RELIGIOUS SCRIPTURES THROUGH AGES

Religious scriptures may be used to evoke a deeper connection with the divine, convey spiritual truths, promote mystical experience, foster communal identity and to guide individual and communal spiritual practice. Many religions believe that their scriptures originated from divine inspiration. The monotheistic faiths view their sacred texts as the ‘Word of Ultimate Universal’ and ‘Divine Revelation’.

The scriptures of the world’s religions have provided humanity with some of the most sublime and profound philosophical insights, spiritual ideals and values that have shaped the moral and spiritual development of humankind. The lofty ideas found in religious texts have shaped the identity of entire peoples, provided the content for their legal codes, offered individuals as well as communities meaning to life and explained the purpose along with the destination of life’s journey for countless followers. The impact of scriptures on world cultures has been and still is immeasurable.
Religious Scriptures in oral form have been an important part of human culture since the beginning of civilization. From the dawn of humanity, humans have attempted to make sense of the cosmos and to explain humanity’s place in it. Sacred stories arose to account for the bewildering variety of phenomena and feelings that comprise the human experience. Such stories developed cosmic significance and gave rise to the different religions and mythologies of the world’s cultures.
Thus, the earliest use of scriptures was not in the form of written texts but ancient oral stories handed down from one generation to the next. Many ancient preliterate cultures (and some modern ones) did not place a strong emphasis on recording their ‘truths’ in written documents, preferring instead to honour their sacred stories through oral memorization and transmission. In ancient India, for example, the body of sacred literature known as Smriti was handed down orally among the Hindus before eventually being written down.
In the time before literacy was widespread, the average lay adherent of any religion would likely come to know the sacred stories of their own tradition through folklore, worship and ritual practices or from literate members of the clergy who would read passages from their scriptures. While those able to read and explain the scriptures were held in high esteem, those who could recite them from memory even more so. Religious instruction in the ancient Brahmin caste of India included a set of mnemonic tools that helped students to memorize the ritual formulae found in the Vedas, which were written down relatively late in history. Similar (but unrelated) systems were used in the recording of the Qua’ran. The Hebrew Bible, recorded in the ancient Hebrew language, is in its original rendering written in such a way that it is recited with a most pleasing rhythm. The ascendancy of written scriptures in the world’s religions developed along side the continuation of oral traditions.

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