How do we distinguish between Jesus, the historical figure, and Jesus as “the Christ” that was in the Prophets before Jesus lived on earth?
(for Biblical support of this, see 1st Peter -11*)
The parts in red below are from the Baha'i writings.
"Know thou," Baha'u'llah (Glory of God) has testified concerning Jesus, "that when the Son of Man [Jesus] 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 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.... We bear witness that through the power of the Word of God every leper was cleansed, every sickness was healed, every human infirmity was banished. He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 86)
( Most of the following paragraphs are some of my own understandings, from the Bible and Baha'i writings--Greg Kagira-Watson)
My basic understanding of the confusion is that as Christians we are often not clear about the distinctions between Jesus and His station as "the Christ" or the “Mediator.”
As Christians we have often referred to "Jesus" and "Christ" as if these terms are synonymous. However, while these two terms can be used to refer to the same reality, they can also be used to make a distinction. The Bible makes a distinction. (Take any concordance and look up "the Christ.") The two are the same, and yet they are different. This is part of my understanding from my Bahá’í viewpoint.
Here is my limited understanding (based on my Baha'i interpretation of the Bible quotes below my 12 points):
“… Christ …Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (Holy Bible, 1 Peter 1:20)
“I have manifested Thy name unto the men ....” (Holy Bible, John 17:6 )
“. . . . I will . . . manifest myself. . . ” (Holy Bible, John 14:21)
“To every discerning and illuminated heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the Divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery. He is, and hath ever been, veiled in the ancient eternity of His Essence, and will remain in His Reality everlastingly hidden from the sight of men. ‘No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision; He is the Subtile, the All-Perceiving.’”... (Baha'u'llah) Also see: John 5:37 " And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape."
"The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace, according to His saying, ‘His grace hath transcended all things; My grace hath encompassed them all,’ 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. They are the Treasuries of Divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the Light that can never fade.... These Tabernacles of Holiness, these Primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these Gems of Divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty, and grace, are made manifest." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p.46-48)
The Baha'i teachings have helped me to understand and
reconcile the "seeming" contradictions we find in the Bible
statements below, and to learn that they are NOT contradictory. The Holy
Bible says that
CHRIST AS GOD
"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. . ." (John 14:9)
"And whoever sees me sees Him who sent me." (John 12:45)
"My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work." (John 4:34)
"I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me." ". . .the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me." (John 5:30-36)
". . .for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)
Then Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine but His who sent me. (John 7:16)
JESUS WAS A MAN (as a being other than God)
". . .and being found in fashion as a man. . . (Philippians 2:8)
. . .Christ Jesus, himself human. . ." (1 Timothy 2:5)
"Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." (Luke 18:19 and Mark 10:18)
"So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'" (Hebrews 5:5)
Comment (slight digression):
The Jesus who was tempted by Satan
was not God. God cannot be tempted. A temptation is meaningful only
if the person being tempted is vulnerable to the temptation and conquers that
vulnerability. Only a man can be vulnerable, especially to an evil influence.
Only the human side of Jesus could have been subject to such temptation (though
He was created to withstand it), not the Christ Spirit within Him.
Moreover, Jesus was called the "Son" (even the "son of
man") to distinguish Him from the "Father"—God.
A more detailed explanation of the "Sonship" of Christ is found in the writings of Abdu'l-Baha, in book called Some Answered Questions. For example:
". . . In the Gospel it is said that a man came to Christ and called Him 'Good Master.' Christ answered, 'Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but One, that is, God.' This did not mean -- God forbid! -- that Christ was a sinner; but the intention was to teach submission, humility, meekness and modesty to the man to whom He spoke. These Holy Beings [the Manifestations of God] are lights, and light does not unite itself with darkness. They are life, and life and death are not confounded. They are for guidance, and guidance and error cannot be together. They are the essence of obedience, and obedience cannot exist with rebellion. . . Salutations be upon you." (`Abdu'l-Baha: Some Answered Questions, pp: 169-171)
"Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one." (Galatians 3:20)
"But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises." (Hebrews 8:6)
here to go back to above explanation of Abdu'l-Baha)
GOD IS THE SPEAKER -- JESUS WAS IN THE CONDITION OF A LISTENER
Christ describes his own condition as a "listener" to the Spirit of God within Him in these words: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)
Notice that the words from John 16:12-13 describe the same very same condition for the Promised One as that which Jesus uses to describe Himself -- i.e., as one who "hears:" ". . .He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak."
