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I’m sitting and reading up on theories in Religious Studies, and went through some of the founding theorists (at least claimed to so), Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Saussure. The last, being a linguistic, founded the theory on language as a structure of signs, being related to synchronic rather than diachronic.

A part of his theory is that words have their meanings from a structured understanding, being created on a conventional fundament, rather than having the words inheriting their meanings based on some natural relation to the objects of the words. That is, the word “dog” means “dog” because that is something we have agreed on, not because there is some natural relation between the word and the object. This is explained a little simple, I know.


Anyway, the thing is that he sees words as having meaning from their opposition, that is, a dog is a dog, opposed to cat, not based on the magical composition of the word dog, with the three letters magically put together and then giving this particular meaning.

Why that is important for the study of religion, is that this concept, the understanding of “symbols” or “signs” (words being signs or symbols) can be used in the study of religion as well, and thus we can understand what something is or mean, by putting against what it is not (for example, day is not night), hence we can get an understanding of what holy is by putting it opposite what is profane (or the other way around) as well as good and evil and so on.


Anyway, what struck me is the focus the various religions put on some symbols, for example “good” vs. “evil,” and how we can get a better understanding of the religions by seeing which symbolic value they put on what is “right” vs. what is “wrong,” as well as how they relate to it.

Here in particular I thought about Christianity and Judaism. Where the dichotomy is being formed around “good” and “evil” in Christianity (take for example Jesus and Satan), in Judaism it is more about “allowed” and “forbidden” in Judaism (doing the commandment or refraining from it), which seems to me that the two religions have different relation to what is a right moral behavior. I haven’t established any thesis or theory on this, it is just a thought I got, but if there is something about it, then the whole notion of “Judeo-Christian” anything seems to be, well, without any basis, since that would be putting two different notions, which differ to much to make it one. Or would it?


Seems like something I have to think a little more about, but please feel free to add comments. If it gave any sense at all.


Take care out there!


  1. stokermatic says:

    good thoughts. i’ve read a bit of nietzsche, and a little of the others as well. i don’t agree with a lot of their endings, but how they get where they are going is very interesting.

    however, there are many self-referential theory’s about god, religion, etc. for many, salvation itself is nothing but social elitism (which is nothing but a consequence of having a self-referential theory of language).

    • qolyehudi says:

      Hi Stoker

      Thanks for the comment.

      I don’t that there are many of the old theorists that can be said to have “figured it out,” they are products of their time, as well as we are. But as you state, how they are getting where they are getting is certainly very interesting, and that we can’t use their conclusions doesn’t mean that we can’t use their methods, at least to a certain extent.

      Regarding the “salvation,” one of the main problems defining and understanding terms, is that they rarely mean the same in one tradition as they do in another. Salvation in Judaism is not what it is in Christianity, so can we establish the same referral to the term across the religions/traditions?

      If I have reached any form of “theoretical” base in my studies of religions and cultures, then it is that the student and scholar of these is a translator, just as one is it, when studying languages, and that you cannot fully understand one religion, unless you relate it to another. It’s not merely enough to say that “revelation in Christianity is an expression of social elitism,” if you talk to one who don’t understand Christianity.

      All the best

  2. Martin Hirtius says:

    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
    In these days my thoughts are about how to fight evil. I think that could be a quite interesting field to explore for my next examination.
    Speaking of Nietzsche. 🙂

    • qolyehudi says:

      Hi Martin:o)

      Good to see you here;o)

      I’m really looking forward to read “Beyond Good and Evil,” haven’t had the time yet.

      I believe that the subject is important in our time, more than ever. I mean, we see it, when we deal with the conflict here, as well as the various revolutions around in the ME. How do we deal with the “monsters” without having to become monsters ourselves? When I see how some Jews respond to Palestinians, I wonder whether they are not really becoming monsters, and if that is so, then is it worth it?

      Note: I’m not saying that all Israelis or Jews are monsters, not even a majority. What I do mean to say is that when you have a person objecting to Arabs yelling “push the Jews into the ocean,” and the next day repeating that statement in almost the same form, then what is the difference? When I see Jews describing Palestinians as “pigs,” while objecting to Palestinians saying the same about Jews, then who is the monster here?

  3. Michael Kay says:

    It’s an interesting observation that the ideas of good and evil seem to be so different; I feel Judaism focuses more on permitted and forbidden actions in everyday life than Christianity does, though. Halakha really gets to the heart of individual actions to define specifically what can and can’t be done, and what it is about what can’t be done that crosses the line between permitted and not. Christianity on the other hand rejected that framework in favour of a focus on an individual’s personal relationship with God independent of all these details. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that they are so different. I do agree that the idea of anything being ‘Judeo-Christian’ doesn’t really mean anything as the approaches are often pretty much opposed to one another.

    • qolyehudi says:

      Hi Michael:o)

      I don’t hope that I made it sound like my thought was that Christianity focuses more on permitted and forbidden actions? I mean it the other way around, most definitely, and I agree in your presentation here.

      The funny thing about the Judea-Christian idea, is that many Christians who use this term, are also vehemently against Christian and Islam sharing any foundations. As far as I am aware, it makes much more sense to talk about Judeo-Islamic values than Judeo-Christian values, however one wants to view these values.

      That doesn’t mean – of course – that Judaic, Islamic or Christian values are worse or better than the others, that probably will be decided by the religions’ believers, as well as people finding similarities and differences between their own sets of values and the three religions’ set of values.

      • Michael Kay says:

        I didn’t think you meant Christianity was about permitted and forbidden actions, I was just agreeing with you. 🙂 I also agree that there are more similarities, at least on the surface, between Judaism and Islam. However, I feel some of the rationales behind the seemingly similar things we do are different, for example I have heard Muslim arguments that the prohibition on pork is because it’s unhealthy; I don’t think Jews would ever say this.

  4. […] just a few thoughts about the meaning of words, and the notion of “salvation” on a  blog i follow. it was noted that it’s difficult to inject a view from one story into the paradigm […]

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