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    Jewish references in Xenogears

    RadicalDreamer
    RadicalDreamer

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    Post by RadicalDreamer on Mon Feb 29, 2016 12:05 pm

    So, if you happen to visit Tumblr or own a Tumblr blog, my guess is that you check the Xenogears tag once in a while. Recently, someone (of jewish heritage/religion) criticized the game for handling jewish references badly and gratuitously (as well as Xenosaga... Xenoblade, however, was praised).
    Spoiler:
    This person also recently shut me down while I was trying to discuss with him/her Rolling Eyes . Whatever. Typical of tumblr "us versus them" mentality these days...
    Well, while I won't deny that not every single reference in Xenogears had deep meaning to it (same thing could be said for a lot of fictional works... the Final Fantasy games also use many non japanese folklore)... the use of jewish elements in what is essentially a sci-fi bible story doesn't bother me. But most importantly, I doubt that jewish references in the game were distributed randomly (for the most part). And this is what I want to discuss here. What is the meaning behind all the jewish naming of the game ?

    For example, the various cities/nations named after jewish months ? Do you think the use of "Kislev", "Av", "Shevat" or "Nisan" are meaningful within the storyline ? I've never seen anyone in the fandom try to dig into this. Usually, websites just specify "named after months in the jewish calendar" and stop there.

    After seeing this person on Tumblr kind of attack the game about its use of jewish names/references... it led me to do a few researches on my own. I went on various jewish websites and actually... I found some interesting stuff.

    Nisan is a good example of what I'm talking about.

    Nisan is also referred to as “the month of the redemption.” According to the accepted opinion of our sages: “In Nisan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt and in Nisan we will be redeemed” (Rosh Hashanah 11a).

    Nisan is a month of miracles, as its name stems from the Hebrew word for “miracles” (ניסים). The fact that the name Nisan (ניסן) possesses two nuns (נ and ן) implies according to the sages to “miracles of miracles” (ניסי ניסים). Of the future redemption, it is said: “As the days of your exodus from Egypt, I shall reveal to him wonders.” In Chassidut this verse is explained to mean that the wonders of the redemption of the future will be wondrous and miraculous even relative to the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt–hence “miracles of miracles.”
    http://www.inner.org/times/nissan/nissan.htm

    Another interesting page about Nisan : http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/Rosh_Chodashim/rosh_chodashim.html

    From what I gathered from searching multiple websites, "Nisan" is about "miracles", "redemption", "rebirth", "salvation", "deliverance", "spring", "flowers"... In Xenogears, the town is a religious center and becomes a place of salvation, of hope in disc 2. And its current leader is named Marguerite (this is a flower name). Not only that, but Nisan (and its leader Sophia... aka Elly... aka the one with the WE/God's will) was fighting a war for freedom against Solaris. "Nisan" is the first month in the jewish calendar as its represents jewish people's freedom from their oppressors (egyptians/pharaoh). As for rebirth... maybe Sophia "coming back" in the game illustrates this.

    I could talk about the other months in details (I found out that there was a connection between Tammuz and Ezekiel... in short it's a "people worship this ancient god Tammuz and God gets angry about it" story... Ezekiel is the messenger... in Xenogears, Ezekiel is the name of the ship that attacks the Thames/Tammuz and the Ethos... I guess the Gazel = God, Ethos = the "unfaithful believers" and Thames = the "pagan" god/idol... since the Ethos was in partnership with the Thames to gather enough power to overthrow Solaris)... but I'm a bit tired and I'd like to know what you think about this.
    Yikari
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    Post by Yikari on Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:12 am

    If anyone cares to know what I think, my own reaction when I cottoned on that at least some of the names and terms thrown around were not just made up wholecloth could be expressed as:

    'Neat. Now what?'

    It is very much possible that I simply didn't dig well enough. But when every single probing search  I've attempted so far came up with no details that helped to explain to me what, how and why was happening on the screen or (in my opinion, at least) added to the atmosphere, I felt discouraged and stopped trying.

    Yes, the references could be said to spoil the next sequence of events of the game's story if you happen to know the meaning beforehand, the same way the ministers do, but do they offer additional insight into, say, what was Deus doing and why it did what it did? Or why Taura is so blase about, essentially, forcibly injecting every living humanoid on the planet with untested mutagens? Or if Miang can actually assume other person's identity at will (through either affecting the mind of people around her or actually shapeshifting, doesn't really matter which) and not just change hosts when the previous one is destroyed? Etc, etc.

