Translations of Writings

Jul 2017
442
Olympia, WA, USA
#1
On a forum I post on which is comprised of both believers and nonbelievers, I have been told by a Jewish poster that I have not independently investigated the Baha’i Faith as we Baha’is are told to do because I have only read the “Authoritative Writings” of the Baha’i Faith. I have been told that I need to read “other translations” of the Writings and compare them to the “Authoritative Writings”... The implication is that the Shoghi Effendi and the UHJ are trying to paint Baha’u’llah in a positive light when He might actually be the opposite, so I need to compare and contrast other translations...

Are there any other translations in English? If there aren’t I will be told that is because the UHJ keeps a tight rein on the Writings, like it is some kind of conspiracy...

I am really upset over this and I will handle it, but I just wondered if I could get some ideas.

Do Christians have to read all the translations of the Bible in order to be a Christian, or could they be a Christian if they only read the KJV? This poster does not hold the Christians to the same standard as the Baha’is... This has been an ongoing assault on the Baha’i Faith for several years and it is done with subterfuge rather than openly and honestly. This poster is obviously threatened by the Baha’i Faith. This is on a public forum and it is an attack on the Baha’i Faith so I am responsible to defend the Faith...

“Warn, O Salmán, the beloved of the one true God, not to view with too critical an eye the sayings and writings of men. Let them rather approach such sayings and writings in a spirit of open-mindedness and loving sympathy. Those men, however, who, in this Day, have been led to assail, in their inflammatory writings, the tenets of the Cause of God, are to be treated differently. It is incumbent upon all men, each according to his ability, to refute the arguments of those that have attacked the Faith of God. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the All-Powerful, the Almighty. He that wisheth to promote the Cause of the one true God, let him promote it through his pen and tongue, rather than have recourse to sword or violence. We have, on a previous occasion, revealed this injunction, and We now confirm it, if ye be of them that comprehend. By the righteousness of Him Who, in this Day, crieth within the inmost heart of all created things: “God, there is none other God besides Me!” If any man were to arise to defend, in his writings, the Cause of God against its assailants, such a man, however inconsiderable his share, shall be so honored in the world to come that the Concourse on high would envy his glory. No pen can depict the loftiness of his station, neither can any tongue describe its splendor. For whosoever standeth firm and steadfast in this holy, this glorious, and exalted Revelation, such power shall be given him as to enable him to face and withstand all that is in heaven and on earth. Of this God is Himself a witness.

O ye beloved of God! Repose not yourselves on your couches, nay bestir yourselves as soon as ye recognize your Lord, the Creator, and hear of the things which have befallen Him, and hasten to His assistance. Unloose your tongues, and proclaim unceasingly His Cause. This shall be better for you than all the treasures of the past and of the future, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth.”
Gleanings From the Writings of Baha'u'llah, pp. 329-330
 
Oct 2014
1,798
Stockholm
#2
That's not a big problem. Just learn Arabic and Persian. Then you can read the original.

Best,

from

gnat
 
Jul 2017
65
Germany
#3
I think it's not the Writings themselves but the official biographies of the Central Figures and the Guardian who are criticized. Of course Bahá'í biographies shed a bright light on the good sides of Them and ignore the darker ones. That is nothing but normal IMO. There are surely biographies written by critics who tell another story of egocentric maniacstrying to gain as much power as possible. 'Abdu'l-Bahá is told to push up way too far his own station. In this version Muhammad Ali is the good guy only wanting to prevent the revelation of his father from being corrupted by his half-brother 'Abbás Effendí.

There is another story which says that Shoghi Effendi ursurped the station of a head of the Faith by frauding a will 'Abdu'l-Bahá never intended to write. After rising to power he dogmatized the once liberal teachings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Bahá'u'lláh and corrupted the message they brought.

Of course one is free to choose which version fits best his beliefs and understanding of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith.

But the Writings themselves cannot be forged. The originals are stored in Haifa and facsimiles are included in many publications about the Faith. So it is unimaginable how the House of Justice could possibly have altered their text.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2013
570
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
#4
There are lots of provisional translations of the Writings which do not have official translations yet at Bahá'à Library Online . There are also early translations which we do have official translations for now, so you can compare them if you like, many of which appeared in "Star of the West" a series of publications in the early 20th century. A lot of this material is available in the "Ocean" computer program http://bahai-education.org/

There may be some merit in referring to alternate translations if you have trouble understanding some parts of the Writings, but it is a very different situation compared with the Bible, for instance, since there is no authentic "original" of any part of the Bible, the oldest manuscripts for any of the books were made centuries after they were written, and there are often slight differences between the old manuscripts. In that case, it is quite worthwhile to have alternate versions to compare, or like my copy of the bible, one that is heavily footnoted to indicate where other sources have a different reading of certain verses.

