Bahai Faith / Baha’i Faith : Physical Resurrection, Part 1 of 2

The Denial and the Apologetic
Other Relevant Texts

The Denial and the Apologetic:

The Denial and the Apologetic
Other Relevant Texts

The Denial and the Apologetic:

As you read the Baha’i denial of the physical resurrection keep the following question in mind, “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8).

Question.-What is the meaning of Christ’s resurrection after three days? Answer.-The resurrection of the Divine Manifestations are not of the body. [All that the Divine Manifestations do has] a spiritual and divine significance, and have no connection with material things.”[fn]`Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions (Wilmette, IL.: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1908, reprinted 1999), p. 103[/fn]

“His disappearance under the earth for three days has an inner signification and is not an outward fact. In the same way, His resurrection from the interior of the earth is also symbolical; it is a spiritual and divine fact, and not material; and likewise His ascension to heaven is a spiritual and not material ascension.”[fn]Ibid., p. 104[/fn]

“Jesus was born of a virgin and was the spiritual Son, not the physical Son of God. God’s spiritual ‘Son’ rose spiritually to a spiritual Heaven to live forever. The term ‘return’ refers to a return of the spiritual qualities or spiritual station of a prophet, not their physical return.”[fn]Justice St Rain, Finding Common Ground-How many beliefs do you share with members of the Baha’i Community? You may be surprised! (Bloomington, IN, Published by Special Ideas, 1997), p. 11[/fn]

“The body is composed, in truth, of corporeal elements and every composition is necessarily subject to decomposition; but the spirit is an essence, simple, pure, spiritual, eternal, perpetual and divine. He who seeketh Christ from the point of view of His body hath, in truth, debased Him and hath gone astray from Him; but he who seeketh Christ from the point of view of His Spirit will grow from day to day in joy, attraction, zeal, proximity, perception and vision.”[fn]Selected Writings of Baha’u’llah and `Abdu’l-Baha;, Baha’i World Faith (Wilmette, IL.: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1976), p. 389[/fn]

As is common in the writings of `Abdu’l-Baha, he subjectively allegorizes the historical record of Christ’s three days in the grave, His physical resurrection, and His ascension to heaven thereafter. He claims that these are stories that have a spiritual and divine significance, which means that none of these events really took place and have no connection with the historical facts they claim to portray.

The apostle Paul wrote,

“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep” (1st Corinthians 15:2-6).

If Jesus had not physically risen from the dead and physically appeared to eyewitnesses, what does it mean that “He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers”?

“let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10).

What does it mean that He was “raised from the dead” and now “stands here before you whole”?

“After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias…This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead” (John 21:1, 14).

What does it mean that He “showed Himself again” and that it was “the third time”?

Far from preaching blind faith, Paul challenges and encourages detective work. Although we today cannot go and seek out the eyewitnesses, Paul tells the people of his time that they can go talk to some of the over five hundred eyewitnesses. A Greek doctor name Luke did just that and he wrote,

“Dear Theophilos: Concerning the matters that have taken place among us, many people have undertaken to draw up accounts based on what was handed down to us by those who from the start were eyewitnesses and proclaimers of the message. Therefore, your Excellency, since I have carefully investigated all these things from the beginning, it seemed good to me that I too should write you an accurate and ordered narrative, so that you might know how well-founded are the things about which you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4).

If events such as the resurrection had not occurred the disciples would have never encouraged skeptics, seekers, or even believers, to check out the facts and ensure the truth of their teachings. There are many examples in the New Testament of the disciples not only proclaiming that they themselves are eyewitnesses but they appeal to the knowledge of their audience in saying, “you yourselves know of this,” or “you yourselves have seen this” (For some examples see, 2nd Peter 1:16; 1st John 1:3; John 19:35; Acts 2:22, 26:24-28).

It seems that the main reason that the Baha’i have for denying the physical resurrection is because they claim that Baha’u’llah is the return of Jesus Christ. If Jesus resurrected physically then, as it is written, His body would bear the scars and wounds of His flogging, crucifixion and spear thrust. Since His body bears the wounds then, as it is written, at His Second Coming He would be recognized by His wounds. Jesus is pictured in heaven as the Lamb who looked “as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). If Christ rose physically, and will return physically, we would know with absolute certainty that Baha’u’llah is not He.

