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A Structuralist Interpretation of Religious Deep Structure on Human Sacrifice in the Old Testament and Korean Traditional Folktales: Focusing on Genesis 22 and Son-Soon Mae-A Folktale

Il Seung Chung 1

1건신대학원대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study is to utilize Algirdas J. Greimas’ "semiotic model" as a research methodology, and to analyze and demonstrate religious and archetypal deep structure by comparing Abraham’s offering of Isaac(Gen. 22:1-19) in the book of Genesis with the folk-tale of Son-Soon Mae-A, which is similar in its literary structure and contents to Genesis 22. The story of human sacrifice is based on the actual practice of human sacrifice and is widely passed down not only in the Old Testament, but also in Korea, Japan, China, Europe, and other countries. The worldview behind human sacrifices has its original essence in believing that sacrifices become the source of existence through death and promote the return to the primitive state of chaos. It is to acquire and continue its existence in the primitive chaos state among the interactions of “chaos” and “order” in the beginning. The story of human sacrifice fundamentally has its meaning and function in the circulation and promotion of existence, even if various “modifications” exist. However, the mythical archetypes derived from the custom of human sacrifice changed over time toward the act of respecting human life and replacing it with other offerings. In Genesis 22, a “ram” replaces Isaac, and a “stone bell” in the folk-tale of Son-Soon Mae-A serves, in a modified form, as a replacement for Son-Soon’s child. In Genesis 22 and the folk-tale of Son-Soon Mae-A, the interaction between "sacrifice" and "rescue" constitutes a deep structure of meaning system. In both stories, sacrifice to kill children is an important motif, but as a result, the child to be sacrificed is not sacrificed, and the protagonist’s faith and filial piety stop the sacrifice, highlighting ethical issues.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.