Religious text

Religious text

Religious texts, also known as Sacred Scripture, 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 inspired.

The Rigveda of Hinduism is proposed to have been composed between 1700–1100 BC [The oldest mention of Rigveda in other sources dates from 600 BCE, and the oldest available text from 1,200 CE. Oberlies (1998:155) gives an estimate of 1100 BC for the youngest hymns in book 10. Estimates for a "terminus post quem" of the earliest hymns are far more uncertain. Oberlies (p. 158) based on 'cumulative evidence' sets wide range of 1700–1100. The EIEC (s.v. Indo-Iranian languages, p. 306) gives 1500–1000. It is certain that the hymns post-date Indo-Iranian separation of ca. 2000 BC and probably that of the Indo-Aryan Mitanni documents of c. 1400 BCE. Philological estimates tend to date the bulk of the text to the second half of the second millennium. Compare Max Müller's statement "the hymns of the Rig-Veda are said to date from 1500 B.C." ('Veda and Vedanta', 7th lecture in "India: What Can It Teach Us: A Course of Lectures Delivered Before the University of Cambridge", World Treasures of the Library of Congress Beginnings by Irene U. Chambers, Michael S. Roth. Some writers out of the mainstream claim to trace astronomical references in the Rigveda, dating it to as early as 4000 BC, a date corresponding to the Neolithic late Mehrgarh culture; summarized by Klaus Klostermaier in a [ 1998 presentation] ] 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 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. [ [ British Library] ]

Sacred texts of various religions


*The Poetic Edda, especially including the Hávamál
*The Younger Edda


* The Akilattirattu Ammanai
* The Arul Nool

Bahá'í Faith

* The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
*and many other writings including ones from other faiths


* Bon Kangyur and Tengyur


* Theravada Buddhism
** The Tipitaka aka Pali Canon
* East Asian Mahayana
** The Chinese Buddhist Tripitaka, including
*** Diamond Sutra
*** Pure Land Buddhism
**** Infinite Life Sutra
**** Amitabha Sutra
**** Contemplation Sutra
**** other Pure Land Sutras
*** Tiantai, Tendai, and Nichiren
**** Lotus Sutra
*** Shingon
**** Mahavairocana Sutra
**** Vajrasekhara Sutra
* Tibetan Buddhism
** Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur


* The Books of the Bible
* Some forms of Christianity:
** The Apocrypha
* Latter Day Saint denominations ("see also Standard Works"):
** The Book of Mormon
** The Pearl of Great Price
** The Doctrine and Covenants
* Cerdonianism and Marcionism
** Gospel of Marcion
** the Apostolicon (10 Letters of Paul)
* Paulicianism
** Gospel of Luke
** Pauline epistles
**Nag Hammadi library


* The Five Classics
* The Four Books


* The Principia Discordia
* The Apocrypha Discordia


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

Etruscan religion

* Cippus Perusinus
* Liber Linteus
* Pyrgi Tablets
* Tabula Cortonensis


* Hermetica, Emerald Tablet and associated writings


* Śruti
***Rig Veda
***Sama Veda
***Yajur Veda
***Atharva Veda
* Smriti
***Mahābhārata (including the Bhagavad Gita)
****Bhagavad Gita
**Puranas (List)
***Bhagavata Purana
**Sutras (List)
**Ashtavakra Gita
**Gherand Samhita
**Gita Govinda
**Hatha Yoga Pradipika
* In Purva Mimamsa
** Purva Mimamsa Sutras
* In Vedanta (Uttar Mimamsa)
** Brahma Sutras of Vyasa
* In Yoga
** Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
* In Samkhya
** Samkhya Sutras of Kapila
* In Nyaya
** Nyāya Sūtras of Gautama
* In Vaisheshika
** Vaisheshika Sutras of Kanada
* In Vaishnavism
** Vaikhanasa Samhitas
** Pancaratra Samhitas
* In Saktism
** Sakta Tantras
* In Kashmir Saivism
** 64 Bhairavagamas
** 28 Saiva Agamas
** Shiva Sutras
* In Pashupata Shaivism
** Pashupata Sutras of Lakulish
** Panchartha-bhashya of Kaundinya (a commentary on the Pashupata Sutras)
** Ganakarika
** Ratnatika of Bhasarvajna
* In Saiva Siddhanta
** 28 Saiva Agamas
** Tirumurai (canon of 12 works)
** Meykandar Shastras (canon of 14 works)
* In Gaudiya Vaishnavism
** Brahma Samhita
** Jayadeva's Gita Govinda
** Krishna-karnamrita
** Chaitanya Bhagavata
** Chaitanya Charitamrita
** Prema-bhakti-candrika
** Hari-bhakti-vilasa
* In Kabir Panth
** poems of Kabir
* In Dadu Panth
** poems of Dadu


