Origin The Challenge to the Global Community of Religions
"In this new ecological age of developing global community and interfaith dialogue, the world religions face what is perhaps the greatest challenge that they have ever encountered. Each is inspired by a unique vision of the divine and has a distinct cultural identity. At the same time, each perceives the divine as the source of unity and peace. The challenge is to preserve their religious and cultural uniqueness without letting it operate as a cause of narrow and divisive sectarianism that contradicts the vision of unity and peace. It is a question of whether the healing light of religious vision will overcome the social and ideological issues that underline much of the conflict between religions." ~ Dr. Steven C. Rockefeller, Middlebury College, Spirit and Nature, p. 169
CONTENTS | INVOCATION | INTRODUCTION | PROLOGUE | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21


Title Page
This Archive
Advisors and Contributors
Foreword by Ninian Smart
How to obtain a printed (hardbound/paperback) version


The Truth in Many Paths
Tolerance and Respect for All Believers

The Purpose of World Scripture
The Organization of World Scripture
The World's Religions and Their Scriptures

World Scripture and Education for Peace

Ultimate Reality and the Purpose of Human Existence

CHAPTER 1: Ultimate Reality
Traces of God's Existence
The One
Formless, Emptiness, Mystery
Transcendent, All-Pervasive Reality
Sovereign and Omnipotent
Immanent and Near at Hand
Eternal -- in a World of Transience
The Creator
Goodness and Love
Divine Father and Mother

CHAPTER 2: Divine Law, Truth, and Cosmic Principle
Eternal Truth
Moral Law
The Decalogue
The Golden Rule
Polarity, Relationality, and Interdependence
Cosmic Justice

CHAPTER 3: The Purpose of Life for the Individual
Joy and Happiness
For God's Good Pleasure
Image of God and Temple of God
Inborn Goodness and Conscience
Original Mind, No Mind
True Love

CHAPTER 4: The Purpose of Life in the Family and in Society
The Family
Parents and Children
Husband and Wife
Unity and Community
The People of God
The Ideal Society

CHAPTER 5: The Purpose of Life in the Natural World
The Sanctity of Nature
Reverence for Life
The Microcosm
The Lord of Spirits
Creation Rejoices

CHAPTER 6: Life Beyond Death and the Spiritual World
The Spiritual World: Mystery, Multiplicity, Analogy, Harmony
The Immortal Soul
Prepare Now for Eternity
Passage Beyond
Spiritual Benefactors
Spiritual Error and the Occult

Evil, Sin, and the Human Fall

CHAPTER 7: The Human Condition
The War Within
Pride and Egotism
Selfish Desire, Lust, and Greed

CHAPTER 8: Fall and Deviation
The Human Fall
Demonic Powers
Degraded Human Nature
God's Grief

CHAPTER 9: The Major Sins
Good and Evil
Lying and Deceit
Slander, Gossip and Foul Speech

Salvation and the Savior

CHAPTER 10: Salvation-Liberation-Enlightenment
Universal Salvation
Atonement and Forgiveness of Sins
Crossing the Waters
Reversal and Restoration
Help and Deliverance
The Refining Fire
Born Anew
Eternal Life
The Unitive State

CHAPTER 11: The Founder
Call and Awakening
Rejected by the World
The Victor
He Who Subjugates Satan
The Revealer of Truth
The Man for Others
The Living Presence
The Person and Character of the Founder: Divine Person
Human Person
The Succession of Founders and Messengers

The Religious Life

CHAPTER 12: Responsibility and Predestination
Individual Responsibility
Karma and Inherited Sin

CHAPTER 13: Self-cultivation and Spiritual Growth
Spiritual Growth
Cultivate the Good
Preparing the Start
Perseverance and Patience

CHAPTER 14: Faith
Devotion and Praise
Fear, Submission, and Obedience
Argument with God

CHAPTER 15: Wisdom
The Search for Knowledge
Scripture and Tradition
Poverty of Conceptual Learning
Scripture Teaches in Parables
Learning and Practice
Teacher and Disciple
New Wine and Old Wineskins

