Baha`i:Islam::Christianity:Judaism

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Popeyesays, Nov 30, 2006.

  1. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    popeyesays - actually, this has turned into quite an interesting discussion and you particularly are clearly engaging in it, so as far as you yourself are concerned, i am sorry for the vehemence of my tone. it is the result not of this discussion alone but of a gradual buildup of annoyance with what comes across to me (and clearly to others) as a general evasive smugness i have come to associate with baha'i approaches to interfaith dialogue as well as a long-exhausted patience with supercessionists. my comments should be taken as aimed at the *attitude* and not personally at the people - and for that position i am not in the least sorry. as an aside, i may be a moderator, but i also speak on my own behalf. i generally preface moderator comments with a little <mod>tag</mod> so it's obvious - and it is not my practice to sanction damfool comments but to address them directly. nothing on this thread has so far required that.

    furthermore, i am not saying "shut up", exactly. what i am saying is that the attitude i have a problem with is not conducive to interfaith dialogue, which is why i have a problem with it. it is about as welcome as someone coming to the board and trying to prove to me that jesus was the messiah and that i am going to hell. i'm never going to be that patient with people who either ought to know better, or are just choosing to ignore what in dialogue is common courtesy. now, i accept totally that baha'is may not realise just what it is about their discourse that gets up people's noses, but the fact is that it does. i'm doing you a favour by pointing it out so we can address it and find some common ground. i appreciate, of course, that going in "all guns blazing", as it were, we start off on quite adversarial terms, but it seemed to me that this was the only way to get your collective attention. clearly the people without the wherewithal to conduct a well-informed discussion have been stymied and those left can now get on with the real business.

    now, to continue:

    firstly, i am not aware that jesus actually ever made claims of specific revelation to himself - i thought that was what the point of his statement "i've not come to add another jot or tittle to the Law"; feel free to correct me via the relevant sources. similarly, i am not aware that the new testament is deemed to be revealed (with the exception, i expect, of the book of revelations) which makes it a very different kettle of fish from the "old". i would argue that the theological position of revelatory continuum is just that - theology. of course, theology is a matter of opinion too. in short, i don't see jesus making this claim at all - i see it as something that is made by later opinion in order to square the circle of breaking with traditional judaism.

    of course not. but in order for it to be challenged it must be proved that tradition is *not* founded in fact and, even so, trying to disprove a deeply-held tradition is surely a fairly aggressive act, i'd say. i also
    think you're considering "tradition" as something fairly simplistic. a tradition to, say, give presents on hannukah is very different from an accurate transgenerational transmission of an enormous legal system, which, of course, we have done successfully for at least 2500 years. it can certainly be established as incontrovertible fact that today's jewish observance is for all intents and purposes the same as that which was described in the mishnah, which was redacted in the C1st-2nd. so that's 2000 years of truth for a start.

    *blind* adherence isn't. but who is saying that my adherence is necessarily blind? give me a for-instance.

    even discounting, for a moment, the transmission of our legal traditions, you must concede that a culture that was capable of transmitting the masoretic text for even the last 1500 years (which i don't think anyone disagrees with) doesn't have a problem with accuracy.

    of course - and you are, of course, free to believe as you wish. actually, i am not even offended by it. that would be a waste of my time. however, it should not surprise you that introducing such a point of view as a suitable subject for interfaith dialogue should result in a frank examination of its own merits.

    not at all. my argument is that you are saying that baha'i and judaism are part of one continuous chain of revelation. i am saying that whereas, from the point of view of baha'i, i can see why you would think that, from the point of view of judaism, it cannot be substantiated. blithely assuming that it is self-evident and, furthermore, refusing to acknowledge the devaluing of the perceived earlier traditions implicit in this point of view, is tantamount to refusing to acknowledge judaism's right to define itself without reference to later belief systems. you are correct to point out that we do so in the case of *earlier* belief systems (e.g. pharaoh-worship or "seven nations" idolatry) and, i dare say, i ought to concede that this gives you some right to do so yourself. however, we are defining ourselves in terms of what we're *not*, not requiring these other systems to agree that we have a particular relationship with them and, i believe, there is a significant difference.

    that's my entire point - these proofs of messiahship have *not* been fulfilled. lions are not vegetarian, as it were. which means that the messiah hasn't come yet, so it couldn't have been jesus. i believe that's a QED.