* Qur'an (Islamic Scripture, Al-Quran, 'the Recitation')
* Hadith (sayings and actions of Muhammad)
* Kitab al Majmu (Arabic: كتاب المجموع‎) is a holy book of the Alawite sect of Islam.


* Svetambara
** 11 Angas
*** Secondary
**** 12 Upangas, 4 Mula-sutras, 6 Cheda-sutras, 2 Culika-sutras, 10 Prakirnakas
* Digambara
** Karmaprabhrita, also called Satkhandagama
** Kashayaprabhrita
* Nonsectarian/Nonspecific
** Jina Vijaya
** Tattvartha Sutra
** GandhaHasti Mahabhashya (authoratative and oldest commentary on the Tattvartha Sutra)


* The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)
** Torah
** Nevi'im
** Ketuvim
* The Talmud
** Mishnah
** Gemara


* Siddhanta Shikhamani
* Vachanas
* Mantra Gopya
* Shoonya Sampadane
* 28 Shaivite Agamas
* Karana Hasuge
* Basava Purana


* 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


* The Arzhang

Meher Baba

* God Speaks


* Indigenous and Aboriginal mythologies

New Age religions

Various New Age religions may regard any of the following texts as inspired:
* A Course in Miracles
* Conversations with God
* Oahspe
* The Bible
* The Gnostic Gospels
* The Urantia Book

Orphism (religion)

* The Orphic Poems


* The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Rastafari movement

* The Bible
* the Holy Piby
* the Kebra Negast
* The speeches and writings of Haile Selassie I
* Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy


* The Samaritan Pentateuch


* The Satanic Bible


* List of Scientology texts


* The Guru Granth Sahib
* The Dasam Granth Sahib


* The Kojiki
* The Nihon Shoki or Nihongi


* The Spirits Book
** The Book of Mediums
** The Gospel According to Spiritism
** Heaven and Hell
** The Genesis According to Spiritism


* The Bible
* The writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
* Some also consider a number of posthumously published manuscripts of Swedenborg to also be sacred.


* Daozang
** The Tao Te Ching
** The Zhuangzi


* The Holy Books of Thelema especially Liber Al vel Legis

Unification Church

* Divine Principle
* Wolli Hesul ("Explanation of the Divine Principle")
* Wolli Kangron ("Exposition of the Divine Principle")


* Primary religious texts, that is, the Avesta collection:
** The Yasna, the primary liturgical collection, includes the "Gathas".
** The Visparad, 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 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 Mainog-i-Khirad, (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 (modern Persian, traditional treatises).
* For general use by the laity:
** The Zend (lit. commentaries), various commentaries on and translations of the Avesta.
** The Khordeh Avesta, a collection of everyday prayers from the Avesta.


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

Other terms are often by adherents to describe the canonical works of their religion. In the United States, terms like 'Holy Writ' and others are used by some Christian groups (including the King-James-Only Movement) to describe the Christian Bible or, less often, by Muslim groups to describe the Qur'an.

Another term is 'Holy Scripture' or 'Sacred Scripture', used 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 (Greek ιερος, hieros, "sacred" or "holy", + γραφος, graphos, "writing", + λογος, 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. The hierographology of the Qur'an can be particularly controversial, especially when questioning the accuracy of Islamic traditions about the text.


External links

* [ Ancient texts library]
* [ Internet Sacred Texts Archive]

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