The Universal House of Justice has written,

“if one reads the biblical accounts with an unbiased mind, one can see that the events related are far from typical of a physical body. It is true that Jesus tells doubting Thomas to feel His wounds to demonstrate that it was really He, but just before that He had suddenly appeared in a room with locked doors. In a similar manner, after speaking with two followers on the road to Emmaus, Jesus suddenly disappears. He also appears suddenly in different parts of the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, Galilee, and so forth.'”[fn]Universal House of Justice, Resurrection and Return of Jesus, 9 October 1989[/fn]

It is certain that both Christianity and Judaism teach a physical resurrection; eternal life in a “glorified” physical body. Consider Job’s words,

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold” (Job 19:25-27).

It is after his skin is destroyed that he will be in the flesh seeing God with his eyes. The issue is that the Baha’i explain away the having of a “far from typical…physical body” by claiming that Jesus did not have a physical body at all after His resurrection because Jesus died and stayed dead-His body was buried and is still buried. Thus, their concept of resurrection is one who’s definition is utterly foreign to the text of the New Testament and foreign to what Judaism understands a resurrection to be. According to the Baha’i, Jesus did not resurrect physically, did not ascend physically and will not return in the very same scarred and glorified physical body. Thus, how could it be “true that Jesus tells doubting Thomas to feel His wounds to demonstrate that it was really He”? Baha’ism teaches that Jesus was not there at all but that “there was a time after His ascension when His disciples perceived spiritually His true greatness and realized He was eternal in being.”[fn]Shoghi Effendi, High Endeavours: Messages to Alaska (Alaska: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1976), pp. 69-70[/fn]
Therefore, the Baha’i response to how Jesus could appear, disappear and eat and be handled is to completely disregard the physical aspect and focus on the spiritual, which of course, turns the retelling of these events into mere parables. But what do these parables mean, what do they mean in particular, what is the specific message of each one? What does it actually mean that Jesus eat fish if He was not really there eating fish? What does it mean that He disappeared if He was not there in the first place to appear or disappear? What does it mean that He was seen, was handled, walked, talked, etc.? The response of orthodox Christianity is to let the text speak for itself and take it as it is intended. Thus, we can understand this retelling of the events to mean that Jesus died on the cross. That He was buried for three days. Thereafter, He resurrected in the very same physical body that died and was buried. He then appeared in the very same physical body that died, was buried and resurrected. He then ascended in the very same physical body that died, was buried, resurrected and was seen and handled.

Thus, we expect His return in the very same physical body that died, was buried, resurrected, was seen and handled and ascended. Both before and after His death and resurrection, Jesus made it clear that His resurrection would be physical; before His death by prophecy, and afterward by eating, drinking and allowing Himself to be handled.

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:19-21).

“My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18).

“He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord…Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach you hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing'” (John 20:20, 27).

Consider the following text for an extremely clear understanding,

“they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence” (Luke 24:33-43).

The text is so clear that it needs no explanation. However, let us review; the believers, who had previously had their faith shattered, gather and retell that the Lord has “risen” and “appeared.” Then Jesus appeared-“stood in the midst of them.” They were terrified and frightened because they did in fact see someone and “supposed they had seen a spirit.”

Jesus asks why they are troubled and proceeds to prove to them in various ways that what they are actually looking at is not a spirit but Jesus Himself. He does this by asking them to “behold” (in this case, to perceive through sight or to gaze upon) His hands and feet, parts of His physical body. He asks them to handle Him, to touch His physical body. He explains that while a spirit does not have “flesh and bones” Jesus obviously does. He proceeds to “showed them” His hands and feet, displaying parts of His physical body.

Lastly, we learn that they were in such a state of joyful shock that Jesus asked them for food and He “ate in their presence,” this consists of wrapping a physical hand around a physical piece of food – placing said food in a physical mouth – chewing it with physical teeth – swallowing it, etc., etc. Please pardon the extensively detailed retelling but we attempting to drive three points home: One-the New Testament is extremely clear on this subject. Two-orthodox Christianity understands the text as is. Three-the Baha’i simply have not provided adequate, viable explanations for this and the various other likewise texts of the Bible that speak of physical resurrection.

For all of Baha’ism’s pretenses at tolerance and unity between all of the world’s religions, we can see that with their teaching on this issue alone they have set out to absolutely discredit Christianity since the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most essential fact of Christianity.

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been risen from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up- if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1st Corinthians 15:12-22).