CHAPTER 16: Worship
The Name of God
Beyond Ritual

CHAPTER 17: Offering and Sacrifice
Persecution and Martyrdom

CHAPTER 18: Self-Denial and Renunciation
Self-denial and No-self
Repentance, Confession, and Restitution
Restraint and Moderation
Control Anger
Subdue Desires and Passions
Detachment from the Senses
Renunciation of Wealth
Asceticism and Monasticism
Separation from Family
Separation from the World

CHAPTER 19: Live for Others
Serving Others
Sacrificial Love
Giving and Receiving
Charity and Hospitality
Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Judge Not
Love Your Enemy
Turn the Other Cheek
Good Deeds
Labor and Industry
Honesty and Expediency

Providence, Society, and the Kingdom of Heaven

CHAPTER 20: Good Government and the Welfare of Society
The Pillars of Society
The Prophet and Reformer
War Against Evil
Respect for Legitimate Governments
Government by Divine Law
Consideration for the People
Leadership by Example and Honest Government
Judgments and Punishments
Providence and the Mandate of Heaven

CHAPTER 21: Eschatology and Messianic Hope
The Last Judgment
The Messiah
The Kingdom of Heaven

Interspirit Network for global illumination
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       The founder is the man for others, who gives his life and substance
to save them.  He manifests the quality of divine compassion and becomes
the savior of humanity.  The diverse passages in this section describe how
each of the founders showed selfless love for others.  Some texts recount
his compassionate deeds of serving the people and giving of his means;
some describe his self-sacrifice and bearing others' burdens; some
describe his earnest efforts to preach and impart wisdom to lead the
ignorant to enlightenment; and some describe how the founder put himself
at risk in order to overcome ignorance and enmity.

We sent you [O Muhammad] not save as a mercy for the peoples.

                          Islam.  Qur'an 21.107

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

                     Christianity.  Bible, John 1.29

This man, the holy one through righteousness,
Holds in his spirit the force which heals existence,
Beneficent unto all, as a sworn friend, O Wise One.

                       Zoroastrianism.  Yasna 44.2

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Qur'an 21.107: See Hadith of Ibn Sa`d, p. 648.  John 1.29: Cf. Galatians
2.20, p. 898; Romans 3.23-25, p. 506; John 3.16, p. 506.  Yasna 44.2:
'This man' is Zarathustra.
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The Tathagata with unimpeded compassion pities the three worlds.  The
reason the Tathagata appeared in this world is to propagate the Buddha's
teachings, to save all sentient beings, and to bestow true benefit upon

                 Buddhism.  Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 2

The World-honored One is very rare;
Only with difficulty can he be encountered.
Fully endowed with incalculable merits,
He can rescue and preserve all.
The great teacher of gods and men,
He takes pity on the world,
And living beings in the ten directions
All everywhere receive his favors.

                         Buddhism.  Lotus Sutra 7

When evil prevailed upon earth, when truth had been forgotten and life had
become a sinful burden to mankind, there went out a prayer to God
entreating Him to come down upon the earth as a Savior of humanity.  The
omniscient, omnipresent Lord knew the sufferings of mankind, and out of
His great and all-consuming love for His children wished to lift the veil
of ignorance which covered their sight--to be born as man, Krishna, in
order to show them once more how to ascend towards Himself.

                     Hinduism.  Srimad Bhagavatam 10

The Tirthankara or Supreme Lord is adorable, endowed with omniscience,
uncontaminated by human infirmities, immaculate and pure, devoid of any
desire whatsoever, without beginning, middle, or end, and uniquely
benevolent--all these are the characteristics of the Supreme Lord.
Besides, without any selfish design, he preaches for the benefit of the
unemancipated and suffering beings.  True scripture, which flows
spontaneously out of the Supreme Lord, is irrefutable, is salutary for the
well-being of all kinds of beings, is capable of undermining the perverse
path, and reveals the objective nature of things.

          Jainism.  Samantabhadra, Ratnakarandasravakacara 7-10

Confucius said, "From the very poorest upwards--beginning even with the
man who could bring no better present than a bundle of dried flesh--none
has ever come to me without receiving instruction."

