Baha'i views of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and Question of Succession

Sep 2010
2,106
United Kingdom
I am offering here some Baha'i reflections on two of Christianity's most important figures: Peter, the rock upon which the Christian Church stands and Christ's appointed successor on earth and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles and most important of all early Christian thinkers, having had more influence on Christian theology and belief than any other figure in history, demonstrated by the fact that his letters form the principal bulk of New Testament literature with 13 books written under his name.

A particularly pertinent statement by 'Abdu'l-Baha appears on page 223 of the Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha:

One's conduct must be like the conduct of Paul, and one's faith similar to that of Peter.

(25 February 1980 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual)

[The following is the letter referenced above.]

The Apostle Paul

To the Editor:

It has come to my attention that there are Baha'is who believe that the Apostle Paul was some kind of "false teacher." This viewpoint is not correct.

'Abdu'l-Baha referred to Paul, saying, "Paul, the Apostle, was in his early life an enemy of Christ, whilst later he became his most faithful servant." (Paris Talks, p. 147)

The Universal House of Justice, in a letter to a believer dated February 25, 1980, wrote: "The Research Department has found nothing in the writings of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha or the Guardian which states that St. Paul 'usurped the station of Peter' or that he 'changed the basic message of Peter' or that he 'changed the basic message of Christ.'" It is so much easier to teach Christians without having to deny Paul. In fact, I've found that Paul is my best friend when talking with Christians. Read his writings the way they really are -- not the way people have twisted them. Paul wrote: "We speak ... expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things which come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (I Corinthians 2:14; New International version)

Paul's teachings must be spiritually discerned or spiritually interpreted. Paul's writings on resurrection are the oldest on this topic in the New Testament. He explains that when a person dies, his/her being is like a seed. "It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body...." Speaking of Jesus' resurrection, he wrote: "the last Adam [who was Jesus] became a life-giving spirit...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 15; Revised Standard version) As one can see, Paul's teachings agree with the Baha'i view on resurrection. When his teachings are "spiritually discerned" you'll find they agree with the Baha'i writings. Resurrection, ascension, and return as taught by Paul and Peter are identical with the teachings of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha. Paul is a Baha'i's friend. It's time to start treating him as such.

Joel Smith

Carbondale (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1998 Feb 22, Station of Paul)


Of St. Peter, the Guardian has written:



...let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that ... the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the apostles, is upheld and defended.

(The Promised Day is Come,[1] p. 109)



...Peter is recognized as one whom God has caused "the mysteries of wisdom and of utterance to flow out of his mouth."

(The Promised Day is Come,[2] p. 110)


Now with regard to your questions. First concerning the statement of Jesus Christ "Thou art Peter and upon this rock...": this saying of Jesus establishes beyond any doubt the primacy of Peter and also the principle of succession, but is not explicit enough regarding the nature and functioning of the Church itself. The Catholics have read too much into that statement, and derived from it certain conclusions which are quite unjustifiable.

(From a letter dated 7 September1938 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)


It is refreshing to read such Baha'i praise for Peter and especially for Paul, who is so often villified as a "liar" and "false prophet" who abused Jesus' message. May I ask, regarding the above quote, what is the Baha'i view of the "principle of succession" vis-a-vis Peter? Who succeeded St Peter as Head of the Christian Dispensation? Do Baha'is view it as the Bishops and other clergy of the Church? As others have explained to me, and the above quote seems to imply, the Baha'i Faith rejects the idea that the Bishop of Rome - the Pope - is the Successor of St Peter. Do Baha'is then follow the Eastern Orthodox view that all Bishops are successors to St Peter (with the Pope being simply the first among these equal Petrine successors rather than sole successor) or do they share an altogether different view?
 
Nov 2010
252
Richmond, Indiana
My personal understanding is that all revealed faiths have "dependent prophets" of each manifestation of God. Moses had (if you're muslim) Aaron, Elijah, Ezekial, people who had been designated to lead the faith of God at that time, but not the divine power to reveal a new book of laws.

I know Baha'is accept Peter as the leader of the followers of Christ after the ascension. Peter was the most devout and first follower of Christ. He knew his scripture and Jesus fulfilled it. Peter made decisions, such as not to baptize the uncircumcised, but upon seeing Jesus in a dream, he instantly changed this view and some others.

Whoever Peter would have appointed would be his successor, but that is lost, However since Mohammed manifested some 600 years after Christ, I believe that there is no true successor to the Christian Faith.

I hope I helped
 

bwb

Aug 2010
700
earth
St. Peter is the one and only successor (Apostle having "primacy" is the exact word used), to Jesus Christ that we acknowledge. No one who came after him, neither Popes, nor Church fathers, nor orthodox Christian bishops.

"the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended"
(Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 109)
 
Jun 2006
4,321
California
Do Baha'is then follow the Eastern Orthodox view that all Bishops are successors to St Peter (with the Pope being simply the first among these equal Petrine successors rather than sole successor) or do they share an altogether different view?

My understanding is that while we accept that Peter had primacy we do not accept the church view that Popes and Councils had legitimacy from that..

The point I believe is that Jesus made a verbal statement assigning primacy to Peter just as Prophet Muhammad assigned successor-ship to His cousin Ali..which was later disputed by Muslims when they passed over Ali in the first three Caliphs by election.

These two cases in Christianity and Islam of the doubtful nature of succession are contrasted with the covenant of Baha'u'llah assigning to Abdul-Baha as the Center of the Faith in His will and Testament in writing!
 
Mar 2010
1,349
Rockville, MD, USA
Do Baha'is then follow the Eastern Orthodox view that all Bishops are successors to St Peter...?

My understanding is that while we accept that Peter had primacy we do not accept the church view that Popes and Councils had legitimacy from that.
No, we don't, because we have no clergy and also have no comment (other than what's in the Baha'i scriptures) on the clergy of other faiths.

So bishops (and other clergy) are in no way addressed, and we thus don't "follow" the Eastern Orthodox view or that of any other church!

Peace,

Bruce