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The world's religions have many different sacred texts which are revered and used as teaching tools, devotional resources, ethical source books, inspirational guides, and character-shaping manuals.

On this program, host Phil Cousineau and three guests explore the origins, translations, and interpretations of sacred texts. Willis Barnstone is a writer of comparative literature, biblical studies, and poetry, as well as a New Testament and Gnostic scholar and translator. His most well-known book, The Restored New Testament, seeks to restore the lyricism and mysticism of the Jesus story and to undo centuries of mistranslation designed to obscure the Jewish identity of the carpenter from Nazareth.

Cynthia Bourgeault is a modern day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader. She is a popular leader of e-courses for Spirituality & Practice. She has actively participated in numerous interspiritual dialogues and events with luminaries and leaders from different world faiths. As the author of eight books, she travels globally and teaches the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom path.

Ken McLeon is a senior Western translator, author, and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. He received traditional training in the Shangpa-Kagyu lineage, through a long association with his principal teacher Kalu Rinpoche, for whom he served as translator and interpreter. He is known for his ability to explain deep and subtle teachings in clear and simple language.

All three have both experience with and insight into the interpretation of a wide variety of sacred texts. Most interesting is the segment of the program where they discuss the various ways these time-honored resources are being reappraised. A few of the newly discovered gospels (Thomas, Phillip, Judas, and Mary) are being widely studied and discussed.

Scholars have been buzzing for years about the gender bias in translations of various sacred texts. They also have been saddened by the religions that have used literalistic interpretations of sacred texts to justify hatred and violence against others.

In film clips, Cousineau travels to India, visits with Sikh religious leaders, and shows a short reading of a poem by the thirteenth century Sufi poet Rumi.

To Continue This Journey

  • On the program, they discuss what makes a text "sacred." How would you answer that question?
  • What is the most important sacred text in your life? What is your response to those who find great value in the use of multiple holy books to direct their lives and provide inspiration?
  • What, in your estimation, can be done to stem the tide of violence and hatred against those of religious faiths other than your own? Share your reactions to literalist interpretations of the Bible and the Qur'an which are often used to justify persecution of people from other religions.
  • What new information or insights did you glean from the segments on the Sikh religion and its belief system?
  • What roles can sacred texts play in the lives of those we call "the spiritually independent" (and others call "spiritual but not religious")?