Sacred Texts of the World

Narrated by: Grant Hardy
Length: 18 hrs and 15 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (461 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

With few exceptions, the world's religions are anchored in their sacred texts-core writings that express the ideals and vision of the faiths, forming a basis for belief and action. Humanity's library of sacred writings is a huge canon that includes many of the most influential books ever written. In addition to the Hebrew and Christian bibles and the Quran of Islam, major sacred writings include the Hindu Vedas, the Buddhist Sutras, Daoism's Daodejing, and the Analects of Confucius, as well as the beloved texts of religions such as Zoroastrianism and Jainism, and modern faiths such as Baha'i.

These are texts that people live by and, at times, are willing to die for.

In these 36 lectures, Professor Hardy takes you deeply into the body of sacred writings that have played a fundamental role in human culture and history. Discussing a broad range of texts, the course examines the scriptures of seven major religions, as well as nine lesser known or smaller faiths, including texts from the ancient Egyptian and Mayan societies. In addition to studying the scriptures of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds, you'll discover religious texts from vastly differing cultures around the world.

These richly insightful lectures highlight a global legacy of faith, thought, and spirituality.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2014 The Great Courses (P)2014 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about Sacred Texts of the World

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An excellent introduction to various religions

This course is one of the best Great Courses lecture series I have come across. Prof. Grant Hardy has compiled and presents in this course a huge amount of information about various world religions through introducing their sacred scriptures. He presents it in such an enthusiastic and engaging manner that it is difficult to stop listening.

During these lectures he deals with all the major religions in the world and a few of the lesser known religions. He conveys a lot of empathy towards the different religious traditions without sacrificing his own faith tradition. (He actually kept me guessing about his background, until I listened to his lecture on the Book of Mormon and the Church of the Latter Day Saints' liturgy used in their temples as a spoken form of sacred text. An internet search confirmed my suspicion. That said, his engaging, objective and open-minded approach to different religions ensured that no clear bias towards any specific faith tradition could be detected.)

He dealt with Hinduism (4 lectures), Sikhism (1 lecture), Judaism (5 lectures), Zoroastrianism (1 lecture), Buddhism (6 lectures), Jainism (1 lecture), Confucianism (2 lectures), Daoism (2 lectures), Shinto and Tenrikyo (1 lectures), Christianity (4 lectures), Mormonism (1 lecture), Islam (3 lectures), Baha'i (1 lecture), Abandoned Scriptures (1 lecture) and Secular Scriptures (1 lecture) with an introductory and closing lecture added.

It is very interesting and insightful. For me his lectures the Hebrew Bible, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism were the most interesting. The idea that the Hebrew Bible is a text in conversation with itself is a brilliant observation. I found his discussion of the influence Zoroastrianism on Judaism and Christianity thought provoking. He helped me also to get a much better grasp on Buddhism. There is however much that I didn't know about other faith traditions like Baha'i and Islam and the relationship between them.

I would have chosen different abandoned scriptures (like the Ugaritic clay tablets or some Mesopotamian works, instead of the Egyptian Book of the Dead etc). However I realise that you cannot include everyone's likes and dislikes.

If you want to get to know something about the most important faiths in the world and what they received as holy texts, this is the course to enlighten you. It is very well researched and presented. A must-have course!

53 people found this helpful

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A must

I very much enjoyed this book and will listen to it over again. The speaker is very easy to listen to and the content is amazing no matter your tradition. Great insights to other religions and the presentation is very good. Many questions are answered for the listener and I liked that he referred to other texts that may be of interest to the listener. I just wish there was a way to download the course content to make it easier to take notes.

14 people found this helpful

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Good introduction

After my last positive experience with a Great Courses audiobook, I picked up several more when they were on sale. The first of those that I have listened to is Sacred Texts of the World by Grant Hardy.

As Professor Hardy notes in the opening, this is an introduction. As someone that know a good bit about Christian scriptures, I had some quibbles with his presentation of Christian scriptures. But if I can assume that the rest of the presentations were of roughly similar quality, then I think this was probably fairly accurate.

Part of being educated about the world is being educated about the world's religions. This is not primarily about evangelism, although I think it is a good idea to know about for evangelism reasons. Primarily this is about understanding additional context to international news.

My overwhelming feeling is how much the 'Protestant Bias' has effected the way we think about other world religious scriptures. As Hardy presents it, Protestant Bias comes into play because so many of the early scholars of world religions were Protestants that assumed that other world religious scriptures acted like the Christian bible (and they often do not.)

Many of the other world's religion's sacred texts are not primarily about meaning or narrative but the sound or tradition or other purposes. And some of those sacred texts are more about government regulations, or stories or rules than revelation about God. One example is that early interaction with many eastern texts attempted to find eastern equivalents to the creation story and often those just do not exist.

