free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
DREAM.—The interest of the student of the Gospels in dreams turns upon the occurrence in the opening chapters of Matthew of the record of no fewer than five supernatural dreams (Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:12-13; Matthew 2:19; Matthew 2:22). Later in the same Gospel mention is made of a remarkable dream which came to the wife of Pilate (Matthew 27:19). There is no reference to dreams elsewhere in the NT except in a citation from the OT in Acts 2:17 and in an obscure verse in Jude (Judges 1:8).
No allusion is made in the Gospels, or indeed in the whole NT, to dreams as phenomena forming part of the common experience of man. Any such allusions that may occur in Scripture are, of course, purely incidental; they are therefore in the whole extent of Scripture very infrequent. Barely enough exist to assure us that dreams were thought of by the Hebrews very much as they are by men of average good sense in our own day. Men then, too, were visited with pleasant dreams which they knew were too good to be true (Psalms 126:1), and afflicted with nightmares which drove rest from their beds (Job 7:14). To them, too, I dreams were the type of the evanescent and shadowy, whatever suddenly flies away and cannot be found (Job 20:8, Psalms 73:20). The vanity and deceptiveness of dreams were proverbial (Ecclesiastes 5:7, Isaiah 29:8). The hungry man may dream that he eats, but his soul continues empty; the thirsty man may dream that he drinks, but he remains faint (Isaiah 29:8). Their roots were set in the multitude of cares, and their issue was emptiness (Ecclesiastes 5:3; Ecclesiastes 5:7). When the Son of Sirach (Sirach 34:1-2) represents them as but reflexions of our waking experiences, to regard which is to catch at a shadow and to follow after the wind, he has in no respect passed beyond the Biblical view. (Cf. Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology, p. 328; Orelli, art. ‘Träume’ in PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ).
The interest of the Bible in dreams is absorbed by the rare instances in which they are made the vehicles of supernatural revelation. That they were occasionally so employed is everywhere recognized, and they therefore find a place in the several enumerations of the modes of revelation (Numbers 12:6, Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 28:15, Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, Jeremiah 23:3; Jeremiah 23:25; Jeremiah 23:28; Jeremiah 23:32; Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8, Zechariah 10:2; Job 4:13; Job 33:15 stand somewhat apart). In this matter, too, the Son of Sirach retains the Biblical view, explicitly recognizing that dreams may be sent by the Most High in the very passage in which he reproves the folly of looking upon dreams in general as sources of knowledge (Sirach 34:6). The superstitions attitude characteristic of the whole heathen world, which regards all dreams as omens, and seeks to utilize them for purposes of divination, receives no support whatever from the Biblical writers. Therefore in Israel there arose no ‘houses of dreams,’ there was no place for a guild of ‘dream-examiners’ or ‘dream-critics.’ When on rare occasions God did vouchsafe symbolical dreams to men, the professed dream-interpreters of the most highly trained castes stood helpless before them (Genesis 37, 40, 41, Daniel 2, 4). The interpretation of really God-sent dreams belonged solely to God Himself, the sender, and only His messengers could read their purport. There could be no more striking indication of the gulf that divides the Biblical and the ethnic views of dreams. If there is a hint of an overestimate of dreams among some Israelites (Jeremiah 23:25 f., Jeremiah 27:9), this is mentioned only to be condemned, and is obviously a trait not native to Israel, but, like all the soothsaying in vogue among the ill-instructed of the land, borrowed from the surrounding heathenism (cf. Lehmann, Aberglaube und Zauberei, p. 56). If there are possible suggestions that there were methods by which prophetic dreams were sought (Jeremiah 29:8, 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 28:15), these suggestions are obscure, and involve no commendation of such usages as prevailed among the heathen. All the supernatural dreams mentioned in the Bible were the unsought gift of Jehovah; and there is not the slightest recommendation in the Scriptural narrative of any of the superstitious practices of either seeking or interpreting dreams which constitute the very nerve of ethnic dream-lore (cf. F. B. Jevons in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible i. 622).
