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Sacred Writings of Major Religions
Friday, August 01, 2008


The Baha’i scriptures are the collected writings of Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah wrote the equivalent of 100 volumes of prayers, meditations, exhortations, principles of personal conduct, treatises, and epistles. These are used in both individual and congregate devotion and worship. The many writings of Bab and those of Abdul-Baha are also considered a sacred source of reference for Baha’is. In addition, Baha’is recognize the Bible, the Qur’an, and the holy texts of the world’s other revealed religions as sacred.

Principal works that have been published in English include:

1. The heart of Baha’u’llah’s ethical teachings, a book entitled Hidden Words
2. Baha’u’llah’s principal doctrine, contained in the Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude)
3. Baha’u’llah’s mystical writings - the Seven Valleys and Four Valleys
4. The Kitab-i-Aqbdas (the Most Holy Book), the chief repository of laws and institutions that Baha’u’llah prescribed for a future world civilization
5. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, a compilation of representative passages on a wide variety of subjects
6. Prayers and Meditations


The modern Buddhist Canons are primarily derived from two ancient sources, the Buddhist Canon written in Pali and the Buddhist Canon written in Sanskrit. The Buddha’s writings were translated into many different languages, but three are more thorough and complete than others. These are the writings written in the Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan languages. They are the bases for the Buddhist Canons. There is some overlap of content in the three Canons. The length of each Canon allows for differences among the Buddhist traditions.

1. The Pali Canon or Tripitaka is a collection of Pali language texts which form the doctrinal basis of Theravada Buddhism. The three divisions of the Tripitaka are:

a. Vinaya Pitaka – A collection of texts describing the rules of conduct primarily for the community of ordained monks and nuns.
b. Sutta Pitaka – A collection of discourses, attributed to the Buddha and several of his closest, disciples, which form the basis of Theravada Buddhism.
c. Abidharma Pitaka – A collection of texts in which the underlying principles found in the Sutta Pitaka are systematized. This collection is an analytical and methodological elaboration of the Vinaya Pitaka and Sutta Pitaka.
d. Perhaps the best known work in the Pali Canon is the Dharmapada, an anthology of maxims arranged in 423 stranzas.

2. The Tibetan Canon is a collection that describes the teachings and understanding of the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. This is the longest of the three Canons. The Tibetan Canon consists of two major divisions:

a. Kanjur: This collection of 98 volumes is said to consist of the words or sayings of the Buddha and has six subdivisions.
b. Tanjur: This collection of 224 volumes (3626 texts) is a supplement to the Kanjur. Among the works is a collection of stories and commentaries on the tantra section of the Kanjur.

3. The Chinese Canon (the now standard modern edition is known as the Taisho Shinsu Daizokyo) contains 55 volumes with 2184 texts, along with a supplement of 45 additional volumes. One of these volumes could contain the entire Pali Canon in terms of length. These volumes contain records of the Buddha’s teachings as accepted by the Mahayana tradition.

Eastern Rite Catholicism

The Bible is the fundamental sacred text for Eastern Rite Catholics.


1. Sruti (what was heard from the gods)

a. The Vedas (Rig-Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda)
b. The Brahmanas
c. The Upanishads

2. Smriti (what was remembered)

a. The Epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata)
b. Puranas
c. Sutras
d. Laws of Manu


The Holy Qur’an, by definition, is the Arabic text. Various reliable English or English/Arabic versions are available for detainee use.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures


Together with the Five Books of Moses (Pentateuch), God’s will was also made manifest in the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah or Talmud, which clarifies and provides details of the commandments contained in the Written Torah, was transmitted from generation to generation and finally recorded in the second century. In the broadest sense, the study of Torah refers to Sacred Scriptures and the Oral Traditions as embodied in the Talmud.


Orisha worshipers have no written canon or formal texts. The tradition is passed on orally to initiates. Many cherish as sacred the Bible or a book of the saints. At the beginning of every year a group of babalaos and Ifa priests and priestesses meet to make a special ceremony to obtain la letra del ano (the letter of the year). This document contains emphases, directions, and specifications for the entire year.

Orthodox Christianity

The Bible is the sacred book of the Orthodox Church. The Church recognizes the larger canon of the Old Testament, as included in the Septuagint.

Protestant Christianity

The Holy Bible in many different translations or versions is the only book which is considered truly sacred in Protestantism.


Rastafarians read the Holy Bible (King James Version or Jerusalem Bible). The importance of the Jerusalem Bible is due to the fact that God’s name is spelled Yahweh, the closest approximation to Jah.

Roman Catholicism

The Bible is the fundamental sacred text for Catholic Christians. The New American Bible is generally considered the standard Bible in English. The New Jerusalem Bible is also excellent with its abundant cross references. La Biblia Latinoamericano is an excellent Spanish language Bible. Other reliable translations of the Bible are acceptable for Catholic use as well, but the reliability may have to be taught, to some Catholics who have been taught otherwise.


The Sikh sacred text is the Guru Granth Sahib.


All information in this section has been compiled from the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Technical Reference for Inmate Religious Beliefs and Practices