    precisely. but a "product of" something is not necessarily a logical development of it, as the "azurite order of melchizedek" or whatever it's called and its loony new age fellow travellers ought to demonstrate.

    i don't understand what this refers to. would you mind clarifying it?

    fair enough - i hope you agree that i am now definitely proceeding ad argumentum (or whatever the phrase is) rather than ad hominem.

    you are quite right to point this out. however, this is precisely the point. pharaoh's religion was based on falsehood, wickedness and immorality and it is those over which G!D's Will triumphed. we are not pointing at an identifiable contemporary group and saying that we are telling them who they are and that they are mistaken and we know better than they themselves do. also, we were not trumping an earlier revelation. we were liberating ourselves from oppression and injustice. christians can hardly fairly claim that they were required to liberate themselves from the oppression and injustice of judaism with the benefit of hindsight and accurate information, although this was certainly the position of many of them at least until modern times.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  2. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    I think the Baha`i understanding of "Dialogue" is well expressed here:
    "
    Interreligious Dialogue and the Bahá'í Faith:
    Some Preliminary Observations


    Seena Fazel

    published in Jack McLean, ed., Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on a Bahá'í Theology. Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions vol. 8 (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1997), 137-152. Reprinted with permission.​


    Anyone who begins an interreligious conversation with the pronouncement of a common sharing of beliefs and values among the world's religions, one that is merely masked by superficial semantical differences, has done precisely that—only made a beginning. Such declarations of commonality, although they contain a grain of truth, can be maintained only at a superficial level. They start to lose meaning as one goes deeper into the inner landscape, the experience, beliefs and practices of the different religious traditions. Paul Knitter, a prominent dialogue theologian, likens dialogue to the situation of a newly married couple beginning to grow out of the infatuation that brought them together. As they begin to experience the daily tests and trials of living and working as partners, as they get to know one another better, they soon arrive at the existential realization of how bewilderingly different they are. Like the young couple experiencing the harsh light of real living for the first time, Knitter observes that the contemporary challenge in interreligious dialogue is to reconcile differences:
    . . . one might still believe that Ultimate Reality or God is one and that ultimately differences will be swallowed into oneness; but right now, in the dust and dirt of the real world, we have to deal with the manyness, the differences, among the religions before we can ever contemplate, much less realize, their possible unity or oneness.1
    Dialogue is a term used to describe a great variety of interfaith relations. Generally, it involves a collective process or a conversation, a two-way communication or a reciprocal relationship in which two or more parties holding significantly different beliefs endeavor to express accurately to dialogue partners what they mean and to learn from each other in the process. But dialogue is more than just an exchange of views and has come to mean a personal process of refining the beliefs and values of one's own faith vis-à-vis the insights that one has gleaned from others.

    Three goals of dialogue are succinctly summarized by Leonard Swidler, a Catholic professor of interreligious dialogue: (1) to know oneself more profoundly, just as one learns more about one's native land as a result of living abroad; (2) to know the other ever more authentically; and (3) to live ever more fully, a process described as "mutual transformation."2 Furthermore, John Cobb, a liberal Protestant scholar of interreligious dialogue, reflects the academic consensus when he states that "a sharp distinction is made between dialogue and evangelistic witness." While the latter aims at conversion, the former does not. The goal is rather mutual understanding, appreciation, and transformation.3

    This paper will explore the Bahá'í imperative to foster dialogue. Questions arise along the way. Why, for example, should Bahá'ís involve themselves in interreligious dialogue? What does dialogue have to offer to the development of the Bahá'í community? What challenges will Bahá'ís face in the process? The focus in answering these questions will not be historical, but rather will center on the theory and practice of dialogue as depicted in the Bahá'í sacred writings and how it correlates to contemporary scholarship in the field. "

    (continued: Interreligious Dialogue and the Bahá'í Faith: Some Preliminary Observations )

    Seena Fazel is a frequent co-author with a close digital friend in Haifa, and I respect this paper a lot because it makes clear that it is not interested in 'dialogue' as 'an excuse for evangelism'. I'm trying to avoid that here, I respect that you would like to avoid it as well.

    "Bahá'u'lláh's call to the peoples of the world to promote unity and concord contains some explicit injunctions to dialogue. He states that his revelation is centered on the promotion of the unity of humankind: "The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men."12 In the same tablet, Bahá'u'lláh expresses the desire that religious leaders of the world "take counsel together" in order to implement whatever measures are necessary to advance the cause of unity:
    Our hope is that the world's religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth."

