The Dream of Uniting the Nations:
The Culminating Vision of the Hebrew Bible
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #9
Bahá'í National Center: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
March 29 – April 1, 1996
(see list of papers from #9)
That the primary source of organized opposition to the Bahá'í community and its expansion in the western world has been Christian clergy scarcely needs to be stated. That this opposition will be of benefit to the Bahá'í community and its expansion has been unequivocally stated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Promulgation of Universal Peace, 429-30). I contend that the extent and quality of that benefit will in large part be determined by the ability of Bahá'í scholarship to map credible connections between the findings of biblical scholarship and the revealed interpretations of the Bible advanced in the Bahá'í sacred writings.
In order for Bahá'ís to establish serious ongoing dialogue with the community of traditional biblical scholarship, we must transcend the simplistic "proof text" approach to scripture that has permeated Bahá'í popular literature dealing with biblical prophecy and that can with equal or greater plausibility be used as a basis for anti-Bahá'í polemic. I will examine at some length a recent example of this genre and attempt to show some of its shortcomings. Bahá'ís must, I believe, move toward a thoroughgoing Bahá'í hermeneutic of the Bible grounded in the discussion of the major themes discernible in the writings of the Hebrew prophets.
While much concerning the full meaning and intent of the Hebrew prophets remains controversial, there is considerable agreement across confessional and denominational lines (including Jewish, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical expositors) concerning the main themes and sequences of imagery that are present and that serve as unifying strands within the biblical text. Major themes generally recognized in the scriptural text and discussed in the paper include:
Particularly with respect to the seventh item on the list--the theonomous unification of the nations--there is ample reason to contend that it is in the Bahá'í realm of discourse and action that the potentialities latent within the original vision of the prophets are most adequately realized.
- The violation of the Mosaic covenant by the Israelite nation through idolatry, sinfulness, and injustice.
- The consequent rejection and punishment of Israel by God.
- The full restoration of Israel to the Holy Land as a sovereign kingdom.
- The proclamation of a new covenant entailing internalization of the Law, the individualization of responsibility before God, and the forgiveness of sin.
- The raising up by God of a righteous descendant of David to reign and to establish justice and righteousness.
- The final attack on Israel by jealous and hostile neighbors, the defeat of the attackers by divine intervention, and God's judgment and punishment of the nations of the Earth.
- Establishment of the Kingdom of God: the submission of the survivors of the nations to a system of justice, order, and peace established by the Davidic king and centralized around the presence of the "glory" in the Temple on the "Mountain of God."
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