Resurrection pie

In a comment on my previous post, Michael suggested a possible reconciliation of the Baha’i and Christian understandings of the Resurrection of Christ. He suggests that after Jesus died, he still had the power to show himself to people in a physical form. So all the resurrection appearances in the Gospels can be understood as the bodyless Christ materializing a body in order to meet a need in a given time and place, like proving to the disciples that he was still alive in the spirit, and at the same time not just a ghost.

For Christians, what’s important is that Jesus rose in the flesh, that his spirit and body were joined at the Resurrection for all eternity. This is a fundamental verity of Christianity. The stories in the New Testament are simply meant to illustrate this truth.

If you present a different definition of the Resurrection, one that rejects the Christian teaching that Jesus rose in the flesh, then you’re replacing our belief with yours. Saying that Jesus was a spirit projecting a physical form temporarily is not the same thing as saying he rose again in the flesh.

What’s more, there appears to be an underlying assumption that what Christians really care about is the text of the Bible, the words of the Bible. So the way to teach Christians is to show them how the words of the Bible can be reinterpreted to corroborate the Baha’i teachings. But this is not how Christians’ faith works at all, and I think it results in Baha’is not understanding where Christians are coming from.

Let me try to give an analogy. Let’s say you really like apple pie. Your friend tells you he’s baking you an apple pie for your birthday, and you get really excited. Then you take a bite, and there aren’t any apples. You’re like, “What’s the deal?” He says, “Oh, I thought I’d put a new twist on my apple pie recipe. I used peaches instead of apples.”

This is what you’re doing in your attempt to reconcile our religions. You take out the Christian filling and replace it with Baha’i filling.

What makes an apple pie “apple pie” is not whether you call it apple pie. It’s whether there are apples in it. Likewise, what makes the Resurrection of Christ a “resurrection” is whether the body comes back to life.

You see, Baha’is are missing the point when they redefine the Resurrection of Christ. They keep the word, but they give it a new meaning, and this is supposed to reconcile the religions. As if all the non-Baha’is in the world believe in words instead of meanings. Christians believe in the meaning of the Resurrection: Christ rose – body and spirit – and by joining ourselves to him, we participate in his eternal life – body and spirit.

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32 Responses

  1. I am not a Christian myself, but from my independent investigation of the Truth–the Bible really does lend itself to the interpretation that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead. As a Baha’i I was perplexed, so I asked a few educated believers and none of their answers were satisfying. It doesn’t mean they are not smart, it only means that no one can change an intended meaning. Not even the most clever person on earth can change an intended meaning. If it is there, it is there. No re-interpreting and re-arranging of words can change that.

  2. Yes, exactly.

    “Independent investigation of truth” is an empty phrase if you don’t let the book speak for itself. If you read the Bible, or any scripture, only with the mindset that you’re going to see the Baha’i interpretation there, then you aren’t investigating independently.

    That’s not to say that you can’t read it through a Baha’i lens, particularly if you’re deepening or getting ready for a talk or something. But at some point you have to take a deep breath and consciously take that lens off, if only for a little while, and just look at the book for what it is. If you don’t do that, then your “independent investigation of truth” is a farce.

  3. Hmm…regarding intended meanings, it seems very dangerous for anyone to assume that they know what the intended meaning is; humility in approaching these topics is of course what is needed. We can certainly find evidence one way or another but I seriously doubt that there are many
    cases where such evidence could be considered conclusive by a majority of individuals.

    For example, if I was to ask most Christians “did the miracles of the loaves and the fishes (Matthew 14) have a primarily spiritual meaning or was it a physical miracle” I’m pretty sure that the response would be “it was a physical miracle” (not that the two are mutually exclusive, by any means). However, when one reads Matthew 16:7-12 it becomes very clear that the important meaning of the miracle is spiritual. (This, by the way, is something that I discovered completely independently in my own study of the Gospels).

    So I have a question (please note that I don’t intend it rhetorically)- how does a physical/material interpretation of the resurrection of Jesus explain this description of the risen Christ?

    16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he APPEARED first to Mary Magdalene

    16:12 After that he APPEARED IN ANOTHER FORM unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

    16:14 Afterward he APPEARED unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
    (King James Bible, Mark)

    Also, I personally think that what is important about the resurrection is the spiritual aspect; whether the physical resurrection occurred is secondary. For example, imagine that Christ had risen physically but NOT spiritually. That would be pointless, a zombie wandering around in antiquity.
    This demonstrates to me that what is essential either way is the spiritual reality.

    flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God
    (King James Bible, 1 Corinthians)

    At any rate, I can imagine other interpretations but it sure seems simplest and most logical that these verses above imply a spiritual rather than a physical resurrection. Which is simply to say, there is good logical evidence to look at it either way.

    It really comes down to whether or not Baha’u’llah is Who He says He is; if He is the return of Christ, then obviously His interpretations are valid, and Baha’is are justified when they say that their understanding of the Gospels is accurate. If He is not, then why worry about it? It is just another set of interpretations, most of which are at least partially present within various denominations of Christianity anyway. So then the question becomes how does anyone (or a Christian in this case) ascertain the veracity or falsehood of Baha’u’llah’s claims? Every other argument depends on the answer to this question.

    Sorry this was so long, but I find this blog very thoughtful and stimulating.

