On the Vacuity of the Biblical Sign

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Biblical exegesis has argued over the centuries for the fulness and presence inherent in the biblical space, foreclosing, in effect, any possibility for a theory of sign production. Biblical praxis was limited to the establishment and maintenance of a power structure (political in the narrowest sense) that determined the very process of signification. Meaning could not possibly have arisen outside this power structure. This paper will argue (in contradiction with all centralized theories of signification) for the emptiness and decentralization of the biblical sign as the necessary condition for its production of meaning. An attempt will be made at the elaboration of a theory of Biblical semiotics based on the four interpretational grids of Biblical exegesis: pshat, remez, drash, and sod, that come under the heading PaRDeS ‐ or rather prds: (for, in Hebrew, the vowels constitute a separate, parallel system, and the consonants are the basic ingredients that determine the parameters of the sign) ‘p’ for pshat or literal meaning ‘r’ for remez or allusive meaning ‘d’ for drash or homiletic meaning; and, finally, ‘s’ for sod or esoteric/mystical meaning ‐ the configuration that includes them all. It will be shown that the movement from the first grid, the pshat, to the last grid, the sod, involves a process of distancy from the text and is dependent, in effect, upon the vacuity of the sign. That vacuity, we will argue, makes for the process of generation and multiplication of signs, their production and reproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-204
Number of pages12
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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