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Holy Books and Manuscripts  

Mikeal C. Parsons

Most religious traditions venerate a certain corpus of writings as authoritative for the beliefs, practices, doctrine, and ethics of that community. Often that corpus is a closed canon of sacred texts collected in one document that may be accompanied by traditions of interpretive strategies, which in turn may be formal and written, ad hoc and oral, or some combination of the two. Reverence for those writings often manifested itself in the care of and attention to the ongoing production of those texts. Illustrations, illuminations, or decorative designs frequently accompanied the reproduction of the text, further revealing the devotion to and reverence for the community’s holy book. Judaism and Christianity are two such religious traditions, and their adherents are often called “people of the Book.” Manuscripts (in particular illuminated ones) played a crucial role in establishing and sustaining the religious authority of the Bibles of Judaism and, especially, of Christianity.