Sacred Texts of the World

Watch Sacred Texts of the World

  • 2014
  • 1 Season

Sacred Texts of the World from The Great Courses Signature Collection is a fascinating exploration of the world's most important and influential religious texts. Hosted by acclaimed scholar Grant Hardy, this series delves deep into the meaning, history, and cultural significance of these sacred writings.

Over the course of the series, Hardy takes viewers on a journey through time and across the globe, examining the great religious traditions of humanity and the texts that guide them. From the ancient hymns of the Rigveda to the modern scriptures of Scientology, no religion or tradition is left unexplored.

One of the most compelling aspects of this series is its deep reverence for the texts themselves. Rather than treating them as dry historical artifacts or mere curiosities, Hardy approaches each work as a living, breathing entity, full of wisdom, insight, and spiritual power. He brings to bear his own scholarly expertise as well as the insights of a wide range of experts, from archaeologists and linguists to theologians and spiritual leaders.

Throughout the series, we get to see the incredible diversity of religious texts from around the world. From the familiar stories of the Bible to the esoteric cosmology of the Kabbalah, each text offers a unique window into the human experience and the divine realm. Hardy brings these texts to life through vivid readings, insightful commentary, and engaging analysis, helping viewers to understand their meaning and significance in a new and profound way.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the way it explores the relationship between sacred texts and the cultures that produced them. Hardy shows how each text has been shaped by the cultural, historical, and political forces of its time, and how each has influenced the development of the societies that have embraced it. We see how, over time, the texts have been interpreted, translated, and adapted by different groups, and how they continue to shape the lives of millions of people around the world.

In addition to its comprehensive exploration of the world's religious traditions, the series also offers a wealth of information about the history of scholarship surrounding these texts. We see how scholars in different eras have approached the interpretation and translation of these works, and how their insights have shaped our understanding of the texts themselves. From the pioneering work of early Christian scholars like Origen and Augustine to the groundbreaking insights of modern scholars like Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, we get a sense of the rich and complex history of religious scholarship.

Overall, Sacred Texts of the World from The Great Courses Signature Collection is a rich and rewarding exploration of some of the world's most important and influential religious texts. With its insightful commentary, engaging analysis, and deep respect for the texts themselves, this series offers viewers a window into the spiritual and intellectual riches of the world's great religious traditions. Whether you are a scholar, a spiritual seeker, or simply someone who is curious about the religious heritage of humanity, this series is sure to inspire and enlighten.

Sacred Texts of the World is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (34 episodes). The series first aired on February 7, 2014.

