Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Oren B. Stier

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Whitney Bauman

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Steven M. Vose

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Hermeneutics, Religious Literature, Sacred Texts, Scripture, Translation, Literacy Theory, Religious Studies, Textual Criticism, Material Culture

Date of Defense



This thesis examines a specific type of instance that bridges the divide between seeing sacred texts as merely vehicles for content and as objects themselves: self-reference. Doing so yielded a heuristic system of categories of self-reference in sacred texts based on the way the text self-describes: Inlibration, Necessity, and Untranslatability.

I provide examples of these self-referential features as found in various sacred texts: the Vedas, Āgamas, Papyrus of Ani, Torah, Quran, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and the Book of Mormon. I then examine how different theories of sacredness interact with them. What do Durkheim, Otto, Freud, or Levinas say about these? How are their theories changed when confronted with sacred texts as objects as well as containers for content? I conclude by asserting that these self-referential features can be seen as ‘self-sacralizing’ in that they: match understandings of sacredness, speak for themselves, and do not occur in mundane texts.





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