  4. For example, if I was to ask most Christians “did the miracles of the loaves and the fishes (Matthew 14) have a primarily spiritual meaning or was it a physical miracle” I’m pretty sure that the response would be “it was a physical miracle” (not that the two are mutually exclusive, by any means).

    You’re right to say that physical and spiritual are not mutually exclusive. So why ask the question? To me, I don’t see how you can separate them. That’s like pointing to a red ball and asking, “Is that ball primarily red or primarily round?”

    This distinction that Baha’is make between physical and spiritual meanings in the scripture is what philosophers call a false dilemma. In other words, Baha’is are claiming that it has to be one or the other, when in reality it doesn’t have to be.

    The Church Fathers traditionally viewed the scriptures as having four valences, which include what Baha’is call “spiritual” and “physical” meanings, but carrying the categorization to further nuance. And they believed that these multiple meanings are all present at the same time in the same passage.

    So I have a question (please note that I don’t intend it rhetorically)- how does a physical/material interpretation of the resurrection of Jesus explain this description of the risen Christ?

    When I was a Baha’i, I used what I thought was an even stronger passage when making the same point you’re making here. In Luke 24, Jesus actually disappears.

    The Catholic interpretation of the Resurrection is both spiritual and physical (both round and red) because human beings are both spiritual and physical. As for the appearing and disappearing – why not? God created the universe. He created physical matter, and he can endow that matter with whatever attributes he wants.

    There is a difference between the resurrected body and the resuscitated body. There are stories in the Bible of people coming back from the dead. In those cases, their body is resuscitated. It continues to have the same qualities it had before. The resurrected body is different. It is a new creation. In our mortal lives, are souls are to some extent slaves of our body – we have to eat, to sleep. Our body has chemicals and hormones that cloud our judgment and influence our behavior. When resurrected though, our soul is the master of our body and obeys whatever we want it to do, including appearing and disappearing, walking through walls and ascending into the air.

    It really comes down to whether or not Baha’u’llah is Who He says He is; if He is the return of Christ, then obviously His interpretations are valid,

    You are neglecting another question: Whether the Church is who she says she is: Christ’s bride and Christ’s body. If she is, then obviously her interpretations are valid, and Catholics are justified when they say that their understanding of the Gospels is accurate.

  5. Let me repeat myself:

    I personally think that what is important about the resurrection is the spiritual aspect; whether the physical resurrection occurred is secondary. For example, imagine that Christ had risen physically but NOT spiritually. That would be pointless, a zombie wandering around in antiquity.
    This demonstrates to me that what is essential either way is the spiritual reality.

    In addition, there is no way to prove whether Jesus was physically resurrected or not, whereas we know that He was resurrected spiritually. That was my point about the loaves and the fishes; it may be that the miracle physically occurred, but as is clearly shown in the story, the spiritual meaning is what was significant and relevant to the apostles and Jesus Himself. Here are the verses just in case not everyone is clear what I am talking about:

    16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

    16:7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

    16:8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 16:9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 16:10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 16:11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

  6. In response to what Jonah wrote:

    “You are neglecting another question: Whether the Church is who she says she is: Christ’s bride and Christ’s body. If she is, then obviously her interpretations are valid, and Catholics are justified when they say that their understanding of the Gospels is accurate.”

    I don’t believe I am neglecting the question. When Christ returns, whatever He says is the truth, period. In fact I DO believe that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ Himself founded on Peter, and that the Catholic Church was the only Church with a valid claim to be the body of Christ.

    What I don’t believe is that the returned Christ must satisfy the demands and expectations of the the Church in order to be accepted as true, rather the other way around. In fact, it seems impossible that any sizable portion of Christianity could be satisfied with ANY manner of Christ’s return, given that the expectations of how it will occur vary so widely, and has varied dramatically within the Catholic Church itself over time (a fact that also makes it very hard for me to put too much faith in the interpretations of the Church as authoritative…).

    That is to say, the only way to test the validity of Baha’u’llah’s claims (or the claims of anyone calling themselves the return of Christ) is independently, for oneself; otherwise one is conditioning one’s faith upon the judgment and faith of others. Was this not exactly what caused the Jewish people to reject Christ as the Messiah? That the religious authorities denounced Him, since He failed, according to their understanding, to fulfill the prophecies regarding the Messiah? That the people as a whole accepted the judgment of the authorities against Him? Therefore it is clear to me that the institutions of the previous Divine Revelation are in no way an acceptable standard of measuring the validity of the Christ when He appears.

    I imagine that this is what you have done, Jonah; investigated for yourself and concluded that you do not believe Baha’u’llah is the return of Christ. It was probably a similar process that led you to become such a dedicated champion of the Catholic Church. And it is through this same process of independent investigation that Jesus was recognized as the Christ despite the contrary assertions of the religious leaders of His time.

  7. Lukas wrote:
    I personally think that what is important about the resurrection is the spiritual aspect; whether the physical resurrection occurred is secondary.

    By definition, resurrection involves both the body and the spirit. The spirit without the body is not a resurrected being. Naturally the spirit is more honored than the body because it is the seat of knowledge and wisdom, and ideally it tells the body what to do. But however great the spirit is, if it hasn’t risen with a glorified body then it isn’t resurrected.

