Books that are considered sacred by the followers of a (typically fictional) religion or philosophy.
The most holy of books are attributed to a god, or just plain God
, although a prophet serving as a transmitter for the Word of God is usually taken for granted. A more modest claim is that the author/prophet was inspired
by a deity. Finally, the authors may not be considered prophets outright, but chroniclers of divine acts or sacred events, or teachers of perfect wisdom. The authors of sacred scriptures are often figures of legend, and are frequently venerated as holy men or women themselves.
What it means to be a "sacred" text may vary (as it does in real life). In the most basic definition of sacredness, the information
contained is the sacred thing, and paraphrasing, adapting or translating this text is still considered unproblematic as long as the core message gets across. Other times, the literal text is sacred, and translating or adapting it becomes a sensitive matter. This is owed to the fact that within the religions built upon such a text, even minute details can carry substantial weight for the practices and teachings of this religion. A few religions go so far as to teach that their holy book cannot be "correctly" translated at all, and is only perfect in the original text.
Finally, the physical books or scrolls containing holy texts may be sacred objects in themselves, the handling of which is tied to certain dos and don'ts.
When a fictional holy book isn't written in a Sacred Language
, it's probably Eternal English
A common twist in Speculative Fiction
is an isolated community basing a religion or cult
on a sacred book which reveals itself as a mundane text from another culture
at closer inspection.
May overlap with Tomes of Prophecy and Fate
, or even Tome of Eldritch Lore
if we are speaking of a Religion of Evil
. Characters quoting from a Holy Book is As the Good Book Says
Apart from the cases when a real life text serves as a sacred text in-universe, an instance of Fictional Document
- Transformers has the Covenant of Primus, which is a combination of historical records and list of prophecies.
- Planet of the Apes had the Sacred Scrolls, written by the deified Lawgiver.
- Not a paper book, but the tribe of children from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome paid comparable homage to a collection of photos they could examine with an old toy slide-viewer. When someone showed them how to work an old phonograph record, they repeated its words as if they, too, were sacred.
- The Action Prologue of Star Trek Into Darkness featured Kirk stealing the holy scripture from an indigenous tribe in order to lead them away from an exploding volcano. They later abandon it in favor of worshiping the Enterprise.
- In The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, during a pan over various case-related Fictional Documents, the viewer can see that the film's Occult Detective has managed to secure a copy of a Mystery Cult's holy book, with its telltale batwinged Caduceus embossed on the leather. The investigator is sorting through case documents attempting to connect the cult to the disappearances of children.
- The Orange Catholic Bible from Frank Herbert's Dune universe. This one is interesting because it combines some traditional holy books (books of the Bible, the Qur'an, the Hadith, most Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, the Dao De Jing, the Analects, the Zoroastrian Avestas), plus a number of other fictional texts.
- A jeweled manuscript Bible appears in several important occasions in the Deryni works, most often in the form of oaths of fealty or allegiance sworn on the Bible.
- The prophecies from The Belgariad may count. Certainly, there are religious scriptures mentioned, belonging to the various races.
- Discworld has many. These include The Book of Om; The Vengeful Testament of Offler; The Cenotine Book of Truth; The Scrolls of Wen the Eternally Surprised; and The Living Testament of Nuggan (the only holy book to be published in a ring binder for frequent updates).
- Gulliver's Travels mentions that the Lilliputians have "the Brundecral (which is their Alcoran)."
- Bits and pieces are occasionally quoted in Tales of the Branion Realm, from the texts of the two competing religions.
- In the Kushiel's Legacy series, the worshippers of the goddess Namaah consider sex an act of worship, which is why they consider Trois Milles Joies ("Three Thousand Pleasures"), an in-universe version of the Kama Sutra, a sacred book.
- Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle has the Books of Bokonon, sacred text of the new religion Bokononism, which start with the handy warning: "All of the true facts I am about to tell you are shameless lies."
- In the short story "The Return" by H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire, a pair of explorers from a last outpost of scientific civilzation in what used to be the United States several generations after World War III find a settlement of the descendants of a U.S. Army platoon from The War. They are relatively advanced, though they show considerable religious fervor for "the Slain and Risen One" that their sacred books (bequeathed to them by the "First 'Tenant of the Old 'Toon") speak of, and yet "logic, not faith, seems to be their supreme religious virtue...skepticism is a religious obligation instead of a sin". At the very end of the story, the explorers finally learn that "the Books" are the collected stories of Sherlock Holmes.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: The Faith of the Seven's holy book is called The Seven Pointed Star.
- The Initiate Brother has the Scrolls of Botahara, which are in the keeping of the Botahist Brotherhood. There are numerous copies, but the original scrolls have gone missing, leading them to show fakes to Sister Morima of the Botahist Sisterhood. Their fate is only revealed at the very end of the story, by which time it is apparent that the Brotherhood isn't what it should be - brothers who keep to the true way have been slowly smuggling the scrolls away to safety.
- In MARZENA we have The Transhuman Seeder, a collection of books written by Anika From Bremen (Narrator), which demonstrates how the brain works and establishes how this knowledge will create a biological technological and spiritual revolution. The book itself is considered holy by the members of the Transhuman Army.
- David Weber's Safehold series has the Holy Writ, written by the Archangels as part of their attempt to enforce the Medieval Stasis trope. It includes lots of practical advice and practical warnings, set in the form of divine miracles and divine curses so as to steer the reader away from investigating further. It also includes, The Book of Schuler, a manual for Cold-Blooded Torture, as a further inducement to not investigate further. And the rules for Baseball, because Baseball is Serious Business.
- The Gift Legends in The Red And The Rest are presented as not necessarily truer than any competing holy book, but they sure do a lot for World Building, giving one religious explanation for the various humanoid species and Differently Powered Individuals.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, the vast majority of the large number of gods have a holy book attached to their faith.
- In Traveller, Maar Ki Zon is the sacred scripture of the Maar Zon, the national religion of the Sylean people.
- Warhammer 40,000 is stuffed with these: The Lectitio Divinatatus penned by Lorgar (which later formed the basis of the Imperial faith), the Codex Astartes by Guilliman, to only name two.
- Mutant Chronicles has two, the Chronicles of the Brotherhood, and the Book of Law. The Book of Law is a "how-to" manual for all religious rites, from baptisms to assaulting Dark strongholds. The Chronicles aren't a book, since they are carved into the walls of the Brotherhood Cathedrals, but they are the holiest of the Brotherhood's writings and tell the history of the rise of the Brotherhood and its struggle against the Darkness. Making new Books of Law is the duty of an army of scribes, since something so important can't be entrusted to a machine. Attempting to duplicate a single sentence of the Chronicles will get you immediately shot by the guards posted by them.
- The Chant of Light in the Dragon Age series is the holy text of the Chantry. There are some members, called Chanters, who are not allowed to say anything that isn't part of the chant. Also the object of Orwellian Editing: When the Chantry branded the Dalish as heretics, they completely removed the "Canticle of Shartan", the section that dealt with the Dalish general who lead Andraste's armies against the Tevinter Imperium.
- The Qunari have the Tome of Koslun, scripture written by the founder of the Qun. In Dragon Age II, Isabela stealing the tome is the reason why the Arishok and his army are in Kirkwall.
- There are a number of texts in The Elder Scrolls that might count as this, but the most clear example is Vivec's The 36 Lessons of Vivec, which is a series of 36 books (called 'Sermons', as in 'Sermon One', 'Sermon Two', etc.) written by one of the three gods of the Temple.
- From Adventure Time: The hero's handbook, The Enchiridion, is a legendary book that tells you how to be a hero. It's never called "holy", but it's kind of a big deal.