    I.e. the stuff I actually would've liked to get the answers to within the narrative and not, say, potentially interesting but ultimately much less important answer to what relation Kislev's extensively corrupt prison system has to do with the origins of its name.

    So, to sum it up, until I stumble upon something more meaningful than 'bonus points for knowing what this means, player, good job, move along,' I'll regard all this stuff the same way I do Krelian's technobabble - as technobabble.

    XXX

    I suppose I shouldn't have even bothered typing this post up, if I had more or less nothing to add to the discussion. But, well, this is a forum made for talking about stuff in this fandom, and I try to be honest when people ask me what I think. Smile
    RadicalDreamer
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    Post by RadicalDreamer on Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:33 pm

    @Yikari wrote:So, to sum it up, until I stumble upon something more meaningful than 'bonus points for knowing what this means, player, good job, move along,' I'll regard all this stuff the same way I do Krelian's technobabble - as technobabble.

    Well... okay. But I'm really interested in finding out why things were named the way they were and what it means in the story (especially when there are nay-sayers out there who think Xenogears is no better than Evangelion in how it used religious references *I'm not trying to claim the game was perfect at this... just that I think it wasn't ALL mindless name dropping... I hope*). Maybe I'm looking too hard into things. Maybe Takahashi and co really didn't give much thought in some of the references they pulled. But I'm sure there was a reason for a lot of them. I mean, surely naming the false god of the story Yahweh (Deus) wasn't thoughtless (even if pretty offensive to people of judeo-christian faith... but this is Xenogears and every Xeno game for you... they're anti religion... and Xenogears is a twisted bible story).

    Something else I researched : Shevat.

    Shevat is the month of trees. Besides trees (+ vegetables and fruits) cultivated on Shevat... what is interesting to note is that Shevat used to be at the top of Babel Tower. Not only that but Shevat used to rule over the entire tower before it took off (the entire tower was Shevat during Sophia era... this is what I mean).
    Now, let's look at what is the Tower of Babel. The connection between the earth and heavens. In another words : Axis mundi, the pillar of the world. Well, here the thing, the tower + Shevat can be compared to the Tree of Life. In Norse Mythology, it is called Yggdrasil. In the game, Bart and Sigurd's ship is called this. But what is interesting to note is that Shevat built the Yggdrasil ships (well, according to the game... for some reason, PW says that Roni designed them... I'm going to assume Shevat built those ships for Roni/Aveh)... which, like Babel Tower, are meant to connect different parts of the world (as vehicles getting upgrades).

    Also, I just discovered why Khan was even called "Wiseman". Stories actually tell of a fourth wise man besides Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar. This wiseman's gift was in the form of 3 stones/gems. You need to find 3 stones to enter Wiseman's room in Shevat.

    Another research about Kislev :

    It is an autumn and dark/cold month (November/December) in the hebrew calendar (with the Chanukah holiday as the light of the month, representing the power of good/light over evil/darkness... the Nisan emblem in Xenogears represents "light" and Nisan has a benevolent religious center in Nortune). Kislev in the game is located in the coldest part of Ignas (PW mentions Nortune being in the middle of a tundra). Also, Nortune itself could be said to be a dark city (I didn't find the etymology for "Nortune" on the internet... but it sounds close to "Nocturne"... which again, links to darkness/the night... ahh and PW says it means "ship building place"... dunno if this meaning was made up or not... I got a few results on google that led me to boats named Nortun but that's it *and google wants me to spell it norton -_-*).
    Other than that, Kislev is said to be the month of dreams. You wake up in Kislev after dreaming in the game.

    And I found this :

    On the 19th of Kislev we commemorate Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe’s release from prison in czarist Russia and all charges against him were dropped. It is the practice of Chabad chassidim to celebrate this date as Rosh Hashanah (the “New Year”) of Chassidut).

    If it means anything about the whole prison thing...

    "Av" is a summer month of tragedies and comfort (represented by a lion/Leo) and litterally means "father".

    Sad as the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av may be, the month of Av is not only mourning and fasting. Change into your clean clothes because after the 9th of Av comes the anticipation of comfort and consolation, reflected in the rabbinic name for the month itself -- Menachem Av -- He who comforts Av.

    On the Saturday after the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av (Shabbat Nachamu -- the Sabbath of Comfort ), we read the Haftarah from Isaiah that begins, "Comfort ye, My people." Then, the mood changes from despair to hope. In the shtetl, Shabbat Nachamu was a festive time, and many a happy bride and groom tied the knot on that weekend.

    May be interesting considering Aveh's history in the game.

    I can't say much about "Elul", considering the country barely appears in the story (only to be torched in a flashback).

