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Most modern religions are dased on or supported by extensive religious literature. Commonly there is a main text such as the Bible in Christianity, the Torah in Judaism. These are then supported by extensive commentaries and a wide range of other literature.

Most religions have religious texts they view as sacred. Many religions and spiritual movements believe that their sacred texts are wholly divine or spiritually inspired in origin. The names of sacred scriptures are often capitalized as a mark of respect or tradition.

The Rigveda of Hinduism was likely composed between roughly 1500–1300 BCE, making it one of the world's oldest religious texts [How to reference and link to summary or text]. 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 (roughly contemporary to the Brahmana period of Vedic Sanskrit)[How to reference and link to summary or text].

The first printed scripture 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 868AD

In English language, the term scriptures can be used to describe any religion's sacred text as in Hindu scriptures, Jewish scriptures, etc. but when capitalized, in English literature, the word Scriptures generally refers to the sacred texts of the Bible, also referred to as Holy Scripture.


Sacred texts of various religions:


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

Bahá'í Faith

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



  • The Bible
  • In some forms of Christianity:
    • The Apocrypha
    • The Kolbrin Bible
  • In the Latter Day Saint denominations:
    • The Book of Mormon
    • The Pearl of Great Price
    • The Doctrine and Covenants


  • The Principia Discordia

Etruscan religion

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


The Bhagvad Gita is Lord Krishna's counsel to Arjuna on the battlefield of the Kurukshetra.


  • Basava Purana
  • Vachanas
  • Mantra Gopya
  • Shoonya Sampadane
  • Chennabasavanna's Karana Hasuge
  • some of the Shaivite Agamas


  • Qur'an (Islamic Scripture, Al-Kitab, 'the Book')
  • Hadith (sayings and doings of Muhammad)
  • Nahj al Balagha In Shi'a Islam


  • In Shvetambara
    • 11 Angas
      • Secondary
        • 12 Upangas, 4 Mula-sutras, 6 Cheda-sutras, 2 Culika-sutras, 10 Prakirnakas
  • In Digambara
    • Karmaprabhrita, also called Shatkhandagama
    • Kashayaprabhrita



  • The Ginza Rba
  • Book of the Zodiac
  • Qulasta, Canonical Prayerbook
  • Book of John the Baptizer
  • Diwan Abatur, Purgatories
  • 1012 Questions
  • Coronation of Shislam Rba
  • Baptism of Hibil Ziwa


  • The Arzhang

New Age religions

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

  • Course in Miracles
  • Conversations with God
  • Oahspe
  • The Bible
  • The Gnostic Gospels
  • The Urantia Book

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


  • 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 Book of the SubGenius


  • 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 Chuang Tzu
  • The I Ching


  • 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)


  • The Katha (The Gathas of Zarathushtra)
  • Primary:
    • The Avesta collection of texts:
      • 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).
  • Secondary:
    • The Dēnkard (middle Persian, 'Acts of Religion'),
    • The Bundahishn, (middle Persian, 'Original Creation')
    • The Mainog-i-Khirad (middle Persian, 'Spirit of Wisdom')
    • The Arda Viraf Namak (middle Persian, 'The Book of Arda Viraf')
    • The Zartushtnamah (modern Persian, 'Book of Zoroaster')
    • 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. Monotheistic religions often 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 paramouncy. Some religions make texts available gratis or in subsidised 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 the Abrahamic religions and their offshoots appear to favour chapter and verse pointers.

Other Terminology

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 (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 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.

See also

External links

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