    I think what we have here is another instance of the Baha’i Definition Game. Baha’is demonstrate that their religion is the fulfillment of Religion X by taking the specialized terms from Religion X’s theology and assigning them new definitions. In this case, the Baha’is have changed the meaning of resurrection. In Christianity, resurrection involves both the body and the spirit because these are both essential aspects of a human being. The Baha’i Faith changes resurrection to mean basically repentance and conversion. But Christians already had terms for those concepts. We call them “repentance” and “conversion”. “Resurrection” is something different.

    Lukas wrote:
    In addition, there is no way to prove whether Jesus was physically resurrected or not, whereas we know that He was resurrected spiritually.

    Tell that to your Jewish and atheist neighbors. We “know” he was resurrected spiritually based on faith, the same way we know he was resurrected physically.

    I’m not sure why the passage you quote from Matthew 16 is relevant. Are you trying to show that Jesus and apostles realized the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000 did not involve actual bread? If so, then you are misunderstanding the passage.

    Lukas wrote:
    In fact, it seems impossible that any sizable portion of Christianity could be satisfied with ANY manner of Christ’s return, given that the expectations of how it will occur vary so widely

    I suppose you’re referring to some of the heretical notions that have come along from time to time, like the Dispensationalism that has been so popular among some evangelicals.

    Christians might disagree ahead of time about timing and so on, but all of us conceive of the Return as something so mind-bogglingly obvious that the Church won’t be able to deny it even if it wanted to. So it’s not like Christ could come back and some of us wouldn’t notice. It would be like sitting in the middle of New Orleans and not noticing Katrina.

    All Christians, whether they are Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, agree about what will happen. At the Day of Judgment billions of dead people will reemerge from the earth and we will watch as some of us are received into celestial glory and some are cast into hell. With all that s*** going down all around you, you’re not going to be pulling out your Bible and arguing over the interpretation of a verse.

    While we’re on the subject of eschatology (the branch of theology dealing with death, the Last Judgment, heaven and hell), it might help to keep in mind that the end of the world will be kind of like the death of an individual person. When one of us dies we undergo what Catholics call the particular judgment. We see everything we’ve done in our life, both how we’ve been good to others and how we’ve hurt others, and we perceive the justice in the fate we receive.

    At the end of the world we are judged again, but collectively, as a species. We all see everything that all of us have done, how one good or bad action has reverberated from one person to another, creating ripples across the human race, and we will understand why each person received their judgment.

    Lukas wrote:
    … and has varied dramatically within the Catholic Church itself over time (a fact that also makes it very hard for me to put too much faith in the interpretations of the Church as authoritative…).

    I also used to think the Catholic Church had changed its doctrines over time, until I researched Catholic history. The more I learned about Catholicism, the more I realized that the Catholic Church has remained consistent in its teachings.

  8. Jonah said:
    By definition, resurrection involves both the body and the spirit.
    Well, by your definition it clearly does. I disagree, as respectfully as possible, and would add that the way in which terms are defined is in itself an act of interpretation.

    Jonah said:
    The spirit without the body is not a resurrected being…however great the spirit is, if it hasn’t risen with a glorified body then it isn’t resurrected.

    Why? Isn’t that just interpreting resurrection to be a purely physical phenomenon? If a spirit has the quality of “life,” which I should think we all agree it does, is there any reason it can’t be restored to “life” (resurrected) in and of itself?

    Jonah said:
    I think what we have here is another instance of the Baha’i Definition Game. Baha’is demonstrate that their religion is the fulfillment of Religion X by taking the specialized terms from Religion X’s theology and assigning them new definitions. In this case, the Baha’is have changed the meaning of resurrection.

    Well, yes, Baha’is definitely do interpret the meaning of the Bible differently from most Christians. As a fallible human being, I am forced to do the best I can and decide for myself which of the various interpretations of the Bible I find credible. That’s where we all are, whether we like it or not. To assume that any of us has complete understanding is to equate ourselves to God.

    I have made sincere effort to study the Bible as best I can, and understanding that I am not perfectly dispassionate and unbiased, I nevertheless sincerely believe that the Baha’i interpretations of the Bible are the most rational and consistent I have encountered.

    Jonah said:
    In Christianity, resurrection involves both the body and the spirit because these are both essential aspects of a human being. The Baha’i Faith changes resurrection to mean basically repentance and conversion.

    We do? I don’t understand what you mean. I believe the Baha’i definition of resurrection to be more along the lines of restoration, revivification, resuscitation; that is, being brought back to life. Here is Abdu’l-Baha’s explanation of the resurrection of Christ:
    Therefore, we say that the meaning of Christ’s resurrection is as follows: the disciples were troubled and agitated after the martyrdom of Christ. The Reality of Christ, which signifies His teachings, His bounties, His perfections and His spiritual power, was hidden and concealed for two or three days after His martyrdom, and was not resplendent and manifest. No, rather it was lost, for the believers were few in number and were troubled and agitated. The Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body; and when after three days the disciples became assured and steadfast, and began to serve the Cause of Christ, and resolved to spread the divine teachings, putting His counsels into practice, and arising to serve Him, the Reality of Christ became resplendent and His bounty appeared; His religion found life; His teachings and His admonitions became evident and visible. In other words, the Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body until the life and the bounty of the Holy Spirit surrounded it.
    Such is the meaning of the resurrection of Christ, and this was a true resurrection.
    (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 103)
    Another way to understand the meaning of “bodily resurrection” becomes apparent if we remember that the “body” of Christ is also a term signifying the Church. Therefore another meaning of bodily resurrection could be that His spirit was revivified in the hearts of the early Christians, which certainly seems to be borne out by the events recorded in the Gospels.

