The Gospel as a Semiotic System

Jacobson's communication model

Jacobson established the communication model as follows:


Emitter Message@ Receiver

Referent (Context, Contact)

When we have a communication, we have indispensably such factors. If we regard the emitter as God, and the receiver as man, we have the following correspondences. The message corresponds to the gospel as a written document. The code corresponds to the concept of life's integration. The context corresponds to the ontological relation between God and man. The contact corresponds to spiritual experience.

Based on the communication model, Jacobson established the six functions of signs. They are the referential function, the emotive function, the conative or injunctive function, the poetic or aesthetic function, the phatic function, and the meta-linguistic function. Among these, the referential function, the emotive function and the aesthetic function are particularly important for the Paradigm of Christ.

The referential function virtually the same as the 'code'. "It defines the relations between the message and the object to which it refers. ... This is the objective of logic, and of the various sciences that are codes whose essential function is to avoid any confusion between sign and thing, between message and encoded reality."(p.6, Semiology by Pierre Guiraud)

The emotive function is the emitter's relation to the message. It is the expression of the emitter's attitude to the object that the message refers to: "good or bad, beautiful or ugly, desirable or hateful, respectable or ridiculous". (p.6, ibid.) While the referential function is perceptive and objective, the emotive function is emotional and subjective. Therefore these are complementary.

The aesthetic function is the message's relation to itself. In an artistic product, such as literature, or a picture, its reference is the message as such. In this case, the message ceases to be a tool of communication, but becomes the object of the communication.

@Let us think about an example of the emotive function. When the emitter, God (or Jesus, the agent of the emitter) sees the object that causes life's integration, such as the characteristics of innocence, he accepts it. But when he sees the object that causes life's destruction, he severely refuses it as in the case of condemning the scribes and the Pharisees in Matthew, chapter 23. Generally speaking, the gospel strongly negates the objects that belong to the first temporal zone. In other words, the gospel distinguishes whether an object integrates or destroys life through the emitter's affirmation or negation to the object. The emotive attitudes of the emitter express love or hatred according to the objects he encounters. After all, these emotional reactions coordinate with the principle of life in integration and destruction and clarify the message of the semiotic system as a whole. For the referential code (the principle) in the gospel is objectively transformed from emotive human impulses through the phenomenal body. Jesus expresses his attitude not only by encountering the character objects but also in his teachings in dealing with the human actions or reactions caused by positive or negative human characteristics; pride, sensuality, etc..

The gospel also carries the aesthetic function. Although it can function aesthetically even on the level of the story, the gospel reorganized as a symbolic system, more radically works as an aesthetic function. Because the concept of life's integration is the Idea of the Good, and the Idea of the Beautiful, it reveals the content of Christ. This requires, at first, the destruction of the story and then the building of another system of messages according to the logical code of life. In other words, it is, metaphorically, to establish 'the temple not made by hands'.

The referential function and the emotive function are competitive with each other. One is objective and scientific, and the other is subjective and emotional. However, the Paradigm of Christ united them by placing life's emotive impulses, in accordance with our physical sensation, into objective space. In doing so, it became possible to deal with the subjective life as the objective. If we take Hegelian terms, we moved life from 'in-itself' to 'for-itself'. This method opened the way to refer to the logical codes that the emitter(God) originally provided.

The message should be transmitted as accurately as possible from the emitter to the receiver. In our daily lives, we often misunderstand the meaning of the message for various reasons, such as misreading the context of the situation, etc. The factor that induces the misunderstanding is called 'noise' in semiology. All that interrupts right understanding is 'noise'. If someone introduces other codes or contexts other than given codes or contexts, and if the seeker of the truth believes in it, decoding the message becomes impossible. The gospel mentions this kind of 'noise'. It is about the emergence of the false prophets at the end of the world. It implies that if the end is near, the change of our interpretation of the gospel necessarily makes us aware of the wrong interpretation of the false prophecy, that the New Testament as such comprises. Deciphering the message referring to the codes of life's integration is hard work for most people. For the sake of spreading the Christian revelation, this double standard may be adopted. At any rate, the gospel presupposes the existence of false prophecy. From the standpoint of life's integration that the metaphorical system indicates, the other easy interpretations are refused as false prophecy. For the people who want to 'enter the narrow gate', the emergence of the false prophecy is necessarily programmed in the gospel.

The syntactic code and the semantic code are complementary with each other. In the Paradigm of Christ, the syntactic code relates to the system and indicates the model, while the semantic code indicates the content of each symbol. The more the determination of both codes become clear, the more understandable the content of the reality of life becomes. In an ordinary language, the syntactic code corresponds to grammar and the semantic code corresponds to the meaning of a word in the dictionary. In language, the syntactic code arranges the message in linear mode. But in the case of pictures, visual arts, or maps, the arrangement of syntactic code is spatial. In the same way, the syntactic code of the Paradigm of Christ (the spatial code) is spatial.

A sign can be divided into a signifier and a signified. A signifier is an appearance of a sign, and a signified is the content of a signifier. When a signifier's appearance has analogous or homologous relation to a signified, it is said that the signifier is motivated, otherwise, unmotivated or arbitrary. For example, an emblem of a dog is motivated but the word 'dog' is not, as the relation of the letters d, o, g, to the figure of the dog are arbitrary.

From this signifier-signified relation, let us clarify the most important semantic codes in the Paradigm: Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. The name Jesus Christ is the signifier and the meaning, the formal integration is the signified. In the same way, the name John the Baptist is the signifier, and the meaning, the material integration is the signified. These signs function as metaphors; as analogously motivated signs and indicate the content 'the integrated being'.

In order to transmit the invisible and elusive reality of life's integration, it is necessary for us to transform the emotive totality of life into a logical code. It is, therefore, essential to grasp how this transformation takes place. Tracing and scrutinizing how the emotive reality of life can be transformed into a logical picture is one of the major concerns of the study of the Paradigm of Christ. Such epistemological analyses provide the theoretical foundation for the Paradigm of Christ. This is why we stress Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of body, Wittgenstein's picture theory, and Ricoeur's hermeneutics of metaphor. We need to have the clear picture of the universal condition where the emotive is transformed to the logical.

The most concise expression of the emotive being transformed to the logical is the figure of the Christ on the cross. When Christ, as life's integration homologous to light, ceases to function by being dead on the cross, the pattern of the spectrum arises out of the light. The logical transformation of life's integration can be done in this way so as to be the object of our perception. The genealogy, the geography, and the structure of the story, all of these are homologous to the Christ on the cross and make up a group of logical codes of life's integration. It is such pictures of life's integration that corresponds to our perception of life through the phenomenal body.