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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Greek ekstasis (Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16). Balsam "fell" (into a trance is not in the Hebrew) overpowered by the divine inspiration, as Saul (1 Samuel 19:24) "lay down naked (stripped of his outer royal robes) all that day and all that night." God's word in Balaam's and Saul's dusts acted on an alien will and therefore overpowered the bodily energies by which that will ordinarily worked. Luke, the physician and therefore one likely to understand the phenomena, alone used the term. Acts 10:10, Peter in trance received the vision abolishing distinctions of clean and unclean, preparing him for the mission to the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 22:17-21). Paul in trance received his commission, "depart far hence unto the Gentiles."

In the Old Testament Abram's "deep sleep and horror of great darkness" (Genesis 15:12) are similar. Also Ezekiel's sitting astonished seven days (Ezekiel 3:15), then the hand of Jehovah coming upon him (Ezekiel 3:22). As in many miracles, there is a natural form of trance analogous to the supernatural, namely, in ecstatic epilepsy the patient is lost to outward impressions and wrapped in a world of imagination; Frank, who studied catalepsy especially, stated he never knew the case of a Jew so affected. Mesmerism also throws nervously susceptible persons into such states. Concentration of mind, vision, and hearing on one object produces it. Intense feeling and long continued thought tend the same way.

Muslim's visions and journey through the heavens were perhaps of this kind; so devotees' "ecstasies of adoration." In the Bible trance God marks its supernatural character by its divinely ordered consequences. Peter's trance could not be accidental and imaginary, for while meditating on it he hears the Spirit's voice, "behold three men seek thee, arise therefore, get thee down, go with them doubting nothing, for I have sent them." His finding exactly three men, and at that very time, waiting for him below to go to Cornelius who had also beheld a distinct vision, could only be by divine interposition. The English "trance" comes through French from the Latin transitus, at first "passing away from life," then the dream vision state, in which the soul is temporarily transported out of the body and abstracted from present things into the unseen world.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Trance'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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