Sacred Texts in World Religions
Some sacred texts form the cornerstone of a religion, instilling law, character and spirituality in its people; some are narratives of historical figures in the faith. A text might be viewed as the unchanging “Word of God;” other texts are revised and expanded by later generations. Texts can be literal, or metaphorical, or both. This guide shows you how to find online versions, commentary and historical context of scriptures for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
The Buddhist canon consists of the Sutras: the words and teachings of the Buddha. There are also a ... read more »
Christianity combines the Jewish Old Testament with the New Testament to form the Christian Bible, ... read more »
The Vedas, or “Books of Knowledge,” are the foremost sacred texts in Hinduism. These ... read more »
As the third of the Abrahamic religions, Muslims respect the Old and New Testaments, and consider ... read more »
Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic religions, and its primary sacred text is the Tanach, or the Jewish Bible, which is composed of the Pentateuch (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi'im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). Tanach is an acronym for these three books. Learn all about the Tenach and Jewish commentaries in the links below.
To learn about Jewish texts …
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
provides a comprehensive explanation of Judaism’s sacred texts, as well as historical synopses about the commentaries or interpretive books written by scholars to explain the sacred texts.
The Jewish Virtual Library
has an article discussing ancient Jewish writings not included in the Tanach. It explores the history and significance of the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and describes how they relate to the Tanach.
To access Jewish texts and commentary …
Navigating the Bible II
's excellent Torah
tool displays the original Hebrew with n'kudot (vowel marks) section by section alongside the English translation and transliteration. Click on the speaker symbol next to any Hebrew line to hear an audio recording of the line. This tool is also available with Russian and Spanish translations. Look for additional tools for Torah study, genealogy, the Jewish calendar and more.
’s online version of “Classic Jewish Texts” shares much of the same information as the site above but with a cleaner layout and superior navigability. The site also includes the texts of Jewish prayers as well as books containing commentary, advice and wisdom.
The Jewish Theological Seminary
lets you follow along with the Torah portions that are read each week in synagogue, supplemented with commentary from selected Rabbis. If you’re not familiar with the Torah, then this Web page may be difficult to understand and follow.
The British Library
presents an eclectic mix of Jewish texts throughout the ages. View a Torah found in China
from 1643–63 or a 14th-century Barcelona Haggadah
. See vivid images of these historical writings and read short summaries explaining what they are. An interesting feature allows you to virtually turn the pages
of some of the books; follow the directions to download the appropriate plug-ins.
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