Now, one must ask, if this verse were not referring to a Man in the station, or condition, of a listener -- if this blessed verse were referring to the Holy Spirit not embodied in a man -- then what need would He have to listen to anyone? Does the Spirit of God need to listen to anyone? The Spirit of God is the speaker. This verse describes, as Abdu'l-Baha has explained, "a Man Who has individuality, Who has ears to hear and a tongue to speak."
Jesus Christ was animated by the Spirit of God. When we speak of the Christ Spirit we refer to that Holy Spirit which revealed the Word of God through His chosen Mouthpiece. Christ appeared in this station of the Mouthpiece, or as the "Manifestation" of God, and thus spoke with the Voice of God Himself. At other times, Christ (Jesus) spoke as a man with such sayings as, "I do nothing on my own authority except by the will of Him who sent me." He called Himself the Son so as to distinguish Himself from the Father, even saying, "the Father is greater than I." Thus, the Manifestation of God is in two conditions, sometimes speaking as the "man" and sometimes speaking with the Voice of God Himself -- the Voice of Divinity. (click here to see a fuller explanation of "...the divergent utterances of the Manifestations..." so that they "...may cease to agitate the soul and perplex the mind.")
Baha’u’llah’s teachings have “brought to light the hidden things of darkness...” (1st Corinthians 4:5) The hidden meanings are explained, with Divine authority. Remember, He could only accomplish this with the permission of God. (Deut. ), because of His great and unequivocal claim. Otherwise, according to Moses in Deuteronomy, God would cut him off and He would not be able to accomplish His designs. He has come to “speak plainly of the Father.” (John 16:25) Please remember also, that the Spirit of Christ was in the Prophets before Jesus (1 Peter -11). Why should it be so impossible to consider that the reality of the Christ, which is the Word of God, should reappear in the Prophet Baha’u’llah? The Bible warns the churches that the Christ would come with a “new name” which “no one would know except he that receiveth it.” (Revelation , ) The stone is Christ. (Romans 9:33, 1st Corinthians 10:4, 1st Peter 2:4, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Acts 4:11, refer to Psalm 118:22-23 and Isaiah 28:16) The manna is to be “hidden”—again a reference to Christ. Manna is the “Bread of Life” (or WORD come down from Heaven)—a reference to Christ as the Word of God “come down from Heaven” in both the “first” and “second” comings (John ). “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2). “He had a name written, that no man knew, but He himself. …and His name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:12-13)
According to Baha’u’llah, the “coming of another” and the "Return" of Christ mean one and the same thing. Notice that Jesus says “I” have more to tell you, when “He” comes. (John 16:12-13) The two are one. Remember the Spirit of Christ was in the Prophets BEFORE Jesus was ever born. (1st Peter -11) Why not after?
“To them that are endowed with understanding, it is clear and manifest that when the fire of the love of Jesus consumed the veils of Jewish limitations, and His authority was made apparent and partially enforced, He the Revealer of the unseen Beauty, addressing one day His disciples, referred unto His passing, and, kindling in their hearts the fire of bereavement, said unto them: ‘I go away and come again unto you.’ And in another place He said: ‘I go and another will come Who will tell you all that I have not told you, and will fulfil all that I have said.’ Both these sayings have but one meaning, were you to ponder upon the Manifestations of the Unity of God with divine insight.
“…Thus it is that Jesus, Himself, declared: ‘I go away and come again unto you.’ Consider the sun. Were it to say now, ‘I am the sun of yesterday,’ it would speak the truth. And should it, bearing the sequence of time in mind, claim to be other than that sun, it still would speak the truth. In like manner, if it be said that all the days are but one and the same, it is correct and true. And if it be said, with respect to their particular names and designations, that they differ, that again is true. For though they are the same, yet one doth recognize in each a separate designation, a specific attribute, a particular character. Conceive accordingly the distinction, variation, and unity characteristic of the various Manifestations of holiness, that thou mayest comprehend the allusions made by the creator of all names and attributes to the mysteries of distinction and unity, and discover the answer to thy question as to why that everlasting Beauty should have, at sundry times, called Himself by different names and titles...” (Baha'u'llah, The Iqan or Book of Certitude, p. 18)
The Bearers of the Trust of God are made manifest unto the peoples of the earth as the Exponents of a new Cause and the Revealers of a new Message. Inasmuch as these Birds of the celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they, therefore, are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness.
