What Is Scripture?
A Comparative Approach
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"Scripture" is no longer an absolute. In the last two centuries, as Westerners have become more keenly conscious of the flatly historical character of their own biblical documents, they have also realized the normative function of scripture in other traditions.
W. C. Smith's vastly erudite work asks how it is that certain texts have so seeped into human life in a rich, complex, and powerful way as to be deemed sacred. Examining the history and use of scripture in the world's major religious traditions, he shows how and why scripture continues to carry momentous and at times appalling power in human affairs.
In the end, Smith's creative proposal is valuable not only for showing what it means to hold a text as sacred, or to treasure another's scripture, but also for the light it sheds in a troubled culture on what it means to be human.
"Scriptures rightly understood can bring humanity together and, indeed, release the Western so-called scientific mind from the mundane to which it has sunk. Such observations are the fruit of W. C. Smith's lifelong quest for truth in scrutiny of the near universal tendency to structure canons of reflection on the human experiment."
James A. Sanders, Claremont School of Theology
"A major contribution to the entire field of the historical and comparative study of religion...impressively substantial scholarship that is brought to bear on highly significant issues facing contemporary religious communities worldwide. It is a remarkable achievement."
George Rupp, President, Columbia University