    If we could proceed in that vein, and accept that we might commit error in the process occasionally and turn a 'sin covering eye' to those errors the conversation might be beneficial.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  3. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    I'm curious about something, which hopefully isn't going to derail the thread...

    A number of major faiths - Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism for starters - all prophesize a coming figure to fulfill/rebirth the faith in some way. A "messianic" figure of sorts.

    The Baha'i position appears to be that all of these faiths were great but limited to some degree, because the message of God is most relevant for that time and place.

    Therefore their messianic predictions were all either wrong or misinterpreted over time.

    Would that therefore mean that the Baha'i faith would fall under the same criteria - that the messiah figure of the Baha'i Faith will also be missed by the majority of the Baha'i faithful, and that the Baha'i faith itself is subject to the same limitations as attributed to other faiths?

    In other words, that a messianic figure could return at any time and fulfill the Baha'i faith, and that the Baha'i faith doesn't simply acknowledge that, but also acknowledges that it is also likely to be errant on it's own predictions and interpretations?

    I guess I'm asking if the door swings both ways, or whether the Baha'i faith regards it's scriptures and interpretations as inerrant, just as other faiths may do so?

    Simply curious.
     
  4. BruceDLimber

    BruceDLimber Baha'i

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    Greetings redux!

     
  5. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    i'm really not having a go, popeyesays, but i don't think you needed to quote my entire post there. i mean, what's the point?

    brucedlimber: well, of *course* the muslims who have become baha'is are convinced. that's why they did it, isn't it? people convert, or apostasise, or whatever you want to call it, all the time. it would be convincing if it was, say, a major theologian, or imam, or someone who actually knew all there was to know about islam. by the same token, i very much doubt you can point me at a jew who really knows all about judaism (which is not the same as thinking you know all about it) who has become a baha'i. "show me the rabbi", as jerry maguire might have put it.

    that last post, by the way, is exactly the sort of attitude i'm talking about: "well, if you converted, you'd see i was right". *rolls eyes*

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  6. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    "firstly, i am not aware that jesus actually ever made claims of specific revelation to himself - i thought that was what the point of his statement "i've not come to add another jot or tittle to the Law"; feel free to correct me via the relevant sources. similarly, i am not aware that the new testament is deemed to be revealed (with the exception, i expect, of the book of revelations) which makes it a very different kettle of fish from the "old". i would argue that the theological position of revelatory continuum is just that - theology. of course, theology is a matter of opinion too. in short, i don't see jesus making this claim at all - i see it as something that is made by later opinion in order to square the circle of breaking with traditional judaism."

    I'd say 'yes, and no'.

    "5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
    5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
    5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
    5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

    I would suggest that the commandments of God do not change in essence and all the Prophets do naught but remind us, and purify the law in the reminder. The laws of social intercourse and the mechanics of daily living are not, in my estimation, the essence of the law. Jesus Himself says that the law of love of God and man are that by which hang all the law and all the prophets.

    I would suggest that 'tradition' is of two kinds, that which upholds the law and that which is done because one's fathers of generations past have done because they have been told that is the way of doing things. I won't presume to tell you which you do properly and which you do not do properly.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  7. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    Bruce,

    Do remember that this is NOT the Baha`i board, and we're outside the 'garden'. Here we must properly acknowledge what others perceive of us and how they perceive themselves in a cooperative sense, rather than an evangelical sense.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  8. BruceDLimber

    BruceDLimber Baha'i

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    Greetings again, Sharon!

    Very simply, the fact that Baha'u'llah appointed 'Abdu'l-Baha His successor in writing and guaranteed his interpretations would be correct; and 'Abdu'l-Baha in turn did exactly the same thing in regard to Shoghi Effendi!

    So like it or not, there is a clear provenance here.



    On the contrary, we have the original manuscripts of EVERY ONE of Baha'u'llah's Writings that we take as scripture (and if I'm not mistaken, every one of the Bab's such Writings, too)!

    If we don't have the original, then it's not considered scripture no matter how "inspirational" it might be!

    (Further, all the later works Baha'u'llah wrote are uniquely identificable due to a shake that affected His handwriting for the rest of His life after a failed poisoning attempt. So we have this additional evidence as well.)

    This is vastly different from the way works like the Bible were compiled and adopted.

    And BTW, the establishment and authority of the House of Justice are also clearly delineated in the Baha'i scriptures.

