning of resurrection quite soon after Jesus’ death. It is the living presence, not the bodily presence, that was experienced. Even in John, which has Thomas being invited to put his finger in the wound (but not doing so), the resurrected Jesus simply appears and disappears: in a closed room, on the shore of Tiberias, on the road to Emmaus.

    1. I’d like to address some things you’ve said which seem to me perhaps unacceptable for reasons I’ll present.

      You said, “However if that editor does not identify his sources, and the sources are lost, we may not be able to *assess* the historical reliability.”

      I agree that if we don’t have the sources then it means that we don’t have access to something that could have furthermore established the reliability of the text. Even if the identities of the authors are lost, which I think one could firmly establish (but won’t get into now, although if you want to address it feel free!), there are other criteria which are used in historical investigation (these ones are worded in a way to be reflective of the NT as being the document in question). These do not disprove the historical reliability if they aren’t met, but if met they do increase the likelihood that they are. Here are a few which you may or may not be aware of:

      1. Historical congruence – Event or text fits within the context of known historical facts.

      2. Independent and/or early attestation – Event or text under investigation is referenced in multiple independent sources under a time close to the alleged event or text in question.

      3. Embarrassment – Event or text in question serves as a awkward or counter-productive for the persons who serve as sources of the information.

      4. Dissimilarity – The event or text in question is unlike antecedent Jewish thought-forms and/or unlike subsequent Christian thought-forms.

      5. Semitisms – Traces in the narrative of Aramaic or Hebrew linguistic forms.

      6. Coherence – Text or event in question is consistent which already established facts about Jesus.

      Copied from here

      I’ll offer one reasons why I would wholly disagree that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead physically (or at least to show that the VERY early church believed he did).

      Due to the wording and content, 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8 is considered by New Testaments scholars to be an early creed which was being iterated by Paul here. The exact dating as to when this creed was founded is of course not established to the year, but due to when this letter was written (as you mentioned, very early – around 54 a.d.) most date it to within 10 years of Jesus’ actual death. So we have in this one piece good evidence that this creed was very early and was so early that legend could not have crept in – and of course, it’s attested to that Jesus died, was buried, rose again, and then appeared to many people (over 500 from this text alone if you count).

      Also, the Jewish view of the resurrection was entirely bodily. In fact, when Paul refers to the resurrection he sometimes throws in the word “body”, which is translated from the Greek “soma”. And since you’ve studied the biblical languages (or it seems you stated you did), you know that “soma” means a physical body.

  10. 1 Corinthians says that Jesus appeared to 500, and to Paul. But the appearance to Paul was of a light and a voice. Therefore why would one think that, in this early text, the possibility of a bodily resurrection had even been thought of?

    Soma does not mean just a physical body in 1 Corinthians, and maybe not anywhere else. There is a physical body and spiritual body (15:44); the church is a body (12:14, 19, 20, 27) with many members; and most telling:

    1 Corinthians 15:37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.

    1. I’ve been on vacation, thus the absence of activity on the blog. But I’m back, and I want to reply to your last comment.

      You said: “Therefore why would one think that, in this early text, the possibility of a bodily resurrection had even been thought of?”

      Firstly, the text does have a sort of indication of the difference between Paul’s experience and those mentioned before him. Paul says in verse 8, “As to one abnormally born.”. This naturally would be taken as an indicator of the difference in his experience with those of the twelve, Cephas (Peter), and the 500 mentioned.

      Secondly, verses 3-8 aren’t at all addressing the nature of the appearances. The text simply says that Jesus appeared to them, that’s it. So one can’t use this text to support either a physical or nonmaterial resurrection. One can use it to support that Jesus died, was buried, rose somehow, and appeared, somehow, to those mentioned. So both of us need to make a case – Jesus’ rising in an immaterial body is not the default either. So here’s my case!

      I’d like to comment on that section of scripture you quoted. It’s interesting to note that Paul compares physical things (like the different types of “flesh” among humans and other animals) to other physical things. So I think to say the “heavenly body” is described as nonmaterial is just something that isn’t in that text. I’d even say since Paul is saying that the resurrected body is physical, but it’s different in it’s make-up, just as the body of a man, reptile, or other things mentioned are different in make-up but not physicality. The rest of my comments will support this idea that Paul meant a physical body.

      You also pointed to verse 44 (chapter 15 of 1 Cor.). Here Paul mentions not the physical body and spiritual body, as you indicated, but the natural and spiritual. There’s a huge difference. The Greek term translated as natural is psychikon. Scholar Mike Licona has looked up this word in over 800 references from 1st and 2nd century texts, and found that it is never – not even once – translated as physical.

      This passage is referring to the orientation of the body, not it’s substance. To demonstrate this claim, I’d like to refer to some other passages which use the same word or root. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 is describing the natural man, not as in physical man, but as in naturally oriented or unspiritual. We are looking at a comparison of the same Greek words.

      Jude verse 19 also translate this Greek term as natural, not physical.

      So I think it’s clear (to me at least) that these references aren’t talking about comparing a physical body to spiritual, but unspiritual or naturally oriented to spiritually oriented.

      Just a footnote: Paul says in Romans 12:1 that we are to offer our bodies to God (as in, keep our bodies pure) – a physical action. Some translate this as being the “spiritual service”, but as others translate the best is “reasonable service” – as logos is being used there. But, I think we could agree that keeping one’s physical body morally pure is a spiritual act. So I think it’s dangerous to equate spiritual with non-physical. We have to look at the context and other hints to see what’s really going on (as in the passages to follow).

      Another point: how can we determine whether the resurrection was physical? There are many references to the gospels which are very clear on this (John 2:19-21, John 20:19-20, Luke 24:38-39, Luke 24:42-43, John 20:25-27, ). But I won’t use the gospels. Let’s use some of the epistles.

      In 1 Cor. 15:20 Jesus’ resurrection is referred to as the firstfruit. “First Christ, then the people of Christ”. So Christ’s resurrection is the same as the general resurrection, as His is the first of the resurrected.

      Romans 8:11 says that God will raise our mortal bodies just as he raised Christ’s. That seems to me quite clear as to the type of resurrection.

      Romans 8:23 speaks of the “redemption of our bodies.” The bodies we have right now are physical, therefore the redeemed body – as the same body – is physical.

      Lastly, take a look at 1 Cor. 15:44. Notice how Paul is saying “IT is sown a natural body, IT is raised a spiritual body.” He’s talking about the same body here – the same concept as mentioned from Romans 8:23. Like I said earlier, we need to look at the context and not assume that spiritual means non-physical (not to say you always do that [I have no idea], it’s just a point I want to make).

      So there’s a case that the general resurrection is a physical one – of which Jesus’ was of the same kind (the firstfruit).

      But, does Paul refer to Jesus directly as a physical being?

      Colossians 2:9 says that “In [Jesus] the entire fullness of God’s nature (or deity) dwells bodily (or in a human body).” Notice this isn’t past tense, this is present tense – Jesus right now has a body (and He’s fully God as well).

      1 Tim. 3:5 says that Jesus is a man. In context of these other passages, I’d say that Jesus is a man – a physical man.

      Hope that tweaks your interest. Thanks!

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