On the other hand, as Sorin said, there is material produced by covenant breakers which is completely biased and full of lies and false rumors which they started. There is nothing "fair and balanced" about comparing that material with Baha'i sources.
 
Aug 2017
75
USA
#5
Trailblazer,

To answer the thing about Christians. For the most part except for pastors or academics. Christians don't learn the biblical languages (Hebrew or Greek). That's in contrast to Jews who learn some Hebrew as a part of their upbringing and Muslims who learn Arabic. Jews and Muslims would both say that you only get the true meaning of the scripture in the original language. There's probably some truth there.

Christians will use more than one translation over particular passages they are examining, like in a bible study or personal study. Most have a favorite translation. A few think only the King James is valid but that's crazy.

Soeren gave good advice as a Baha'i. For a more neutral perspective, it's pretty safe to take the translators in good faith. If they were to significantly alter the text plenty of other scholars (both Baha'i and non-Baha'i) would cry foul. Not just an agenda driven few.
Perhaps the Christian New International Version (NIV) Bible is a good example. It was translated by an evangelical, semi-fundamentalist team. They purposefully clarified (aka edited) small aspects of the text, particularly Old Testament prophecies to fit their agenda. However, these changes are so minor it really does effect 99% of the text. Personally I like the NIV because it flows better and is more readable, but I double check any key passages where word choice matters.
Yet, the NIV is considered to have little scholarly value as a result. You'd never seen a biblical studies professor use it. There is very little tolerance in this day and age of tampering with translations.

I don't know if that helps.

Soeren -I've been following some of your posts we should start a thread. I would love to ask you some questions about Baha'i. You seem pretty knowledgeable.
 
Jul 2017
442
Olympia, WA, USA
#6
Thanks everyone for your answers! I am so happy I can now come here and get help at the drop of a hat... I need help a lot given the forums I am posting on. :eek:

I was very upset last night so I might have exaggerated about this poster who has it in for the Baha’i Faith... True, I do not think she likes it and she has certain issues with those in authority, but I do not think she is anything like those who attack the Faith or worse yet, Covenant-breakers.

Nevertheless, I felt compelled to respond to her in some fashion and as usual the Supreme Concourse gave me just the right idea..... Bahaullah and the New Era has a section called Proofs of Prophethood and it says just what I wanted to say, so I quoted part of that and commented.

I think it's not the Writings themselves but the official biographies of the Central Figures and the Guardian who are criticized. Of course Bahá'í biographies shed a bright light on the good sides of Them and ignore the darker ones. That is nothing but normal IMO.
Hmmmmm... That is what this poster said... I usually just think of these biographies as the truth, but I am a Baha’i so I believe they are.

There are surely biographies written by critics who tell another story of egocentric maniacstrying to gain as much power as possible. 'Abdu'l-Bahá is told to push up way too far his own station. In this version Muhammad Ali is the good guy only wanting to prevent the revelation of his father from being corrupted by his half-brother 'Abbás Effendí.
Oh, you have seen those too? I have been going through this with certain nonbelievers insisting that is the way it is for over three years, but how logical is that? Nevertheless, I try to see it from their perspective.

There is another story which says that Shoghi Effendi ursurped the station of a head of the Faith by frauding a will 'Abdu'l-Bahá never intended to write. After rising to power he dogmatized the once liberal teachings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Bahá'u'lláh and corrupted the message they brought.
I have heard that story too. :eek:

Of course one is free to choose which version fits best his beliefs and understanding of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith.
I just love your “neutral” and calm rational approach... One of the posters I post to most is a German man who moved to the U.S. about 15 or so years ago.... He is an atheist and he owns the forum I post on most.... If you ever get the urge let me know, I could use you there, as I am the only Baha’i.