    Also, from the Guardian Angels website :

    Etemenanki (Etrenank)
    [Capitol of Solaris.]
    "E-temen-anki" is the name the Tower of Babel received from the people who built it, meaning "House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth", and it was of course built to reach the heavens. In the game, Etrenank is the capitol of Solaris, the country's only city. The people of Solaris consider themselves the beginning, or foundation, of humanity, supposedly descended from the Holy Emperor Cain.

    Meaning that, in Xenogears, there are two "towers" of Babel.

    Something else about Nimrod and its Emperor/King, Kusel Laodicia :

    Nimrod was a King who defied God. He's said to have decided the building of Babel Tower. He was apparently ruthless :

    A portent in the stars tells Nimrod and his astrologers of the impending birth of Abraham, who would put an end to idolatry. Nimrod therefore orders the killing of all newborn babies.

    The Emperor Kusel Laodicia (of the Laodicia Dynasty) of Nimrod in the game was trying to trick Nisan to gain power and commanded the murder of Sophia when she was 13. The point I guess here is that Sophia represents the one who is destined to bring a new age (the antitype is quite the martyr prophet-like figure... she embodies the will of the Wave Existence, after all) and Nimrod's Emperor represents the "corrupted" who doesn't want anything to stand in his way. Krelian was also born in Nimrod... and as we know it, he ended up trying to create "his own God" (and Solaris ended up as a second Babel Tower).

    Now, Laodicia...

    The city of this name mentioned in Scripture lay on the confines of Phrygia and Lydia, about 40 miles east of Ephesus (Revelation 3:14), on the banks of the Lycus. It was originally called Diospolis and then Rhoas, but afterwards Laodicea, from Laodice, the wife of Antiochus II., king of Syria, who rebuilt it. It was one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor. At a very early period it became one of the chief seats of Christianity (Colossians 2:1; 4:15; Revelation 1:11, etc.). It is now a deserted place, called by the Turks Eski-hissar or "old castle."

    In Xenogears, the Laodicia Dynasty of the Nimrod Empire was important and flourishing too. They adopted Nisan as the national religion... in hope of gaining power over it.

    That said, it's a bit weird Takahashi made Nimrod the name of the Empire and not the name of the Emperor. But... oh well... at the end of the day... we get the picture.
    Also, former Nisan wasn't located where the current one is in the game. Apparently, the former Penuel faction moved after Sophia's disappearance to rebuild in current Nisan. PW says Nimrod was located "near the present day Kislev/Aveh border".

    I really want to say I'm not forcing those interpretations on anyone and do not claim myself a scholar on judaism/jewish + christian history and religion (that would be awkward and presumptious). I'm sure some people would debate my "findings". I'm just sharing them to the fandom.
    opkij
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    Post by opkij on Thu Mar 03, 2016 4:44 pm

    Interesting! It feels like forever since I read posts like this about Xenogears.

    I really liked the part about Wiseman and how he probably got his name!

    Of course I believe that most of the references have meaning and are well planned but I am also sure
    that some of them are just thrown in.
    RadicalDreamer
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    Post by RadicalDreamer on Fri Mar 04, 2016 3:19 am

    @opkij wrote:Interesting! It feels like forever since I read posts like this about Xenogears.

    I really liked the part about Wiseman and how he probably got his name!

    Of course I believe that most of the references have meaning and are well planned but I am also sure
    that some of them are just thrown in.

    Yes. I'll take for example the item "Samson hair" in the game as one gratuitous reference. However, the character Samson (who dies trying to help you in Solaris) seems to be a different story (can't say more right now, as I'm typing from my ps3).
    Also, we have to consider that, as Takahashi used Gnoticism to convey his thoughts on religion, it makes sense that the story is a twisted biblical-like tale. My thought about Deus is that once the machine became sentient (which happened when the WE got trapped... correct me if I'm wrong), it tried to pass itself as God by taking from original humans' first monotheist religion (the first testament). The Eldridge's computer contained records on human history, after all.
    Hence the story depicting a tyrannical machine as the hebrew God (a false tyrannical one based on Gnostic belief) and the WE as a real divine/superior, mysterious and humble (remember that the WE answers evasivelly when Fei asks if he's God... that's a thing in gnostic belief) entity with the antitype as a Jesus figure (so, as far as crucixition references go, Elly displayed on a cross is a more legitimate reference than the entire golgotha scene... which I always hated for various reasons).
    Now, I don't know/remember if humans named Deus or if the machine named itself... but I prefer the latter myself (makes more sense to me).

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