A Preliminary Survey of Hermeneutical Principles Found within the Bahá’í Writings

How to Cite

May, D. “A Preliminary Survey of Hermeneutical Principles Found Within the Bahá’í Writings”. The Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 1, no. 3, Sept. 1988, pp. 39-54, doi:10.31581/jbs-1.3.416(1989).


One of the unique features of the Bahá’í Faith is its explicit references to hermeneutical principles. These principles are used by the central figures of the Bahá’í’ Faith to interpret not only the religious writings of other traditions but its own writings as well. While such authoritative interpretations make up an integral part of the Bahá’í’ canon, they do not necessarily contradict or even limit the vital role which individual interpretation plays. The main focus of this paper is a discussion of eight interpretive principles found within the Bahá’í’ writings. This paper will examine: the multiple meanings contained within reli­gious texts; the symbolic and mythological nature of religious language which distinguishes it from philosophical, historical, or scientific accounts; the role of science and reason in the formulation of interpretations made from religious sources; the progressive and relative nature of religious truth; the essential and nonessential aspects of every religious tradition; the problem of personal biases and presuppositions; the independent investigation of truth; and the need for interpretive moderation. The final section of this paper briefly examines how several of these interpretive principles function interdependently in the Bahá’í’ exegesis of a prophetic passage from the Book of Isaiah.

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