Although it is not fashionable to admit it; Protestant Christianity has shaped our American culture to a great extent.  Similarly our thinking on religion is colored by at least the stereotype of that tradition.  It is fashionable these days to think that all religions are pretty much alike, that is to think of other religions as something not entirely unlike Christianity with a different coat of paint. Because scripture and the study of scripture is a big part of protestant Christianity it is also tempting to think that if we understood the scriptures of other religions that we would understand that religion.  That is not necessarily true but examining the various scriptural traditions can still be helpful.

Scriptures are important in most religions, but not equally so. Even within Christianity there are groups that value church tradition as a near or equal in authority to the written scripture, although even for them the study of scripture is important. Scriptures are certainly studied by those who are the professionals in their particular religion but are likely not studied by those who practice them. (This is also true in much of Christendom today and certainly was the rule before the advent of printing.) Even within a given religious tradition the scriptures and their interpretation vary somewhat. It is also common in many traditions for scriptures to play more of a ceremonial role. They may be recited or chanted as part of religious observance but not necessarily studied as one might study other literature. In a sense they transmit something mystical and spiritual but not information that is to be understood.

Another problem is that there is often a disconnect between the official or perhaps theological basis of a religion and what its adherents beleave and practice. This disconnect may be partly reflected in the observations here and it is hard to know from outside the size of this gap. Still if we assume that our interpretation of the scriptures of a particular religion are correct and that of its adherents is wrong we put ourselves in a rather odd position of arrogance; we can make pronouncements without sufficient study. We see examples of that sort of error in places like the Bible quiz on the Freedom from Religion Foundation web site. It is quite dishonest and designed to ridicule rather than inform. Their main premise being that Christians do not understand their own scriptures.  This page is an attempt to understand the purpose the scriptures serve in their respective contexts, not an attempt to interpret them. This is intended to be honest study; not a polemic.

Christian theologians speak of two methods God uses to reveal himself to his creation: General revelation and Special revelation. General revelation refers to the general truths that can be known about God through nature. God's creation reflects His character and there is much that can be understood about Him in an innate sense. Special revelation refers to the more specific truths that are known about God through supernatural means.  Generally, for the Christian, scripture falls into the category of special revelation.  Not all religions recognize special revelation in the same sense as will be evident from the following material. Mystical experience may be considered special revelation in some contexts and indeed the primary vehicle of special revelation rendering scripture to a position of secondary importance.

Given all of this it is difficult to come up with a useful comparison of scriptures.  The following table began as table 3.1 in A Tapestry of Faiths by Winfried Corduan where he also provides the following disclaimer:

The most important point I can make in regard to this table is that there are few things as misleading as a table of this sort. Sure, each of these religions has one or more Scriptures, but for each one of them, the very nature of Scripture is radically different. (Corduan 2002: p57, 8)

As with all of this site, this is a work-in-progress, I have come to the conclusion that this page will never be other than an introduction.  Clicking on the religion in the contents box will take you to words about the religious context of the scripture.  The other links take you to more detail about the scripture itself.  Reading straight through will touch it all in the order of the table.  Christianity is absent from the table because it is the focus of most of the rest of the site but the vocabulary here is largely Christian.  The distinction between Canon and Deutero-canon can also be a bit sketchy, the distinction in the table is that the deurto-canonical writings are not necessarily considered scripture but seem to have the power of scripture when it comes to faith and practice. 

Religion Main Scripture(s):
Secondary Scriptures:
Judaism Tanakh (Law, Prophets, Writings) Mishnah, Talmud
Islam Qur'an or Koran Sunnah, Hadith, Older Revelation
Zoroastrianism Avesta (Collection spanning many levels)  
Hinduism Vedas, Brahmanas, Sutras, Upanishads Ramayana, Mahabharata (including the Bhagvad Gita)
Sikhism Adi Granth Sahib Granth Sahib as edited by Gobind Singh; Rehat Maryada
Buddhism Triptaka (Three Baskets), Lotus Sutra Many sutras, depending on the school.
Jainism Angas and other writings  
Baha'i Book of Certitude. Other writings of Baha'ullah Writings of Abdul Baha, Shogi Effendi
Daoism Daodejing, Zhuangzi  
Shinto Kojiki, Nihongi, Amatsu Norito  
Confuciansim Analects