The Scriptures of Mankind: An Introduction by Charles Samuel Braden
Dr. Braden was Professor of History and Literature of Religions at Northwestern University (1952). Published by The MacMillan Company, New York, copyright 1952 by Charles S. Braden. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.
Heavy dependence upon the labors of specialists in several religious fields is necessary in writing a book on so many different religions. The author records his deep indebtedness to various scholars who have spent so much study and translation of the literature discussed here.
This writing includes all of the well known religions of the world except Greek and Roman. These cultures developed no sacred books of a canonical sort. Although it was intended to discuss these, time and publisher’s limitations precluded their inclusion.
Chapter 1:What is Sacred Literature?
Sacred literature is distinguished from the non-sacred, not by any criteria of style, literary form, or even content, but by the fact that in some way or other it has come to be thought of as divine in origin, and therefore set apart from other literatures and given an authority for faith and life quite surpassing that accorded to any other writings.
Chapter 2: Pre-literate Sacred Scriptures
Neither the Greeks nor the Romans, the Egyptians nor the Babylonians -- all highly literate cultures -- had what may be termed sacred books with a definitely limited canon, held to be the exclusive basis of religious faith. But all of them have writings which corresponded closely to various portions of sacred books as found in other religions.
Chapter 3: Egyptian Sacred Literature
The people of Egypt never reached the stage at which they formed a definitive canon of writings which served as the basis of their faith. But they did have a very extensive sacred literature which was highly influential in the expression of their faith, and to some extent in the determination of that faith. Why Egypt never reached the point of canonization of her scripture can be a matter of conjecture only.
Chapter 4: Babylonian Sacred Literature
It was of course known from the Bible that there had been a very close relationship between the civilizations of the Hebrews and the Babylonian-Assyrian people. Five types of Babylonian writings are discussed: (1) The Creation Story and the Flood Story, that is, the story of mythological beginnings; (2) hymns and prayers, including their penitential psalms; (3) ritual texts; (4) their legal code; and (5) omens, all of which find some correspondence in the Bibles of most people.
Chapter 5: The Sacred Literature of Hinduism
Four of the eleven principal living faiths of the world were born in India: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, and all have extensive sacred literatures. Hinduism itself? from which all the others have sprung, has a vast and highly variegated set of scriptures. In Hinduism it is to be found heights and depths of spiritual understanding that compare favorably with the best that have been found anywhere.
Chapter 6: The Sacred Literature of Buddhism
Buddhism started in India in the sixth century B.C., but has slowly disappeared from India and has become a world religion, found all over eastern Asia. The sacred literature of Buddhism is extensive--thousands of books. It is very much alive, and as our world grows smaller, the Western world will find its ways of thought and life influenced by Buddhism.
Chapter 7: The Sacred Literature of the Jains
Jainism stresses, more than either Buddhism or Hinduism, ascetic practice as a way to salvation, and its insistence on the principle of non-injury, Ahimsa, is more absolute and far-reaching than that of any segment of Hinduism or Buddhism which also hold it. The three jewels, right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct, afford the clue to the attainment of moksha, or salvation, which to the Jain, as to the Buddhist, meant release from the wheel of birth, on which one is held by the law of Karma.
Chapter 8: The Sacred Literature of the Sikhs
The Granth, the Sikh Bible, is not like most other sacred books in that it is exclusively in poetry. Sikhism represents a flowing together of the bhakti Hindu faith of Ramanuja and Ramanda, and Islamic mysticism represented by Sufism.
Chapter 9 The Sacred Literature of the Chinese
Insight into the religions of the Chinese: Confucianism with its high ethical standards; Taoism and its more mystical, other-worldly point of view. Unlike the West, in China there is no sharp separation into religious groups but rather a syncretism, so that the typical Chinese have in them something of both tendencies, and a feeling they can express themselves in either.
Chapter 10: The Sacred Literature of the Japanese
Shintoism is borrowed from the Chinese: Shen -- gods, and Tao -- way. Ancient history, the Nihongi, and Norito or Shjinto Rituals are outlined.
Chapter 11: The Sacred Literature of the Persians -- Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is little known and as a living faith no longer occupies a place of great importance, but it has been of enormous influence upon three of the main religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and therefore deserves to be better known. The canonical text, the Avesta is presented in its seven divisions: Yasna, Gathas, Visparad, Yashts, some other minor texts, the Vendidad, and some fragments.
Chapter 12: Hebreo-Christian Sacred Literature
To both Christian and Jews, the Old Testament is the word of God. To the conservative Christian, both the Old and New Testaments contain the word of God. Various interpretations of the Bible are discussed in three parts, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and various translations.
Chapter 13: The Sacred Literature of the Moslems
Unlike almost all sacred literature, the Koran was written by one man, Mohammed. He probably did not know how to read or write. His teachings were compiled after his death. Mohammed believed his visions were from God, hence the Koran is the Word of God. It includes regulations for community living -- laws of inheritance, responsibilities in marriage, care of orphans and the helpless. Through Mohammed, God was setting up his rule on earth -- a true theocracy.
Chapter 14: Modern Sacred Books
Numerous modern writings from various movements, mostly in the United States, are viewed, many unfamiliar (The New Day, Unveiled Mysteries, The Voice of I am....) , many well known (Christian Science, Mormonism) . It is expected that the advent of sacred writings will continue in the future.
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