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 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.
Sacred texts of various religions
- Rasa'il al-hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom)
- 11 Angas
- 12 Upangas, 4 Mula-sutras, 6 Cheda-sutras, 2 Culika-sutras, 10 Prakirnakas
- 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
New Age religions
Various New Age
religions may regard any of the following texts as inspired:
- The Bible
- The writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
- Some also consider a number of posthumously published manuscripts of Swedenborg to also be sacred.
- 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 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.
ιερος, hieros, "sacred" or "holy", + γραφος, graphos, "writing", + λογος, logos, "word" or "reason") (archaically
') 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.