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.
Religious 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.
Christianity’s Religious Text
Christianity‘s Religious Texts combines the Jewish Old Testament with the New Testament to form the Christian Bible, which followers refer to as the Holy Scriptures. There are many noncanonical texts in the Christian religion as well. Some Christian denominations have additional or alternate holy scriptures, some with authoritativeness similar to the Old Testament and New Testament. In addition to main scriptures, some denominations have liturgical books for guidance to worship and prayers. Various Christian denominations have religious texts which define the doctrines of the group or set out laws which are considered binding. They are believed to be interpretations of divine revelations.
Islam’s Religious Texts
The Quran and the Hadith are the two major texts of Islam. These books teach and illustrate Islamic beliefs, values, and practices. They are also important historical documents (especially the Quran), which tell the story of the origins of the Islamic faith.
What is Hadith?
Judaism’s Religious Texts
Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic religions, and its primary sacred text is the Tanach, or the Jewish Bible, which is composed of the Pentateuch (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). Tanach is an acronym for these three books.
Buddhism’s Sacred Texts
Buddhist Texts are those religious texts which are part of the Buddhist tradition. The first Buddhist texts were initially passed on orally by Buddhist monastics, but were later written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages and collected into various Buddhist canons. These were then translated into other languages such as Buddhist Chinese (fójiào hànyǔ 佛教漢語) and Classical Tibetan as Buddhism spread outside of India.
Hinduism’s Sacred Texts
Hindu texts are manuscripts and historical literature related to any of the diverse traditions within Hinduism. A few texts are shared resources across these traditions and broadly considered as Hindu scriptures. These include the Vedas and the Upanishads. Scholars hesitate in defining the term “Hindu scripture” given the diverse nature of Hinduism, many include Bhagavad Gita and Agamas as Hindu scriptures, while Dominic Goodall includes Bhagavata Purana and Yajnavalkya Smriti to the list of Hindu scriptures.
Jainism’s Sacred Texts
Sikhism’s Sacred Texts