                       Confucianism.  Analects 7.7

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Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 2: Cf. Mahaparinirvana Sutra 575-76, p. 527n.
Lotus Sutra 7: The Lotus Sutra is full of parables depicting the Buddha's
compassion.  See the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Lotus Sutra 4, pp.
510f.; the Parable of the Good Physician, Lotus Sutra 16, pp. 1023f.; and
the Parable of the Burning House, Lotus Sutra 3, p. 145n.; cf. Lotus Sutra
4, pp. 779f. Srimad Bhagavatam 10: The avatar is a manifestation of divine
grace.  Cf. Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8, p. 662; Ramayana, Bala Kanda 15, p. 625.
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And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and
sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the
Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat
with tax collec- tors and sinners?"  But when he heard it, he said, "Those
who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and
learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not
to call the righteous, but sinners."

                  Christianity.  Bible, Matthew 9.10-13

Seated under a palm tree the Holy One pondered, "The profound wisdom so
hard to be understood is now known by me.  These sin-defiled worlds
understand not this most excellent Law, and the unenlightened shamelessly
censure both me and my wisdom.  Shall I proclaim this Law?  It is only
produced by knowledge; having attained it thus in my lonely pondering, do
I feel strong enough to deliver the world?"  Having remembered all that he
had heard before, he again pondered; and resolved, "I will explain it for
the sake of delivering the world."

              Buddhism.  Ashvaghosha, Buddhacarita 15.79-82

The apostles returned to Jesus... and he said to them, "Come away by
yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while."  For many were coming and
going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the
boat to a lonely place by themselves.  Now many saw them going, and knew
them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead
of them.  As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on
them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to
teach them many things.  And when it grew late, his disciples came to him
and said, "This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them
away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves
something to eat."  But he answered them, "You give them something to
eat."  And the disciples said to him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred
denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" And he said to them,
"How many loaves have you?  Go and see."  And when they had found out,
they said, "Five, and two fish."  Then he commanded them all to sit down
by companies upon the green grass.  So they sat down in groups, by
hundreds and by fifties.  And taking the five loaves and two fish he
looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to
the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among
them all.  And they all ate and were satisfied.  And they took up twelve
baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.  And those who ate the
loaves were five thousand men.

      Christianity.  Bible, Mark 6.30-44: Miracle of the Loaves and
                                the Fishes

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Matthew 9.10-13: This expresses Jesus' preference for sinners and
outcasts. He was critical of a society which sharply distinguished the
"good" and upright people from sinners and those, like tax-collectors,
whom society scorned.  He taught that God's mercy embraces even the
meanest and most sinful of His creatures; compare Tannisho, pp. 757f.
Buddhacarita 15.79-82: This episode comes shortly after Buddha won
enlightenment but prior to his first sermon at Varanasi.  Mark 6.30-44:
While tradition regards the feeding of the five thousand as a supernatural
miracle, some scholars explain it by saying that when Jesus brought out
the five loaves and two fish to share with the multitudes, his generosity
led many others in the audience to bring out the food which they had
carried with them for the journey and share it with their fellows.  As the
spirit of generosity multiplied, the people found that they had more than
enough food.  This episode from Jesus' life is reflected in the fellowship
of the Christian common meal.  Other manifestations of Jesus' mercy can be
found in his healings; see Mark 5.24-34, p. 526.  Larger Sukhavativyuha
Sutra 8.18: The Eighteenth Vow of the Amitabha Buddha--to effect universal
salvation before he sets foot in Nirvana--is at the heart of Pure Land
Buddhism.  It represents the highest degree of the Buddha's compassion. At
the same time, one who relies on this vow and its power can avoid the
traps of self-dependence and striving, which only bind one to samsara.
Striving on the path is useless; rather it is through faith in the power
of this vow, called by Shinran the Power of Another, that one can have
confidence in salvation; see Tannisho, pp. 757f.  See Larger
Sukhavativyuha Sutra 9.1-5, p. 516; compare Galatians 3.21-22, p. 163.  On
the 'five deadly sins,' see p. 185n.  John 12.46-60: Cf. Matthew 7.24-27,
p. 161.  2 Corinthians 3.7-16: Cf. Galatians 3.10-13, 21-26, p. 163.  Yet
there is also continuity between the new revelation and the old; see
Matthew 5.17-18, p. 662.  Cf. Book of Certitude, 33-41, p. 1095.
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If, after my obtaining Buddhahood, all the beings in the ten quarters who,
with sincerity of heart hold faith and wish to be reborn in my country,
repeating my name perhaps ten times, are not so born, may I not achieve
the highest enlightenment.  Excluded only are those who have committed the
five deadly sins and those who have abused the true Dharma.

