Religious text

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"Sacred Texts" redirects here. For the web site, see Internet Sacred Text Archive.
The Septuagint: A page from Codex Vaticanus.

Religious texts (also known as scripture, or scriptures, from the Latin scriptura, meaning "a writing") are texts which religious traditions consider to be central to their religious practice or set of beliefs. Religious texts may be used to provide meaning and purpose, evoke a deeper connection with the divine, convey religious truths, promote religious experience, foster communal identity, and guide individual and communal religious practice. Religious texts often communicate the practices or values of a religious traditions and can be looked to as a set of guiding principles which dictate physical, mental, spiritual, or historical elements considered important to a specific religion. The terms 'sacred' text and 'religious' text are not necessarily interchangeable in that some religious texts are believed to be sacred because of their nature as divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired, whereas some religious texts are simply narratives pertaining to the general themes, practices, or important figures of the specific religion, and not necessarily considered sacred.

It is important to note that in defining what constitutes a religious text, one necessitates a definition of religion, which is an extremely varied and indefinite topic. As the religious scholar Bradley Herling states in his book entitled A Beginner’s Guide to the Study of Religion, “the study of religion spans the breadth of human experience and the full range of cultures, from ancient times to our present day. It is an exploration of some of the most powerful ways human beings discover meaning, significance, and depth”.[1] Scholar Paul Griffin offers an equally broad definition of religion and religious texts, stating that they must be a comprehensive, unsurpassable, central account of belief in order to qualify as religious.[2] The same expansiveness of thought and definition must be applied to the understanding of religious texts, as religious texts take as many different forms as religions themselves. It is not possible to create an exhaustive list of religious texts, especially considering the fact that there is no singular definition of which texts may be recognized as religious. There is an immense quantity of scholarly debate surrounding this topic, creating a variety of discourses within the field.

History of religious texts[edit]

A complication is presented when studying the history of religious texts because many religious traditions existing within oral tradition instead of within written tradition. Oral tradition includes many of the same elements included in written religious texts.[3] Again, there may have been texts printed which are not widely considered as religious or did not survive throughout history, as well as texts whose religiosity is debated. Furthermore, scholarly debate surrounding the timeline of known religious text creates discrepancy, but some texts commonly believed to among the oldest in existence are given as follows:

Of written tradition, one of the oldest known religious texts is the Kesh Temple Hymn of Ancient Sumer,[4][5] a set of inscribed clay tablets which scholars typically date around 2600 BCE.[6] The Epic of Gilgamesh from Sumer, although only considered by some scholars as a religious text, has origins as early as 2150-2000 BCE, and stands as one of the earliest literary works that includes various mythological figures and themes of interaction with the divine.[7] The Rig Veda of ancient Hinduism is estimated to have been composed between 1700–1100 BCE, which not only denotes it as one of the oldest known religious texts, but also one of the oldest written religious text which is still actively used in religious practice to this day.

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,[8] followed by administrative documentation from temples of the 5th and 6th Centuries BCE,[9] with another common date being the 2nd century BCE.[9] 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 begin until the invention of the printing press in 1440,[10] before which all religious texts were hand written copies of very which there were relatively limited quantities in circulation.

Associated terminology[edit]

Canon is a term specific to the religious texts of Abrahamic faiths, which comes from the Sumerian word meaning "standard."[11] The canon refers to the general accepted, uniform, and unchanging collection of texts which a religious denomination considers comprehensive in terms of their specific application of texts.[11] For example, a Protestant Bible will have a specific series of Biblical stories which is likely different from that of a Catholic Bible.

The term scripture, along with variations such as "Holy Writ", "Holy Scripture" or "Sacred Scripture" are defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as terms which specifically apply to Biblical text and the Christian tradition.[12] There is an argument which describes scripture (in lower case) as applicable to any religious writing, and Scripture (capitalized) as specifically Abrahamic, but most sources associate scripture with Abrahamic writing.

Hierographology (Ancient Greek: ἱερός, hieros, "sacred" or "holy"; γραφή, graphe, "writing"; λόγος, logos, "word" or "reason") (archaically also 'hierology') is the study of sacred texts.

