All mods: what works make up are your religious texts/scriptures?
Roman polytheism has no “official” religious text; in fact, many religions are not text-based. However, I draw inspiration from ancient moral philosophers like Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius, from modern texts like A World Full of Gods by John Michael Greer, and even, believe it or not, certain texts by Friedrich Nietzche.
Though Hellenistic (and most other forms of) polytheism doesn’t have any official scriptures, both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians had several unofficial ‘rulebooks’ on how to lead an ideal, moral life - for the former, we have the Delphic Maxims and the Golden Verses, and for the latter the Negative Confessions. It can be difficult to know how seriously the ancients actually took these, or how widespread the texts themselves were, but they basically boil down to the concepts of arete (virtue/excellence, which is also intertwined with the concepts of eusebia [piety] and xenia [hospitality]) and ma’at (justice/balance), respectively. These concepts were absolutely essential to religious and social life and would have been understood by everyone, even if they were illiterate and/or unaware of the formal texts. Personally I also ascribe to the beliefs of Orphism, a specifically Hellenistic sect which has its own set of taboos and funerary traditions, a hymnal containing a slightly different understanding of the Greek pantheon, and a Theogony which differs from Hesiod’s description of the origins of the gods (the ‘mainstream’ version most of us are probably familiar with).
The myths, of course, while important for teaching us about the nature of the gods and about what constitutes goodness and right action, have many different versions depending on the writer and they’re not exactly standardized scriptures - nor are they meant to be taken literally, in my opinion; they’re parables which impart knowledge and lessons to the reader, but I generally don’t think they happened exactly as described, if at all. Other practitioners may feel differently, of course, and it’s again hard to know how the ancients felt on the matter of literalism. Similarly, the Egyptians had The Book of Coming Forth By Day (also called The Book of the Dead) as well as a number of other funerary and magical texts from at least the time of the New Kingdom which described the afterlife and outlined what a person must do to join the gods in the Duat (underworld). However there’s no single canonical version of it which every person absolutely ascribed to, and throughout the Old and Middle Kingdoms beliefs regarding the gods and the afterlife changed quite drastically (the unification of Egypt in the Early Dynastic Period is the point at which ancient Egyptian religion is described as becoming ‘democratized’, because in earlier generations it was believed that the average person had little chance of travelling to the Duat and an afterlife was guaranteed only for royalty; from the New Kingdom on, though, beliefs changed relatively little).
Ancient texts and understandings of the gods changed over time and place and politics, and we really have no way of knowing whether the version(s) that survived are the ‘true’ or most popular ones. That’s certainly not to say that what has survived is unimportant, but I wouldn’t describe my religion as really having scripture - it’s primarily based upon mythic and historical research, things which can be interpreted differently by different people.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have a few texts that are collectively called Scriptures. These are the standard works of the church.
The Holy Bible:
King James Version, featuring the Old Testament and New Testament.
The Book of Mormon:
Another testament of Jesus Christ.
Doctrine & Covenants:
Contains revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith in the early years of the restoration of the church. Also contains some additions by later prophets.
Pearl of Great Price:
Further revelations, translations and narrations of the prophet Joseph Smith.
In addition, the words of prophets delivered through the Spirit during General Conference (a worldwide church event where the prophet, apostles and many church leaders address church members to teach, inspire and deliver prophecy) are considered Latter-Day Scripture.
The United Church of Christ considers the Old Testament and the New Testament as its scripture, though are quite liberal when it comes to application. The UCC typically approaches its holy text with the phrase “Take the Bible seriously, not literally.”
Within my family structure, we include various Apocrypha (mostly rejected “Gnostic” writings) as relevant religious texts alongside the canonical Christian scriptures. Personally, my faith mostly derives from the The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Philip, respectively.
Hey! Most Protestants consider the Old and New Testaments of the Bible authoritative, as do I, and Anglicans, like Catholics, also include the Apocrypha in the scriptures. I consider those authoritative as well. Like Lydia, I take the Bible “‘seriously but not literally” and think it is good, useful, and true in a broad sense, but I don’t think it’s God’s Official Opinion or a faultless treatise on world history.
Hey there! First off, Judaism’s big book is the Torah, or, as it is sometimes called by Christians, the Old Testament. The Torah, which is a part of the Tanakh, is accompanied by the Nevi’im and Ketuvim. The name Mikra, meaning “that which is read,” is another word for the Tanakh.
The Nevi’im consists of the narrative books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and the Latter Prophets, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).
The Ketuvim consists of poetic books, called Sifrei Emet collectively and consisting of the Psalms, Book of Proverbs, and Book of Job, and the five scrolls consisting of the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Esther.
There is also a lot of rabbinic literature that has added to our understanding and interpretation of what is written in our texts. The Midrash is the early interpretations and commentaries on the written Torah and Torah as it was orally told. There’s also some commentary on halakha, or Jewish Law. All these different interpretations form a running commentary on specific passages found in the Tanakh.
Similar to the Midrash is the Targumim, which were spoken paraphrases, explanations, and expansions of the Tanakh that a rabbi would give in Aramaic. As translations, they largely reflect midrashic interpretation of the Tanakh.
Now, Halakha is the collection of Jewish laws derived from written and oral Torah, including the 613 mitzvot, Talmundic and rabbinic laws, and the customs and traditions compiled in the Code of Jewish Law. Halakha can be interpreted as by the book or as loosely as possible, which is responsible for some of the divisions in the sects of Judaism. Halakha is not only a guide to religious practices, but to everyday life as well.