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Heavenly Books, Earthly Connections
36. Heavenly Books, Earthly Connections
February 7, 2014
Conclude with Professor Hardy's recommendations, from each of the major religious traditions, of specific texts with which to begin your own reading of sacred writings. Finally, contemplate the question of what difference the comparative study of sacred texts might make in our lives when we read them with empathy and understanding.
Secular Scripture - U.S. Constitution
35. Secular Scripture - U.S. Constitution
February 7, 2014
Here, uncover thought-provoking parallels between religious texts and certain secular ones. With reference to the key ways in which scriptures are received and employed within religious faiths, delineate how the founding documents of the United States have come to function as many sacred texts do in other cultures.
Abandoned Scriptures - Egyptian and Mayan
34. Abandoned Scriptures - Egyptian and Mayan
February 7, 2014
This lecture explores the value of studying sacred texts from traditions that have not survived. Read striking excerpts from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a compendium of spells guiding the deceased in the afterlife. Then discover the Popol Vuh, a text containing sacred mythological stories of the Maya.
Hadith and Sufism
32. Hadith and Sufism
February 7, 2014
The Islamic Hadith recounts the actions and sayings of Muhammad. Study the sources and composition of this revered body of texts, and observe how they provide guidance on essential matters of Muslim life. Also encounter the superlative poetry of Sufism, Islam's mystical tradition, which employs refined spiritual practices to reach direct union with God.
Holy Qur'an
31. Holy Qur'an
February 7, 2014
Study the Qur'an's structure and contents, noting how the message of faith - revolutionary for its time - is spread throughout the suras (chapters). Read the beautiful poetry, explore the Qur'an's major themes, and consider how its stories compare to the same stories as told in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Islam and Scriptural Recitation
30. Islam and Scriptural Recitation
February 7, 2014
The remarkable oral tradition in Islam mandates that the Qur'an be recited and regards memorization as an act of devotion. Delve into the Qur'an's origins in the life of Muhammad, the conception of its text as direct revelation, and its recitation as a sophisticated and esteemed art form.
Apocryphal Gospels
28. Apocryphal Gospels
February 7, 2014
Alongside the four canonical Gospels, competing accounts of Jesus's life emerged, which we now call "apocryphal." Here, discover the Gospel of Peter, which directly portrays the Resurrection, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which recounts events of Jesus's childhood. Finally, encounter Gnostic Christianity in the Gospel of Thomas, containing mystical sayings of Jesus.
Letters and Apocalypse
27. Letters and Apocalypse
February 7, 2014
Letters, as exemplified in the New Testament writings, were an important means of instruction in the early church. Study seven key letters written by Paul, speaking to theological understanding, challenges faced by early Christians, and essential doctrine. Conclude with Revelation and its dramatic vision of the coming kingdom of God.
Gospels and Acts
26. Gospels and Acts
February 7, 2014
The New Testament Gospels present four distinct accounts of the life of Jesus of equal authority. Compare the discrepancies between the four Gospels, taking note of key hypotheses regarding the sources and theological motivations underlying them. Continue with the Acts of the Apostles as it outlines Christian practices that serve to define the faith.
Christian Testaments Old and New
25. Christian Testaments Old and New
February 7, 2014
In approaching Christian scripture, trace the complex origins of the New Testament, beginning with the letters of Paul and the Gospels. Follow the proliferation of later Christian texts and how they were categorized, and study the composition of the first complete Christian Bibles in comparison with more recent versions and translations.
Related Traditions - Shinto and Tenrikyo
24. Related Traditions - Shinto and Tenrikyo
February 7, 2014
Explore the customs and rituals of the Japanese Shinto religion, aimed at harmonizing the human and natural worlds. Study excerpts from its revered texts, comprising histories of Japan and ritual prayers, and learn about its integral role in Japanese life. Also encounter the Tenrikyo faith and its three distinctive books of scripture.
The Three Caverns of Daoist Scriptures
23. The Three Caverns of Daoist Scriptures
February 7, 2014
The full canon of Daoism comprises roughly 1500 texts. Study seminal scriptures such as the Neiye, the Huainanzi, the Scripture on Great Peace, and the Declarations of the Perfected. Grasp how the Daozang, or complete canon, is organized into three "Caverns" or divisions, reflecting the major schools of Daoism.
Daoism and the Daodejing
22. Daoism and the Daodejing
February 7, 2014
The foundational text of Daoism, the Daodejing, speaks of the Way (Dao), a transcendent order underlying all phenomena. In excerpts from the text, contemplate the Daodejing's compelling expression of harmonious duality and its conception of effortless, spontaneous human action. Also sample the Zhuangzi, a related masterpiece of literature and philosophy.
Four Books of Neo-Confucianism
21. Four Books of Neo-Confucianism
February 7, 2014
In a second look at Confucianism, investigate the renowned Yijing and how its system of divination has actual practical applications. Then delve into Neo-Confucianism, its principles of self-cultivation and harmony with humanity and the cosmos, and its embodiment in the texts of the Analects, the Mencius, the Great Learning, and the Constant Mean.
Five Confucian Classics
20. Five Confucian Classics
February 7, 2014
Here, confront the intriguing question of whether Confucianism is a religion or a philosophy. Learn about the Confucian canon and how it became the foundation of Chinese state ideology. Sample texts encompassing poetry, history, ritual, rules for living, and explorations of morality, and consider why we refer to them as "classics" rather than "scripture."
Related Traditions - Jain Scriptures
19. Related Traditions - Jain Scriptures
January 1, 1970
Jainism, a sister religion to Buddhism, maintains an unusual relationship to scripture. Explore the principles and ascetic customs of the faith's two groups, the Shvetambara and Digambara, which reject each other's scriptures as forgeries. Study excerpts from each group's sacred texts, revered yet never held as the heart of the faith.
Tibetan Vajrayana
18. Tibetan Vajrayana
February 7, 2014
In studying the remarkable and elaborate Tibetan canon, grasp how Vajrayana Buddhism combines the Mahayana philosophy of the perfection of wisdom with Tantra, secret rituals and practices that offer shortcuts to enlightenment. Also encounter the Tibetan Book of the Dead - in reality, a treatise on rebirth.
Pure Land Buddhism and Zen
17. Pure Land Buddhism and Zen
February 7, 2014
