Religious 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.

Sacred Texts

Holy Books

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.

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

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
Mevlevi Order

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
Alevism

Baháʼí Faith

Judaism

Rabbinic Judaism

Hasidic Judaism

Early texts:

Foundational texts of various Hasidic sects:

Haymanot

Kabbalism

Non-rabbinic Judaism

Karaite Judaism

    • The Tanakh

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

  • 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

Main article: Indian Literature

Buddhism

Main article: Buddhism’s Sacred Texts

Theravada Buddhism
East Asian Mahayana
Tibetan Buddhism

Hinduism

Main article: Hinduism’s Sacred Texts

Shruti

Smriti
In Purva Mimamsa
In Vedanta (Uttar Mimamsa)
In Yoga
In Samkhya
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
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


East Asian religions

Confucianism

Taoism

Shintoism

Main article: Shinto Holy Books


Indigenous (ethnic, folk) religions

Pre-Columbian Americas

Ethnic religions


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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