Scriptures, Canons, and Readers
And this Koran is not such as could be forged by those besides Allah, but it is a verification of that which is before it and a clear explanation of the book, there is no doubt in it, from the Lord of the worlds. Or do they say: He [Muhammad] has forged it? Say: Then bring a chapter like this and invite whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.--Islam: Holy Koran, 10:37-38
With honest wrath [Martin Luther] untwisted and pulled together where the ancient spider [Roman Catholicism] had spun longest and most carefully. He handed the holy books over to everyman--so that at last they got into the hands of the philologists, that is to say, the destroyers of every belief which rests on books.--Friedrich Nietzsche: The Gay Science, 358
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.--Christianity: Holy Bible, 2 Peter 1:20-21
A special transmission [of Truth] outside the scriptures, not founded upon words or letters. by pointing directly to [ones] mind, it lets one see into [ones own true] nature and thus attain Buddhahood.--Buddhism: Bodhidharmas Poem (Dumoulin 85)
Confucius said, I transmit but I do not create. I believe in and love the ancients. . . . I was not one who was born with knowledge; I love ancient [teaching] and earnestly seek it.--Confucianism: Analects 7:1, 19
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and committed it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders and the elders to the prophets; and the prophets committed it to the men of the Great Congregation. These said three things: Be deliberate in judgment; Raise up many disciples; and Make a hedge for the Torah.--Judaism: Mishnah, Aboth Aboth 1.1
In the first quotation (from the Quran), it is evident that Muslims believe the Holy Koran to be an absolutely unique book. Think of other books you know. Are scriptures in general, or maybe the Holy Quran in particular, really so unique? What makes a book scripture in the first place?
Confucius is well-known for writing many of the central books that are classics of Confucianism in particular, and of Chinese culture in general. But he claims no special knowledge; rather he is only saying again what ancient sages have discovered. Can such books be scripture? How might they be like, but different from, a book like the Quran (or the Bible), which is said to be revealed to human beings by God?
In these images, William Farel holds the Holy Bible aloft as a sign of its final authority and importance. The famous Buddhist monk, Hui-neng, is seen tearing up the scriptures to indicate that real spiritual insight does not come in written words. How seriously do you think one should take written scriptures in thinking through ones own religion?
Jewish rabbis quote the Mishnah text to point out that the written text of the Torah, the books of Moses, is only part of the message of God and that any good teacher needs to deliberate and evaluate the scriptural text to construct a hedge of interpretation. Do you think truly divine scriptures needs a hedge of interpretation, or do they interpret themselves?
In the picture of St. Matthew writing his Gospel, it is suggested that he is inspired by God. The quote from the New Testament, too, declares that writers were moved by God to write their scriptures. Ironically, in the picture of Ganesh, he is a god who does the writing as recited by a human. The Quran is said to be Gods own words in Arabic, and Muhammad was only passing on what he was told. How is inspiration like dictation? Does that distinction make you trust or mistrust the words of some scripture more or less?
Nietzsche notes that religions based on scripture have a big problem.
Whom should we trust to say what the scriptures mean? Popes, priests, scholars, average people? Is reading scripture as democratic as reading any other book?
Having been betrayed by treaties many times, Osceola is pictured showing disdain for the written word. In the Bodhidharma poem, too, writing is not taken as being necessary or even useful for religious enlightenment. Is a written promise better than a spoken one? Is a written religious revelation better than storytelling or direct one-to-one teaching?
Jesus loves me this I know,For the Bible tells me so.
Jesus loves me this I know,For the Bible tells me so.Walter Ong: Writing tends to divide the tribe, while oral storytelling keeps it united.
Scripture . . .implies a status for the writer or revealer that is beyond the ordinary.may be revealed as dictation of Gods own words (e.g., the Holy Koran).may be the insightful, enlightened wisdom of a sage (e.g., Buddhist scriptures).may be inspired by God, though perhaps not dictated (e.g., the Holy Bible).or . . .?
Authority and CanonCanon: an officially accepted body of literature, especially a collection of writings taken together as scripture.Canonization can be a long process of determining which writings are scripture and which are not.Compare Christian and Buddhist canons (and Jewish Talmud).Not a problem for some religions (e.g., Islam)
There is no non-situational basis for any interpretation. -- Grant and Tracy.one valid meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . every meaning validRather than claiming an ability to get a pure understanding of scripture, it is perhaps wiser to be conscious and forthright about the tools we use in the process of interpretation. (Richter et al, 124)
Classical HermeneuticsLiteral MeaningMystical Meaningtypologicalanagogicaltropological
literaldictionary meaningJerusalemtypologicaltype::anti-typeChurchanalogicalraised from earthly subject to heavenly subjectheavenly citytropologicalmoral lessons in the wordshuman soul
Classical HermeneuticsLiteral MeaningMystical MeaningtypologicalanagogicaltropologicalTheological Meaning
Modern HermeneuticsCritical Methodstextual criticismsource criticismtraditio-historical criticismform criticismredaction criticismcomposition criticismcanonical criticismCritical Challenges to Traditional FaithAudience and Reader-Response Criticism: Gadamer: No interpretation without prejudgments.
Why has the Gospel of Thomas not been included in (or added to) the Christian canon?
Koran 26.190-197: "The Poets"Most surely there is a sign in this, but most of them do not believe. And most surely your Lord is Mighty, the Merciful. And most surely this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. The Faithful Spirit has descended with it, Upon your heart that you may be of the warners In plain Arabic language.And most surely the same is in the scriptures of the ancients. Is it not a sign to them that the learned men of the Israelites know it?
Quran 27.75-81: "The Ant"And there is nothing concealed in the heaven and the earth but it is in a clear book. Surely this Quran declares to the children of Israel most of what they differ in. And most surely it is a guidance and a mercy for the believers. Surely your Lord will judge between them by his judgment, and He is the Mighty, the knowing. Therefore rely on Allah; surely you are on the clear truth. Surely you do not make the dead to hear, and you do not make the deaf to hear the call when they go back retreating. Nor can you be a guide to the blind out of their error; you cannot make to bear (any one) except those who believe in Our communications, so they submit.
Platform Sutra 42:
38. The Master went to Mount Tsao-chi and over forty years converted the people in Shao-chou and Kuang-chou. If one were to talk about the number of his disciples, to say several thousand people, both monks and laymen, would not do it justice. If one were to talk about the pivot of his teaching. It lies in the transmission of the Platform Sutra, and this serves as the authority. Unless a person has received the Platform Sutra, he has not received the sanction. The place, date, and the name of the recipient must be made known, and these are attached to it when it is transmitted. Someone who does not have the Platform Sutra and the sanction is not a disciple of the Southern School. Someone who has not yet obtained sanction, even though he preaches the doctrine of sudden enlightenment, does not know the basic teachings, and in the end will not be able to avoid disputes. Those who have Dharma should practice it wholeheartedly, for disputations show a contentious mind and are a betrayal of the Way.
Double page from a manuscript of the Koran. Spain, thirteenth century Ink, colors and gold on parchment. 10 13/16 x 17 5/8 in. (27.46 x 44.76 cm). Museum Associates dba the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 2004.