    Jonah said:
    We “know” he was resurrected spiritually based on faith, the same way we know he was resurrected physically.

    You’re right: if one is using the Christian definition of resurrection, then the only way to “know” He was resurrected is through belief. However, I intended the Baha’i definition of resurrection, in particular the resuscitation of His spirit amongst His disciples, which clearly is a historical fact (Christianity would not exist had the events described by Abdu’l-Baha above not occurred). So with a Baha’i definition in mind, I think everyone, including any Jewish neighbors I may have, would agree that the resurrection occurred.

    Jonah said:
    I’m not sure why the passage you quote from Matthew 16 is relevant. Are you trying to show that Jesus and apostles realized the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000 did not involve actual bread? If so, then you are misunderstanding the passage.

    Well, I’m trying to show that the feeding of the crowds was at least primarily, if not exclusively, a spiritual phenomenon (as opposed to a material one). To me personally, it clearly demonstrates that a miracle that seemed completely material at first reading was in fact understood by the apostles and Jesus to be primarily spiritual in nature, a concept that relates directly to our discussion with regards to the resurrection.
    As far as my own understanding of the passage goes, it is certainly possible that I am misunderstanding it. Please let me what know you believe I am missing.
    I thought I would include this translation from the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV) that I believe makes my point more clear.
    When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

    Jonah said:
    Christians might disagree ahead of time about timing and so on, but all of us conceive of the Return as something so mind-bogglingly obvious that the Church won’t be able to deny it even if it wanted to. So it’s not like Christ could come back and some of us wouldn’t notice. It would be like sitting in the middle of New Orleans and not noticing Katrina.

    Yes, I think that this is in a general sense true, and I actually think that this interpretation makes a lot of sense based on what the Bible says. I mean, the events described in Revelation sure don’t seem to be subtle, so I appreciate how this is a reasonable expectation to have of the “Day of Judgment.”
    However, I personally think that upon closer inspection the case for a profoundly different interpretation of the meaning of these vivid, fantastical events is stronger.
    Firstly, it is useful to look back to the Old Testament and examine what the prophecies regarding the advent of the messiah are, and then to determine if and how those prophecies were fulfilled. Even a cursory examination will reveal that Jesus did not materially/physically/outwardly fulfill these prophecies. He did not (outwardly) sit on the throne of David; He did not (outwardly) come from an unknown place; He did not (outwardly) exalt the Jews; the hills were not lowered, the valleys were not raised, and so on. Therefore the generality of the people of Israel rejected Him, none more adamantly than those whose knowledge of the scripture was presumed to be the greatest. This is to me powerful evidence that prophecies are not necessarily always fulfilled the way we may expect.
    Secondly, it is important to study the exhortations of Christ Himself with regards to His return; they are replete with commands to watch diligently, to not be caught asleep and unaware, and the like. While a comprehensive review of this topic is impossible, nevertheless from my own studies it seems quite obvious to me that Christ is repeatedly warning us to guard against the possibility of not recognizing Him when He comes.
    Obviously, I can’t PROVE anything for anyone else, and I don’t expect that this will necessarily change anyone’s mind; nevertheless I hope that these examples show that Baha’is have rationally justifiable reasons for understanding the Bible the way they do.

  9. There seem to be five main points in the above comment. I don’t have time to address all five today. God willing, over the next week or so I’ll get through them.

    I said:
    By definition, resurrection involves both the body and the spirit.

    Then Lukas said:
    Well, by your definition it clearly does. I disagree, as respectfully as possible, and would add that the way in which terms are defined is in itself an act of interpretation.

    See my original post. Baking a pie with no apples and calling it apple pie is not a matter of interpretation.

    I said:
    The spirit without the body is not a resurrected being…however great the spirit is, if it hasn’t risen with a glorified body then it isn’t resurrected.

    Then Lukas asked:
    Why? Isn’t that just interpreting resurrection to be a purely physical phenomenon?

    No. A corpse is a purely physical phenomenon. By definition, a resurrected body has a spirit.

    Lukas also asked:
    If a spirit has the quality of “life,” which I should think we all agree it does, is there any reason it can’t be restored to “life” (resurrected) in and of itself?

    Spirits are indestructible. They’re always alive. Bodies die. So the thing that’s restored to life is the body.

  10. See, the thing is that I don’t think that the Gospels necessarily interpret themselves that way; I think that they demand reflection and contemplation on our part in order for us to discover their inner meaning. The words in the Gospels are certainly absolute, they exist in the same way for all readers (allowing for translation of course), but the meaning and significance of those words is a matter of interpretation.

    I know that for Christians, resurrection often/typically signifies a bodily as well as spiritual phenomenon, but I don’t believe that such an interpretation is necessarily extant in the text of the Gospels themselves. Someone at some point had to come up with that interpretation, and since it was not someone (so far as I can tell) with divine authority (i.e. the Christ) who came up with those definitions, I feel no compulsion to accept them .

