Religious texts are texts related to a religious tradition. They differ from literary texts by being a compilation or discussion of beliefs, mythologies, ritual practices, commandments or laws, ethical conduct, spiritual aspirations and by creating or fostering a religious community. The relative authority of religious texts develops over time and is derived from the ratification, enforcement, and its use across generations. Some religious texts are accepted or categorized as canonical, some non-canonical, and others extracanonical, semi-canonical, deutero-canonical, pre-canonical or post-canonical.
A Scripture is a subset of religious texts considered to "especially authoritative", revered and "holy writ", "sacred, canonical", or of "supreme authority, special status" to a religious community. The terms 'sacred text' and 'religious text' are not necessarily interchangeable in that some religious texts are believed to be sacred because of the belief in some theistic religions such as the Abrahamic religions that the text is divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired, or in non-theistic religions such as some Indian religions they are considered to be the central tenets of their eternal Dharma. Many religious texts, in contrast, are simply narratives or discussions pertaining to the general themes, interpretations, practices, or important figures of the specific religion. In some religions (Islam), the scripture of supreme authority is well established (Quran). In others (Christianity), the canonical texts include a particular text (Bible) but is "an unsettled question", according to Eugene Nida. In yet others (Hinduism, Buddhism), there "has never been a definitive canon". While the term Scripture is derived from the Latin scriptura, meaning "writing", most sacred scriptures of the world's major religions were originally a part of their oral tradition, and were "passed down through memorization from generation to generation until they were finally committed to writing", according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Religious texts also serve a ceremonial and liturgical role, particularly in relation to sacred time, the liturgical year, the divine efficacy and subsequent holy service; in a more general sense, its performance.
It is not possible to create an exhaustive list of religious texts, because there is no single definition of which texts are recognized as religious.
- 1 Etymology and nomenclature
- 2 History of religious texts
- 3 Sacred texts of various religions
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Etymology and nomenclature
The adjective "religious" is traceable to about 1200 CE, when it meant "devout, pious" from Anglo-French "religius", itself from the 12th-century Old French term "religious", Latin "religiosus" (from "religio", i.e. a faith, cult, mode of worship, reverence or fear of gods, divine service, related to monastic life). The earliest use of the term religious in the sense of "pertaining to religion" is from about 1530 CE, according to Douglas Harper. According to Peter Beal, the term scripture – derived from "scriptura" (Latin) – meant "writings [manuscripts] in general" prior to the medieval era, then became "reserved to denote the texts of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible". Beyond Christianity, according to the Oxford World Encyclopedia, the term "scripture" has referred to a text accepted to contain the "sacred writings of a religion", while The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions states it refers to a text "having [religious] authority and often collected into an accepted canon".
Some religious texts are categorized as canonical, some non-canonical, and others extracanonical, semi-canonical, deutero-canonical, pre-canonical or post-canonical. The term "canon" is derived from the Greek word "kανών", "a cane used as a measuring instrument". It connotes the sense of "measure, standard, norm, rule". In the modern usage, a religious canon refers to a "catalogue of sacred scriptures" that is broadly accepted to "contain and agree with the rule or canon of a particular faith", states Juan Widow. The related terms such as "non-canonical", "extracanonical", "deuterocanonical" and others presume and are derived from "canon". These derived terms differentiate a corpus of religious texts from the "canonical" literature. At its root, this differentiation reflects the sects and conflicts that developed and branched off over time, the competitive "acceptance" of a common minimum over time and the "rejection" of interpretations, beliefs, rules or practices by one group of another related socio-religious group. The earliest reference to the term "canon" in the context of "a collection of sacred Scripture" is traceable to the 4th-century CE. The early references, such as the Synod of Laodicea mention both the terms "canonical" and "non-canonical" in the context of religious texts.
History of religious texts
One of the oldest known religious texts is the Kesh Temple Hymn of Ancient Sumer, a set of inscribed clay tablets which scholars typically date around 2600 BCE. The Epic of Gilgamesh from Sumer, although only considered by some scholars as a religious text, has origins as early as 2150 BCE, and stands as one of the earliest literary works that includes various mythological figures and themes of interaction with the divine. The ‘’Rig Veda’’ – a scripture of Hinduism – is dated to between 1500–1200 BCE. It is one of the oldest known complete religious texts that has survived into the modern age.