Very exaggerated language is often met with regarding the place which supernatural dreams occupy in Scripture. The writer of the article ‘Songes’ in Lichtenberger’s Encyc. des Sciences Relig. (xi. 641), for example, opens a treatment of the subject dominated by this idea with the statement that, ‘as everywhere in antiquity, dreams play a preponderant rôle in the religion of the Hebrews.’ Even M. Bouché-Leclercq, who usually studies precision, remarks that ‘the Scriptures are filled with apparitions and prophetic dreams’ (Histoire de la divination dans l’antiquté, i. 278). Nothing could be more contrary to the fact. The truth is the supernatural dream is a very uncommon phenomenon in Scripture. Although, as we have seen, dreams are a recognized mode of Divine communication, and dream-revelations may be presumed therefore to have occurred throughout the whole history of revelation; yet very few are actually recorded, and they oddly clustered at two or three critical points in the development of Israel. Of each of the two well-marked types of supernatural dreams (cf. Baur, Symbolik und Mythologie, ii. i. 142)—those in which direct Divine revelations are communicated (Genesis 15:12; Genesis 20:3; Genesis 20:6; Genesis 28:12; Genesis 31:10-11, 1 Kings 3:5, Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:12-13; Matthew 2:19; Matthew 2:22; Matthew 27:19) and symbolical dreams which receive Divine interpretations (Genesis 37:5-6; Genesis 37:10; Genesis 40:5-16; Genesis 41:1; Genesis 41:5, Judges 7:13-15, Daniel 2:1; Daniel 2:3; Daniel 2:26; Daniel 4:5; Daniel 7:1)—only some half-score of clear instances are given. All the symbolical dreams, it will be observed further, with the exception of the one recorded in Judges 7:13-15 (and this may have been only a ‘providential’ dream), occur in the histories of Joseph and Daniel; and all the dreams of direct Divine communication, with the exception of the one to Solomon (1 Kings 3:5), in the histories of the nativity of Israel or of the nativity of Israel’s Redeemer. In effect, the patriarchal stories of the Book of Genesis, the story of Daniel at the palace of the king, and the story of the birth of Jesus, are the sole depositions of supernatural dreams in Scripture; the apparent exceptions (Judges 7:13-15, 1 Kings 3:5, Matthew 27:19) may be reduced to the single one of 1 Kings 3:5.
The significance of the marked clustering of recorded supernatural dreams at just these historical points it is not easy to be perfectly sure of. Perhaps it is only a part of the general tendency of the supernatural manifestations recorded in Scripture to gather to the great historical crises; throughout Scripture the creative epochs are the supernaturalistic epochs. Perhaps, on the other hand, it may be connected with the circumstance that at just these particular periods God’s people were brought into particularly close relations with the outside world. We have but to think of Abraham and Abimelech, of Jacob and Laban, of Joseph and Pharaoh, of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, of Joseph and the Magi, to observe how near at hand the suggestion lies that the choice of dreams in these instances as the medium of revelation has some connexion with the relation in which the recipient stood at the moment to influences arising from the outer world, or at least to some special interaction between Israel and that world.
In entertaining such a conjecture we must beware, however, of imagining that there was something heathenish in the recognition of dreams as vehicles of revelation; or even of unduly depreciating dreams among the vehicles of revelation. It has become quite usual to speak of dreams as the lowest of the media of revelation, with the general implication either that the revelations given through them cannot rise very high in the scale of revelations, or at least that the choice of dreams as their vehicle implies something inferior in the qualification of the recipients for receiving revelations. There is very little Scriptural support for such representations. No doubt, there is a certain gradation in dignity indicated in the methods of revelation. Moses’ pre-eminence was marked by Jehovah speaking with him ‘mouth to mouth,’ manifestly, while to others He made Himself known ‘in a vision,’ or ‘in a dream’ (Numbers 12:6). And it is possible that the order in which the various methods of revelation are enumerated in such passages as Deuteronomy 13:1, 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 28:15, Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17 may imply a gradation in which revelation through dreams may stand at the foot. But these very passages establish dreams among the media statedly used by God for the revelation of His will, and drop no word depreciatory of them; nor is there discoverable in Scripture any justification for conceiving the revelations made through them as less valuable than those made through other media (cf. König, Offenbarungsbegriff, i. 55, ii. 9 f., 63 f.).