Sacred texts of various religions[edit]

The following is an in-exhaustive list of links to specific religious texts which may be used for further, more in-depth study.

Adidam[edit]

  • The writings of Franklin Albert Jones a.k.a. Adi Da Love-Ananda Samraj
    • Aletheon
    • The Companions of the True Dawn Horse
    • The Dawn Horse Testament
    • Gnosticon
    • The Heart of the Adi Dam Revelation
    • Not-Two IS Peace
    • Pneumaton
    • Transcendental Realism

Aetherius Society[edit]

  • Contacts with the Gods from Space

Ásatrú[edit]

Atenism[edit]

Ayyavazhi[edit]

Aztec religion[edit]

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

Main article: Bahá'í literature

Books by Bahá'u'lláh

Bön[edit]

Buddhism[edit]

Ancient style of scripture used for the Pāli Canon
See also: Buddhist texts
Theravada Buddhism
East Asian Mahayana
The Chinese Diamond Sutra, the oldest known dated printed book in the world, printed in the 9th year of Xiantong Era of the Tang Dynasty, or 868 CE. British Library.
Tibetan Buddhism

Caodaism[edit]

  • 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)[13]

Cheondoism[edit]

  • The Donghak Scripture
  • The Songs of Yongdam
  • The Sermons of Master Haeweol
  • The Sermons of Revered Teacher Euiam[14]

Christianity[edit]

Christian Bible, 1407 handwritten copy
Traditional Christianity
The Bible (left) and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (right) serve as the pastor of the Christian Science church.
Christian Scientists
Gnosticism
Cover page of The Book of Mormon from an original 1830 edition, by Joseph Smith, Jr.
(Image from the U.S. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.)
Jehovah's Witnesses
Latter Day Saint movement
Native American Church (Christian-leaning factions)
See below.
Rastafari movement
See below.
Seventh-day Adventists
Swedenborgianism
See below.
Unification Church
See below.

Confucianism[edit]

Discordianism[edit]

Druidism[edit]

Druze[edit]

Ancient Egyptian religion[edit]

Pyramid texts from Teti I's pyramid.
Old Kingdom
First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom
Second Intermediate Period

Etruscan religion[edit]

The Cippus of Perugia, 3rd or 2nd century BCE

Ancient Greece[edit]

Hermeticism[edit]

Hinduism[edit]

Main article: Hindu texts
Śruti
The Bhagavad Gita is Lord Krishna's counsel to Arjuna on the battlefield of the Kurukshetra.
Smriti
In Purva Mimamsa
In Vedanta (Uttar Mimamsa)
In Yoga
In Samkhya
  • Samkhya Sutras of Kapila
In Nyaya
In Vaisheshika
  • Vaisheshika Sutras of Kanada
In Vaishnavism
  • Vaikhanasa Samhitas
  • Pancaratra Samhitas
  • Divyaprabandam
In Saktism
In Kashmir Saivism
In Pashupata Shaivism
  • Pashupata Sutras of Lakulish
  • Panchartha-bhashya of Kaundinya (a commentary on the Pashupata Sutras)
  • Ganakarika
  • Ratnatika of Bhasarvajna
In Shaiva Siddhanta
  • 28 Saiva Agamas
  • Tirumurai (canon of 12 works)
  • Meykandar Shastras (canon of 14 works)
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Krishna-karnamrita
In Lingayatism
In Kabir Panth
In Dadu Panth

Islam[edit]

11th Century North African Qur'an in the British Museum
Main article: Islamic holy books
  • 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, reports of the deeds and sayings of Muhammad.

