World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


The Succession Of Founders And Messengers

Religions do not spring up without a root in this world. Each great founder of religion has acknowledged his debt to his spiritual forebears, whose teachings and traditions he cherishes and passes on anew. Thus Muhammad comes after a long line of holy prophets; Sakyamuni is only the most recent of countless past Buddhas; Mahavira passes on the tradition of twenty-two previous Tirthankaras; and Jesus comes on the foundation of Moses and the Old Testament prophets. Confucius and Lao Tzu looked back to the sages and exemplary rulers of ancient China. Traditions of sages and elders handing on a tradition are found in the Vedas and in the scriptures of rabbinic Judaism. The lineage of the Latter-day Saints' priesthood extends back to Adam.

In some religions, the succession of sages also extends into the future; thus the nine historical avatars of Vishnu will be followed by a future avatar, the Kalkin; and the Sakyamuni Buddha who comes on the foundation of a succession of countless former Buddhas will in turn be followed by a future Buddha, the Maitreya. We will consider this theme under the topic Messiah, pp. 1102-09.

Naught is said unto you [Muhammad] save what was said unto the messengers before you.

Islam. Qur'an 41.43

I have seen an ancient Path, an ancient road traversed by the rightly enlightened ones of former times.

Buddhism. Samyutta Nikaya ii.106

Samyutta Nikaya ii.106: See more of this passage on p. 547; cf. Lankavatara Sutra 61, p. 155.

The Master said, "I have transmitted what was taught to me without making up anything of my own. I have been faithful to and loved the Ancients."

Confucianism. Analects 7.1

On the whole twenty-three Tirthankaras have appeared, the venerable Mahavira being the last of the Tirthankaras.

Jainism. Bhadrabahu, Kalpa Sutra 2

The Lord your God will raise up a for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your brethren--him you shall heed.

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Deuteronomy 18.15

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things.

Christianity. Bible, Hebrews 1.1-2

Whenever the Law declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth. I am born in every age to protect the good, to destroy evil, and to re-establish the Law.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Christianity. Bible, Matthew 5.17-18

Deuteronomy 18.15: Many of the prophets, most notably Elijah, understood themselves to be successors to the mission of Moses, and called the people to return to the covenant with God which Moses first established. Moses is also a forerunner of Jesus, and these words are often taken as announcing his future advent; cf. Acts 3.22, 7.37. Hebrews 1.1-2: Cf. 2 Corinthians 3.7-16, p. 634. Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8: This is the classic verse on the doctrine of Vishnu's incarnations, or avatars. Each avatar came for a specific mission to save the world and establish righteousness (dharma), according to the scriptures. There are ten classical avatars of Vishnu: the fish, the tortoise, the boar, the man-lion, the dwarf, Rama, Rama-with-the-Axe, Krishna, the Buddha, and the future Kalkin. Cf. Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1, p. 653; Kularnava Tantra 13, p. 817n.; Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8, p. 1106n., on future avatars. Matthew 5.17-18: Matthew understands the Gospel to be the fulfillment of the Jewish Torah and Jesus to be its preeminent interpreter. In truth, many statements of Jesus find parallels in the sayings of the rabbis. On the other hand, compare the view of Paul in Galatians 3.10-13, 21-26, p. 163, and 2 Corinthians 3.7-16, p. 634.

Of yore I followed countless Buddhas, And perfectly trod the Ways Of the profound and mystic Law, Hard to perceive and perform. During infinite kotis of kalpas, Having followed all these Ways, Attaining fruition on the Wisdom-throne, I could perfectly understand.

Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 2

Lo! We inspired you [O Muhammad] as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as we imparted unto David the Psalms; and messengers We have mentioned to you before and messengers We have not mentioned to you... messengers of good cheer and of warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against God after the messengers. God was ever Mighty, Wise.

Islam. Qur'an 4.163-65

It was in this way that Emperor Y, Kings T'ang, Wen, Wu, Ch'eng, and the Duke of Chou achieved eminence: all these six noble men paid attention to propriety, made manifest their justice, and acted in good faith. They exposed their errors, made humaneness their law and prudence their practice, thus showing the people wherein they should constantly abide. If there were any who did not follow these principles, he would lose power and position and be regarded by the multitude as dangerous.

Confucianism. Book of Ritual 7.1.2

In Sati Yuga you practiced supreme yoga, and assuming the Dwarf's form, defeated haughty Bali; In Treta again you practiced supreme yoga and were called Rama, the Lord of the Raghu race; In Dwapar you appeared as Krishna, slayer of Mura, and slew Kamsa; And conferring kingship on Ugrasen, rendered your devotees fear-free; In Kali Yuga you were verily Nanak, and assumed the names Angad and Amar Das; Declared the Supreme Being, "The reign of the holy Guru shall be immutable, eternal."

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Swaiyya Guru, Kala, p. 1390

Lotus Sutra 2: Sakyamuni is speaking of his own gradual progress to perfect enlightenment over countless past lives following countless Buddhas. Cf. Anagata Vamsa, p. 1107. Book of Ritual 7.1-2: On the primary virtues of , 'propriety' (li) , 'justice' (i) , and 'humaneness' (jen) , see Mencius II. A. 6, p. 216. Swaiyya Guru, Kala: The founders of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, Angad, and Amar Das, are ascribed as avatars of Vishnu, successors of Rama and Krishna. Similarly, many modern Hindu spiritual leaders have been regarded as avatars; see Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8, p. 1106n. This passage is one of a number of laudatory stanzas written by bards called Bhatts, who were attached to the Gurus' household.