    So what I believe, and what I presume to say most Baha’is believe in common with Christians, is that the Bible is the truth. We differ in what we believe the meaning and significance of the terms in the text are, obviously.

    Jonah said:
    Spirits are indestructible. They’re always alive.

    In one sense, yes. In another, it is very clear from the Gospels that one can be alive and yet considered as spiritually dead.

    9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead…
    (King James Bible, Luke)

    So in this sense spiritual death is certainly a possibility. It is not absolute death, but relative. This is what I mean when I say resurrection of the spirit.

    I’d like to respond to more of the above post…but there’s just too much. I think it would be interesting to make an index of terms in the Gospels and the different definitions given them by the Baha’i Faith and the Catholic Church. That seems to be where we’re getting hung up.

  11. Jonah,

    Shoghi Effendi stated clearly that Baha’is do not believe in “bodily resurrection”. The meaning of the “resurrection” of Christ in the Gospels is also explained in the Baha’i Writings.

    If “Apple Pie” is “bodily resurrection” the Baha’i teachings clearly state that Baha’is do not have “apple pie” as part of their beliefs/diet/cookery.

    Puc

  12. I don’t have time to do anyone’s comments justice, but in the interest of not leaving the conversation off completely, I’ll give a partial response.

    Regarding resurrection as involving both body and soul, Lukas wrote:
    Someone at some point had to come up with that interpretation, and since it was not someone (so far as I can tell) with divine authority (i.e. the Christ) who came up with those definitions, I feel no compulsion to accept them .

    Yes, that is the rub. Whose interpretation are you going to accept? Or, more precisely, whose hermeneutic (approach or pattern of interpretation) are you going to adopt?

    I believe as a matter of faith that Christ gave the Church the authority to interpret the scriptures infallibly. That, I believe, goes along with the Church’s essence as Bride of Christ. But this is all a matter of faith, as is the Baha’i belief in the Lesser Covenant.

    I don’t expect you to accept my interpretation of scripture, because we have different authorities. What I was trying to say with this post was that Baha’is should be aware of how when they teach they can actually be misleading, whether intentionally or not. I also try to say with this blog that if Baha’is want genuinely to understand Christianity, they need to take off their Baha’i-colored glasses for a minute and try to look at things from a non-Baha’i perspective.

  13. Lukas brought up this passage from Matthew 16:

    When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

    When Jesus reminds his disciples of the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000, what he’s saying is, “why would I care if you brought bread or not? Obviously I can make bread out of thin air. I’m talking about the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

  14. I think your interpretation of the above quote from Matthew is plausible; however it still seems very clear to me that a vital part of that whole exchange is the connection that Jesus and the Apostles repeatedly make between bread/yeast and teachings. It is because Jesus reminds them of His bread that they understand that “yeast” of the pharisees means their teachings; how would this understanding have been arrived at if Jesus’ bread had not in fact been understood, by Jesus and the Apostles, as His Teachings?

    Part of the reason I personally favor this interpretation is that spiritual miracles are more important that physical ones. Would you rather have spiritual life, or physical life? A loaf of bread, or spiritual teachings that quicken you to life in the sight of God? Because I believe that “God is a spirit” (John 4:24), I believe that us being made in the image of God means our spirits resemble His; thus interpreting the miracles of Jesus as primarily spiritual in nature (although not exclusively) redounds to His greater glory, in my mind. It makes the material aspect irrelevant in my personal understanding.

    As far as Baha’is investigating other religions on their own terms, I definitely do think that there is a lot of room for improvement in that department. Unfortunately we’re all just human…but that is why constructive sites such as this one are so important and appealing.

  15. If you’re interested, I can let you know of one reason why I believe the interpretations of the church should be considered as inspired but not infallible.

    I also want to know in what way you consider the lesser covenant to be a matter of faith.

    If you mean faith as Abdu’l-Baha defines it, i.e. conscious knowledge followed by the practice of goodly deeds, then yes, it certainly is a matter of faith in my mind.

    I’m less sure as to what you mean if by faith you intend “belief (without proof)”, in a more traditional sense, inasmuch as the documents outlining the delineation of authority in the Baha’i Faith are subject to our scrutiny.

    Or perhaps you mean that we have to take it on Baha’u’llah’s word that the administrative head of the Faith is under divine guidance…that would make sense.

    Anyway, let us know what you mean when you get a chance!

  16. >I also try to say with this blog that if Baha’is want >genuinely to understand Christianity, they need to >take off their Baha’i-colored glasses for a minute >and try to look at things from a non-Baha’i >perspective.

    Yes, I get that this is what you are asserting- that Baha’is don’t understand Christianity and as long as they espouse the Baha’i Faith, are only capable of understanding the Baha’i Faith.

    I don’t agree. I understand Christianity. Christianity differs from the Baha’i Faith in some areas, such as “bodily resurrection” as the Baha’i teachings acknowledge and state. I am, as a Baha’i, quite capable of understanding both Faiths and the differences and similarities that exist in them.

    Apart from “bodily resurrection” please list the other general areas of Christianity that you believe I do not understand. Or is it that you believe I don’t understand anything at all about Christianity?

