Outline of Sacred Texts

Religious texts or sacred texts (also known as scripture, or scriptures, from the Latin scriptura, meaning “writing”) are texts which religious traditions consider to be central to their practice or 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 by itself. A core function of a religious text making it sacred is its 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.

History of Religious Texts

More: History of religionsTimeline of religion, and History of writing

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 2150-2000 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 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, though no actual evidence of this text exists prior to the 13th century AD.

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.

Jesus God Holy Spirit Bible Gospel Book Glow

Divine Book

Associated terminology

A religious canon refers to the generally accepted, uniform, and often unchanging collection of texts which a religious denomination considers comprehensive in terms of their specific application of texts. For example, the content of a Protestant Bible may differ from the content of a Catholic Bible – insofar as the Protestant Old Testament does not include the Deuterocanonical books while the Roman Catholic canon does. Protestants and Catholics use the same 27 book NT canon, as well as the same 39 book OT protocanon, also shared by Jews.

The word “canon” comes from the Sumerian word meaning “standard”.

The terms “scripture” and 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.

Sacred texts of various religions

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

Middle Eastern religions

Abrahamic religions

Christianity

The Bible

Main articles: Biblical canonChristian biblical canons, and Books of the Bible

The contents of Christian Bibles differ by denomination.

  • The Church of the East 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 contains the 5 disputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation) that were originally excluded.
  • Some Syrian Churches, regardless of whether they are Eastern Catholic, Nestorian, Oriental or Eastern Orthodox, accept the Letter of Baruch as scripture.

Latter Day Saint movement

Further information: Biblical canon § Latter Day Saint canons, and Standard works

Additional and alternate scriptures

Some Christian denominations have additional or alternate holy scriptures, some with authoritativeness similar to the Old Testament and New Testament.

  • The Unification Church includes the Divine Principle in its holy scriptures.
  • Gnostic Christianity rejected the narrative in Pauline Christianity that the arrival of Jesus had to do with the forgiveness of sins, and instead were concerned with illusion and enlightenment. Gnostic texts include Gnostic gospels about the life of Jesus, books attributed to various apostles, apocalyptic writings, and philosophical works. Though there is some overlap with some New Testament works, the rest were eventually considered heretical by Christian orthodoxy. Gnostics generally did not include the Old Testament as canon. They believed in two gods, one of which was Yahweh (generally considered evil), the author of the Hebrew Bible and god of the Jews, separate from a Supreme God who sent Jesus.

Liturgical books

Liturgical books are used to guide or script worship, and many are specific to a denomination.

Doctrines and laws

Further information: Christian theology and Biblical law in Christianity<

Various Christian denominations have texts which define the doctrines of the group or set out laws which are considered binding. The groups consider these to range in permanence from unquestionable interpretations of divine revelations to human decisions made for convenience or elucidation which are subject to reconsideration.

Islam

Main article: Islamic holy books and Islamic texts

  • 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 Quran are the Quran (revealed to Muhammad), the Tawrat (revealed to Musa), the Zabur (revealed to Dawud) and the Injil (revealed to Isa)

Sunni Islam

  • Other Hadith books

Shia Islam

  • Books on biography of Prophet Muhammad. There are thousands of biographies written, though unlike the Hadith collections, they are usually not accepted as canonical religious texts. Some of the more authentic and famous of them are:
  • 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.
Alawites
Mevlevi Order
Alevism
Baháʼí Faith

Judaism

Oral Torah development

Oral Torah development

Judaism’s Sacred texts

Written Torah
Oral Torah
  • Oral Torah
    • Talmud (as encompassing the main Oral Law)
      • Jerusalem Talmud
      • Babylonian Talmud
        • Mishnah, the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions known as the “Oral Torah“.
          • Gemara, rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah
          • Aggadah, a compendium of rabbinic texts that incorporates folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations, and practical advice in various spheres, from business to medicine.
    • Tosefta, a compilation of the Jewish oral law from the late 2nd century, the period of the Mishnah
    • Midrash, the genre of rabbinic literature which contains early interpretations and commentaries on the Written Torah and Oral Torah (spoken law and sermons), as well as non-legalistic rabbinic literature (aggadah) and occasionally the Jewish religious laws (Halakha), which usually form a running commentary on specific passages in the Hebrew Scripture (Tanakh).
  • Midrash Halakha
  • Mussar
  • Geonim, presidents of the two great Babylonian, Talmudic Academies of Sura and Pumbedita, in the Abbasid Caliphate, and generally accepted spiritual leaders of the Jewish community worldwide in the early medieval era
  • Rishonim, the leading rabbis and poskim who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries, in the era before the writing of the Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew: שׁוּלחָן עָרוּך, “Set Table”, a common printed code of Jewish law, 1563 CE) and following the Geonim (589-1038 CE)
  • Acharonim, the leading rabbis and poskim (Jewish legal decisors) living from roughly the 16th century to the present, and more specifically since the writing of the Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew: שׁוּלחָן עָרוּך, “Set Table”, a code of Jewish law) in 1563 CE.

