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Sacred text

Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to their religious tradition. Many religions and spiritual movements believe that their sacred texts are divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired.

History of religious texts

The oldest known religious texts are Pyramid texts of Ancient Egypt that date to 2400-2300 BCE. The earliest form of the Phoenician alphabet found to date is the inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos. ( The Sumerian Temple Hymns [1]). The Epic of Gilgamesh from Sumer, with orgins as early as 2150-2000 BCE,[2]:41–42 is also one of the earliest literary works that includes various mythological figures.[2]:41–42 The Rigveda of Hinduism is proposed to have been composed between 1700–1100 BCE[3] making it possibly the world's oldest religious text still in use. The oldest portions of the Zoroastrian Avesta are believed to have been transmitted orally for centuries before they found written form, and although widely differing dates for Gathic Avestan (the language of the oldest texts) have been proposed, scholarly consensus floats at around 1000 BCE.

The majority of scholars agree that the Torah's composition took place over centuries.[4] From the late 19th century there was a general consensus around the documentary hypothesis, which suggests that the five books were created c.450 BCE by combining four originally independent sources, known as the Jahwist, or J (about 900 BCE), the Elohist, or E (about 800 BCE), the Deuteronomist, or D, (about 600 BCE), and the Priestly source, or P (about 500 BC).[5]

The first scripture printed for wide distribution to the masses was The Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist scripture, and is the earliest recorded example of a dated printed text, bearing the Chinese calendar date for 11 May 868 CE.[6]

Views

Attitudes to sacred texts differ. Some religions make written texts widely and freely available, while others hold that sacred secrets must remain hidden from all but the loyal and the initiate. Most religions promulgate policies defining the limits of the sacred texts and controlling or forbidding changes and additions. Some religions view their sacred texts as the "Word of God", often contending that the texts are inspired by God and as such not open to alteration. Translations of texts may receive official blessing, but an original sacred language often has de facto, absolute or exclusive paramountcy. Some religions make texts available free or in subsidized form; others require payment and the strict observance of copyright.

References to scriptures profit from standardisation: the Guru Granth Sahib (of Sikhism) always appears with standardised page numbering while many other religions (including the Abrahamic religions and their offshoots) favour chapter and verse pointers.

Other terms

Terms like "Holy Writ", "Holy Scripture" or "Sacred Scripture" are often used by adherents to describe the canonical works of their religion to denote the text's importance, its status as divine revelation, or, as in the case of many Christian groups, its complete inerrancy. Christianity is not alone in using this terminology to revere its sacred book; Islam holds the Qur'an in similar esteem, as does Hinduism the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita and Buddhism the sutras.

Hierographology

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.

Increasingly, sacred texts of many cultures are studied within academic contexts, primarily to increase understanding of other cultures, whether ancient or contemporary. Sometimes this involves the extension of the principles of higher criticism to the texts of many faiths. It may also involve a comparative study of religious texts.

Sacred texts of various religions

Adi Dam

  • The writings of Franklin Albert Jones aka 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

Ásatrú

Atenism

Ayyavazhi

Bahá'í Faith

Main article: Bahá'í literature

Books by Bahá'u'lláh

Bön

Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism
East Asian Mahayana
Tibetan Buddhism

Cheondoism

  • The Donghak Scripture
  • The Songs of Yongdam
  • The Sermons of Master Haeweol
  • The Sermons of Revered Teacher Euiam[7]

Christianity


Traditional Christendom
Christian Scientists
Gnosticism
Cerdonianism and Marcionism


Jehovah's Witnesses
Latter Day Saint movement
Further information: Standard Works and Biblical canon § Latter Day Saint canons
Native American Church (Christian-leaning factions)
See below.
Rastafari movement
See below.
Seventh-day Adventists
Swedenborgianism
See below.
Unification Church
See below.

Confucianism

Discordianism

Druidism

Druze

  • Rasa'il al-hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom)

Ancient Egyptian religion


Old Kingdom
First Intermediate Period & Middle Kingdom
Second Intermediate Period

Etruscan religion


Ancient Greece

Hermeticism

Hinduism

Main article: Hindu 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
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

Main article: Islamic holy books
  • Quran (also referred to as Kuran, Koran, Qur’ān, Coran or al-Qur’ān)
  • Hadith/Sunnah (Sunnah, which consists of what Muhammad said, did, believed, implied, or tacitly approved, was noted down by his companions in Hadith.)

Jainism

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


Rabbinical Judaism
See also: Rabbinic literature
Kabbalah
Karaite Judaism
  • The Tanakh, i.e. the Hebrew Bible
Beta Israel

LaVeyan Satanism

Mandaeanism

  • 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

  • The Evangelion (Greek, Coptic: Ευαγγελιον, meaning roughly "good news"). Also known as the Gospel of Mani and The Living Gospel
  • the Treasure of Life
  • the Pragmateia (Coptic: 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 (Κεφαλαια), "Discourses", found in Coptic translation.

Meher Baba

Native American Church

  • The Bible (among Christian-leaning factions only)

New Age religions

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

Orphism

Raëlism

Rastafari movement

Ravidassia

Samaritanism

See also: Samaritan religious texts
  • The Samaritan Torah

Science of Mind

  • The Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes

Scientology

Shinto

Sikhism

Main article: Sikh scriptures

Spiritism

Sumerian

  • The Barton Cylinder

Swedenborgianism

The New Church
The General Church

Taoism

Tenrikyo

  • The Ofudesaki
  • The Mikagura-uta
  • The Osashizu

Thelema

Unification Church

Urantianism

Wicca

Yârsân

Yazidi

Yorùbá

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.

See also

References

External links

  • Religious full text online library
  • Ancient texts library
  • Internet Sacred Text Archive
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