It is very misleading to say, for example (Barry in Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] i. 617; cf. Orelli, op. cit.), that ‘the greater number’ of the recorded supernatural dreams ‘were granted, for prediction or for warning, to those who were aliens to the Jewish covenant’; and when they were given to God’s ‘chosen servants, they were almost always referred to the periods of their earliest and most imperfect knowledge of Him’; and, ‘moreover, they belong especially to the earliest age, and became less frequent as the revelations of prophecy increase.’ As many of these dreams were granted to Israelites as to aliens; they do not mark any particular stage of religious development in their recipients; they do not gradually decrease with the progress of revelation; they no more characterize the patriarchal age than that of the exile or the opening of the new dispensation. If no example is recorded during the whole period from Solomon to Daniel; so none is recorded from the patriarchs to Solomon, or again from Daniel to our Lord. If the great writing-prophets assign none of their revelations to dreams, they yet refer to revelations by dreams in such a way as to manifest their recognition of them as an ordinary medium of revelation (Jeremiah 23:25; Jeremiah 23:28; Jeremiah 23:32; Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8, Zechariah 10:2). These passages are often adduced, to be sure, as suggesting that appeal especially to dreams was a characteristic of the false prophets of the day; and it is even sometimes represented that Jeremiah means to brand dream-revelations as such as lying revelations. Jeremiah’s polemic, however, is not directed against any one particular method of revelation, but against false claims to revelation by any method. His zeal burns no more hot against the prophet that ‘hath a dream’ than against him that ‘hath the Lord’s word’ (Jeremiah 23:28); no more against those that cry, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed,’ than against those who ‘take their tongue and say, He saith’ (Jeremiah 23:25; Jer_23:31). Nor does Zechariah’s careful definition of his visions as received waking, though coming to him at night (Zechariah 1:8; Zec_4:1), involve a depreciation of revelations through dreams; it merely calls our attention to the fact, otherwise copiously illustrated, that all night-visions are not dreams (cf. Genesis 15:12; Genesis 26:24; Genesis 46:2, Numbers 22:20, 1 Chronicles 17:3, 2 Chronicles 7:12, Job 4:13; Job 20:8; Job 33:15, Daniel 2:19, Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:24).
The citation in Acts 2:17 of the prediction of Joel 2:8 suffices to show that there rested no shadow upon the ‘dreaming of dreams’ in the estimation of the writers of the NT. Rather this was in their view one of the tokens of the Messianic glory. Nevertheless, as we have seen, none of them except Matthew records instances of the supernatural dream. In the Gospel of Matthew, however, no fewer than five or six instances occur. Some doubt may attach, to be sure, to the nature of the dream of Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19). The mention of it was certainly not introduced by Matthew idly, or for its own sake; it forms rather one of the incidents which he accumulates to exhibit the atrocity of the judicial murder of Jesus. Is his meaning that thus God Himself intervened to render Pilate utterly without excuse in his terrible crime (so Keil, in loc.)? Even so the question would still remain open whether the Divine intervention was direct and immediate, in the mode of a special revelation, or indirect and mediate, in the mode of a providential determination. In the latter contingency, this dream would take its place in a large class, naturally mediated, but induced by God for the guidance of the affairs of men—another instance of which, we have already suggested, may be discovered in the dream of the Midianitish man mentioned in Judges 7:13-15 (so Nösgen, in loc.). In this case, the five instances of the directly supernatural dream which Matthew records in his ‘Gospel of the infancy’ stand alone in the NT.