These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if thou callest them all by one name, and dost ascribe to them the same attributes, thou hast not erred from the truth. Even as He hath revealed: "No distinction do We make between any of His Messengers." For they, one and all, summon the people of the earth to acknowledge the unity of God, and herald unto them the Kawthar of an infinite grace and bounty. They are all invested with the robe of prophethood, and are honored with the mantle of glory. Thus hath Muhammad, the Point of the Qur'án, revealed: "I am all the Prophets." Likewise, He saith: "I am the first Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus." …Sayings such as these, which indicate the essential unity of those Exponents of Oneness, have also emanated from the Channels of God's immortal utterance, and the Treasuries of the gems of Divine knowledge, and have been recorded in the Scriptures. These Countenances are the recipients of the Divine Command, and the Day Springs of His Revelation. This Revelation is exalted above the veils of plurality and the exigencies of number. Thus He saith: "Our Cause is but One." Inasmuch as the Cause is one and the same, the Exponents thereof also must needs be one and the same. Likewise, the Imams of the Muhammadan Faith, those lamps of certitude, have said: "Muhammad is our first, Muhammad is our last, Muhammad our all."
It is clear and evident to thee that
all the Prophets are the
The other station is the station of distinction, and pertaineth to the world of creation, and to the limitations thereof. In this respect, each Manifestation of God hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined revelation, and specially designated limitations. Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterized by a special attribute, fulfils a definite mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation…
It is because of this difference in their station and mission that the words and utterances flowing from these Well Springs of Divine knowledge appear to diverge and differ. Otherwise, in the eyes of them that are initiated into the mysteries of Divine wisdom, all their utterances are, in reality, but the expressions of one Truth. As most of the people have failed to appreciate those stations to which We have referred, they, therefore, feel perplexed and dismayed at the varying utterances pronounced by Manifestations that are essentially one and the same.
It hath ever been evident that all these divergencies of utterance are attributable to differences of station. Thus, viewed from the standpoint of their oneness and sublime detachment, the attributes of Godhead, Divinity, Supreme Singleness, and Inmost Essence, have been, and are applicable to those Essences of Being, inasmuch as they all abide on the throne of Divine Revelation, and are established upon the seat of Divine Concealment. Through their appearance the Revelation of God is made manifest, and by their countenance the Beauty of God is revealed. Thus it is that the accents of God Himself have been heard uttered by these Manifestations of the Divine Being.
Viewed in the light of their second station—the station of distinction, differentiation, temporal limitations, characteristics and standards—they manifest absolute servitude, utter destitution, and complete self-effacement. Even as He saith: "I am the servant of God. I am but a man like you."...
Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: "I am God," He, verily, speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto. For it hath been repeatedly demonstrated that through their Revelation, their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His names and His attributes, are made manifest in the world. Thus, He hath revealed: "Those shafts were God's, not Thine." And also He saith: "In truth, they who plighted fealty unto Thee, really plighted that fealty unto God." 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." 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 the "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 deep immersed beneath the oceans of ancient and everlasting holiness, or when they soared to the loftiest summits of Divine mysteries, they claimed their utterances 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 any one 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....
By virtue of this station they have claimed for themselves the Voice of Divinity and the like, whilst by virtue of their station of Messengership, they have declared themselves the Messengers of God. In every instance they have voiced an utterance that would conform to the requirements of the occasion, and have ascribed all these declarations to Themselves, declarations ranging from the realm of Divine Revelation to the realm of creation, and from the domain of Divinity even unto the domain of earthly existence. Thus it is that whatsoever be their utterance, whether it pertain to the realm of Divinity, Lordship, Prophethood, Messengership, Guardianship, Apostleship, or Servitude, all is true, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Therefore these sayings which We have quoted in support of Our argument must be attentively considered, that the divergent utterances of the Manifestations of the Unseen and Day Springs of Holiness may cease to agitate the soul and perplex the mind. (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 50)
which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who
prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what
manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify,
when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that
should follow." (King James Bible, 1 Peter1:10)