But the Writings themselves cannot be forged. The originals are stored in Haifa and facsimiles are included in many publications about the Faith. So it is unimaginable how the House of Justice could possibly have altered their text.
I think I finally got this message across to these nonbelievers but their main issue is that the translations could misrepresent what Bahá'u'lláh actually wrote... The other issue is that we have so few English translations compared to how many total tablets we have... I think we have only 500 of 15,000.
 
Jul 2017
442
Olympia, WA, USA
#7
Soeren gave good advice as a Baha'i. For a more neutral perspective, it's pretty safe to take the translators in good faith. If they were to significantly alter the text plenty of other scholars (both Baha'i and non-Baha'i) would cry foul. Not just an agenda driven few.
Yes, Soeren is very knowledgeable... Just one question... If the translators were to significantly alter the text, how would other scholars (both Baha'i and non-Baha'i) know it had been altered?

Also, who has access to the original Writings?
 
Aug 2017
75
USA
#8
Trailblazer,
Yeah you need access to the original writings to verify the translations. Is there a doubt that the world has those?


Side note:
In general I've noticed the forum is fairly quiet, but it's a great place and I want to help it stay active. So I am considering posting more often. I'm very sympathetic to Bahai and I love the Writings. But I'm not a Baha'i and I don't have any deep connections to the actual community. I went to one LSA devotional so far. I want to be careful that I don't get in on conversations where I may end misrepresenting Baha'i or have poor understanding of. Maybe at times like this I'll just give a disclaimer that I was speaking from a more general perspective (how other faiths handle translation issues) so I won't be confused for a Baha'i perspective. And someone like Soeren can set me straight if needed.
 
Mar 2013
570
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
#9
Yes, Soeren is very knowledgeable... Just one question... If the translators were to significantly alter the text, how would other scholars (both Baha'i and non-Baha'i) know it had been altered?

Also, who has access to the original Writings?
Good question! The most comprehensive collection of the Writings of the Bab, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha are located in the International Baha'i Archives in Haifa, which has close to 100% of the originals or accurate copies of everything. Some of the original works are in many locations around the world, including university collections, national museums, national Baha'i archives, etc. Some may still be in the possession of individual Baha'is who inherited them from ancestors who were the original recipients. There is a very careful process of investigating the authenticity of every document to make sure it is authentic, including handwriting analysis, chain of possession, comparison to other known copies, investigating references made to the existence of the particular tablet, etc.

There was a process of photographing all of the Writings on microfilm so copies can be distributed to safe locations in different parts of the world. From what I understand the Center for the Study of the Sacred Texts at the Baha'i World Center has by now digitized nearly everything, although the process of digitization probably introduced small errors and those would have to be carefully checked and corrected, a process that will take many years. These electronic versions will increasingly be made available on line in various forms so anyone in the world who understands the original languages can study them. The originals of most of the writings that have been translated into English are now available here: http://reference.bahai.org/fa/

Also, from what I understand the World Center is generally accommodating within practical limits of any legitimate scholar who wishes to study the original texts.
 
Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#10
Those who can read the original languages have plenty of direct access to the Bahai writings, with search engines to help as well. The main texts are all on line at the Bahai reference library, and they are found in major libraries around the world. The readers are not just "scholars" -- most of the population of the Middle East can read either Arabic or Persian (there are a few writings in turkish, but those are not online as far as I know). So if there is something wrong with a translation -- and there sometimes is -- there are millions of potential detectives to spot the difference. In the circumstances, the idea of the Bahai authorities running a conspiracy on this is ridiculous. If there are mistakes, it's just because people make mistakes.

A significant part of our translations are not produced by the Bahai World Centre anyway: A Traveller's Narrative translated by Browne, The Secret of Divine Civilization by Gail, and the 7 valleys and 4 valleys by Gail and Khan, are good examples. Since these give a message that is consistent with the translations that are produced at the Bahai World Centre, we know that the authors are consistent and the translations are faithful.

You can check alternative translations easily. Much of "Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha" was previously translated in "Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Abbas" for example. There's a new (authorised) translation of Some Answered Questions and an old one which was the work of Hippolyte Dreyfus and Laura Barney: compare them by all means. For Baha'u'llah's tablets, use the Leiden list to find where earlier translations were published. For the Aqdas, the work has been done for you with side by side comparisons of different translations:
https://bahai-library.com/bahaullah_kitab_aqdas_multilinear

For the tablet to Napoleon there's this comparison:
https://bahai-library.com/velasco_first_tablet_napoleon
 

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