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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 A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male d ...

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 Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundaries, ...
, 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 A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male d ...

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 people, Semitic-originated religions that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites and the worship of ...
that the text is divinely or
supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatural By definition, a supernatural manifestation or event requires a violation of physical law belie ...

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 religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions, which include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism,Adams, C. J.Classification of ...
they are considered to be the central tenets of their eternal ''
Dharma Dharma (; sa, धर्म, dharma, (Pali : ''dhamma'')) is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions, such as Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, ...
''. 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 la ...
), the canonical texts include a particular text (
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, Samaritans, Rastafari and others. It appears in the form of an anthology, a compilati ...
) but is "an unsettled question", according to
Eugene Nida Eugene A. Nida (November 11, 1914 – August 25, 2011) was a linguist who developed the dynamic equivalence, dynamic-equivalence Bible translation, Bible-translation theory and one of the founders of the modern discipline of translation studies ...
. In yet others (
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.2 billion followers, or 15–16% of the global population, known as Hindus. The word ''Hindu'' is ...

Hinduism
,
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and ...
), there "has never been a definitive canon". While the term ''scripture'' is derived from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...

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 primate ...
, 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 liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be obs ...

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 languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading language of international discourse in the 21st centu ...

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 A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male d ...

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 LaodiceaThe Council of Laodicea was a regional synod A synod () is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word '' synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous ...
, 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 '; Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian)from ''The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary''). ...

Sumer
, a set of inscribed clay tablets which scholars typically date around 2600 BCE. The
Epic of Gilgamesh Epic commonly refers to: * Epic poetry 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 the gods or o ...
from
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian '; Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian)from ''The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary''). ...

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 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 ...
figures and themes of interaction with the divine. The ‘’
Rigveda ) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century. After a scribal benediction ('), the first line has the first pada, RV 1.1.1a ('). The Vedic accent, pitch-accent is marked by underscores and vertical overscores in red. The ''Rigveda'' or ''Ri ...
’’ – a scripture of
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.2 billion followers, or 15–16% of the global population, known as Hindus. The word ''Hindu'' is ...

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


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) Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory), any object that can be read, including: **Religious text, a writing that a religious tradition considers to be sacred **Text, a ve ...
Text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory) Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory), any object that can be read, including: **Religious text, a writing that a religious tradition considers to be sacred **Text, a ve ...