Two distinctive forms of Buddhism took root in Japan. Learn first about the Pure Land School, which directs spiritual efforts toward entering a celestial realm where seekers can learn the dharma. Through Zen scriptures and koans (paradoxical sayings used in teaching), contemplate the tradition's direct, experiential approach to enlightenment.
Mahayana Sutras
16. Mahayana Sutras
February 7, 2014
The Mahayana Sutras are those of the East Asian tradition. Study the Mahayana conceptions of the perfection of wisdom and the nature of emptiness, non-duality, and no-self. Observe how these notions were expressed through the renowned Lotus Sutra, Diamond Sutra, and Heart Sutra, and how the texts were venerated as sacred objects.
Theravada Sutras
15. Theravada Sutras
February 7, 2014
Among textual riches of the Theravada tradition of Buddhism is the Buddha's teaching on the origins of suffering. Contemplate the Therigatha, poems of women's enlightenment; the Dhammapada, verses of advice and inspiration; and the Discourse to the Kalamas, where the Buddha outlines a spiritual path of direct experience and observation.
Vinaya and Jataka
14. Vinaya and Jataka
February 7, 2014
Here, investigate two prominent types of Buddhist scriptures and how they are used. Delve into the Vinaya, regulations and stories comprising rules for living for monks and nuns. Then sample excerpts from the Jataka, the large body of stories concerning the Buddha's past lives, used for teaching Buddhist morality.
The Three Baskets of Buddhism
13. The Three Baskets of Buddhism
February 7, 2014
This lecture introduces the huge library of Buddhist scriptures. Study the origins and contents of the three major Buddhist canons - the Pali canon, the Chinese canon, and the Tibetan canon. Learn about the devoted efforts through Buddhist history to preserve these texts, and the nature of their significance to Buddhists.
Related Traditions - Zoroastrian Scriptures
12. Related Traditions - Zoroastrian Scriptures
June 1, 2020
Zoroastrianism envisions the universe as ruled by good and evil beings of equal status. Study its principal sacred text, the Avesta, comprising books of hymns, myths, and religious regulations promoting holiness. Sample the Gathas, dialogues between the priest Zoroaster and the creator god, Ahura Mazda, and trace Zoroastrianism's influence on the monotheistic faiths.
Oral Torah - Mishnah and Talmud
11. Oral Torah - Mishnah and Talmud
February 7, 2014
Within Judaism, two central texts form the basis for devotion to God through study. Grasp the nature of the Mishnah, a body of legal judgments and maxims teaching students how to think critically. Then encounter the Talmud, a vast analysis and commentary on the Mishnah and Jewish life - a marvel of world literature.
Apocrypha and Dead Sea Scrolls
10. Apocrypha and Dead Sea Scrolls
February 7, 2014
Taste the stories and historical narratives of the Apocrypha (included in Catholic but not Jewish or Protestant Bibles), noting their thematic emphasis on the spiritual and political challenges faced by the Jews. Learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls tell us about the community that produced them and the evolution of the Hebrew Bible.
Prophets and Writings
9. Prophets and Writings
February 7, 2014
Through the Prophets, chart the unfolding of the political and religious history of ancient Israel. Then explore the rich spectrum of the Writings, containing stories, proverbs, poetry, psalms, and theological explorations. Contemplate the core themes of these texts, from ethical monotheism and the destiny of Israel to the nature of God and humanity.
Five Books of Torah
8. Five Books of Torah
February 7, 2014
Study the contents of the Torah - the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Then consider two kinds of responses to the text - the religious perspective that regards it as a repository of eternal truths, and the historical-critical perspective that approaches the text with the tools of the scholar.
Judaism - People of the Book
7. Judaism - People of the Book
February 7, 2014
In approaching the sacred texts of Judaism, learn the dramatic history of the Aleppo Codex, a historically significant copy of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). Track the origins of the Tanakh and its constituent sections - the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings - and grasp how the Tanakh became the focus of Jewish identity.
Related Traditions - Sikh Scriptures
6. Related Traditions - Sikh Scriptures
February 7, 2014
Trace the evolution of the Sikh religion, and the lineage of gurus that produced the faith's sacred text, the Adi Granth. Study the composition of the Adi Granth; sample its beautiful hymns, poems, and prayers; and learn how the book is treated by Sikhs as a living guru.
Laws of Manu and Bhagavad Gita
5. Laws of Manu and Bhagavad Gita
February 7, 2014
Learn about the huge canon of Hindu sutras, shastras, Puranas, and Tantra. Delve into two highly influential texts: the Laws of Manu, outlining rules, customs and guidelines for living for the four Indian castes; and the beloved Bhagavad Gita, which speaks to matters of spiritual insight, social obligation, and worldly success.
What Is Remembered - Epics
4. What Is Remembered - Epics
February 7, 2014
A second body of Hindu sacred writings encompasses literature, texts that explore the nature of dharma, the eternal laws and principles that give meaning and shape to life. Here, discover two great Indian epics: the Ramayana, a mythic narrative of kingship; and the Mahabharata, a complex story of familial bonds and discord.
What Is Heard - Upanishads
3. What Is Heard - Upanishads
February 7, 2014
The Upanishads constitute the philosophical or wisdom texts of the Hindu Vedas. Study the composition of the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, containing spiritual arguments and dialogues revealing the underlying unity of brahman (ultimate reality) and atman (the self or soul). Trace the Upanishads' influence on Westerners.
Hinduism and the Vedas
2. Hinduism and the Vedas
February 7, 2014
Grasp the nature and roles of sacred writings within Hinduism, as contrasted with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Learn about the structure of the Vedas, comprising collections of hymns and commentaries, and their meaning and function in Hindu ritual. Read compelling excerpts from the Vedas, and learn how Western religious scholars have approached them.
Reading Other People's Scriptures
1. Reading Other People's Scriptures
February 7, 2014
Throughout history, the world's sacred texts have held profound significance for the cultures that produced them. Consider five key reasons for the importance of studying them, from their accessibility and centrality to their cultures of origin to the wisdom they contain and the enlarged perspective they offer on our own traditions. #Music, Philosophy & Religion
Where to Watch Sacred Texts of the World
Sacred Texts of the World is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Sacred Texts of the World on demand at Apple TV Channels, Amazon Prime, Amazon and Hoopla.
  • Premiere Date
    February 7, 2014