    Puc

  17. Puc – without putting words in Jonah’s mouth, I would give him the benefit of the doubt and say that at least part of what he is addressing seems to be the tendency that we all as human beings have of looking at things from just our perspective, lacking the imagination and courage and respect to really try to see things from another’s point of view.

    In other words, maybe he is not so much saying that Baha’is CAN’T understand Christianoty from a Christian perspective, which is a silly thing to say, but that we often DON’T, which is something that I personally agree with.

    I know for myself that my understanding of Christianity was, is and always will be subject to to my own limitations, so how can I argue that my understanding is sufficient? All we can do is our best, and strive to learn more and be humble.

  18. Lucas,

    If it isn’t that Baha’is don’t understand “apple pie”, why is it , according to Jonah, Baha’is make “peach pie” and falsly call it “apple pie”?

    In taking the line that he is saying that Baha’is don’t understand, I am giving Jonah the benefit of the doubt. If I wasn’t I would be forced to think that he was implying that Baha’is understand what “apple pies” is and what “peach pie” is, but are knowingly attempting to decieve by making false claims.

    Pete.

  19. Lucas,

    By the way, I’m not saying that I know everything there is to know about Christianity or the Baha’i Faith. However, I do understand “bodily resurrection” and at the same time I am quite able to understand the Baha’i approach.

    Puc.

  20. Ah – thanks for the explanation!

  21. Two comments.

    (1) Jonah said, “‘Independent investigation of truth’ is an empty phrase if you don’t let the book speak for itself.”

    The problem with such a statement is that the person making such a statement then has their own, or their institution’s, parameters for how the book actually speaks for itself and what that sounds like, which is astonishingly similar to their own or their institution’s interpretation.

    (2) Jonah said, “What I was trying to say with this post was that Baha’is should be aware of how when they teach they can actually be misleading, whether intentionally or not. I also try to say with this blog that if Baha’is want genuinely to understand Christianity, they need to take off their Baha’i-colored glasses for a minute and try to look at things from a non-Baha’i perspective.”

    Similarly, in this instance the concept of “genuinely” understanding Christianity is cloaked in a paradigm that predefines what it means to truly be “Christian,” which such a dialogue, in its essence, actually addresses at its core. Attempts to otherwise frame the dialogue are tactics to avoid a critical assessment of this core question.

  22. It’s true that books don’t really “speak for themselves”. Readers always bring baggage to the reading experience that colors what they get from the book. At the same time, there is a difference between reading something and reading into something.

    Let me give you a non-biblical example. In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, there’s a tortoise and there’s a hare. If you don’t believe me, go read it. The story says what it says. Now, how we interpret the story is a different matter. Whether we think the animals really existed, if they are symbols for something, whatever. None of that is in the story. But whatever else you think, the fact remains that the story has a tortoise in it, and the story has a hare in it.

    Likewise, however you choose to interpret the stories of the Resurrection in the Bible, the fact remains that the stories are about a corpse that came back to life. Maybe it’s a symbol or whatever, but regardless of what you think about it, the story still has a corpse in it, and the corpse still comes back to life. If you don’t believe me, go read it. I didn’t get that from blindly trusting what my bishop told me. I got it from opening the book and reading it.

    Similarly, in this instance the concept of “genuinely” understanding Christianity is cloaked in a paradigm that predefines what it means to truly be “Christian,” which such a dialogue, in its essence, actually addresses at its core. Attempts to otherwise frame the dialogue are tactics to avoid a critical assessment of this core question.

    I disagree that this is the core question. If you think the definition of “Christian” is so important, then go start a blog about it.

    If we have to hash out and come to consensus on the definition of Christianity before we move forward with our dialogue, then we might as well stop now because we will never reach consensus. I am well aware that my definition is my own perspective. So what? That’s what dialogue involves – hearing the perspectives of actual human persons. You’re not going to get anywhere with your dialogue if you tell everyone you dialogue with that their definition of their own religion is wrong.

  23. “At the same time, there is a difference between reading something and reading into something.”

    You believe the Baha’is understanding is “reading into” what is weitten in the Bible. Baha’is don’t agree.

    Baha’is do not believe that their understanding is “read into” what is recorded in the Bible but rather believe that what is recorded in the Bible is a report that employs symbolism.

    As Shoghi Effendi states-

    “We do not believe that there was a bodily resurrection after the Crucifixion of Christ, but that there was a time after His Ascension when His disciples perceived spiritually His true greatness and realized He was eternal in being. This is what has been reported symbolically in the New Testament and been misunderstood. His eating with His disciples after resurrection is the same thing.”

    I also note that in order to understand the quote above it is necessary for Baha’is to understand “bodily resurrection” while at the same time understanding the Baha’i perspective.