Hardy attempts to present the texts as the followers of those texts would understand them. He is occasionally critical of how the followers read or use their sacred texts, but mostly he gives a presentation that seems positive.

The length of presentations of each is roughly equivalent to size of following. So smaller religions get less time. But in an 18 hour course, there is still time to cover a lot of texts. The final lecture is in an interesting conclusion. He looks at the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address and I Have a Dream speech as if they were sacred texts to help the listener understand the basic ideas of what sacred texts can mean.

This definitely was dry at points. I set it aside a couple times to listen to other audiobooks before coming back. But overall Sacred Texts of the World was helpful.

9 people found this helpful

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World Religions

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is a great introduction to the study of world religions. It's very well organized and the author/narrator portrays--strangely enough--a great love for every sacred text he discusses.

What other book might you compare Sacred Texts of the World to and why?

The Old Testament, from the Great Lectures Series.

Have you listened to any of Professor Grant Hardy, Ph.D., Yale University’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

no

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I loved his lecture on the Book of Mormon.

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A lengthy synopsis.

I thought 32 hours will get me a better understanding of the whole religion but I am left wanting. I wanted to understand more about the religious aspect of the texts, but I got a small portion of them in some historical and social context. Perhaps my expectations were too much and it would probably take all 32 hours just for one. That being said, the next time I want to learn more I have some context.

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Another great series from The Great Courses

I found this series of lectures to be enlightening and informative, and Professor Hardy is a very competent narrator and communicator.
The religious texts discussed in this series are treated with the utmost of respect—and, although I suspect the professor could take cheap shots at any of them—perhaps by focusing on some more unusual or arcane aspects—there is a strictly professional approach to them all. In the end, one can only say that the treatment of all the texts is reverential, if somewhat detached.
Not to say that Professor Hardy doesn't love these works—he absolutely does. I suppose it would be a high compliment to say that these lectures helped to dismantle my own prejudices, yet this is not quite true. At the end of the day, the sheer diversity of the texts—and the belief systems they embody, it seems to me—cannot be a recommendation for any one of them

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Achieves What It Sets Out To Do

Achieves What It Sets Out To Do Sacred texts of the following religions are explored: o Hinduism o Sikh o Judaism o Zoroastrian o Buddhism o Jainism o Confucianism o Daoism o Shinto o Christianity o Islam There are even a few lectures on Mayan, ancient Egyptian, and US secular documents. Professor Hardy does an admirable job of explaining how people interact with the texts, how they are regarded, and practices or traditions revolving around human devotions to the texts (i.e. when they are read, how they are handled, techniques for studying/reading) as well as the history of the oldest copies we have for some of the texts (when they were discovered and where). The lectures on Buddhism (13-18) were well done: one of the better attempts at a professor to get to the heart of the religion and clearly explain the differences between Theravada, Mahayana, and Zen (with the exception of Tibetan Vajrayana which I’m still trying to grasp). Other top lectures of mine: 19 (Jainism), Christianity (25-27), and secular scripture (35) While it is impossible for the professor (or any) to capture the full extent of the beauty of the texts or even to provide summaries that do them justice, there was some inconsistency from lecture to lecture on getting to the heart of the texts. He was great with Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, and Islam but I felt something was lacking with Hinduism, Judaism, and the lectures on East Asia. A note on presentation style: Professor Hardy is very friendly and very engaged in the lectures. One idiosyncrasy is that he often interrupts his sentences to select a different word or phrase or to correct something. This start/stop/start approach becomes distracting and disconcerting at times, slowing the flow of the course. While I appreciate the change in the opening music for each lecture from the standard The Great Courses music, the audience applause following it was out of place in this setting: the music was soothing, calming, and tailed off quietly and then suddenly there is this loud explosive applause ruining that moment: who signed off on this?? If you are interested in the histories of these sacred texts and how they are regarded by their devotees, you will struggle to find a better course than this one. In that regard it certainly achieves what it set out to do. If you're interested more in the heart of these religions and their practices I would suggest the following courses from TGC: Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know The History of Christian Theology Beginnings of Judaism Great World Religions: Hinduism And BTW I highly recommend another course by Professor Hardy: "Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition". If you're on the fence about purchasing this course (like I was for years) I would just say that I'm glad I finally did!

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great content but a bit hard to follow

really interesting content but it is a textbook, if your not paying close attention you will get lost

1 person found this helpful

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Best Great Lecture Course So Far

Hardy’s knowledge of the texts and the history and traditions surrounding them is impressive, but what makes this course so enjoyable is Hardy’s infectious enthusiasm for the subject. He is the kind of teacher that effortlessly inspires his students because he is so sincere. In every lecture, he shares his favorite quotes or stories from a particular text, or how it affected him in some way. In one poignant anecdote, he relates how an essay on the book of Ruth convinced him and his wife to adopt a baby. In all my years in academia, I have never heard a professor share something so moving and personal. In the audio, you can hear him choking up as he talks about it.