There are many possible dates given to the first writings which can be connected to Talmudic and Biblical traditions, the earliest of which is found in scribal documentation of the 8th century BCE, followed by administrative documentation from temples of the 5th and 6th centuries BCE, with another common date being the 2nd century BCE. Although a significant text in the history of religious text because of its widespread use among religious denominations and its continued use throughout history, the texts of the Abrahamic traditions are a good example of the lack of certainty surrounding dates and definitions of religious texts.
High rates of mass production and distribution of religious texts did not begin until the invention of the printing press in 1440, before which all religious texts were hand written copies, of which there were relatively limited quantities in circulation.
Sacred texts of various religions
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The following is an in-exhaustive list of links to specific religious texts which may be used for further, more in-depth study.
- Pyramid Texts
- Coffin Texts
- Book of the Dead
- Book of Caverns
- Book of Gates
- Book of the Heavenly Cow
- Litany of Re
- Atenism: Great Hymn to the Aten
- Ancient Greece
- The Evangelion (Greek: Εὐαγγέλιον, meaning roughly "good news"). Also known as the Gospel of Mani and The Living Gospel
- the Treasure of Life
- the Pragmateia (Greek: πραγματεία)
- the Book of Mysteries
- The Book of Giants
- the Epistles
- Manichaean Psalter
- The Shabuhragan
- The Arzhang
- The Kephalaia (Greek: Κεφάλαια), "Discourses", found in Coptic translation.
- Bön (Tibetan folk religion): Bon Kangyur and Tengyur
- Old Norse Paganism: Edda
- Kiratism: The Mundhum of the Limbu ethnic group
- The Samaritan Torah
- Primary religious texts, that is, the Avesta collection:
- The Yasna, the primary liturgical collection, includes the Gathas.
- The Visperad, a collection of supplements to the Yasna.
- The Yashts, hymns in honor of the divinities.
- The Vendidad, describes the various forms of evil spirits and ways to confound them.
- shorter texts and prayers, the Yashts the five Nyaishes ("worship, praise"), the Sirozeh and the Afringans (blessings).
- There are some 60 secondary religious texts, none of which are considered scripture. The most important of these are:
- The Denkard (middle Persian, 'Acts of Religion'),
- The Bundahishn, (middle Persian, 'Primordial Creation')
- The Menog-i Khrad, (middle Persian, 'Spirit of Wisdom')
- The Arda Viraf Namak (middle Persian, 'The Book of Arda Viraf')
- The Sad-dar (modern Persian, 'Hundred Doors', or 'Hundred Chapters')
- The Rivayats, 15th-18th century correspondence on religious issues
- For general use by the laity:
- The true core texts of the Yazidi religion that exist today are the hymns, known as qawls. Spurious examples of so-called "Yazidi religious texts" include the Yazidi Black Book and the Yazidi Book of Revelation, which were forged in the early 20th century
- Rasa'il al-hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom)
- The Four Vedas
- Samhitas (Mantras, Prayers)
- Brahmanas (Commentaries, Instructions)
- Aranyakas (Meditation, Rituals)
- Upanishads (Essence, Wisdom)
- Puranas (List)
- Sutras (List)
- Ashtavakra Gita
- Gherand Samhita
- Gita Govinda
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika
- Yoga Vasistha
- In Vedanta (Uttar Mimamsa)
- In Yoga
- In Samkhya
- Samkhya Sutras of Kapila
- In Nyaya
- Nyāya Sūtras of Gautama
- In Vaisheshika
- Vaisheshika Sutras of Kanada
- In Vaishnavism
- Vaikhanasa Samhitas
- Pancaratra Samhitas
- In Saktism
- Sakta Tantras
- Pashupata Sutras of Lakulish
- Panchartha-bhashya of Kaundinya (a commentary on the Pashupata Sutras)
- Ratnatika of Bhasarvajna
- In Lingayatism
- Siddhanta Shikhamani
- Vachana sahitya
- Mantra Gopya
- Shoonya Sampadane
- 28 Agamas
- Karana Hasuge
- Basava purana
- In Kabir Panth
- poems of Kabir
- In Dadu Panth
- poems of Dadu
- Theravada Buddhism
- The Tipitaka or Pāli Canon
- East Asian Mahayana
- The Chinese Buddhist Mahayana sutras, including
- 11 Angas
- 12 Upangas, 4 Mula-sutras, 6 Cheda-sutras, 2 Culika-sutras, 10 Prakirnakas
- Karmaprabhrita, also called Satkhandagama
- Jina Vijaya
- Tattvartha Sutra
- GandhaHasti Mahabhashya (authoritative and oldest commentary on the Tattvartha Sutra)
- The Tanakh i.e. Hebrew Bible
- The Talmud
- Early texts:
- Foundational texts of various Hasidic sects:
- The Tanakh
- The Bible (the Old Testament and the New Testament). The Apostolic churches (Catholicism and Orthodoxy) also include the Deuterocanonicals.