In any event, this remarkable series of direct Divine revelations through dreams (Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:12-13; Matthew 2:19; Matthew 2:22) forms a notable feature of this section of Matthew’s Gospel, and contributes its share to marking it off as a section apart. On this account, as on others, accordingly, this section is sometimes contrasted unfavourably with the corresponding section of the Gospel of Luke. In that, remarks, for example, Reuss (La Bible, NT, i. 138), the angel visitants address waking hearers, the inspiration of the Spirit of God renews veritable prophecy, ‘it is a living world, conscious of itself, that appears before us’; in this, on the contrary, ‘the form of communication from on high is the dream,—the form the least perfect, the least elevated, the least reassuring.’ Others, less preoccupied with literary problems, fancy that it is the recipients of these dream-revelations rather than the author of the narrative to whom they are derogatory. Thus, for example, we are told that, like the Magi of the East and the wife of Pilate, Joseph ‘was thought worthy of communion with the unseen world and of communications from God’s messenger only when in an unconscious state,’ seeing that he was not ripe for the manifestation of the angel to him, as to Zacharias and Mary, when awake (Nebe, Kindheitsgeschichte, 212, cf. 368). Of course, there is nothing’ of all this in the narrative, as there is nothing to justify it in any Scripture reference to the significance of revelation through dreams. The narrative is notable chiefly for its simple dignity and directness. In three of the instances we are merely told that ‘an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph,’ and in the other two that he or the Magi were ‘warned of God’ in a dream, i.e. either by way of, or during, a dream. The term employed for ‘appearing’ (φαίνω) marks the phenomenal objectivity of the object: Joseph did not see in his dream-image something which he merely interpreted to stand for an angel, but an angel in his proper phenomenal presentation (see Grimm-Thayer, s.v. δοκέω, ad fon.; Trench, Syn. NT, § lxxx.; Schmidt, Griech. Syn. circa (about) 15). The term translated ‘warned of God’ (χρηματίζω) imports simply an authoritative communication of a declaration of the Divine will (so, e.g., Weiss, Keil, Alexander, Broadus, Nebe), and does not presuppose a precedent inquiry (as is assumed, e.g., by Bengel, Meyer, Fritzsche). The narratives confine themselves, therefore, purely to declaring, in the simplest and most direct manner, that the dream-communications recorded were from the Lord. Any hesitancy we may experience in reading them is not suggested by them, but is imported from our own personal estimate of the fitness of dreams to serve as media of Divine communications.
It is probable that the mere appearance of dreams among the media of revelation recognized by Scripture constitutes more or less of a stumbling-block to most readers of the Bible. The disordered phantasmagoria of dreams seems to render them peculiarly unfit for such a use. The superstitious employment of them by all nations in the lower stages of culture, including not only the nations of classical antiquity, but also those ancient peoples with whom Israel stood in closest relations, suggests further hesitancy. We naturally question whether we are not to look upon their presence in the Scripture narrative just as we look upon them in the Gilgames epic or the annals of Assurbanipal, on the stêle of Bentrest or the inscriptions of Karnak, in the verses of Homer or the histories of Herodotus. We are not without temptation to say shortly with Kant (Anthropologie, i. § 29), ‘We must not accept dream-tales as revelations from the invisible world.’ And we are pretty sure, if we begin, with Witsius, with a faithful recognition of the fact that ‘God has seen fit to reveal Himself not only to the waking, but sometimes also to the sleeping,’ to lapse, like him, at once into an apologetical vein, and to raise the question seriously, ‘Why should God wish to manifest Himself in this singular way, by night, and to the sleeping, when the manifestation must appear obscure, uncertain, and little suited either to the dignity of the matters revealed or to the use of those to whom the revelation is made?’ (de Prophetis et Prophetia, ch. v. in Miscell. Sacra, i. pp. 22–27; cf. also Spanheim, Dubia Evangelica, 2nd pt., Geneva, 1700, pp. 239–240, and Rivetus, in Gen. [Note: Geneva NT 1557, Bible 1560.] Exercit. cxxiv.).
