Via Jim Davila, word of an interesting new thesis from the University of Gothenburg: Erik Alvstad, “Reading the Dream Text: A Nexus between Dreams and Texts in the Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity.”
“The rabbis interpreted dreams using the same methods that they used to interpret the Bible. Texts and dreams were interwoven, for example stories in the religious documents tell of rabbis dreaming that they are reading verses from the Bible. Jewish prayers and dream rituals also recommend recitation of Scriptural verses as a way of dealing with bad dreams; the good text functioning as a kind of weapon against the evil dream,” explains author of the thesis, Erik Alvstad.
The belief that gods and other divine forces convey knowledge and insights to humans through dreams is highlighted in many of the accounts of dreams that readers come across in ancient literary works, such as the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bible, the works of Homer and the Icelandic sagas. Dream interpretation, prayers and rituals to ward off evil dreams, as well as methods that could be employed in order to encourage good dreams through the power of suggestion, also occurred in ancient cultures.
And in the central text of rabbinic Judaism, the Talmud, we find a wealth of literary material linked to the phenomenon of dreaming. One aspect of particular interest in the Jewish dream culture is that the rabbis, the scholarly elite within the Jewish culture, appear to have made systematic attempts to subordinate dreams to the authority of the Bible, or Torah.