By Moojan Momen
This book, as well as being the third volume in the Bahá'í Studies series published by George Ronald, represents the first in a series of volumes presenting the proceedings of a cycle of conferences called the Irfán Colloquia. These conferences have been organized under the patronage of the Háj Mehdí Arjmand Memorial Trust set up in 1992 in the memory of Háj Mihdí Arjmand, a distinguished Bahá'í scholar of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Further conferences in the series have already taken place and it is hoped that the proceedings of these conferences will be published in due course.
The first two Irfán Colloquia were held in Europe and North America on the theme of 'Scripture and Revelation.' The first conference was held on 3-5 December 1993 at the Bahá'í Centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, and was co-sponsored by the Religious Studies Special Interest Group of the Association for Bahá'í Studies (English-Speaking Europe). The programme of the conference was as follows:
Friday evening, 3 December 1993
Saturday morning, 4 December 1993
- Stephen Lambden, 'Two Bahá'í scholars: Háj Mihdí Arjmand and Thomas Kelly Cheyne'
- Dr Seena Fazel, 'Understanding Exclusivist Texts'
- Dr Robert H. Stockman, 'Modern Biblical Interpretation and the Bahá'í Faith'
Sunday morning, 5 December
- Dr Todd Lawson, 'The Báb's Tafsir Suratu'l-Asr'
- Stephen Lambden, 'Prophecy in the Johannine Farewell Discourse: The Advents of the Paraclete, Ahmad and the Comforter (Mu'azzi)'
- Dr Khazeh Fananapazir, 'The Day of God'
- Dr Kamran Ekbal, 'The Pattern and Symbolism of Revelation from Zarathustra to Bahá'u'lláh'
In addition to the talks, the conference scheduled time for several discussions of biblical and quranic exegesis (interpretation) from a Bahá'í perspective. About 30 people attended the conference.
The second conference was held on 25-27 March 1994 at the National Bahá'í Center in Wilmette, Illinois, United States. The programme was as follows:
Friday night, 25 March 1994
Saturday morning, 26 March 1994
- Nikoo Mahboubian gave a talk about Háj Mihdí Arjmand
- Dr John S. Hatcher, 'The Validity and Value of an Historical-Critical Approach to the Revealed Word of Bahá'u'lláh'
- Frank Lewis, 'Scripture as Literature: The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh in their Literary Context'
- Dr Ross Woodman, 'The Inner Dimensions of Revelation'
- Dr Susan Brill, 'Reading With or Against the Book, or the Avoidance of Interpretive Chaos'
- Thomas May, 'Entombed in a Dead Language: the Saints Raising out of their Graves'
- William Barnes, 'Mythoi: Stories of the Origin, Fall and Redemption of Man'
- Craig Loehle, 'Bahá'í Parables'
Sunday morning, 27 March 1994
- An informal panel presentation allowing speakers and the audience time to discuss subjects raised during the day.
- Dr Kamran Ekbal, 'The Koranic Roots of Some Legal and Theological Terms in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas'
- Dr Julio Savi, 'The Love Relationship Between God and Humanity: A Commentary on Bahá'u'lláh's Hidden Words'
- Michael McCarron, 'The Resurrection of Divine Wisdom: A Study of the Ontology of Greek Philosophical Theology and Jewish Theology in the Context of Wisdom Revelation and its Realization in the Bahá'í Religion'
- Aram Gomez, 'The Tree of Peace and the Coming of Bahá'u'lláh'
About 65 persons from Canada, Japan, four European countries, and eleven states attended the conference.
The present volume is a selection of the papers presented at these two conferences. It is prefaced by a biography of Háj Mihdí Arjmand in whose memory the Háj Mehdí Arjmand Memorial Trust was established. The essays in this volume vary widely in style. Some are written from
the viewpoint of faith and in a language assuming a belief in the tenets of the Bahá'í Faith, while others adopt a more neutral academic style. In preparing this volume the editor has not attempted to achieve a uniformity of tone or style but rather has tried to allow each author to express himself in the style that best suits him. Only the style of annotation and transliteration has been rendered uniform.