Sacred Texts and Authority

Article excerpt

Sacred Texts and Authority, edited by Jacob Neusner Pilgrim, Cleveland, 1998. 163 pp. $15.95. ISBN: 0-82981249-0.

THIS BRIEF COLLECTION OF essays on the ideas of sacred texts and notions of (not necessarily "scriptural") authority surveys the five major world religions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. The same basic questions are posed in each of the five major chapters: How does each religious tradition make its enduring statements? What exactly do the different religions mean by a text? What are the principal sacred texts of the various religions, and what forms do they take? What are the liturgical, intellectual, political, and ritual uses of sacred texts in the different traditions?

In his chapter on Judaism, the author takes the reader through various notions of Torah (as scripture, activity, and source of salvation), and then develops the place of the Mishnah, Midrash, and Talmud in Judaism. He concludes by noting how these sacred texts and authorities come together in synagogue services on the Sabbath. Similarly, in the chapter on Islam, the author (Brockopp) leads the reader through the authority of the Qu'ran, as explicated by the Prophet Muhammad's sunna (ways of doing things), and as understood by human reason. …