- For Catholicism, this includes seven deuterocanonical books in the Old Testament for a total of 73 books, called the Canon of Trent (in versions of the Latin Vulgate, 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh are included in an appendix, but considered non-canonical).
- For the Church of the East, This includes most of the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament which are found in the Peshitta (The Syriac Version of the Bible). The New Testament in modern versions contain the 5 diputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation) that were originally excluded.
- For Eastern Orthodoxy, this includes the anagignoskomena, which consist of the Catholic deuterocanon, plus 3 Maccabees, Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 3 Esdras. 4 Maccabees is considered to be canonical by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
- For Oriental Orthodoxy, the Biblical Canon is determined by each particular (sui iuris) Church separately.
- The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church has at various times included a variety of books in the New Testament which are not included in the canons of other traditions.
- The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (and its daughter, the Eritrean Orthodox Church) accept various books according to either of the Narrower or the Broader Canons but always include the entire Catholic deuterocanon, The Prayer of Manasseh, 3 Ezra, 4 Ezra, and The Book of Josippon. They may also include the Book of Jubilees, Book of Enoch, 1 Baruch, 4 Baruch, as well as 1, 2, and 3 Meqabyan (no relation to the Books of Maccabees). The New Testament contains the Sinodos, the Books of the Covenant, Clement, and the Didascalia.
- Some Syrian Churches, regardless of whether they are Eastern Catholic, Nestorian, Oriental or Eastern Orthodox accept the Letter of Baruch as scripture.
- For most of Protestantism, this includes the 66-book canon - the Jewish Tanakh of 24 books divided differently (into 39 books) and the universal 27-book New Testament. Some denominations (e.g. Anglicanism) also include the 15 books of the Apocrypha between the Old Testament and the New Testament, for a total of 81 books.
The Liturgical books. Many denominations each have their own Worship or Service Books within their Church. These books may also considered religious texts.
- Catholic Liturgical books
- Books of the Clergy
- The Roman Missal (The Pope, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests and Deacons editions)
- The Book of the Gospels (Evangeliary/Evangelion)
- The Lectionary
- Sacramentary (For Bishops and Priests)
- Pontifical (For Bishops)
- Cæremoniale Episcoporum (For Bishops)
- Breviary (Hours/Divine Office)
- Gradual (Roman Gradual, Antiphonal, Cantatory and Mass Choir Books)
- Liber Usualis (Book of Common Use/Gregorian Chants)
- Roman Ritual (Baptism, Benedictions, Blessings, Burials, Exorcisms, etc.)
- Roman Martyrology (Saints/The Blessed)
- Books of Church attendants:
- Missal (Pew Cyclical editions)
- Missalette (Pew Seasonal editions)
- Hymnal (Pew hymnbook editions)
- Books of the Clergy
- Protestant Liturgical books
- Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book (ELHB) 1912
- The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH) 1941
- Lutheran Book of Prayer (LBP) 1941
- Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal (SBH) 1958
- Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) 1978
- Lutheran Worship (LW) 1982
- Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) 2006
- Lutheran Service Book (LSB) 2006
- Numerous Hymn, Service and Guide books (Varies by Church)
- The Sunday Service of the Methodists
- Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965)
- The Book of Hymns
- The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Church)
- The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992) (United Methodist Church)
- Book of Discipline (United Methodist) (John Wesley-1784, United Methodist Church-2016)
- Numerous Hymn, Service and Guide books (Varies by Church)
- Southern Baptists
- Baptist Hymnal
- Numerous Hymn, Service and Guide books (Varies by Church)
- The Bible
- Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. This textbook, along with the Bible, serves as the permanent "impersonal pastor" of the church.
- Nag Hammadi library and other Gnostic texts (not from the Bible)
- Some books of the Old Testament and New Testament
- Only the Gospel of Marcion and selected Pauline epistles accepted
- The Bible
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) uses the LDS edition of the King James Bible for English-speaking members; other versions are used in non-English speaking countries.