I [Krishna] told this eternal secret to Vivasat. Vivasat taught Manu, and Manu taught Ikshvaku. Thus, Arjuna, eminent sages received knowledge of yoga in a continuous tradition. But through time the practice of yoga was lost in the world. The secret of these teachings is profound. I have explained them to you today because you are my friend and devotee.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 4.1-3

Moses received the Torah on Sinai and delivered it to Joshua, and Joshua [delivered it] to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets delivered it to the men of the Great Synagogue.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 1.1

When Moses reached heaven, he beheld the Law written in black fire upon skins of white fire, and he also beheld the Lord seated upon the Throne of Glory and occupied in adding and ornamenting the letters of the Torah with crowns. He asked, "Why art Thou now adding these crown-like ornamentations to the letters?"

Whereto the Lord replied, "In days to come there will be born a man named Rabbi Akiba, a scholar in Israel, full of knowledge and wisdom, to whom the secret of these dots and ornamentations will be revealed. He will interpret them, basing upon their interpretations numerous laws and injunctions."

"If it is Thy will," said Moses, "may I be permitted to behold this wise man?"

"Look behind you," said the Lord.

Moses did as he was bidden, and lo, he saw a house full of students, sitting at the feet of a master who was explaining to them the secrets and mysteries of the Torah. Moses heard their discussions, but could not follow them and was greatly grieved. Thereupon he heard the disciples asking their master, "Whence do you know this?" and Rabbi Akiba replied, "What I have told you has already been explained to Moses the son of Amram, on Mount Sinai." When Moses heard these words, he was content.

In his modesty, however, the Prophet turned to God, saying, "Lord of the Universe! Thou wilt one day create a man like Rabbi Akiba who will excel me in knowledge and wisdom; why dost thou not give the Torah to Israel through him instead of me?"

But the Lord replied, "Such is my decree."

Judaism. Talmud, Menahot 29b

Mention Abraham in the Book. He was a truthful prophet when he told his father, "My father, why do you worship something that neither hears nor perceives, and does not benefit you in any way? My father, I have been given some knowledge which has not come to you, so follow me: I'll guide you along a Level Road. My father, do not serve Satan! Satan was defiant towards the Mercy-giving. My father, I fear lest some torment from the Mercy-giving should afflict you, and you become a partisan of Satan."

He said, "Peace be upon you! I'll seek forgiveness for you from my Lord; He has been so gracious towards me. I'll move away from you and from anything you appeal to instead of God. I shall appeal to my Lord; perhaps I'll not feel quite so miserable with my Lord's appeal."

When he moved away from them and what they worshipped instead of God, We bestowed Isaac and Jacob on him. Each We made a prophet. We bestowed some of Our mercy on them and granted them a sublime tongue for telling truth.

Mention Moses in the Book. He was sincere, and was a messenger, a prophet. We called out to him from the right side of the mountain, and brought him close to confide in. We bestowed his brother Aaron on him as a prophet through Our mercy.

Mention Ishmael in the Book. He kept true to the Promise, and was a messenger, a prophet. He used to order his people to pray and pay the welfare tax; he was approved by his Lord.

Mention Idris in the Book. He was a truthful prophet; We raised him to a lofty place.

Those are some of the prophets from Adam's offspring whom God has favored, and some of those We transported along with Noah, and some of Abraham's and Ishmael's offspring, as well as some others We have guided and chosen. Whenever the Mercy-giving's signs are recited to them, they drop down on their knees and weep!

Islam. Qur'an 19.41-58

Abot 1.1: 'Torah' means not only the words written in the first five books of the Bible. This passage speaks of an 'oral Torah' which was transmitted through the chain of succession to the rabbis. Its practical clarifications and inner teachings define the way of life which is true to the written commandments. The rabbis wrote the Mishnah and the Talmud as codifications of this oral Torah. See the following passage from the Talmud.

Inasmuch as these Birds of the Celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they therefore are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness. These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if you call them all by one name, and ascribe to them the same attribute, you have not erred from the truth. Even as He has revealed, "No distinction do We make between any of His Messengers!" For they one and all summon the people of the earth to acknowledge the Unity of God....

The other is the station of distinction, and pertains to the world of creation and to its limitations. In this respect, each Manifestation of God has a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined Revelation, and specially designated limitations. Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterized by a special attribute, fulfills a definite Mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation.

Baha'i Faith. Book of Certitude, 152, 176

Qur'an 19.41-58: On the superiority of Muhammad to the other prophets, see Qur'an 33:40, p. 629 and Hadith of Bukhari, pp. 648f. The Qur'an gives a lofty position to Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arab peoples, who according to the Bible was the less-favored son of Abraham. Book of Certitude, 152, 176: Cf. Book of Certitude, 33-41, p. 1095. On Jesus as a prior founder of the Unification Church, see Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73, p. 995.

And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law Jethro; and Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb; and Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu; and Elihu under the hand of Jeremy; and Jeremy under the hand of Gad; and Gad under the hand of Esaias; and Esaias received it under the hand of God.

Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him--which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah; and from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of their fathers; and from Enoch to Abel, who was slain by the conspiracy of his brother, who received the priesthood by the commandment of God, by the hand of his father Adam, who was the first man--which priesthood continues in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years.

And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, through- out all their generations, which priesthood also continues and abides forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God. And this greater priesthood administers the gospel and holds the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 84.6-19

Doctrine and Covenants 84.6-19: The restored priesthood includes the Aaronic priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood; these are open to all qualified males among the Latter-day Saints. The various ranks of the priesthood have obligations for missionary and church work.


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