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Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be
sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity; is considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspires awe or Reverence (emotion), reverence among believers. The property is often as ...

sacred
, or of central importance to their religious tradition. They differ from
literary texts
literary texts
by being a compilation or discussion of beliefs,
mythologies Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as Narrative, tales, p ...
, ritual practices, commandments or
laws Law is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as oppose ...
, ethical conduct, spiritual aspirations, and for creating or fostering a religious community. The relative authority of religious texts develops over time and is derived from the ratification, enforcement, and its use across generations. Some religious texts are accepted or categorized as
canonical Canonical may refer to: Science and technology * Canonical form In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geo ...
, some non-canonical, and others extracanonical, semi-canonical, deutero-canonical, pre-canonical or post-canonical. A scripture is a subset of religious texts considered to be "especially authoritative", revered and "holy writ", "sacred, canonical", or of "supreme authority, special status" to a religious community. The terms ''sacred text'' and ''religious text'' are not necessarily interchangeable in that some religious texts are believed to be
sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity; is considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspires awe or Reverence (emotion), reverence among believers. The property is often as ...

sacred
because of the belief in some theistic religions such as the
Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family ...

Abrahamic religions
that the text is
divinely
divinely
or
supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by such beings, including , , , , and . Th ...

supernatural
ly
revealed Reveal or Revealed may refer to: People * Reveal (rapper) (born 1983), member of the British hip hop group Poisonous Poets * James L. Reveal (1941–2015), American botanist Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * House of Night#Revealed, ''R ...

revealed
or divinely inspired, or in non-theistic religions such as some
Indian religions Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered soci ...
they are considered to be the central tenets of their eternal ''
Dharma Dharma (; sa, धर्म, dharma, ; pi, dhamma, italic=yes; ta, aṟam, italic=yes) is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the s ...
''. Many religious texts, in contrast, are simply narratives or discussions pertaining to the general themes, interpretations, practices, or important figures of the specific religion. In others (
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...

Christianity
), the canonical texts include a particular text (
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Gree ...

Bible
) but is "an unsettled question", according to
Eugene Nida Eugene A. Nida (November 11, 1914 – August 25, 2011) was an American linguist who developed the dynamic equivalence, dynamic-equivalence Bible translation, Bible-translation theory and one of the founders of the modern discipline of translat ...
. In yet others (
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions, which include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, ...

Hinduism
,
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
), there "has never been a definitive canon". While the term ''scripture'' is derived from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
''scriptura'', meaning "writing", most sacred scriptures of the world's major religions were originally a part of their
oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication Human communication, or anthroposemiotics, is the field dedicated to understanding how human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of prima ...
, and were "passed down through memorization from generation to generation until they were finally committed to writing", according to the ''Encyclopaedia Britannica''. Religious texts also serve a ceremonial and liturgical role, particularly in relation to sacred time, the
liturgical year The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgy, liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including Calendar of saints, celebrati ...

liturgical year
, the divine efficacy and subsequent holy service; in a more general sense, its performance.


Etymology and nomenclature

According to Peter Beal, the term ''scripture'' – derived from ''"scriptura"'' (Latin) – meant "writings anuscriptsin general" prior to the medieval era, then became "reserved to denote the texts of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible". Beyond Christianity, according to the ''Oxford World Encyclopedia'', the term "scripture" has referred to a text accepted to contain the "sacred writings of a religion", while ''The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions'' states it refers to a text "having eligiousauthority and often collected into an accepted canon". In modern times, this equation of the written word with religious texts is particular to the
English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), g ...

English language
, and is not retained in most other languages, which usually add an adjective like "
sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity; is considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspires awe or Reverence (emotion), reverence among believers. The property is often as ...

sacred
" to denote religious texts. Some religious texts are categorized as canonical, some non-canonical, and others extracanonical, semi-canonical, deutero-canonical, pre-canonical or post-canonical. The term "canon" is derived from the Greek word ''"κανών"'', "a cane used as a measuring instrument". It connotes the sense of "measure, standard, norm, rule". In the modern usage, a religious canon refers to a "catalogue of sacred scriptures" that is broadly accepted to "contain and agree with the rule or canon of a particular faith", states Juan Widow. The related terms such as "non-canonical", "extracanonical", "deuterocanonical" and others presume and are derived from "canon". These derived terms differentiate a corpus of religious texts from the "canonical" literature. At its root, this differentiation reflects the sects and conflicts that developed and branched off over time, the competitive "acceptance" of a common minimum over time and the "rejection" of interpretations, beliefs, rules or practices by one group of another related socio-religious group. The earliest reference to the term "canon" in the context of "a collection of sacred Scripture" is traceable to the 4th-century CE. The early references, such as the
Synod of Laodicea The Council of Laodicea was a regional Christian synod of approximately thirty clerics from Asia Minor which assembled about 363–364 AD in Laodicea on the Lycus, Laodicea, Phrygia, Phrygia Pacatiana. Historical context The council took place soon ...
, mention both the terms "canonical" and "non-canonical" in the context of religious texts.


History of religious texts

One of the oldest known religious texts is the Kesh Temple Hymn of ancient
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian language, Akkadian '; Sumerian language, Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian)from ''The ...

Sumer
, a set of inscribed clay tablets which scholars typically date around 2600 BCE. The
Epic of Gilgamesh The ''Epic of Gilgamesh'' () is an epic poem An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily involving a time beyond living memory in which occurred the extraordinary doings of the extraordinary men and women who, in dealings with ...
from
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian language, Akkadian '; Sumerian language, Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian)from ''The ...

Sumer
, although only considered by some scholars as a religious text, has origins as early as 2150 BCE, and stands as one of the earliest literary works that includes various
mythological Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as gods, demigods, and other supernatural figures ...
figures and themes of interaction with the divine. The ‘’
Rigveda The ''Rigveda'' or ''Rig Veda'' ( ', from ' "praise" and ' "knowledge") is an ancient Indian collection Collection or Collections may refer to: * Cash collection, the function of an accounts receivable department * Collection agency, ag ...
’’ – a scripture of
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions, which include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, ...

Hinduism
– is dated to between 1500–1200 BCE. It is one of the oldest known complete religious texts that has survived into the modern age. 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.


See also

*
List of religious texts The following is a non-exhaustive list of links to specific religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred Sacred describe ...


References


External links


The British Library: Discovering Sacred TextsReligious full text online libraryMessianic biblesThe Buddhist Scriptures Compared with the Bible
by Robert H. Krueger. {{DEFAULTSORT:Religious Text
Text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) In literary theory, a text is any object that can be "read", whether this object is a work of literature, a street sign, an arrangement of buildings on a city block, or styles of clothin ...
Text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) In literary theory, a text is any object that can be "read", whether this object is a work of literature, a street sign, an arrangement of buildings on a city block, or styles of clothin ...