Jainism[edit]

Main article: Jain Agamas
Svetambara
  • 11 Angas
    • Secondary
      • 12 Upangas, 4 Mula-sutras, 6 Cheda-sutras, 2 Culika-sutras, 10 Prakirnakas
Digambara
Nonsectarian/Nonspecific
  • Jina Vijaya
  • Tattvartha Sutra
  • GandhaHasti Mahabhashya (authoritative and oldest commentary on the Tattvartha Sutra)

Judaism[edit]

A Sefer Torah opened for liturgical use in a synagogue service
Rabbinic Judaism
See also: Rabbinic literature
Kabbalism
Hasidism
Karaite Judaism
Beta Israel

Konkokyo[edit]

  • Konkokyo Kyōten (Sacred Scriptures of Konkokyo)
    • Oshirase-Goto Obobe-Chō
    • Konko Daijin Oboegaki
    • Gorikai I
    • Gorikai II
    • Gorikai III[16]

Mandaeanism[edit]

  • The Ginza Rba
  • Book of the Zodiac
  • Qolusta, Canonical Prayerbook
  • Book of John the Baptizer
  • Diwan Abatur, Purgatories
  • 1012 Questions
  • Coronation of Shislam Rba
  • Baptism of Hibil Ziwa
  • Haran Gawaita

Manichaeism[edit]

  • 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
  • the Psalms and Prayers. A Coptic Manichaean Psalter, discovered in Egypt in the early 1900s, was edited and published by Charles Allberry from Manichaean manuscripts in the Chester Beatty collection and in the Berlin Academy, 1938–9.
  • The Shabuhragan
  • The Arzhang
  • The Kephalaia (Greek: Κεφάλαια), "Discourses", found in Coptic translation.

Maya religion[edit]

Meher Baba[edit]

Native American Church[edit]

  • The Bible (among Christian-leaning factions only)

New Age religions[edit]

Various New Age religions may regard any of the following texts as inspired:

Orphism[edit]

Raëlism[edit]

Rastafari movement[edit]

Ravidassia[edit]

Amritbani Satguru Ravidass Ji Ki-Holy Book of Ravidassia Religion

Samaritanism[edit]

Satanism[edit]

Science of Mind[edit]

Scientology[edit]

Shinto[edit]

Sikhism[edit]

Illuminated Guru Granth folio with Mul Mantar(basic religion mantra) with signature of Guru Gobind Singh.
Main article: Sikh scriptures

Spiritism[edit]

Sumerian[edit]

Swedenborgianism[edit]

The New Church
The General Church

Taoism[edit]

Tenrikyo[edit]

Thelema[edit]

Unarius Academy of Science[edit]

  • The Voice of Venus

Unification Church[edit]

Urantianism[edit]

Wicca[edit]

Yârsân[edit]

Yazidi[edit]

Yorùbá[edit]

Zoroastrianism[edit]

Yasna 28.1 (Bodleian MS J2)
  • 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 Zend (lit. commentaries), various commentaries on and translations of the Avesta.
    • The Khordeh Avesta, Zoroastrian prayer book for lay people from the Avesta.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Herling, Bradley (2016). A Beginner's Guide to the Study of Religion. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. vi. ISBN 978-1-4725-0692-4 – via Google Books. 
  2. ^ Griffiths, Paul J. (1999-05-13). Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195352207. 
  3. ^ Goody, Jack (1987). The Interface Between the Written and the Oral. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521332680 – via Google Books. 
  4. ^ 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 – via JSTOR. 
  5. ^ Sanders, Seth (2002). "Old Light on Moses' Shining Face". Vetus Testamentum. 52: 400–406 – via EbscoHost. 
  6. ^ Enheduanna; Meador, Betty De Shong (2009-08-01). Princess, priestess, poet: the Sumerian temple hymns of Enheduanna. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292719323. 
  7. ^ George, Andrew (2002-12-31). The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. Penguin. ISBN 9780140449198. 
  8. ^ "The Yahwist". Contradictions in the Bible. 2012-12-23. Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  9. ^ a b 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. 
  10. ^ "http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/press.html". www.historyguide.org. Retrieved 2016-12-06.  External link in |title= (help)
  11. ^ a b Ulrich, Eugene (2002). "The Notion and Definition of Canon". The Canon Debate. pp. 21–35. 
  12. ^ "scripture - definition of scripture in English | Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  13. ^ http://www.daotam.info/cdinans.htm
  14. ^ chondogyo.or.kr Archived February 18, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ http://www.konkokyo.or.jp/eng/bri/our_faith/sacred_scripture.html

External links[edit]