- The Community of Christ (RLDS) uses the Joseph Smith Translation, which it calls the Inspired Version, as well as updated modern translations.
- The Book of Mormon
- The Pearl of Great Price is authoritative in the LDS Church, rejected by Community of Christ.
- The Doctrine and Covenants
- There are significant differences in content and section numbering between the Doctrine and Covenants used by the Community of Christ (RLDS) and the LDS Church.
- Other, smaller branches of Latter Day Saints include other scriptures, such as the Book of the Law of the Lord used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) or The Word of the Lord used by Fettingite branches.
- The Bible
- The writings of Ellen White are held to an elevated status, though not equal with the Bible, as she is considered to have been an inspired prophetess.
- The Quran (also referred to as Kuran, Koran, Qur’ān, Coran or al-Qur’ān) – Four books considered to be revealed and mentioned by name in the Qur'an are the Quran (revealed to Muhammad), Tawrat (revealed to Musa), the Zabur (revealed to Dawud) and the Injil (revealed to Isa)
- Hadith Books
- More Hadith Books
- Books on biography of Prophet Muhammad
There are thousands of books written about the biography of Prophet Muhammad. Mentioning all of them are very difficult. So, some of the most authentic and famous Books on biography of Muhammad will mention.
- Al-Sira Al-Nabawiyya.
- The Making of the last prophet by Ibn Ishaq
- The Life of Prophet Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq
- Sira Manzuma.
- al-Mawahib al-Ladunniya.
- al-Zurqani 'ala al-Mawahib.
- Sirah al-Halabiyya.
- I`lam al-Nubuwwa.
- Madarij al-Nubuwwa.
- Shawahid al-Nubuwwa.
- Nur al-Safir.
- Sharh al-Mawahib al-laduniyya.
- al-Durar fi ikhtisar al-maghazi was-siyar.
- Ashraf al-wasa'il ila faham al-Shama'il.
- Ghayat al-sul fi Khasa'is al-Rasul.
- Ithbat al-Nubuwwa.
- Nihaya al-Sul fi Khasa'is al-Rasul.
- Al Khasais-ul-Kubra, al-Khasa'is al-Sughra and Shama'il al-Sharifa.
- al-Durra al-Mudiyya.
- shia islam
- Hadith etra(discourses of prophet muhammad and his household) like bihar al anwar, awalim al ulum, four books and Tafsir etra like tafsir al burhan
- Kitab al Majmu
- Usus and other books
- Aztec religion
- The Borgia Group codices
- Maya religion
New religious movements
- The writings of Franklin Albert Jones a.k.a. Adi Da Love-Ananda Samraj
- The Companions of the True Dawn Horse
- The Dawn Horse Testament
- The Heart of the Adi Dam Revelation
- Not-Two IS Peace
- Transcendental Realism
- Aetherius Society
- The Nine Freedoms
- Kinh Thiên Đạo Và Thế Đạo (Prayers of the Heavenly and the Earthly Way)
- Pháp Chánh Truyền (The Religious Constitution of Caodaism)
- Tân Luật (The Canonical Codes)
- Thánh Ngôn Hiệp Tuyển (Compilation of Divine Messages)
- Creativity Movement: The writings of Ben Klassen
- Nature's Eternal Religion
- White Man's Bible
- Salubrious Living
- Raëlism: The writings of Raël aka Claude Vorilhon
- Rastafari movement
- Unarius Academy of Science
- The Pulse of Creation Series
- The Infinite Concept of Cosmic Creation
- Charles Elster (2003). "Authority, Performance, and Interpretation in Religious Reading: Critical Issues of Intercultural Communication and Multiple Literacies". Journal of Literacy Research. 35 (1): 667–670., Quote: "religious texts serve two important regulatory functions: on the group level, they regulate liturgical ritual and systems of law; at the individual level, they (seek to) regulate ethical conduct and direct spiritual aspirations."
- Eugene Nida (1994). "The Sociolinguistics of Translating Canonical Religious Texts". TTR: traduction, terminologie, rédaction. Érudit: Université de Montréal. 7 (1): 195–197., Quote: "The phrase "religious texts" may be understood in two quite different senses: (1) texts that discuss historical or present-day religious beliefs and practices of a believing community and (2) texts that are crucial in giving rise to a believing community."
