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For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with judgment and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall perform this. – Isaiah 9:6
Most Christians consider this verse (Isaiah 9:5 according to the Jewish division of verses) as one of the Hebrew Bible’s most important prophecies of Christ.
Surprisingly, the New Testament itself never directly quotes these verses. But Christianity isn’t the only non-Jewish world religion to attach significance to this passage from the Jewish scriptures. The Baha’i Faith finds in these verses a reference to its founder Baha’u’llah, an identification that has its origin in the sacred writings of the Baha’i Faith. Many passages in Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of the Temple allude to it, including this one:
Give ear unto that which the Dove of Eternity warbleth upon the twigs of the Divine Lote-Tree: O peoples of the earth! We sent forth him who was named John to baptize you with water, that your bodies might be cleansed for the appearance of the Messiah. He, in turn, purified you with the fire of love and the water of the spirit in anticipation of these Days whereon the All-Merciful hath purposed to cleanse you with the water of life at the hands of His loving providence. This is the Father foretold by Isaiah, and the Comforter concerning Whom the Spirit had covenanted with you. Open your eyes, O concourse of bishops, that ye may behold your Lord seated upon the Throne of might and glory. – The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 63. (emphasis added)
Beginning from this scriptural foundation, the messianic interpretation of the divine attribute of ‘Father’, with reference to Baha’u’llah, becomes a unique, persistent theme in Baha’i explanations of biblical prophecy.
This dovetails with the Gospel statement that Christ will return “in the glory of his Father” (Mathew 16:27). According to mainstream Christian theology, Jesus was the embodiment of the son, and only indirectly of the father (i.e. “I am in the Father, and the Father in me” John 14:11). The Baha’i teachings say the return of Christ reverses this: the glory of the father, Baha’u’llah, (whose name literally means “the Glory of God”) is manifest on Earth, and ‘in’ him, the son.
However, the Baha’i teachings do not support the idea of ‘incarnation’ as a literal fusing of God’s essence to a human vessel. Baha’is view Baha’u’llah as the earthly appearance of ‘God the Father’ in the same way that Christians view Christ as “the Word… made flesh” (John 1:14)—the embodiment of the names and attributes of God, not the everlasting mystery of the divine Essence itself.
Although many fascinating questions surround the interpretation of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 9:6, the verse has proven to be a powerful sign pointing toward Baha’u’llah. When we approach it with the Christian understanding, taking “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” as the promised Child’s divine titles, on what grounds do we apply “Eternal Father” to any other than the heavenly Father? As a Christian proof text it would seem to prove too much—not only the divinity of the Child, but his divinity as the ‘hypostasis’ or person of God the Father—with the astounding implication that the Yuletide prophecy was not completely fulfilled by the advent of Jesus.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that the resurrected Christ met the disciples and “opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). This interpretation was a revelation in itself, and through Christ’s influence the disciples were blessed to be able to encounter the Hebrew bible—whose stories and prophecies they had known since childhood—in a new way. Thanks be to God, through the Baha’i sacred writings the revelation of the profound dimensions of the world’s holy books still goes on!