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What is the difference between individual and authoritative interpretation?

Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.
Baha’u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 182

…in addition to giving His explanations, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá [in "Some Answered Questions"] encourages personal initiative in unravelling divine mysteries. For example, at the end of Chapter XX on “The Necessity of Baptism” He says: “This subject needs deep thought. Then the cause of these changes will be evident and apparent”. And at the end of Chapter XXX on “Adam and Eve”, after setting forth His own interpretation of the subject, He goes on to say: “This is one of the meanings of the biblical story of Adam. Reflect until you discover the others.”
Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 17 January 1978, (Ocean)

A clear distinction is made in our Faith between authoritative interpretation and the interpretation or understanding that each individual arrives at for himself from his study of its teachings. While the former is confined to the Guardian, the latter, according to the guidance given to us by the Guardian himself, should by no means be suppressed. In fact such individual interpretation is considered the fruit of man’s rational power and conducive to a better understanding of the teachings, provided that no disputes or arguments arise among the friends and the individual himself understands and makes it clear that his views are merely his own. Individual interpretations continually change as one grows in comprehension of the teachings. As Shoghi Effendi explained:

“To deepen in the Cause means to read the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Master so thoroughly as to be able to give it to others in its pure form. There are many who have some superficial idea of what the Cause stands for. They, therefore, present it together with all sorts of ideas that are their own. As the Cause is still in its early days we must be most careful lest we fall under this error and injure the Movement we so much adore. There is no limit to the study of the Cause. The more we read the Writings the more truths we can find in them and the more we will see that our previous notions were erroneous.”

So, although individual insights can be enlightening and helpful, they can also be misleading. The friends must therefore learn to listen to the views of others without being over-awed or allowing their faith to be shaken, and to express their own views without pressing them on their fellow Bahá’ís.

The Universal House of Justice, 27 May 1966, The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, paragraph 21

The interpretations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian are divinely-guided statements of what the Word of God means and as such these interpretations are binding on the friends. However, the existence of authoritative interpretations in no way precludes the individual from engaging in his own study of the teachings and thereby arriving at his own interpretation or understanding. Indeed, Bahá’u'lláh invites the believers to “immerse” themselves in the “ocean” of His “words”, that they “may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths”.

Far from being limited, Bahá’u'lláh asserts that “knowledge hath seventy meanings”, and that the “meaning” of the Word of God “can never be exhausted”.

…Individual interpretations based on a person’s understanding of the teachings constitute the fruit of man’s rational power and may well contribute to a more complete understanding of the Faith. Such views, however, lack authority. The believers are, therefore, free to accept or disregard them. Further, the manner in which an individual presents his interpretation is important. For example, he must at no time deny or contend with the authoritative interpretation, but rather offer his idea as a contribution to knowledge, making it clear that his views are merely his own.
Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 1995 Jan 31, Questions on Scholarship (Ocean)

It is not surprising that individual Bahá’ís hold and express different and sometimes defective understandings of the Teachings; this is but an evidence of the magnitude of the change that this Revelation is to effect in human consciousness. As believers with various insights into the Teachings converse — with patience, tolerance and open and unbiased minds — a deepening of comprehension should take place. The strident insistence on individual views, however, can lead to contention, which is detrimental not only to the spirit of Bahá’í association and collaboration but to the search for truth itself.
Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 8 February 1998, Issues Related to the Study of the Baha’i Faith, paragraph 5

…the believers must recognize the importance of intellectual honesty and humility. In past dispensations many errors arose because the believers in God’s Revelation were over-anxious to encompass the Divine Message within the framework of their limited understanding, to define doctrines where definition was beyond their power, to explain mysteries which only the wisdom and experience of a later age would make comprehensible, to argue that something was true because it appeared desirable and necessary. Such compromises with essential truth, such intellectual pride, we must scrupulously avoid.
The Universal House of Justice, 27 May 1966, The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, paragraph 21