Sacred Texts Of Major World Religions

Sacred texts are incredibly important to followers of religion. They guide the adherents how to live and act, and also serve as records of religious history. There are several types of sacred writings, including scriptures, holy books, cannons, and apocrypha. Each type varies slightly in content and purpose, but all act as an authoritative guide for religious adherents.


Text from a Tablet of Baháʼu'lláh
Text from a Tablet of Baháʼu'lláh, rendered calligraphically by Mishkín-Qalam

The Bahá’i religion grew out of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, who was born in the early 18th century and was an Iranian nobleman who claimed to be the divinely ordained successor of Prophet Muhammad. He taught that all religions are part of God's plan for humanity's spiritual development and that there is one underlying reality that unites all faiths. Sacred texts of the Bahá’i religion include the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam; the Bible; and the writings of Bahá'u'lláh.


Buddhist monks reading scriptures
A young Buddhist monk reading a holy book in a monastery.

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, in the Iron Age. It is based on The Buddha's teachings and those of his followers. The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent and died in Kushinagar. Buddhism has played a significant role in Asian history. Sacred texts are an important part of the religion, providing guidance and teachings for followers. There are many different types of Buddhist sacred texts, each with its own purpose. The most famous Buddhist sacred text is the Diamond Sutra, a collection of the Buddha's sermons. Buddhists use this text as a guide to help them live their lives in accordance with the Buddha's teachings. Other important Buddhist sacred texts include the Lotus Sutra, a collection of the Buddha's wisdom, and the Heart Sutra, a summary of Buddhist doctrine's main points. Buddhists use these texts to gain a deeper understanding of their religion.


Bible in church
A Bible in a Church.

Christians believe in one God who has revealed himself through Sacred texts. Christians divide them into two portions, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The old testament is the Hebrew bible which Christians see as divinely inspired. The new testament is a collection of 27 books, including the Gospels, Acts, and letters from various early Christian leaders. Christians view these texts as holy writings or the word of God. Sacred texts are an important part of the Christian faith because they provide guidance and insight into the will of God. Christians believe that by reading and studying the Bible, they can better understand the mind and heart of God. Sacred texts also play an important role in worship, as they are often used in preaching and teaching.


Hindu monk reading scripture
A Hindu monk reading the holy scriptures by a temple along a river.

Hinduism was founded in India and is the oldest religion in the world. Sacred texts include the Vedas and the Upanishads, and also the Bhagavad Gita. These texts are holy writing that contains Hindu teachings, laws, and philosophies. Hindus believe in reincarnation and karma. This means that a person's soul goes through a cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Good deeds and bad deeds determine how the soul is reborn. Hindus also believe in Dharma, which is living according to cosmic law and order. Sanatana Dharma is the eternal way of living. It is the path that leads to liberation from rebirth. Hinduism aims to achieve Moksha, which is the release from the cycle of rebirth and reunion with the divine.


Quran in mosque
The Holy Quran in a mosque.

Islam is a religion that began in the 7th century with the Prophet Muhammad. It is the second-largest religion in the world, with over 1.6 billion followers. The word Islam means submission to God. Muslims believe that there is only one God and that Muhammad is his messenger. Sacred texts for Muslims include the Quran, which is considered the word of God, and the Hadith, which is a record of the sayings and actions of Muhammad.


Jain scriptures
A Jain devotee reads the scriptures before making votive offerings of rice during Caturmas festival of Jainism.

Jainism was founded in ancient India by Vardhamana Jnatiputra. Jainism teaches that the universe is eternal and that every living being has an immortal soul. The most sacred texts are the Agam Sutras, a collection of scriptures. These scriptures contain the teachings of the Jain Tirthankaras, who are believed to be enlightened beings. Other sacred texts include the scriptures of the Digambara and Svetambara sects of Jainism. Jains do not believe in a personal god. Instead, they worship the Tirthankaras, who are enlightened beings that have attained liberation from the cycle of birth and death. 


torah judaism
A Jewish boy reading the Torah.

Judaism teaches that there is one God who created and rules the world. Jews are His chosen people tasked with representing Him in the world and bringing His message of ethical monotheism to all humanity. Sacred texts include the Torah (the Five Books of Moses), the Prophets, and the Writings. The Talmud is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism and is studied by all Jews.


Guru granth sahib
Sikh priest reading the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book). Editorial credit: Sumit Saraswat /

Sikhism was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak. It is a monotheistic religion that believes in one God and teaches the equality of all humans. The Sacred texts of Sikhism are the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is the holy writing of the Sikh Gurus, and the Dasam Granth, which is a collection of writings by Guru Gobind Singh.


The yin yang is a symbolic representation of the world's polarities and is important in Taoism.

Taoism is a religion that worships the Tao, or the "Way" adherents believe in following the Tao to achieve harmony with the natural world. The Tao is seen as the driving force behind all things, so Taoists seek to live following it. This may involve practices such as meditation, feng shui, or acupuncture. Taoism Sacred Texts include the Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi. The Tao Te Ching is a holy writing that contains the teachings of Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism. The Zhuangzi is another holy writing that includes the instructions of Zhuang Zhou, a disciple of Lao Tzu.


fire temple
A Zoroastrian Fire temple Ateshgah in Azerbaijan.

Zoroastrianism believes in one God, Ahura Mazda, and the seven holy immortals referred to as Amesha Spenta. Sacred texts include the Avesta, a collection of holy writings, and the Gathas, hymns composed by Zoroaster himself. The religion of Zoroastrianism has three central tenets: good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Zoroastrians are also required to perform certain rituals, such as prayer and fasting, and to participate in the six seasonal festivals.

Most religions have some sacred text that is considered to be holy writings. Sacred texts are important to religion because they guide believers. They can also be a source of comfort and inspiration. Sacred texts can be used to settle disputes and teach new generations about the religion's beliefs. In short, sacred texts are essential to the practice of any religion.