Do Baha’is take a literal interpretation of the Bible?

Many followers of Christ have found a deep sense of peace in the idea that the Holy Bible is all they will ever need. They turn to the stories and admonitions of Jesus Christ and the Apostles for their ultimate guidance. For these souls, the Holy Bible lays it all out, clear and unmistakable. These devoted souls often pride themselves on the idea that they believe in the Bible ‘literally.’ Many of these souls believe the world was literally created in six days, that Noah really had a big enough boat for two of every creature on the planet, and that Eve really was created from Adam’s rib. They do not agree with those who take a ‘relativistic’ approach to interpreting the Holy Bible—people that they think make compromises with the Truth in order to accommodate the latest popular intellectual trends.

Of course, even these ‘literalists’ are not truly taking the Bible completely literally. Otherwise we would have some serious problems in the Christian world. For example, what if these followers decided that they must literally be ‘born again,’ as the Bible claims (John 3:7)? What if they really followed the Bible and were baptized, not with water, but with fire (Matthew 3:11)? Finally, what if these literalists really believed the Bible when it says that “Jesus Christ is in you” (2 Corinthians 15:5) and they all took knives to their own bodies looking for a miniature Jesus inside them? Then we would have some serious problems. Instead, we accept a spiritual interpretation of these teachings.

For many, these are just silly village atheist arguments, but they do prove a point. Even those who claim to follow the Bible ‘literally’ are taking some things as symbolic. The question is, where do you draw the line? What is literal and what is symbolic? Any student of history knows that Christianity has struggled with this question throughout the ages. Churches have split over this question. Many who claimed the world was round and that the Earth was not at the center of the material Universe, were burned alive over this question. People who claimed that the world is older than six thousand years have been hated and persecuted. Clearly, Christianity has done some very un-Christian things in defense of some ‘literal’ interpretations. Therefore, for Baha’is, the ‘literal’ interpretation should always be questioned, lest we be driven to do things that Jesus Christ Himself would be ashamed of.

Baha’is do not get bogged down in deciding what is literally true or not. For Baha’is, it is not important if the world was created in six days or six trillion days. For Baha’is, the important truth behind the fact that God created the world is not how many days it took, but rather that this Universe is a Result of a Divine Being. For Baha’is, the important truth is not that we take every Sunday off from work, but that we take time to appreciate the purpose behind everything. The universe is not just a random accident that has no purpose, but rather a piece of artwork that should be cherished and explored, and whose Creator should be worshiped.  Baha’is believe that the real power of the Word of God is not in its circumstantial meaning, but in its eternal meaning. Therefore, Baha’is take these stories as parables (Matthew 13:13), and we learn to apply their lessons to our current lives in a way that helps us grow spiritually towards our Lord.

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