Sacred texts.

I’m looking to stock up on and read a number of holy books from ages past. Problem is, there are so many translations an interpretations of all of’em, I’m not sure what to go after. Here are the ones I’m looking for. Scholarly versions would be best.

  1. Bible. (whatever version Roman Catholics use)
  2. Bible, King James version
  3. The Ko/Qu-ran (let’s see if I can order a copy without being put on a terrorist watch list, whee!)
  4. Whatever the Mormons call their (two, I think) books.
  5. The Mahabharata
  6. The Annalects of Confucius
  7. Five Classics (more Confucius)
  8. Talmud
  9. That Tao thing (“The Way and its Power”?)
  10. Veda/Upanishads

Also, please let me know if there’s anything you think belongs on this list. Anything related to Scientology certainly does not qualify. And for the record, the Iliad/Odyssey could be thrown on there, but I have’em already.

Ease up on the Talmud; it’s over seven thousand pages long. 8p But if you want it, you’ll need the ArtScroll Schottenstein edition. Everything else is way too boring and difficult to understand. Be warned that the Talmud is completely unlike any other text in existence in terms of style and layout, and is very logically demanding.

I should note that ArtScroll is not a “scholarly” edition, but good luck getting through any of those.

Haha, thanks for the warning. For something 7000 pages long I suppose I would want to sharpen my teeth on a version that’s not unnecessarily complex.

Read Gilgamesh, translated by Stephen Mitchell. It <i>is</i> a foundational religious text, in an odd sense. It’s a more primitive people’s version of the Iliad and Odyssey – and probably more accessible to modern readers, given its dense expression and lack of cultural sophistication. It’s about a king who loses his best friend to disease and goes on a search for immortality. It’s among my favorite books – if not my favorite.

For what it’s worth, the story of Gilgamesh also intrigued the people at Square.

You know of this, right? It’s no substitute for a nice printed book (especially if you’d rather the spirituality of the texts didn’t vanish) but it’s a good reference source. It also makes it easy to look for Polynesian creation myths and stuff like that.

If you know ancient Greek (i.e. I don’t mix you up with someone else) you could get the New Testament in the original. It would spare you from the extra translation mistakes.

I think you should read them all in their original language.

I’m familiar with Gilgamesh (my advisor back at Drew University even mentioned this particular version to me when it came out); I’m really looking more for things people built actual faiths on (even if Gilgamesh was used that way, we don’t have the evidence for it like we do for the Bronze age stuff mentioned in Homer. It would be nice to have for the flood story, though. Now that I look at it, it looks like the same guy has translated/edited several of the things on my list up there.

Rigamorale, I do know I could read at least some of these things online - but I need good hard physical copy to highlight and and personalize.

As for languages, I intend to get at least a Greek New Testament, but cut me some slack! In the next two years I have to become absolutely proficient in Greek and Latin, revive the sad remains of my German, and learn French from the beginning. I don’t have time to go about learning Hebrew, Chinese, or anything else at the moment (would be nice, though).

RPT: Heh, I got my numbers wrong, it’s closer to 5,000 than 7,000, but I should have mentioned that that’s in quite concise Hebrew/Aramaic (which is itself a very concise language). The ArtScroll version is easily three or four times that size, and generally takes up an entire bookcase.

I’d actually tell you to instead try and get the ArtScroll Schottenstein Edition of the Five Books of Moses (the Chumash). That contains an English translation of Rashi, an 11th century commentator on the Torah who is unanimously considered to be the most important commentator in Judaism. His commentary is sort of a compendium of relevant Talmudic laws and derivations and Midrashic stories, though he sometimes gets bogged down in language details, which you can skip. It’s only five relatively slim volumes (as opposed to the Talmud or even the Mishnah, which in understandable English is about twenty volumes).

Don’t forget that we’re the People of the Book. Jews study the Talmud their entire lives and many of them never get anywhere near finishing it. The act of studying is itself a laudable end rather than just a means to knowledge (though that’s also important). So don’t feel you need to take a look at the whole caboodle to “get” Judaism. :sunglasses: The Talmud is particularly difficult to get into without a decent background in the Chumash and Jewish lifestyle.

As for the Koran, no translation is accepted by Muslims (forget learning Ancient Arabic, it will take ages). However, this one seems to be quite popular among English speakers.
As for the Bible, I use the German Elberfelder Translation, which is as accurate as possible but not really linguistically appealing. My experience with English is that King James sounds hella beautiful but isn’t as accurate as newer translations, like the New International Version Bible.

What about all those books that didn’t make it into the bible? Those might be interesting…

On the subject of non-spiritual classics, you might also want to pick up The Tale of Genji

Not really a scholarly version I suppose, but I enjoyed it :slight_smile:

The best version in the Catholic Bible use is the Douye Rhames version of the Bible, (spelling is off, but it is close to what I wrote).

Other sacred texts of interest would be the Way of the Pilgrim, The Essential Kabbalah, The Bhagavad-Gita, Tao Te Ching.

I think other than the Book of Mormon, they also use the Pearl of Great Price, but my understanding of this, is that you actually have to be Mormon to get or read it.

I too have a copy of the Quran, ordered by the mail from a book club, haven’t had the FBI come to my door yet though, so I dont think I’ve been labeled a terrorist as of yet.

Anyway hope these help.

The Kabbalah isn’t really a religious text, it’s a mysticism text. Judaism doesn’t accept Kabbalah as influential to daily life, and in fact generally discourages people under the age of 40 from learning it, due to its complexity and requirement of a broad mindset. It’s become sort of a vogue in Hollywood because it gives lots of mystic ideas and warm fuzziness without requiring any behavioral change of the people who learn it, when in fact it’s meant to be an addendum to the existing Torah.

Thank you Cid, did not know most of that.

I’ll admit i agree with you on all the warm fuzziness stuff and junk. One of the tentants I read on it said that If something feels good, it must cone fron god

Try the Principia Discordia, on the basis that the 1950’s count as “ages past.”

You should read the Guru Granth Sahib. I personally haven’t read more than bits and pieces, but my parents tell me it’s one hell of a book.

Ulysses and A la recherche du temps perdu are considered holy books by many academics:runaway:

If your interested in religions, you miht want to check out thats a pretty good site.

Isn’t the Hollywood Kabbalah essentially a Jewish Kaballah-lite with a bunch of motivational speaker claptrap thrown in for good measure? I’ve heard some religious professors say that they don’t actually study the true Kabbalah (hence the apparent mispronunciation?).

thats what I heard

You should read the Elder Edda (the poetic is more accurate, but the prose is easier to read) and the Kalevala. I’m not sure if you’re interested in more Nordic stuff, but it’s worth a try.