The major religious traditions of South Asia are 'religions of the book'. All accept basic arrays of texts of scriptures, often seen as sacred reservoirs of meaning and power. The West has viewed these texts as 'bibles' of their respective traditions, projecting onto them Western values and concerns. This book challenges such misconceptions by revealing the complex character of scripture and its interpretation in South Asian religions.
Texts in Context explores the hermeneutical traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism. The question of how we should understand the diversity of text-traditions is approached by asking "How have traditional thinkers — the exegetes within these traditions —understood and utilized scripture?" The answers, though remarkably diverse, do reveal important similarities and take the discussion of scripture in India to a deeper level.
This book makes accessible to the non-specialist sensibilities and approaches that have previously received little attention in the West, but have formed the basis for traditional efforts to understand and utilize scripture. It is a collaboration between contemporary thinkers and their traditional counterparts, whose voices emerge as they consider the sacred words of the religious traditions of South Asia.
Jeffrey R. Timm is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.