Hardy has the greatest respect for the texts and the religions they belong to. As a scholar, he examines them critically, but unlike many modern academics, he does not ruthlessly deconstruct, demythologize, or discredit them; nor does he attempt to disabuse those who believe in them. Sadly, that is a rarity these days. He reminds me of my medieval studies professor from grad school, and I wish there were more professors like them. After taking this course, I not only want to read or reread all of the texts he lectured on (a library worth of books – LOL), but to read his books and listen to his other Great Courses series. And I will be listening to this again – it’s too rich to take in all at once.

Each lecture is a good balance of general and specific information so that they seem comprehensive without being overwhelming. By the end, you feel you can talk intelligently about the texts covered, even though you’ve only learned a little about them. For those who are interested in learning more, Grant provides ample recommendations for reading and research.

Without a doubt one of the best introductory college courses I’ve ever taken. I would love to attend it in person.

1 person found this helpful

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Engaging, informative and well delivered

This series is one of the most engaging of the Great Courses that I have listened to to date. And that's no mean feat - GC are good quality but I feel this one surpasses previous courses.

The lectures cover great ground in short time, so kudos to GC for finding a comprehensive series of lectures that get to the point, and include the most important details.

By far the most outstanding element is Professor Hardy's delivery and obvious deep passion and expertise. He reports at the end just how many sacred texts he actually read in entirety and frankly I am not surprised.

I will likely listen to this again - something I have done only once with the many GC's I have downloaded.

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  • Sharl
  • 12-04-14

Great introduction to a vast subject

A great introduction to a wide range of the sacred texts of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Chinese Classics, and Islam. Some ‘smaller’ religions are also covered such as Zoroastrianism and the Mormon faith. In total there are 36 lectures and I think Dr. Grant Hardy does a good job at providing an overview of the word’s main sacred texts. I learnt more than I expected I would.

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  • Labrador with class
  • 08-24-16

read it!!

it opened my eyes to so much. I have since listening to this audio book purchased 3 of the books mentioned in it and am reading them now with knowledge, curiosity and open mind. I will not convert, but I will learn and respect more.

2 people found this helpful

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  • WH Humphreys
  • 01-07-20

A brilliant course

A magnificent, detailed, thoughtful and humane overview of a huge range of religious textual traditions. Grant Hardy is perhaps my favourite of the Great Course lecturers, and that’s saying a lot. Highly recommended.

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  • Andrew Maggs
  • 10-25-19

Excellent Lecture Series

This is an excellent lecture series that goes into just enough detail about the sacred texts off the world’s great religions. Clearly and confidently presented, I highly recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Caitlin
  • 06-23-19

Engaging and Informative

Gives a great wide ranging introduction to many of the main sacred texts of the world. If you're interested in religious thought this series of lectures is a brilliant place to start before you delve deeper into specific traditions. It's not confusing at any point despite covering a lot of material at speed and feels like it gives a lot of information about many subjects even though it touches on them fairly briefly. The format encourages comparative and critical thought about the sacred texts.

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  • P
  • 02-04-18

A true treasure

Listened twice so far, the best audible book I have read. So nice to have such knowledge, for those who seek the Truth, this is an essential read. An open mind is needed, then absorb wisdom that took thousands of years.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Saurabh Kumar Singh
  • 08-24-20

A must read/listen

This book talks about sacred scriptures of world's major regions. This book can also be used as an introduction to those religions. At times one wishes for more details on books but still a great starting point. A must read for anyone looking for a quick and easy introduction to other religions.

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  • Nicky Beet
  • 05-19-17

the original fake news

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

maybe if they have an interest in ancient cultures

Would you recommend Sacred Texts of the World to your friends? Why or why not?

same as above

What about Professor Grant Hardy, Ph.D., Yale University’s performance did you like?

performance was good but the content is partly good but partly abject and the very reason ppl can not figure out truths or even if there is any such thing as a fact

If this book were a film would you go see it?

no

Any additional comments?

only relevant in an historical sense
skips over and ignores parts that we would now view as hateful and discriminatory as if they don't even exist.while I can understand why one would like to do this but it has absolutely no intellectual integrity and the very fact that it seems one can pick any parts as your own truths that allows extremist or terrorist groups to claim scriptural basis for there beliefs and actions as there is no way to prove or disprove any of this stuff and if one can not do that it is also impossible to disprove this is doubly troubling as there is no evidence out side these texts themselves for the original existence for a deity and if one can not prove evidence or even a test to prove gods existence then there is little more reason to base a life or society on these texts as there is to base a society on a childrens book