In Textual Criticism and Sacred Texts, Signe Cohen looks at the text-critical scholarship on sacred texts across disciplines. She traces the development of the genealogical method and discusses its role in textual criticism today. The book examines the applicability of traditional text-critical methods to oral texts as well as the roles of translations and commentaries in textual criticism. Cohen then turns to the under-theorized question of the relationship between religion and text-critical scholarship and outlines ethics of textual criticism applied to religious texts. She then discusses how new digital technologies will change the textual scholarship of the future and proposes new ways that scholars can collaborate across sub-disciplines.
Signe Cohen is associate professor of Asian Religions at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Introduction: What is Textual Criticism?
Chapter One: The Lachmannian Method, Criticisms, Refinements, and Alternatives
Chapter Two: Textual Criticism of Sacred Texts: The State of the Scholarship
Chapter Three: Textual Criticism and Oral Texts
Chapter Four: Translations, Commentaries, and Textual Criticism
Chapter Five: Textual Criticism and Religion: Towards an Ethics of Textual Criticism of Sacred Texts
Chapter Six: Computer-Aided Textual Criticism and the Religious Text
Conclusion: Towards a Comparative Textual Criticism
About the Author
This book presents the reader with an innovative suggestion of an interdisciplinary and comparative approach towards the various fields of textual analysis of sacred texts. With a strong background in Asian texts, and with laudable expertise in all forms of textual criticism, Signe Cohen succeeded in reviewing the many relevant aspects of this cross-disciplinary discussion. While doing so, and by focusing on Asian texts, she created a new dimension within the text-critical investigation.
In recent decades there has been a sea-change in the study of sacred texts. The ancient manuscripts are scattered across the globe in museums, libraries, and private collections and they are difficult to access. But now, high-resolution images of these ancient manuscripts are available online on any device, and comparisons of thousands of manuscripts now require only a few strokes on a keyboard. What we need is a global perspective on the development of sacred texts and that is what Textual Criticism and Sacred Texts provides. Drawing on sacred texts from India, China, the Middle East, Europe, and beyond, Prof. Cohen challenges us to reconsider their authority and power. Does their power come from a lost “authentic” original text, or are there always multiple meaningful versions? Did “accuracy” mean the same thing for scribes copying Hindu epics, Taoist philosophical treatises, Hebrew prophetic oracles, Christian canonical letters, and Qur’anic suras? And who gets the final word on sacred texts—academic specialists or religious practitioners? The global study of the transmission of sacred literatures has begun.