               Buddhism.  Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 8.18

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for his
sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are
not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf
snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hireling and
cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my
own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down
my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold;
I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.  So there shall be
one flock, one shepherd.

                   Christianity.  Bible, John 10.11-16

Who has believed what we have heard?
       And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up like a pale shoot,
       like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him,
       and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
       a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one who from whom men hide their faces
       he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
       and carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed him stricken,
       smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
       he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
       and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
       we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid upon him
       the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
       yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
       and like a sheep that is before its shearers is dumb,
       so he opened not his mouth.
Arrested and convicted, he was taken away;
       and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
       stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked,
       and his tomb with demons,
although he had done no violence,
       and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him;
       he has put him to grief;
when he makes himself an offering for sin,
       he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand;
       he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
       make many to be accounted righteous;
       and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great,
       and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out his soul to death,
       and was be numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
       and made intercession for the transgressors.

             Judaism and Christianity.  Bible, Isaiah 53.1-12

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Isaiah 53.1-12: This is the famous prophecy of the Suffering Servant.  It
contains imagery of a man who is stricken with illness, a leper, and an
innocent man who is convicted and executed.  Yet in this man of sorrows is
revealed the power and mercy of God.  Though he makes himself an offering,
suffering to atone for the sins of others, in the end he is vindicated by
God. For Christianity, this passage is regarded as a prophecy which is
fulfilled in the suffering life of Jesus Christ; see Luke 22-23, pp. 602f.
Rabbinic Judaism similarly applies these verses to the suffering of the
Messiah to come; see Pesikta Rabbati 162b-63a, pp. 1104f.  More commonly,
Jews interpret the servant to be Israel itself, or the faithful in Israel.
In either interpretation, the Servant's suffering brings redemption for
all humanity. In fact, some Jews and Christians have come to understand
their relatedness as peoples of God through their vocations to fulfill the
role of suffering servant.  Cf. Isaiah 42.1-4, pp. 515f., on the Servant
as a light to the nations, where the same range of interpretations
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A man should share in the distress of the community, for so we find that
Moses, our teacher, shared in the distress of the community.

                       Judaism.  Talmud, Taanit 11a

       At the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me [Moses]
the two tables of stone, the tables of the covenant.  Then the Lord said
to me, "Arise, go down quickly from here; for your people whom you have
brought from Egypt have acted corruptly; they have turned aside quickly
out of the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molten
image....  Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name
from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater
than they."

       So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was
burning with fire; and the two tables of the covenant were in my two
hands.  And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the Lord your
God; you had made yourselves a molten calf; you had turned aside quickly
from the way which the Lord had commanded you.  So I took hold of the two
tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and broke them before your
eyes.  Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and
forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin
which you have committed... because the Lord had said that he would
destroy you.  And I prayed to the Lord, ''O Lord God, destroy not your
people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness,
whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  Remember your
servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not regard the stubbornness of
this people, or their wickedness, or their sin, lest the land from which
you brought us say, 'Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the
land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought
them out to slay them in the wilderness.'  For they are your people and
your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your
outstretched arm."

                   Judaism.  Bible, Deuteronomy 9.11-29

T'ang said, "I, Lu, the little one, dare to offer a black bull and to make
this declaration before the great God.  I dare not pardon those who have
transgressed.  I shall present Thy servants as they are so that the choice
rests with Thee alone.  If I transgress, let not the ten thousand states
suffer because of me; but if the ten thousand states transgress, the guilt
is mine alone."