This issue was discussed with seven members of the Baha’i Faith.[fn]This meeting took place at the Albuquerque Baha’i Center on February 10th, 2001[/fn] We read some of the verses quoted above and pointed out that Jesus did all that He could to prove that He had risen physically and that there is just no logical, reasonable or common sense way around it. Their response was that Jesus referred to bread as His body and Paul refers to believers, the church, as the body of Christ. They reasoned that because the term “body of Christ” is used to mean different things then we have no way of knowing when to take it literally and when to take it symbolically. We explained the concept of taking text literally. For example, when the Bible says, “the Earth opened its mouth and swallowed them” (Numbers 16:32) we would not think to mount an expedition to search for giant lips and teeth on the surface of the Earth-we know it is symbolism.
To take something literally means to take it as it is intended, to take it literally within its intended context, within its grammatical context and within its historical context. The Bible is to be read as any other written work; symbolism is taken symbolically, metaphor is taken metaphorically, history is taken historically, and literalism is taken literally.

Symbolism, allegory, elucidation and reinterpreting are an absolute essential of the Baha’i Faith without which they could not possibly claim that Baha’u’llah fulfilled Scripture from every religion. Taking into consideration the Baha’i argument, and the fact that the Bible makes the physical resurrection so obvious, it seems fair to conclude that the Baha’i have lost their ability to discern. Because the only way they can believe what they believe is to twist and turn all of the world’s holy books. They have lost their ability to distinguish between symbolism and literalism as obvious or obscure as it may be.


Further statements from the Bible regarding physical resurrection,

“We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1st Thessalonians 4:14-18).

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:1-4).

“the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:19-21).

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2nd Corinthians 5:1-4).

Other Relevant Texts:
Jesus foretold His resurrection:

“But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee” (Matthew 26:32 & Mark 14:28).

“Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again'” (Mark 10:32-34 & Matthew 20:17-19).

“Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead'” (Matthew 17:9 & Mark 9:9-10).

“Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.’ And they were exceedingly sorrowful'” (Matthew 17:22-23).

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40).

“He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

“For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.’ But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:31-32).

It was known that He had foretold His resurrection:
“On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise”” (Matthew 27:62-63).

Other comments about His resurrection:
“Moses said…that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:22-23).

“Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (Acts 25:19).

“Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly” (Acts 10:40).

“God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people” (Acts 13:30-31).

Jesus, “whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15).

“Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4).

“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

“For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9).

“And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you” (2nd Corinthians 4:13-14).

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2nd Corinthians 5:14-15).

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:8-9).

“buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

“the living and true God…and…His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1st Thessalonians 1:9-10).

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1st Peter 3:18-19).

“There is also an antitype which now saves us-baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1st Peter 3:21).

General comments regarding resurrection:
“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).

“(as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed-God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17).

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1st Corinthians 15:51-52).

“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2nd Corinthians 1:9-10).

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Others were resurrected as well which begs the question, how do the Baha’i redefine these resurrections and what meaning do they place upon them?:

“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:51-53).

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up” (Matthew 11:4-5).

Peter “knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40).

“Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus…Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign” (John 12:9-11, 17-18).

Consider also that Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac (see Who was Abraham told to sacrifice: Isaac or Ishmael?) but was prevented from doing so at the last moment. The New Testament comments on this event in the following manner:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Abraham knew that God had made certain promises and that these promises required that his son Isaac be alive in order to play his part in them. Clearly, Abraham believed in the physical resurrection. If he did not then how would he expect a symbolic resurrection to enable Isaac to accomplish his task?

The Scripture is crystal clear; our earthly physical bodies are a mere tent, while what we look forward to is a heavenly dwelling, a house, an incorruptible structure. That we will not end up naked means that we will not end up the way that the Baha’i teach that we will end up, we do not wish to be unclothed i.e., we do not want to end up disembodied spirits. We expect to be clothed in new, eternal, physical bodies.
This is the hope of every Christian and that which Jesus assured us of by the fact of His physical resurrection. As we quote fully in the next chapter, Shoghi Effendi wrote that “after His ascension” Jesus’ “disciples perceived spiritually His true greatness and realized He was eternal in being that 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.”

In this essay we have provided various texts that describe that Jesus tried very hard to prove that He was indeed physically present. We thus posed various question; what could such and such mean if He were not physically present? The Baha’i must realize that they cannot simply, as it were, wave their hand and in one foul swoop paint with a broom and answer all of the texts by stating that it was reported symbolically and has been misunderstood. One very important question to ask what someone says that a text is symbolic is; what does the symbolism mean? What does it symbolize? What is it symbolic of? Certainly there is a lot more to be said on the part of Baha’ism. As far as the Christian position, need any more be said than the following?

“He [Jesus] through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days” (Acts 1:2-3).

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Note that Prof. Richard Dawkins has made faulty statements about the resurrection and that I have responded to these in an essay entitled, The Apostle Thomas : Patron Saint of Scientists?

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