Theses Doctoral

Age of Scripture: Divine Words and Human Authors in Premodern India

St Amant, Guy

"Age of Scripture" charts the first-millennium emergence of new bodies of scripture within three major South Asian religious communities and considers intellectual responses to their rapid proliferation. This period witnessed an explosion in the production of textualized teachings attributed to the Buddha, Śiva, and Viṣṇu. These new corpora resemble one another in important ways, and their rise to prominence contributed to a shared sense of what it meant for a text to be "scripture."

This study examines how these texts were conceptualized and analyzes them with reference to the actual practices employed in their production. In other words, it considers what it meant for these communities to attribute a definite text to a divine or awakened figure — whether the Buddha, Śiva, or Viṣṇu — and seeks to uncover how the notion of divine authorship, broadly defined, relates to the ways in which human beings actually produced and transmitted sacred texts. It shows that a similar set of presuppositions governed the creation of divine words across different communities, enabling comparable outcomes among Buddhists, Śaivas, and Vaiṣṇavas.

After setting out the text-historical shape of this period, "Age of Scripture" considers the intellectual-historical reaction to these corpora. It analyzes, first of all, Mīmāṃsā attempts to deny the validity of these new texts through an anti-pluralistic philosophy that establishes, at least in theory, the Veda as the sole source of scriptural authority. And, second, it reviews various attempts to contend with Mīmāṃsā’s challenge, especially through rationalized defenses of pluralism.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Pollock, Sheldon
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2022