World Religions Through Their Scriptures

XSeries Program

Join Harvard Online in this series of online courses taught by renowned faculty to learn how to interpret the world's sacred texts.

Featuring faculty from:
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What You'll Learn

The study of religion is rich and fascinating — and goes well beyond beliefs and ritual practices. In this series, learners explore the diversity and evolution of the religions around the world. Through scripture, learners will explore themes such as gender and sexuality, art and science, violence and peace, and power and authority.


Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are global religions with diversity in language, culture, history, and creed, but the sacred scriptures of the Tanakh, the Bible, and the Quran give followers a shared language. How do Jews draw inspiration and guidance from traditional texts? How have Christians lived out their stories and teachings? What is the relationship between the Quran and the prophet Mohammed? This series will answer these questions and introduce you to these scriptures.

Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism present a rich array of religious texts from across the Indian subcontinent. How do these texts influence the lives of adherents? What challenges do multiple collections of scriptures present for practitioners? Why is Sikhism, the fifth largest religion, relatively unknown in the Western world? Learners will explore the tenets, beliefs, and history of these followers by analyzing scripture, literature, and contemporary media relevant to these religions.

Both the faithful and the questioning are invited to join us as we traverse the globe to explore the power of the written word and its relevance to contemporary public life and the spiritual lives of all who encounter it.

After completing the XSeries Program in World Religions Through Their Scriptures, learners will be able to:

  • Interpret the roles world religions to play in today and throughout history.
  • Appreciate the internal diversity and evolution of world religions and their scriptures.
  • Understand the strengths and limitations of learning about world religions through their sacred texts.
  • Explore how scriptures are interpreted to diverse ends in different historical and cultural contexts.
  • Engage in nuanced readings of world scriptures.

Series Courses

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Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures

Learn how religion influences culture

Led by Harvard faculty, this course will help you learn to better understand the complex ways that religions function in historic and contemporary contexts.

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Buddhism Through Its Scriptures

Experience Buddhism across time and place

Join Harvard University faculty in this online course where you will learn about the rich beliefs and practices of Buddhist practitioners across time and place.

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Christianity Through Its Scriptures

Learn how religion influences culture

Led by Harvard faculty, learn about Christianity through its scriptures and explore how Christians have interpreted these writings over a 2000 year history.

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Hinduism Through Its Scriptures

Experience the sacred texts of Hinduism

Join expert faculty to learn about the rich diversity of Hindu texts—hymns, narratives, philosophical thought—and their interpretations.

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Islam Through Its Scriptures

Experience the central and sacred text of Islam

Join Harvard faculty in this course to learn about the Quran through an exploration of the rich diversity of roles and interpretations in Muslim societies.

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Judaism Through Its Scriptures

Experience the sacred texts of Judaism

Join Harvard University faculty to learn about the key beliefs and practices of Judaism through an examination of its sacred texts and their interpretation.

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Sikhism Through Its Scriptures

Experience the texts of Sikhism

Join Harvard University faculty to examine the Sikh scripture and teachings from a historical perspective and discover how the text evolved and was canonized.

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