Monday, January 28, 2013

The Torah and the nature of scripture

The scriptures of the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are often regarded as unitary books. In the case of the Qur'an this is true - alternate versions having been destroyed under orders by the third Rashidun Caliph Uthman.  This is not so, however, for Judaism and less so for Christianity.  While Christians acknowledge two basic divisions for their sacred scripture - the Old Testament and the New Testament - and also acknowledge that these are comprised of various separate books - they are meant to be read as a whole.

For Judaism, the Torah came to form the basic Scripture of this religion - but added to it were other books, the group known as the Prophets and a final body of literature known simply as the Writings.

What makes these scriptures different - and which also allows Christian scriptures to be included in this categorization - is their form.  While the Qur'an was told to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel as the direct words of God - the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity take the form of the story of God's relationship with the Jews, then with their successors, the Christians.  That is, they form a collection of narrative tales which contain lessons for the proper relationship of humanity to divinity, rather than a collection of precepts.

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