    Peace,

    Bruce
     
  9. BruceDLimber

    BruceDLimber Baha'i

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    Hi again, Brian!



    Basically, no.

    Or at least, not for many centuries to come!

    This is because the Baha'i scriptures explicitly state 1) that no new Divine Messenger will appear for at least a millenium (now down to about 840 years) and 2) that this statement is literal. Here’s the passage:

    37
    "Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. We pray God that He may graciously assist him to retract and repudiate such claim. Should he repent, God will, no doubt, forgive him. If, however, he persisteth in his error, God will, assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him. Terrible, indeed, is God in punishing! Whosoever interpreteth this verse otherwise than its obvious meaning is deprived of the Spirit of God and of His mercy which encompasseth all created things. Fear God, and follow not your idle fancies. Nay, rather, follow the bidding of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Wise."

    -- The Book of Laws, p. 32



    So we are definintely not expecting anyone new at least until that time (which fits the general pattern for how often new Messengers / new religious dispensations appear).

    Now, we clearly can't state absolutely that Baha'is definitely won't miss the boat the next time around (which you and I obviously don't have to worry about), but there is also a passage that states that this is a Day that won't be followed by night, which at least gives hope that maybe next time, humanity will finally get it right and not repeat the same old pattern of rejection we've so often seen in the past....

    Best regards, :)

    Bruce
     
  10. BruceDLimber

    BruceDLimber Baha'i

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    Meaning no offense, I'm afraid you're getting chased by your own fears and paranoia!

    I said NOTHING WHATEVER about your "converting" (your term).

    I merely pointed out that many former-Muslim Baha'is exist, and that this stands as at least a partial refutation of your statement about the (admittedly regrettable) attitude that too many Muslims indeed have about the Baha'i Faith. (Which attitude is often the result of intentional disinformation fed to them, BTW.)

    How you could get a solicitation to convert out of that baffles me.

    Simple as that.

    Bruce
     
  11. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    One should add that not all of the Bab's and Baha`u'llah's writings (or even Shoghi Effendi's) are in their own hand. The Bab and Baha`u'llah did frequently dictate to scribes, but in each case the 'hand' of the scribe is indentifiable, and the transcription notes are often in possession at the archives. There are significant amounts of Abdu'l Baha`s writings that are not considered 'authoritative' because they are someone's personal notes of the public talk later collected and published without submitting the transcriptions to Abdu'l Baha to be authenticated. Such writings constitute 'guidance' but not 'infallible text'. Promulgation of World Peace is one such collection. the tablets that appear in English in Star of the West are another such collection, though many of the original letters to individuals by Abdu'l Baha and Shoghi Effendi have been collected.

    As to the 'next' Prophet, with the proviso about the thousand years, Baha`i's expect a next Prophet, and the spiritual choice facing the individuals in that age will be the same as in every other instance.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  12. BruceDLimber

    BruceDLimber Baha'i

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    Quite correct!

    And for anything He dictated to his secretary, Baha'u'llah then checked and sealed each document after its completion, so there's none of His work that He didn't either write Himself or officially vet.

    Regards,

    Bruce
     
  13. Promethium

    Promethium New Member

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    Mírzá Abu'l-Faḍl-i-Gulpáygání was a famous Shiite Jurist who became a Bahai. Interestingly enough he is credited for converting man Jews in Iran.
     
  14. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    Of the early Babi's in Mazindaran and during the siege of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi a couple hundred Babi's were attacked again and again. Since the Babi's bereft of leadership from the Bab followed the dictates of the Qur'an regarding self-defence they managed to defy the government's armies for several months. Almost seventy percent of those defenders were Mullahs.