                      Confucianism.  Analects 20.1.3

My Lord!  Others have fallen back in showing compassion to their
benefactors as you have shown compassion even to your malefactors.  All
this is unparalleled.

                       Jainism.  Vitaragastava 14.5

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Deuteronomy 9.11-29: Cf. Pesikta Rabbati 32b-33a, p. 785.  For an example
of Muhammad's intercession on behalf of the people, see the Hadith of
Bukhari, p. 785, describing his Night Journey, where he bargains with God
to reduce the number of statutory prayers.  Cf. Hadith of Bukhari, pp.
648f.  Vitaragastava 14.5: On the Buddha's compassion for his enemies, see
Mahaparinirvana Sutra 575-76, p. 527n.
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       We, truly, have come for your sakes, and have borne the misfortunes
of the world for your salvation.  Do you flee the one [Baha'u'llah] who
has sacri- ficed his life that you may be quickened?...  Do you imagine
that he seeks his own interests, when he has, at all times, been
threatened by the swords of the enemies; or that he seeks the vanities of
the world, after he has been impri- soned in the most desolate of

       Verily, he has consented to be sorely abased that you may attain
glory, and yet, you are disporting yourselves in the vale of heedlessness.
He, in truth, lives in the most desolate of abodes for your sakes, while
you dwell in your palaces.

         Baha'i Faith.  Tablets of Baha'u'llah Revealed after the

       Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father
had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, "The days of mourning for my
father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob."  But the words
of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called Jacob
her younger son, and said to him, "Behold, your brother Esau comforts
himself by planning to kill you.  Now therefore, my son, obey my voice;
arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran, and stay with him a while, until
your brother's fury turns away."...

       [After twenty years with Laban, Jacob arose, and] sent messengers
before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom,
instructing them, "Thus you shall say to my lord Esau, 'Thus says your
servant Jacob, "I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; and I
have oxen, asses, flocks, menservants, and maidservants; and I have sent
to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight."'"

       And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your
brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men with
him."  Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the
people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two
companies, thinking, "If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it,
then the company which is left will escape."

       And Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father
Isaac, O Lord who said to me, 'Return to your own country and to your
kindred, and I will do you good,' I am not worthy of the least of all the
steadfast love and all the faithfulness which you have shown to your
servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have
become two companies.  Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother,
from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and slay us all, the
mothers with the children.  But you said, 'I will do you good, and make
your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for

       So he lodged there that night, and took from what he had with him a
present for his brother Esau, two hundred she-goats and twenty he-goats,
two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milch camels and their colts,
forty cows and ten bulls, twenty she-asses and ten he-asses.  These he
delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said
to his servants, "Pass on before me, and put a space between drove and
drove."  He instructed the foremost, "When Esau my brother meets you, and
asks you, 'To whom do you belong?  Where are you going?  And whose are
these before you?' then you shall say, 'They belong to your servant Jacob;
they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.'"
He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the
droves, "You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, and you
shall say, 'Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.'"  For he thought,
"I may appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterwards I
shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me."...

       And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was
coming, and four hundred men with him.  So he divided his children among
Leah and Rachel and the two maids.  He put the maids with their children
in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all.
He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times,
until he came near to his brother.

       But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck
and kissed him, and they wept.  And when Esau raised his eyes and saw the
women and children, he said, "Who are these with you?"  Jacob said, "The
children whom God has graciously given your servant."  Then the maids drew
near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her
children drew near and bowed down; and last Joseph and Rachel drew near,
and they bowed down. Esau said, "What do you mean by all this company
which I met?"  Jacob answered, "To find favor in the sight of my lord."
But Esau said, "I have enough, my brother, keep what you have for
yourself."  Jacob said, "No, I pray you, if I have found favor in your
sight, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is
like seeing the face of God, with such favor have you received me."

       Judaism and Christianity.  Bible, Genesis 27.41-44; 32.3-20,

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Genesis 32.3-20: Cf. Matthew 5.44, p. 1000; Tosefta, Baba Metzia 2.26, p.
1001, and related passages.
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