Christianity, Early

Christianity, Early

(dreams)

The Christian Bible gives dreams, particularly symbolic dreams, a mixed review. While the biblical God does communicate through dreams, they are clearly a less momentous mode of communication, because individuals particularly close to God receive His messages while they are awake. Usually only pagans receive symbolic dreams, which require interpretation.

The early Christians, especially those in the eastern part of the Roman Empire who would eventually constitute the Orthodox church, generally followed in the tradition of taking symbolic dreams (as opposed to visions) less seriously than waking visions. While acknowledging that God could be experienced in dreams, they were also careful to note that dreams are often no more than the eruption of irrational emotions into one’s sleeping consciousness. Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, asserted that many dreams reflect the animal side of our nature, the offspring of the passions of anger and desire, a view not far from Sigmund Freud‘s. He also noted a more mundane class of dreams that arise from traces of memory of our daily routines. Origen, on the other hand, asserted that God sometimes sent messages to the faithful in dreams and noted that many pagans were converted by dreams. Thus, the early Christian view of the significance of dreams can be described as generally balanced.

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