Any system of signs used to communicate is in some sense a "code". The meaning of a coded message is understood through knowledge that sender and receiver share. If we think of the words and phrases of a literary work as the signs of a code, then we draw attention to the way shared knowledge carries meaning.

Another meaning of code refers to an organised collection of laws or rules, e.g. the Napoleonic Code. If we relate this idea to literary codes then we focus on the way in which particular elements in a work form part of an organised structure of thought.

Looked at like this we can see that:

  1. the degree to which a reader understands an ancient work is limited by the extent to which she can share the knowledge structures of that ancient world
  2. the meaning of an expression can be changed, while much of its power is retained, by changing elements in the structure of words and ideas of which it forms part, of the "code" (in something like the second sense above) within which it operates - recodification.

This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.