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Biblical Studies | Comparative Methodologies and Theories | Religion



Interchangeable with holy/sacred book, “scriptures” is the English language term that is still popularly used to refer to a text or collection of texts deemed to be of special if not unique origins, authority and power. Users of the term also tend to assume that “the Bible” of the Jewish and Christian traditions represents either the only instance of such or the example par excellence among some others. A popular linguistic and rhetorical placeholder among cultures of Indo-European origins, the English term originally simply meant (from the Greek graphe/-ai, ta biblia; Latin, scriptura/-ae; Hebrew, ketav/-uvim) and continues to mean “writing”/“writings” (German, schrift; Italian, scrittura; French, ecriture). But precisely as it is a baseline reference to a collection of writings, or a book, the term is reference to nothing basic or simple; rather, it is freighted shorthand for the most significant site around which turns questions and issues having to do with things that matter most and are society-ordering and culture-determining. Wider experiences, more information and perspective—of and about others—have caused the narrow notions and assumptions to be questioned and rejected. Both popular and critical scholarly discourses have come to recognize the cross-cultural if not near universal representation of such texts; but only very slowly have a few critics wrestled with scriptures as a general social-cultural category and phenomenon as part of comparative theoretical analysis.


This text is the author's preprint version of DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0055.

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