We have already pointed out how little there is in common between the occasional employment of dreams for revelations, such as meets us in Scripture, and the superstitious view of dreams prevalent among the ancients. It is an under-statement when it is remarked that ‘the Scriptures start from a spiritual height to which the religious consciousness of the heathen world attained only after a long course of evolution, and then only in the case of an isolated genius like Plato’ (Jevons, loc. cit. 622). The difference is not a matter of degree, but of kind. No special sacredness or significance is ascribed by the Scriptures to dreams in general. No class or variety of dreams is recommended by them to our scrutiny that we may through this or that method of interpretation seek guidance from them for our life. The Scriptures merely affirm that God has on certain specific occasions, in making known His will to men, chosen to approach them through the medium of their night-visions; and has through these warned them of danger, awakened them to a sense of wrong-doing, communicated to them His will, or made known His purposes. The question that is raised by the affirmation of such an occasional Divine employment of dreams is obviously not whether dreams as such possess a supernatural quality and bear a supernatural message if only we could get at it, but rather whether there is anything inherent in their very nature which renders it impossible that God should have made such occasional use of them, or derogatory to Him to suppose that He has done so.
Surely we should bear in mind, in any consideration of such a question, the infinite condescension involved in God’s speaking to man through any medium of communication. There is a sense in which it is derogatory to God to suppose Him to hold any commerce with man at all, particularly with sinful man. If we realized, as we should, the distance which separates the infinite and infinitely holy God from sin-stricken humanity, we should be little inclined to raise questions with respect to the relative condescension involved in His approaching us in these or those particular circumstances. In any revelation which God makes to man He stoops infinitely—and there are no degrees in the infinite. God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts, and the clothing of His messages in the forms of human conception and language involves an infinite derogation. Looked at sub specic aeternitatis, the difference between God’s approaching man through the medium of a dream or through the medium of his waking apprehension, shrinks into practical nothingness. The cry of the heart which has really seen or heard God must in any case be, ‘What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?’
It should also be kept clearly in view that the subject of dreams, too, is, after all, the human spirit. It is the same soul that is active in the waking consciousness which is active also in the dream-consciousness,—the same soul acting according to the same laws (cf. Lehmann, op. cit. p. 397). No doubt there are some dreams which we should find difficulty in believing were direct inspirations of God. Are there not some waking thoughts also of which the same may be said? This does not in the least suggest that the Divine Spirit may not on suitable occasion enter into the dream-consciousness, as into the waking, and impress upon it, with that force of conviction which He alone knows how to produce, the assurance of His presence and the terms of His message.
‘The psychology of dreams and visions,’ writes Dr. G. T. Ladd, ‘so far as we can speak of such a psychology, furnishes us with neither sufficient motive nor sufficient means for denying the truth of the Biblical narratives. On the contrary, there are certain grounds for confirming the truth of some of these narratives.… Even in ordinary dreams, the dreamer is still the human soul. The soul acts, then, even in dreaming, as a unity, which involves within itself the functions and activities of the higher, even of the ethical and religious powers.… The possibility of even the highest forms of ethical and religions activities in dreams cannot be denied.… There is nothing in the physiological or psychical conditions of dream-life to prevent such psychical activity for the reception of revealed truth.… It remains in general true that the Bible does not transgress the safe limits of possible or even actual experience’ (The Doctr. of Sacred Scripture, ii. 436).