The Mishnah was written to teach the oral traditions by example, presenting cases brought to judgment with a debate on the matter and the judgment given by a rabbi based on Halakha, mitzvot, and Torah that guided the final decision. Basically, it’s sort of a legal tool but gives great insight as to how the different teachings can cross over from page to real life.
The most important holy book in Islam is the Qu’ran, which also contains portions of the Gospel (al-Injil), Book of Psalms, (Zabur), and Torah (Tawrat). This is followed in importance by the sayings of the Prophet, the hadith.
Works that chronicle the life of the Prophet and explanations of the Quran (called tasfir) are considered very important, although not holy in of themselves. There a lot of tasfir, so it depends on who you like!
Additionally, for Shia Muslims the collected sermons/sayings of the family of the Prophet, ahl al-bayt, such as Ali ibn Abi Talib’s Nahj-ul Balāghah or The Peak of Eloquence, and Book of Fatima are central guidelines to faith and theology, more here.
There are many more books that are important to the specific beliefs and practices of various Islamic sects – for instance, the Mevlevi Order, based around the works of Rumi would naturally consider Rumi’s works as central to their faith, while the Ahmadiyya Muslim community would consider their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s works central to theirs.
There is only one source of scripture for Sikhs, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which can be shortened to SGGS or just “the Granth” (Granth = book). To call the Granth simply our “scripture” or “holy book” doesn’t quite do it justice. The Granth is treated and revered as if it were a living, breathing person. Every Gurdwara (Sikh temple) is simply anywhere where a copy of the Granth is found. We sit the Guru on a bed, leave flowers and decorations, bow at its “feet” when we meet it, talk to it about our problems and lives, fan it during the day and carry it to bed in its own room at night. We cover our heads, remove our shoes, and wash our hands in its presence as a sign of respect, and we never turn our backs to it. The Granth’s presence sanctifies Sikh ceremonies and rites of passage like birth, marriage, death, and the giving of a child’s name. It’s a lot more than just a holy book, it’s also our Eleventh Eternal Guru, and we respect and care for it the same way Sikhs used to respect the ten human Gurus before the Granth. It’s made of 1,430 pages of hymns (shabads) which are meant to be sung in a devotional style called kirtan in order to bring the reader closer to the Divine through music. Most of the Granth contains the compositions of six of the ten human Gurus, but the latter sections include the writings of some Sikh saints and a number of Hindu and Muslim poets and saints who lived and wrote before the time of the Gurus. Because of the intense respect afforded the Granth and how central it is to every aspect of Sikhi, you can’t just buy a copy of the Granth like you can the Bible or Qur’an, unless you plan to open a Gurdwara of your own in your house (which some Sikhs actually do, if they are able). You can read it online, though, but it’s still best to cover your head before you do and offer even digital renditions of the Granth the same respect as you would a physical copy.
There are a couple ancillary texts which aren’t considered “sacred” but which are important to the Sikh literary canon. The Dasam Granth (“tenth book”) includes the writings of the tenth and final human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, but it also includes many writings by Hindus and its overall authorship is contested. We don’t consider the Dasam Granth as a whole to be a holy text because of its controversial authorship, but select portions of the Dasam Granth which are known to have been written by Guru Gobind Singh are among the most important Sikh shabads and we recite several such shabads daily. There’s also controversy over certain themes found in the Dasam Granth which are sometimes claimed to be incompatible with Sikh teachings, particularly its references to Hindu polytheism (as opposed to Sikh monotheism) and certain sections which are interpreted by some as sexually explicit. A few Sikhs do still honor and respect the Dasam Granth, however, and in two of the five Takhts (Thrones, important places of Sikh authority) the Dasam Granth is displayed next to Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The Janam Sakhis (birth stories) are hagiographic stories by various authors which retell the life and history of Guru Nanak and the Gurus who succeeded him, similar in nature to the Muslim Hadiths or the Christian Gospels. They’re extremely ahistorical and again not sacred texts, and contain many contradictions, exaggerations, and factually inaccurate or questionable claims. (The B40 Janam Sakhi, for example, recounts a meeting in Baghdad between Guru Nanak and Sheikh Sharaf, who died centuries before the Guru was even born! It’s still my personal favorite of the Janam Sakhis but that’s for another post.) But they’re still important from a religious and historical perspective in that they inform us what life was probably like for the earliest Sikhs and they form the basis for the cultural mythology surrounding the lives and deeds of the Gurus. There are a handful of other important historical texts, most famously Guru Gobind Singh’s Zafarnama, a letter written to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (who had carried out a mass genocide against the Sikhs and nearly eliminated the entire Sikh population).
Finally, the Rehat Maryada (Code of Discipline) is a recent document codified in the 1947 which formalizes the principles of Sikh discipline and code of conduct, especially for Amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs. The Granth is a purely devotional text and doesn’t proscribe any laws or mandates for Sikhs, so the Rehat Maryada was written to formalize what is expected of Sikhs by other Sikhs. Most Sikh sects respect and adhere to the Rehat Maryada, but it’s not a sacred because it was written by ordinary Sikhs, not by any saints or Gurus.
For most contemporary Hindus, the sacred text is the Bhagavad Gita; it’s widely regarded as the culmination of all spiritual knowledge found in the four Vedas, the first and arguably even more revered texts than the Gita.However, in conjunction with the Gita, I also use the Vedas themselves, and the Upanishads, specifically the Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads. These are commentaries on the Vedas. I do also try to incorporate the truths found in other texts as well, such as the Bible and the Qur’an.