DREAMS: Dreams are commonly considered in all religions a means of revelation. The strange, wonderful, but often lively phenomena of dream life, sundered at the time from conscious knowledge and thought, are accepted as prophetic revelations of divinity to the sleeper. Consequently men endeavor to induce prophetic dreams by sleeping in places supposed to be favorable or by taking potions. Such practises were followed by Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Germans, and many other peoples. But, since the dream pictures were often obscure, there grew up the art of interpreting dreams, while still there was often the acknowledgment that these means were delusive. In the Bible dreams appear as a means by which God speaks to man, warns him of danger, imparts knowledge, gives counsel, and directs for the future. Such dreams of instruction have been known in all times as in the present, for why should not God choose this method of communication with mankind? In the dream the inner life is often more strongly impressed than is possible under ordinary conditions, the consciousness is more easily reached than when the press of thoughts interrupts communication. In Biblical cases the suspicion of deception is excluded partly by the extraordinary divine force of the impression, partly by its appeal to the conscience; on the other hand, the dream is often represented as a vain and empty thing (Job. xx. 8; Ps. lxxiii. 20). Symbolic dreams are also known to the Bible, the meaning of which is not attainable to the worldly-wise, but only to those to whom God has granted the gift of interpretation. Such dreams came to a Joseph and a Daniel. While many examples confirm the use of the dream as a means of revelation, it is not for the people of God the only means, and it is, besides, used as a medium by which God comes into contact with other than his own people. There were other means of self-revelation of God, however, especially in the word of the prophets who often received their oracles while in possession of full consciousness. A species of revelation standing midway between these two was the dream-vision (Job iv. 13-21). To this class belong the experiences of Solomon (I Kings iii. 5) and Daniel (Dan. vii. 1). The prophets generally do not speak of dreams as the source of their inspiration, and the Arabs distinguish between prophetic insight and the dream. Zechariah's vision (Zech. i. 8 sqq.) was not a dream (cf. iv. 1). Jeremiah speaks of the misuse of dreams and disparages them (Jer. xxiii. 25 sqq.) on the ground that they are often the product of the wish of the heart. Deut. xiii. 2 sqq. gives a criterion for the testing of prophetic dreams. The later Jews paid much attention to these phenomena, and the Essenes seem to have done the same (Josephus, Ant., XVII. xiii. 3). See DIVINATION.
(C. VON ORELLI.)
Bibliography: A. Knobel, Prophetismus der Hebräer, i 174 sqq., Breslau, 1837; F. Delitzsch, Biblische Psychologie, pp. 233 sqq., Leipsic, 1861, Eng. transl., Edinburgh, 1867; W. B. Carpenter, Mental Physiology, London, 1876; F. E. König, Offenbarungsbegriff des A. T., ii. 9 sqq., 63 sqq., Leipsic, 1882; G. F. Oehler, Theologie des A. T., pp. 216 sqq., 743 sqq., Stuttgart, 1882, Eng. transl., New York, 1883; C. von Orelli, Alttestamentliche Weissagungen, pp. 17-18, Vienna, 1882, Eng. transl., Old Testament Prophecy, Edinburgh, 1885; E. Clodd, Myths and Dreams, London, 1885; H. Schultz, Alttestamentliche Theologie, Göttingen, 1888, Eng. transl., London, 1892; J. W. Reynolds, Natural Hist. of Immortality, pp. 124-139, ib. 1891; DB, i. 622-623; EB, i. 1118-19.