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Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based. – Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary
The famous American satirist Ambrose Bierce alludes to the possibility that all sacred books are true in his intentionally ironic definition of the word scriptures. After all, regular dictionaries define scripture as “any holy writing.”
Try thinking about it this way: what if the holy scriptures of all the world’s great Faiths are chapters in the same book? What if those chapters all have different names, but the same ultimate Author? What if the sacred scriptures of all religions chronicle one continuous revelation to humanity? What if the holy scriptures of all religions reveal the sacred word of God?
The Baha’i teachings define the word scripture exactly this way, and apply the definition to the holy writings of all the world’s great religions. For Baha’is, the holy scriptures of all Faiths eloquently testify, not just to their own essential unity, but to the unity of humanity:
If any man were to meditate on that which the Scriptures, sent down from the heaven of God’s holy Will, have revealed, he would readily recognize that their purpose is that all men shall be regarded as one soul, so that the seal bearing the words “The Kingdom shall be God’s” may be stamped on every heart, and the light of Divine bounty, of grace, and mercy may envelop all mankind. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 260.
Let’s proceed with our discussion of scripture with that definition in mind. All scriptures, Baha’u’llah wrote, are “sent down from the heaven of God’s holy Will…,” which affirms that those sacred writings come to us inspired by the Creator.
Each prophet of God, each founder of a great Faith, the Baha’i teachings say, brings a holy book. The sacred words revealed in that book, illumined by the light of divine bounty, transcend mere human words. In fact, the Baha’i teachings say the “irresistible Word of God” is “the Cause of the entire creation…”
Such as communicate the generating influence and such as receive its impact are indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation, while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and the effects thereof. Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise.
Know thou, moreover, that the Word of God — exalted be His glory — is higher and far superior to that which the senses can perceive, for it is sanctified from any property or substance. It transcendeth the limitations of known elements and is exalted above all the essential and recognized substances. It became manifest without any syllable or sound and is none but the Command of God which pervadeth all created things. It hath never been withheld from the world of being. It is God’s all-pervasive grace, from which all grace doth emanate. It is an entity far removed above all that hath been and shall be. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 140.
If you look, you can see this foundational idea of the Creative Word in every holy book:
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas; and God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:9-10.
But the word of God grew and multiplied. – Acts 2:24.
He it is who has created the heavens and the earth in truth; and on the day when He says, ‘BE,’ then it is. His word is truth… – The Qur’an, Sura 6
Glorified be Thy name, O Lord my God! I beseech Thee by Thy power that hath encompassed all created things, and by Thy Sovereignty that hath transcended the entire creation, and by Thy Word which was hidden in Thy wisdom and whereby Thou didst create Thy heaven and Thy earth, both to enable us to be steadfast in our love for Thee and in our obedience to Thy pleasure, and to fix our gaze upon Thy face, and celebrate Thy glory. – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 159.
The sacred words, the holy words, the creative words in the world’s scriptures—all are symbolized by living, flowing water. Limitless and immortal, the source of all life on Earth, never resting but always flowing, water stands for the bounty and the eternal love of the Creator:
O Friends of the Pure and Omnipotent God! To be pure and holy in all things is an attribute of the consecrated soul and a necessary characteristic of the unenslaved mind. The best of perfections is immaculacy and the freeing of oneself from every defect. Once the individual is, in every respect, cleansed and purified, then will he become a focal centre reflecting the Manifest Light.
First in a human being’s way of life must be purity, then freshness, cleanliness, and independence of spirit. First must the stream bed be cleansed, then may the sweet river waters be led into it. Chaste eyes enjoy the beatific vision of the Lord and know what this encounter meaneth; a pure sense inhaleth the fragrances that blow from the rose gardens of His grace; a burnished heart will mirror forth the comely face of truth.
This is why, in Holy Scriptures, the counsels of heaven are likened to water, even as the Qur’an saith: ‘And pure water send We down from Heaven,’ and the Gospel: ‘Except a man be baptized of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.’ Thus is it clear that the Teachings which come from God are heavenly outpourings of grace; they are rain-showers of divine mercy, and they cleanse the human heart. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 145.
If you see the holy books of the great Faiths as living, flowing water, able to nourish and sustain the soul, wouldn’t you want to hydrate every day? Wouldn’t it make sense to refresh and gladden your soul with the water of life? In the next essay in this series, we’ll look at exactly how you can make that happen.
Next: The Book of Celestial Inspiration