So little, indeed, do emptiness and disorder enter into the very essence of dreaming, that common experience supplies innumerable examples of dreams thoroughly coherent and consequent. The literature of the subject is filled with instances in which even a heightened activity of human faculty is exhibited in dreams, and that throughout every department of mental endowment. Jurists have in their dreams prepared briefs of which they have been only too glad to avail themselves in their waking hours; statesmen have in their dreams obtained their best insight into policy; lecturers have elaborated their discourses; mathematicians solved their most puzzling problems; authors composed their most admired productions; artists worked out their most inspired motives. Dr. Franklin told Cabanis that the bearings and issues of political events which had baffled his inquisition when awake were not infrequently unfolded to him in his dreams. It was in a dream that Reinhold worked out his table of categories. Condorcet informs us that he often completed his imperfect calculations in his dreams; and the same experience has been shared by many other mathematicians, as, for example, by Maignan, Göns, Wähnert. Condillac, when engaged upon his Cours d’Études, repeatedly developed and finished in his dreams a subject which he had broken off on retiring to rest. The story of the origin of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan in a dream is well known. Possibly no more instructive instance is on record, however, than the account given by Robert Louis Stevenson, in his delightful Chapter on Dreams (‘Thistle’ ed. of Works, xv. 250 ff.), of how ‘the little people’ of his brain, who had been wont to amuse him with absurd farragos, harnessed themselves to their task and dreamed for him consecutively and artistically when he became a craftsman in the art of story-telling. Now, they trimmed and pared their dream-stories, and set them on all fours, and made them run from a beginning to an end, and fitted them to the laws of life, and even filled them with dramatic situations of guileful art, making the conduct of the actors psychologically correct, and aptly graduating the emotion up to the climax. (See Abercrombie, Inquiries Concerning the Intellectual Powers, etc., part iii. § iv., esp. pp. 216–221; Carpenter, Principles of Mental Physiology, p. 524 f.; Lehmann as cited, p. 411; Volkelt, Die Traumphantasie, No. 15; Myers, Human Personality, etc., Nos. 417 f., 430, with corresponding Appendixes).
Instances of this heightened mental action in dreams are so numerous and so striking in fact, that they have given rise to an hypothesis which provokes Wundt’s scoff at those ‘who are inclined to think that when we dream the mind has burst the fetters of the body, and that dream fancies transcend the activity of the waking consciousness, with its narrow confinement to the limitations of space and time’ (Vorlesungen über die Menschen- und Thierseele, Lect. xxii. pp. 366–370, English translation pp. 323–324). The well-known essay of Lange ‘On the Double Consciousness, especially on the Night-Consciousness and its polar relation to the Day-Consciousness of Man,’ printed in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für christliche Wissenschaft und christliches Leben for 1851 (Nos. 30, 31, and 32), still provides one of the most readable and instructive statements of this theory. But English readers will be apt to turn for it first of all to the voluminous discussions of the late Mr. Frederic W. H. Myers, Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death (London, 1903), where it is given a new statement on a fresh and more empirical basis. In Mr. Myers’ view, the sleeping state is more plastic than the waking, exhibiting some trace ‘of the soul’s less exclusive absorption in the activity of the organism,’ by which is possibly increased ‘the soul’s power of operating in that spiritual world to which sleep has drawn it nearer’ (vol. i. pp. 151–152; cf. p. 135). Accordingly, ‘these subliminal uprushes’ which we call dreams, these ‘bubbles breaking on the surface from the deep below,’ may be counted upon to bring us messages, now and again, from a spiritual environment to which our waking consciousness is closed. On hypotheses like these it is often argued that the sleeping state is the most favourable for the reception of spiritual communications. It is not necessary to commit ourselves to such speculations. But their existence among investigators who have given close study to the phenomena of dreams, strongly suggests to us that those phenomena, in the mass, are not such as to exclude the possibility or the propriety of the occasional employment by the Divine Spirit of dreams as vehicles of revelation.
That powerful influences should occasionally arise out of dreams, affecting the conduct and the destiny of men, is only natural, and is illustrated by numerous examples. Literature is crowded with instances of the effect of dreams upon life, for good and evil; and the personal experience of each of us will add additional ones. There is no one of us who has not been conscious of the influence of night visions in deterring him from evil and leading him to good. The annals of religion are sown with instances in which the careers of men have been swayed and their outlook for time and eternity altered by a dream. We may recall the dream of Evagrius of Pontus, recorded by Socrates, for example, by which he was nerved to resist temptation, and his whole life determined. Or we may recall the dream of Patrick, given in his Confession, on which hung his whole work as apostle of the Irish. Or we may recall the dream of Elizabeth Fry, by which she was rescued from the indecision and doubt into which she fell after her conversion. The part played by dreams in the conversion of John Bunyan, John Newton, James Gardiner, Alexander Duff, are but well-known instances of a phenomenon illustrated copiously from every age of the Church’s experience. ‘Converting dreams’ are indeed a recognized variety (cf. Myers as cited, No. 409, i. pp. 126, 127), and are in nowise stranger than many of their fellows. They are the natural result of the action of the stirred conscience obtruding itself into the visions of the night, and, as psychological phenomena, are of precisely the same order as the completion of mathematical problems in dreams, or the familiar experience of the invasion of our dreams by our waking anxieties. In the providence of God, however, they have been used as instruments of Divine grace, and levers by which not only individual destiny has been determined, but the very world has been moved. (Cf. Delitzsch, as cited, and ‘Dreams and the Moral Life,’ in the Homiletic Review, Sept. 1890).
