Jan 6, 2020

Are Dreams and Visions Describing the Same Phenomena?

Laura Quick doesn't think so.
The tendency of many standard reference works to equate dreams with visions (Bergmann, Ottoson, and Botterweck 1973: 427) is a reflection of the indistinct line of demarcation between these phenomena in the biblical account: it is not always clear whether a dream or a vision is taking place. This is particularly true when visionary experience is detailed to have occurred during the night (e.g., Gen. 46.2; Job 4.13; 20.8; 33.15; Isa. 29.7; Dan. 2.19; 7.2, 7, 13; Mic. 3.6), and consequently some scholars have tended to treat these ‘night visions’ as ‘dreams’, even without textual support. Yet the equation of dreams with prophetic visions is actually quite rare in the Hebrew Bible, occurring only three times in the prose of the MT (Num. 12.6-8; Jer. 23.25-28; Dan. 7.1). At the lexical level, the terminological categorization of these revelatory experiences indicates a distinction in perception and classification by the biblical writers: the terminology is always carefully distinct. To ignore this classificatory schema is to make assertions about the phenomenological content of such experiences, a largely redundant endeavour. In particular, it is observable that while visions as a source of revelation are usually ascribed to prophets (Jepsen 1973), dreams are ‘not ascribed to prophets except in denigration’ (Miller 1990: 401). (The earlier distinction posited by Ehrlich [1953], according to which visions are clearwhereas dreams are always confused, can no longer be maintained.) ("Dream Accounts in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Jewish Literature," in Currents in Biblical Research 17 [2018]: 10-11).
I have tended to view dreams as visions as basically different vehicles of revelation but had not given much thought as to any qualitative differences between them. This article might suggest that I need to think a little more carefully about that.

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