    Puc

  24. My christian husband and I have this discussion now and then, and we have very different “takes” on the matter. For him, the bodily resurrection of Christ is key and critical to Christ being who he said he is, and to this leading to the resurrection of Christians from the grave when Christ returns to rule the “new earth”. He has no problem acknowledging Paul’s description of “spiritual” (not physical) bodies for that time, but cannot grasp that Paul’s words could also apply to Jesus’ resurrection, i.e. what people saw was a spiritual body rather than an earthly one. I’ve asked him where he thinks Jesus’ body went to when it was seen being raised to heaven, if it was a physical body, but he is content to think it was transformed into a spiritual body after it went into the sky, rather than before. He’s always shocked to hear me say that whether Christ was resurrected with a physical or a spiritual body is of no importance to me. What I know is this: his followers had a spiritual experience which restored their faith and gave them the strength, with the help of the holy spirit, to go out into the world and spread the Gospel. He sits at the right hand of God today, and God is spirit, so at some point Christ gave up a physical body and was spirit. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

  25. p.s. Obviously, if you believe in a physical heaven, then certainly you may logically believe in a physical body resurrection as that is where Christ’s body would then go. A physical heaven never made logical sense to me, so physical resurrection also made no logical sense to me. The point of the Gospel is quite clearly not the salvation of our body, but of our spirit.

  26. I was raised in the Bahai faith and was always taught that Christians believe in physical resurrection because of misunderstanding. After leaving home I converted to Catholicism, and reading the Bahai writings from this perspective, I noticed that no specifics were given as to when the misunderstanding originated, or with whom. That has troubled me.

  27. Maggie, there is a statement from Abdul-Baha on where the misunderstanding came from. He may address it elsewhere, but he discusses it in Some Answered Questions:
    “Such is the meaning of the resurrection of Christ, and this was a true resurrection. But as the clergy have neither understood the meaning of the Gospels nor comprehended the symbols, therefore, it has been said that religion is in contradiction to science, and science in opposition to religion, as, for example, this subject of the ascension of Christ with an elemental body to the visible heaven is contrary to the science of mathematics. But when the truth of this subject becomes clear, and the symbol is explained, science in no way contradicts it; but, on the contrary, science and the intelligence affirm it.”

    This quotation follows a discussion of the Gospel of John scripture (6:38) where Jesus says he came down from Heaven, and (6:42) where the people question how he can say that, as he was the child of Joseph and Mary; and (3:13) where Jesus says no one goes to Heaven except he who came from Heaven. In this discussion, Abdul-Baha explains that this coming and going is all spiritual, not physical.

    In the context of the time of Jesus, people understood Heaven to be a physical place. But we know now (Abdul-Baha’s reference to science and math) you don’t take a rocket booster to get there.

    My father’s family are Catholic but I was not raised Catholic and I didn’t become a Baha’i until I was 19 years of age. My husband is Anglican and I attend church with him when he goes, and sometimes it is a Catholic Church if an Anglican or Episcopal Church is not handy. I always enjoy the services but of course I do not take communion. And I often light a candle for my Catholic grandmother.

  28. I think this is what Maggie meant:

    Baha’is keep saying the Christians have misunderstood the resurrection accounts in the Bible. But Baha’is only ever talk about this in vague terms. Please give specifics. Which early Christians had the correct interpretation? When did that correct interpretation become lost?

  29. Thank you Jonah. That is what I meant. I had tried to talk to my mom about it and she won’t discuss it with me any more. Anything I said to her, she read into it an unspoken condemnation of her as a person. I wrote her kind of a long letter explaining why I believe as I do and asked her to read through it very carefully, without reading into it anything I did not explicitly state, and if she was still offended I would never bring it up again. I never got a response.

  30. Jonah, I was raised a Roman Catholic and have been a Baha’i the last forty years. Without a doubt the Baha’is have a completely different interpretation of Biblical scripture than any Christian church. But to be perfectly consistent, Paul radically re-interpreted Judaism so if one were to adhere to the past people really should become Jewish because they were the original McCoy.

    The problem with the Physical Resurrection is that it automatically excludes all non-Christian religions(not to mention life on other planets which are probably in the billions). When I was going to catechism I could never accept this, that God would send those people of faiths to hell regardless of whether they were good or bad, just because they followed another Divine Manifestation. The Baha’i explanation of the resurrection is the best I found regarding this. I won’t deny that there are inconsistencies with Acts, but there are also inconsistencies in the Christian version as well (Today, that will with me in paradise as Jesus , just before Jesus gave up his spirit). Even in Corinthians Paul seems to disavow the physical resurrection when he says that Jesus was raised up glorified, and use the analogy of the seed which planted in the ground and rises as something else, a plant.

    I do believe the New Testament is the Word of God, and probably the Words of Jesus are pretty accurate,(based on the Sermons of Peter when he lived in Rome in the 60s), but I think some of the physical events described in Acts were either spiritual mysteries clothed in a story of the outer world(like a spiritual analogy, that didn’t happen in the physical world but rather a spiritual event). It also could have been added to make the teachings of Jesus more palatable to the masses of the Roman empire who were accustomed to tales of physical resurrection.

    If you applied the same tests to Jesus as to Baha’u’llah, from a Jewish perspective, then you would have to reject Jesus as well because he did not fill any of the Jewish prophecies literally(just read any rabbi’s explanation). Jesus in fact provided the key when he taught that John the Baptist was the return of Elias. Here he was clearly teaching a symbolic interpretation of Jewish scriptures, exactly what Baha’u’llah and Abdul Baha did.

    On a human level though, the concept of the physical return of Christ, takes human destiny out of our hands, so instead of working to bring the kingdom of God on earth we wait for some external event, that in my mind will never happen.