Rabbinic literature

Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. But the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term Sifrut Hazal (ספרות חז”ל; “Literature [of our] sages [of] blessed memory,” where Hazal normally refers only to the sages of the Talmudic era). This more specific sense of “Rabbinic literature“—referring to the Talmudim, Midrash, and related writings, but hardly ever to later texts—is how the term is generally intended when used in contemporary academic writing. On the other hand, the terms meforshim and parshanim (commentaries/commentators) almost always refer to later, post-Talmudic writers of Rabbinic glosses on Biblical and Talmudic texts.

Mishnaic literature

The Mishnah and the Tosefta (compiled from materials pre-dating the year 200) are the earliest extant works of rabbinic literature, expounding and developing Judaism’s Oral Law, as well as ethical teachings. Following these came the two Talmuds:

The Midrash

The midrash is the genre of rabbinic literature which contains early interpretations and commentaries on the Written Torah and Oral Torah, as well as non-legalistic rabbinic literature (Aggadah) and occasionally the Jewish religious laws (halakha), which usually form a running commentary on specific passages in the Tanakh. The term midrash also can refer to a compilation of Midrashic teachings, in the form of legal, exegetical, homiletical, or narrative writing, often configured as a commentary on the Bible or Mishnah.

Later works by category

Major codes of Jewish law

Halakha

Jewish thought, mysticism and ethics

Early texts:

Foundational texts of various Hasidic sects:

Musar literature

Liturgy

Later rabbinic works by historical period

Works of the Geonim

The Geonim are the rabbis of Sura and Pumbeditha, in Babylon (650 – 1250) :

Works of the Rishonim (the “early” rabbinical commentators)

The Rishonim are the rabbis of the early medieval period (1000 – 1550), such as the following main examples:

Works of the Acharonim (the “later” rabbinical commentators)

The Acharonim are the rabbis from 1550 to the present day, such as the following main examples:

Meforshim

Meforshim is a Hebrew word meaning “(classical rabbinical) commentators” (or roughly meaning “exegetes“), and is used as a substitute for the correct word perushim which means “commentaries”. In Judaism this term refers to commentaries on The Torah (five books of Moses), Tanakh, the Mishnah, the Talmudresponsa, even the siddur (Jewish prayerbook), and more.
Classic Torah and Talmud commentaries

Classic Torah and/or Talmud commentaries have been written by the following individuals:

Jewish Science

  • The Tanakh
  • Jewish Science: Divine Healing in Judaism

Samaritanism

Iranian religions

Zoroastrianism
  • 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.
Yarsanism
Yazidi
  • 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
Druze

Satpanth

Main articles: Satpanth and Ginans

  • Ginans (the scriptures which contains the inner knowledge of Quran and Atharva veda which had lost in the original form of the two scriptures which had been corrupted too)
  • Dua (prayers)

 


Indian religions

Buddhism

See also: Buddhist texts

Theravada Buddhism
East Asian Mahayana
Tibetan Buddhism

Hinduism

Main article: Hinduism’s Sacred Texts

Śruti
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
  • Divyaprabandha
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

Jainism

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)
  • Four Anuyogas (they call them, the four vedas of jainism)

Sikhism

Main article: Sikh scriptures

Secondary disputed scripture


East Asian religions

Confucianism

Taoism

Shinto


Indigenous (ethnic, folk) religions

Pre-Columbian Americas

Ethnic religions


New religious movements

Further information: New religious movements

  • 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
  • Caodaism
    • 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)
  • Cheondoism
    • The Donghak Scripture
    • The Songs of Yongdam
    • The Sermons of Master Haeweol
    • The Sermons of Revered Teacher Euiam
  • Konkokyo
    • Oshirase-Goto Obobe-Chō
    • Konko Daijin Oboegaki
    • Gorikai I
    • Gorikai II
    • Gorikai III
  • Meivazhi
    • The four vedas of Meivazhi
      • Āti mey utaya pūrana veētāntam
      • Āntavarkal mānmiyam
      • Eman pātar atipatu tiru meyññanak koral
      • Eman pātar atipatu kotāyūtak kūr

Historical religions

Bronze Age

Ancient Egyptian religion
Sumerian religion

Classical antiquity

External links

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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