With such dreams and the issues which have flowed from them in mind, we surely can find no difficulty in recognizing the possibility and propriety of occasional Divine employment of dreams for the highest of ends. Obviously dreams have not been deemed by Providence too empty and bizarre to be used as instruments of the most far-reaching effects. Indeed, we must extend the control of Divine Providence to the whole world of dreams. Of course, no dream visits us in our sleep, any more than any occurrence takes place during our waking hours, apart from the appointment and direction of Him who Himself never either slumbers or sleeps, and in whose hands all things work together for the execution of His ends. We may, now and again, be able to trace with especial clearness the hand of the great Potter, moulding the vessel to its destined uses, in, say, an unusual dream, producing a profoundly arresting effect upon the consciousness. But in all the dreams that visit us, we must believe the guidance of the universal Governor to be present, working out His will. It will hardly be possible, however, to recognize this providential guidance of dreams, and especially the Divine employment of particularly moving dreams in the mode of what we commonly call ‘special providences,’ without removing all legitimate ground for hesitation in thinking of His employment of special dreams also as media of revelation. The God of providence and the God of revelation are one God; and His providential and revelational actions flow together into one harmonious effect. It is not possible to believe that the instrumentalities employed by Him freely in the one sphere of His operation can be unworthy of use by Him in the other. Those whom He has brought by His providential dealings with them into such a state of mind that they are prepared to meet with Him in the night watches, and to receive on the prepared surface of their souls the impressions which He designs to convey to them, He surely may visit according to His will, not merely by the immediate operation of His grace, but also in revealing visions, whether these visions themselves are wrought through the media of their own experiences or by His own creative energy. It is difficult to perceive in what the one mode of action would be more unfitting than the other.
Literature.—Some of the special literature has been suggested in the course of the article. A good general account of dreams in their relations to the supernatural may be found in Alf. Lehmann’s Aberglaube und Zauberei, Ger. translation, Stuttgart, 1898, p. 389 f. At the foot of p. 548 is given an excellently selected list of books on the general subject. On the history of the estimate of dreams in the nations into contact with which the Biblical writers came, see Lehmann (‘Index’), and also the following: Ebers, Aegypten, und die Bücher Mose’s, 321; Lenormant, La divination et la science de présages chez les Chaldéens, 126–149; Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l’antiquité, i. 276–329; Vaschide and Piéron, ‘Prophetic Dreams in Greek and Roman Antiquity’ in The Monist for Jan. 1901, IX., ii. 161–194; Audenried’s ed. of Nägelsbach’s Homerische Theologie, §§ 25–29, pp. 172–176; Aust, Die Relig. der Römer, 79, 108, 139, 160; Granger, The Worship of the Romans, 28–52. For dreams among the later Jews, see Hamburger’s RE [Note: E Realencyklopädie.] i. 996–998; Jewish Encyc. iv. 655–657; and cf. Philo. de Somniis. For Patristic views: Tertullian’s On the Soul, cc. 42–50; Synesius’ On Dreams; and the interesting correspondence between Evodius and Augustine (Aug. Epp. 158, 159) may be profitably read. For the anthropological view see Tylor’s Primitive Culture (‘Index’).
Benjamin B. Warfield.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Dream (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/d/dream-2.html. 1906-1918.