    One should remember that until the time of Abdu'l Baha there were no Baha`i's or Babi's at all who weren't part of the Persian and Indian culture, except for the Zoroastrians and Christians the vast majority of these individuals who saw fit to suffer persecution and martyrdom were indeed Shi'ites before they encountered the teachings of the Bab and Baha`u'llah.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  15. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    i'd agree with all of that, with the additional qualifier of specifying "the commandments of G!D to specific groups do not change" - in other words, different messages may very well go to different groups; that is their affair. but G!D's Revelation to the jewish people occurs in time and via the recognised prophets alone. that level of prophecy ceased with the death of the last one (micah, i think) and continued at a lower level via the bat qol (heavenly voice) until the cessation of prophecy altogether when the supply of the ashes of the red heifer ran out a few years after the destruction of the second Temple. in any case prophecy "at large", widespread in the population, ceased with the destruction of the first Temple, at which time the "inclination to idolatry" also ceased. the level of prophecy we have now (according to some) is not true prophecy, but a much lower level known as ruah ha-Qodesh which is, depending on who you listen to, posessed by the great mystics and/or some of the great commentators. the lower the prophetic level, the less authoritative. hence nobody can overrule or modify the rules in the Torah by subsequent prophecy - at least not in the case of judaism. if other people, say christians, consider that they have received revelations abrogating jewish revelations for them, that is all very well. but they may not abrogate revelations to us, intended for us. in fact, if i was being uncharitable, i might suggest that the early church was built upon precisely that - although once it opened its doors to the "gentiles" and made christianity a universalistic religion, it could no longer be argued by jews that the obligations of jews had been transferred to christians. does that make sense?

    well, this is the position of much christian supercessionist apologetics:

    law = bad
    love = good

    letter = bad
    spirit = good

    observance = bad
    essence = good

    this is of course nothing but a way to do what i have already complained about originally: discredit judaism as legalistic, mechanical and lacking an inner dimension - compared to other solutions which go right to the so-called "essence of the law". i question your right to define what the "essence of the law" is when you are talking about jewish sacred texts. surely we are in a better position to define this than you are? or are you informing us of the inferiority of our tradition compared to those self-declaredly based on the "essence", "spirit" and "love"?

    well, he may very well do so, but that doesn't mean judaism agrees with him. nobody has yet been able to define this so-called "law of love" effectively in a way which enables one to apply it in any given situation - in contradistinction to the halakhic method. in other words, it sounds nice, but it's not really all that useful outside apologetics. nor is it tolerant - it suggests that a) the dispute can really be reduced to such facile dualisms and b) that in any case it is obvious which side is "better", both of which suggestions i will vociferously dispute.

    i don't see the distinction if the law has been (and we would argue that it has been) accurately and securely transmitted between the generations. as i pointed out above, we seem to have managed to do so more than effectively in other cases.

    well, this is my point exactly - although you seem to be implying that you are saying something different inside this 'garden' of yours.

    well, we're not expecting anyone until he actually shows up and "does what it says on the tin". the proof of the pudding will be, as it were, in the eating. what is more, we are forbidden to calculate the date of his arrival.

    how charming. in other words, my irritation is because i am paranoid, not because you're being patronising and smug. i'm reacting to what you wrote, not to what i think you wrote. i could just as easily claim that you were being paranoid about being labelled patronising and smug.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  16. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    Actually, I would put up the Aqdas (Most Holy Book) as a good comparison to the Mosaic law for complexity and depth. There is plenty of depth to delve and the letter AND the spirit share importance.

    No Baha`i is going to take offense at individuals who choose to follow the 'faith of their fathers' rather than become Baha`i. We won't even feel sad for such an individual. The person who follows the law of Christianity or Judaism or whatever is to be respected for his attempt to seek God as he feels driven.

    In time enough, the Baha`i laws will be the 'old traditions' challenged by a new advent. But the challenge is only to individuals, not to groups. It is totally a personal thing.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  17. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    I cautioned another Baha`i at being too intense in this folder. I don't really think I've said anything different in the Baha`i folder, other than to occasionally engage in the practice of 'apologia' when others made claims that challenged the Baha`i faith as untrue within that very garden.

    If you think we are speaking from both sides of our mouths, check out the Baha`i folder, you don't have to post, but yo0u can see for yourself.

    Regards,

    Scott
     
  18. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    thanks, popeyesays; that's good to hear. i would be interested in hearing more about the interpretational methods used in the Aqdas.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  19. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    I can make you PDF's of the Aqdas and the Synopsis and e-mail them to you. The easiest way would be for you to download Ocean, which is a free religious archive of the sacred texts of many religions, including Judaism. Included in the Baha`i texts is the Aqdas and the Synopsis and Codification of the Aqdas. You can download that (in many languages) at:
    Ocean - World Religions Free Research Library

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  20. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    thank you for that, but i was more thinking in terms of you taking a verse of the Aqdas and interpreting it according to your methodology, so i can understand a little more about how you go about it. i know a certain amount about how christians and muslims do this, so basically i'm looking to understand baha'i hermeneutics in light of this.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     

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