Some Chronological Issues in the Lawh-i-Hikmat of Bahá'u'lláh

By Peter Terry

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #24
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Michigan, USA
October 8–12, 1999
(see list of papers from #24)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 1, pages 121-142
© 2000, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom) was written by Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká and addressed to Mulla Muhammad-'Alí (Nabíl-i-Qa'iní), a former mujtahid in the Ithna 'Ashari sect of Shi'i Islam and a distinguished Bahá'í scholar and teacher. In this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh elaborates His teachings on many themes, including the origins and development of "hikmat-i-iláhí" (divine philosophy), discussing a number of philosophers, including the Father of Philosophy (Idris/Hermes), Balinus (Apollonius of Tyana), Empedocles, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Pliny. This paper will seek to discover some of the antecedents to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh regarding the association of Empedocles with King David and Pythagoras with King Solomon, as well as to discuss the interpretation that 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave to this distinctive chronology. In doing so, mention will be made of some of the historical accounts that parallel Bahá'u'lláh's identification of Hebrew prophets with Greek philosophers, including those written by various Jewish, Christian and Muslim authors. Aspects of the prophetic chronology advanced by the Báb in "Dalá'il-i-Sab'ih" (Seven Proofs) and "Bayán-i-farsi" (Persian Bayan) will be introduced and a comparison will be made of Bahá'u'lláh's distinctive chronology with the reasoned judgements of various Western historians. In conclusion, it will be suggested that Bahá'í historians critically re-examine the conclusions that most Western historians have reached with regard to the dating of events and persons in the entirety of pre-Alexandrian history.

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