- Ricoeur, Paul (1974). "Philosophy and Religious Language". The Journal of Religion. University of Chicago Press. 54 (1): 71–85. doi:10.1086/486374.
- Lee Martin McDonald; James H. Charlesworth (5 April 2012). 'Noncanonical' Religious Texts in Early Judaism and Early Christianity. A&C Black. pp. 1–5, 18–19, 24–25, 32–34. ISBN 978-0-567-12419-7.
- Charles Elster (2003). "Authority, Performance, and Interpretation in Religious Reading: Critical Issues of Intercultural Communication and Multiple Literacies". Journal of Literacy Research. 35 (1): 669–670.
- John Goldingay (2004). Models for Scripture. Clements Publishing Group. pp. 183–190. ISBN 978-1-894667-41-8.
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2009). Scripture. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
- Wilfred Cantwell Smith (1994). What is Scripture?: A Comparative Approach. Fortress Press. pp. 12–14. ISBN 978-1-4514-2015-9.
- William A. Graham (1993). Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion. Cambridge University Press. pp. 44–46. ISBN 978-0-521-44820-8.
- Eugene Nida (1994). "The Sociolinguistics of Translating Canonical Religious Texts". 7 (1): 194–195. Cite journal requires
- Thomas B. Coburn (1984). ""Scripture" in India: Towards a Typology of the Word in Hindu Life". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Oxford University Press. 52 (3): 435–459. JSTOR 1464202.
- William A. Graham (1993). Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion. Cambridge University Press. pp. ix, 5–9. ISBN 978-0-521-44820-8.
- Carroll Stuhlmueller (1958). "The Influence of Oral Tradition Upon Exegesis and the Senses of Scripture". The Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 20 (3): 299–302. JSTOR 43710550.
- Douglas Harper (2017), Religious, Etymology Dictionary; For primary sources: See
- Peter Beal (2008). A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology: 1450 to 2000. Oxford University Press. p. 367. ISBN 978-0-19-926544-2.
- The World Encyclopedia. Oxford University Press. 2004. ISBN 978-0-19-954609-1.
- John Bowker (2000). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280094-7.
- Juan Carlos Ossandón Widow (2018). The Origins of the Canon of the Hebrew Bible. BRILL Academic. pp. 22–27. ISBN 978-90-04-38161-2.
- Gerbern Oegema (2012). Lee Martin McDonald and James H. Charlesworth (ed.). 'Noncanonical' Religious Texts in Early Judaism and Early Christianity. A&C Black. pp. 18–23 with footnotes. ISBN 978-0-567-12419-7.
- Edmon L. Gallagher; John D. Meade (2017). The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis. Oxford University Press. pp. xii–xiii. ISBN 978-0-19-879249-9.
- Kramer, Samuel (1942). "The Oldest Literary Catalogue: A Sumerian List of Literary Compositions Compiled about 2000 B.C.". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 88: 10–19.
- Sanders, Seth (2002). "Old Light on Moses' Shining Face". Vetus Testamentum. 52: 400–406 – via EbscoHost.
- Enheduanna; Meador, Betty De Shong (2009-08-01). Princess, priestess, poet: the Sumerian temple hymns of Enheduanna. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292719323.
- Stephanie Dalley (2000). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press. pp. 41–45. ISBN 978-0-19-953836-2.
- George, Andrew (2002-12-31). The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. Penguin. ISBN 9780140449198.
- Sagarika Dutt (2006). India in a Globalized World. Manchester University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-84779-607-3
- "The Yahwist". Contradictions in the Bible. 2012-12-23. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
- Jaffee, Martin S. (2001-04-19). Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism 200 BCE-400 CE. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198032236.
- "The History Guide". www.historyguide.org. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
- Eastern Orthodox also generally divide Baruch and Letter of Jeremiah into two books instead of one. The enumeration of the Books of Ezra is different in many Orthodox Bibles, as it is in all others: see Wikipedia's article on the naming conventions of the Books of Esdras.
- Angell, Stephen W, "Renegade Oxonian: Samuel Fisher's Importance in Formulating a Quaker Understanding of Scripture", Early Quakers and Their Theological Thought 1647–1723, Cambridge University Press, pp. 137–154, ISBN 9781107279575, retrieved 2019-09-16
- "Caodaism In A Nutshell".
- chondogyo.or.kr Archived February 18, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- "Sacred Scripture (Kyoten) - KONKOKYO".
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