A BahaiTeachings reader asked us: “Why do you use so many Baha’i quotes? Don’t your writers have their own opinions?”

O.K., that’s really two questions, so allow me to enthusiastically answer the last one first: Yes! The contributors who write essays for BahaiTeachings.org definitely have their own opinions. Do they ever! That’s one of the reasons we insert a general disclaimer at the end of each article: The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

You see, dear reader, the Baha’is—maybe the most diverse group of people on Earth—have a very diverse array of opinions, too. As you might imagine, a Navajo Baha’i, for example, would naturally have a completely different set of life experiences, suppositions and opinions  than an Namibian Baha’i, or a New Zealander Baha’i, or a Norwegian Baha’i. The divergence in their cultures alone would inevitably lead to healthy differences of opinion, right?

But here’s the thing: Baha’is, while they may differ in their personal opinions, all agree that the ultimate source of expertise and authority in the Baha’i Faith comes directly from the Baha’i writings themselves. That’s the real answer to the first question our reader asked—“Why so many Baha’i quotes?” At BahaiTeachings, we try to include at least one Baha’i quote in each article, because Baha’is see their Faith’s writings as a powerful wellspring of wisdom, insight, spiritual truth and divine guidance. Baha’is turn to the Baha’i writings every day to discover, meditate on and take in that wisdom, insight and truth.

That’s one of the unique, salient qualities of this religion—its original writings. Often called “the Word of God” in the Baha’i lexicon, they hold the key to the human heart:

The Word of God is the king of words and its pervasive influence is incalculable. It hath ever dominated and will continue to dominate the realm of being. The Great Being saith: The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked … It is an ocean inexhaustible in riches, comprehending all things. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 173.

This raises a big and very interesting question: scriptural authority. Whether you call it the Word of God or holy scripture or divine revelation or simply the Baha’i writings, how does it happen that one person speaks and writes, and millions of people follow those utterances? What is it about the Word of God that dominates the realm of being and unlocks the doors of the hearts?

In this series of essays on the power and authority of the Word of God, we’ll see if we can find the answers to those very important questions.

Let’s start at the beginning, by trying to understand how scripture has worked in the past. In previous global Faiths, prior to the Baha’i revelation, we’ve only had access to the reported writings and sayings of the messengers who started those Faiths—not their actual writings. Krishna and the Hindu prophets lived in pre-literate times, and we have none of their substantiated original writings left from so long ago. Buddha taught his followers orally, and literate monks passed on and then wrote down what he said in the Tipitaka, sometimes much later. Moses and Abraham did not leave any verifiable writings themselves—instead, their teachings were transmitted by word of mouth until the 120 men of the Great Assembly (also known as the Great Synagogue) wrote the 24 books of the Tanakh. Jesus Christ didn’t write anything down firsthand in the Bible directly, either, as far as we know. If he did, those words are lost to us now. Muhammad did not write the Qur’an—others transcribed it from his teachings and sayings.

Most of the holy books of past revelations, then, don’t actually contain the authentic, original words of their founders.

This does not make those holy books any less inspiring or true, of course. The transformative sayings, teachings, laws and spiritual verities contained in those books have inspired people for thousands of years, changed millions of lives and built entire civilizations. The Torah, the Bible, the Qur’an, the Tipitaka and the Upanishads all launched new cultures, new civilizations and new ways of seeing the world.

But in the Baha’i revelation, the unquestionable authenticity of scriptural texts in a worldwide Faith has finally been established.

Baha’u’llah wrote, in his own hand and also by oral dictation to assistants, more than 15,000 individual tablets and letters, as well as many entire books like The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys, The Book of Certitude and many others. The Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel has the original manuscripts of those works. Baha’u’llah’s son Abdu’l-Baha also wrote at least 27,000 letters and tablets, gave a huge volume of transcribed talks across three continents, dictated one important book called Some Answered Questions to an American Baha’i, and penned several books: The Secret of Divine Civilization, Memorials of the Faithful and A Traveler’s Narrative among them. Shoghi Effendi, Abdu’l-Baha’s grandson and the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, also wrote and published extensively, with thousands of letters, several monographs such as The World Order of Baha’u’llah and The Advent of Divine Justice, and a book of Babi and Baha’i history called God Passes By to his credit.

The Baha’i writings have been translated into more than 800 of the world’s languages.

Baha’is believe these books, tablets and letters all have tremendous spiritual power and authority—especially those of the prophet himself, Baha’u’llah. The holy words in these writings, the Baha’i teachings say, offer us a spiritual energy and resonance capable of changing the human heart. That means the Baha’i Faith, which has no clergy and administers its global community entirely through democratically-elected leadership, is essentially a Faith that springs directly from the Word of God.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

6 Comments

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  • Steve Eaton
    Jul 25, 2017
    Yes, every statement should be verifiable by looking up various
    scriptures on the topic, Stephen.
    Maybe the authors here don't
    follow every statement through with
    quotations or footnotes because it
    would make the articles too long
    and divert energy away from the
    main theme's momentum. I think
    they leave the search for proof mainly to us. Because I was rather
    convinced by my vision of justice
    that the religions are ultimately on the same page and thus probably
    from the same source, even before
    knowing of the Baha'i Faith, I didn't ...
    desire more proof after seeing Baha'i scriptures echo my intuition.
    Other folks came a different way, and deserve whatever proofs they
    need.
    Read more...
  • Melanie Black
    Jul 22, 2017
    Hi David, I look forward to your new series. You always manage to make your subject interesting and relevant. As far as reading the essays on this website, I have always enjoyed those that had a good mix of both the writer's personality and the Baha'i writings. If an essay is mostly quotes, I feel as if I am reading a pamphlet. And I'm always excited to see new authors as well.
  • D. Highley
    Jul 21, 2017
    Strange that a person would wonder why so many Baha’i quotes on a website called Baha'i Teachings.
  • Jul 21, 2017
    Another reader question essay, but it's a new series this time rather than answering reader's questions.
    Lack of quotes from other religions, especially when you say it not just this one religion that teaches x/y/z/etc but all religions that do. That is an unsupported assertion. If you had quotes from other religions supporting the assertion, it wouldn't be unsupported. Any Jew, Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever other follower of any religion could sink said premise by proving any one religion teaches otherwise.
    Doubt of anything not written down immediately is looking at the past through a ...modern lense. We are so separated from bards and other oral traditions, that we assume inauthenticity and unoriginality.
    Read more...
    • Jul 23, 2017
      Steve Eaton, my comment wasn't specifically morality related. It was referring to past articles here. Take for instance any of the past articles where he only proves one religion teaches something with a quote, but then says all religion teaches it. It may or may not be morality related, as lots of topics are talked on. Your response is basically religions teach the same things sometimes and different things sometimes, without addressing the specific times it was mentioned in previous articles without verification. I can bring any quote/belief from any scripture/religion and universalize it without proof too. It would assume ...the reader wouldn't verify if any specific religion other than the one that does actually support it though.
      Read more...
    • Steve Eaton
      Jul 23, 2017
      Hi, Stephen,
      I won't try right now to find equivalent scriptures
      among the religions
      about basic morals, but
      I think they are to be found.
      Supposedly there is corresponding "Golden Rule"-type verse in every
      faith. The basic points of
      moral conduct and the
      spiritual path are often
      called the "eternal verities" in Baha'i scriptures. If we
      compare lesser or subsidiary points, there
      are many differences, but
      it's usually at the level of
      social laws. There too, the
      Baha'i texts clearly explain
      that those rules or ...approaches have to change
      to meet the needs of new
      times.
      Read more...