    One further thing, the Jews already returned to Israel and according to Isaiah the Messiah had to come first for this to happen. This cannot referred to Christ because the Jews had not yet been dispersed from the Holy Land. It does fit into the coming of Baha’u’llah remarkably well. Baha’u’llah was imprisoned in Israel in 1868 and the Jews started return in 1892(the beginning of the Zionist movement)

  31. Donald,

    YOU SAID
    “The problem with the Physical Resurrection is that it automatically excludes all non-Christian religions(not to mention life on other planets which are probably in the billions).”

    MY RESPONSE
    How so . Catholic teaching on the matter of salvation does not exclude others of different faiths from their share in the inheritance of Christ . Christ died for all humanity . I don’t know what you have been taught , but the catechism does affirm that salvation can be achieved by non christian persons . I am not even going to touch on the “life on other planets” statement because that is a red herring as far as I am concerned

    YOU ALSO SAID
    I do believe the New Testament is the Word of God, and probably the Words of Jesus are pretty accurate,(based on the Sermons of Peter when he lived in Rome in the 60s), but I think some of the physical events described in Acts were either spiritual mysteries clothed in a story of the outer world(like a spiritual analogy, that didn’t happen in the physical world but rather a spiritual event). It also could have been added to make the teachings of Jesus more palatable to the masses of the Roman empire who were accustomed to tales of physical resurrection.

    MY RESPONSE
    Donald ,which one is it that you believe . It seems to me that you are having a bet each way . Are the resurrection stories “add ons” or are they written by the the new testament authors themselves . If what you are saying is true and the bible has been adulterated to incorporate fictitious stories then it would no longer be appropriate to render the new testament the Word of God in my opinion , but merely the word of deceitful men who intermingled false history with historical truths. It is not the Word of God at all if the the afore mentioned additions had in fact taken place . I suspect this is an effort to try and lull christians into believing that Bahai’s accept the bible as the Word of God , when in fact what many bahai’s really believe is that it has been added to with fictitious stories of Jesus resurrection .Again , we can’t have it both ways. Either it is the Word of God and a reliable source for spiritual and historical analysis or it’s fictictious additions make it untrustworthy and not suitable to be rendered the Word of God.

    I am completely fascinated by this claim that the resurrection stories are spiritual only, explained as fictional narratives of physical appearances of Jesus This explanation makes absolutely no sense

    I have some objections to this

    1. These so called “spiritual” or “non literal” events have not been presented as such . They are historical narratives in the truest sense of the word . The authors of the Gospels have not the slightest indication that these events are non literal or parables . They are presented as true and historical events and a continuation of the events that preceded the resurrection .

    2 St Luke has collated historical eyewitness testimony in his gospel . He also stated such in the Opening of the Acts of the Apostles which he stated was a continuation of his previous work ( The gospel of St Luke )

    3 If the resurrection narratives are not historical , then they are nothing short of pure deception for the reasons stated in the first objection .

    4 Neither the Jews or The mainstream Christian faithful have anywhere ever believed in a “spiritual resurrection” The idea of “spiritual resurrection” is an interpolation of the true essence of the resurrection from a Jewish and Christian perspective i.e. that is is a physical reality , which brings me to my next point .

    If we are to believe the Bahai perspective of a spiritual only resurrection then we should consider.

    1 Jews ( Including the apostles ) believed in a PHYSICAL RESURRECTION of the dead

    2 Jesus prophecies his PHYSICAL RESURRECTION
    ( Destroy this temple ( body ) and in three days I will raise it up

    3 Jesus SPIRITUALLY RESURRECTED.

    4 The gospel writers ( John and Luke ) make numerous references to christ having PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES post resurrection thus confirming their belief and hope of a physical resurrection

    in brief ;
    Jews believe in ———– PHYSICAL resurrection
    Jesus prophecies ——– PHYSICAL resurrection
    Jesus ———————— SPIRITUALLY resurrection
    Authors depict ———— PHYSICAL attributes post resurrection.

    Compare this to a Judaeo-Christian view , which makes perfect sense

    Jews believe in ———– PHYSICAL resurrection
    Jesus prophecies ——– PHYSICAL resurrection
    Jesus ———————— PHYSICALLY resurrects
    Authors depict ———— PHYSICAL attributes post resurrection.

    Even today the Jews hold the belief in a physical resurrection of the dead

    If it true that Jesus had NOT physically risen from the dead , it is a certainty that the authors of the Gospels and new testament knew this. We then have to ask ourselves why any of the new testament writers would depict stories of Christ having truly physical attributes post resurrection thus deceiving their contemporaries and subsequently the countless millions of christians over the course of two millennia into believing that Jesus rose physically from the dead.

    Presenting Christ as having physical attributes post resurrection would have confirmed their ( Apostles ) own Jewish belief that their was in fact a physical resurrection and that Christ was the hope and fulfilment of this promise

    So Knowing that Jesus DID NOT “physically resurrect” but did so only spiritually , is such an inconceivable stretch of the imagination that they would write post resurrection stories depicting Jesus as having truly physical attributes , i.e. Jesus was able to eat , be touched , bore wounds of his crucifixion , and that Jesus himself declared that he had flesh and bones .

    If Christ “spiritually” rose from the dead , then the new testament authors could have conveyed this reality other than the ways they did .

    A “spiritual” resurrection does not make any sense if we are to view it in broader context .

  32. Sorry for the bad grammar , I wrote the previous post in a hurry in a hurry

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