Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 17 (2017) - Review
This volume, edited by Elizabeth Hayes and Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, is devoted to dream and vision reports in the Hebrew Bible. The description here is slightly misleading, however, because there is also some coverage of the topic in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament (Revelation), and Targum Jonathan. The book is the result of a research group that met at the annual meetings of the European Association for Biblical Studies (EABS) to investigate Vision and Dream Accounts in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Early Judaism, and Late Antiquity (p. xiii).
The volume includes fifteen different essays written by different authors, both women and men from a variety of countries. One will find discussion of Joseph's dreams in Genesis (Camilla von Heijne); the vision of Isa 6 (Thomas Wagner); visionsmore broadly understoodin Jeremiah (Pamela Scalise); the visions of Ezek 4048 (Michael A. Lyons); the similarities and differences in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (Elizabeth R. Hayes); the visions of Amos (Jason Radine); the visions of Zechariah (Rodney A. Werline; Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer; Mark J. Boda; Anthony R. Petterson; Martin Hallaschka; Michael R. Stead); the visions of locusts in Rev 9 (Sheree Lear); the vision of dry bones in Pseudo-Ezekiel (Anja Klein); and Ezekiel's vision in Targum Jonathan (William A. Tooman).
What is most impressive about the volume, however, is the variety of methodological approaches found within. One will find some of the usual classical approaches to research, such as comparative, exegetical, form-critical, theological, redactional, and intertextual approaches, along with rewritten analyses; but most interesting is the utilization of newer approaches, such as experiential/anthropological (Werline), cognitive linguistics (Hayes), and sociological (Radine) approaches.
In chapter 1, Werline considers the category of religious experience and experiments with how this category might illumine the visions of Zech 16.
In chapter 2, Tiemeyer also considers the visions of Zech 16 and argues that the visions themselves are quite ambiguous and open to interpretation and that the subsequent interpretive message attached to each vision was secondary. An argument is then given as to how the original meaning of the vision may not align with the subsequent interpretation given in Zechariah's text, if the prophet even knew what the vision meant originally in the first place.
In chapter 3, von Heijne compares the dreams in the patriarchal narratives vis-à-vis the dreams in the Joseph narratives and finds that the former seem to be utilized as a vehicle for theophanies while the latter are more communicative. The visions/dreams of Daniel are also considered as well, where the suggestion is made for some sort of literary dependence, a conclusion many may question.
In chapter 4, Scalise wonders whether the book of Jeremiah contains more visions than we have previously thought. It is suggested that many passages hint at the fact that Jeremiah had a revelatory experience, which paves the way for identifying more broadly what one might consider a vision within the book.
In chapter 5, Hayes investigates the relationship of the call narratives in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to the visions within the book, and finds that each book has a different relationship to the vision. For instance, in Jeremiah the visions occur subsequent to Jeremiah's call, confirming it, whereas the visions in Isaiah and Ezekiel are linked to the call for different purposes.
In chapter 6, Lyons considers the visions in Ezek 4048 and observes that they differ from earlier reports in four ways, the most prominent of which is that Ezek 4048 is the first instance where the image of the vision report is used to depict restoration.
In chapter 7, Radine considers the visions within the book of Amos and finds them comparable to Deir Alla Combination I; he suggests that the visions have an apotropaic function, serving a way to avoid a divine curse.
In chapter 8, Boda meticulously provides a form-critical comparison of Zech 1:76:15 with previous prophetic form traditions. Zechariah's visions are indeed dependent on earlier form traditions, but are innovative in various ways, as the prophet seeks to communicate to a new audience.
In chapter 9, Petterson challenges the notion that Zechariah's visions envisioned a near restoration by appealing to the final form as a whole, which seems to communicate, rather, that the prophet envisioned a near and a far eschatology (Petterson's term). This view depends on how much one thinks the perspective of those responsible for the final form of the book accords with the perspective of the person responsible for the original visions.
In chapter 10, Hallaschka contends that the visions and oracles of Zechariah inevitably are the result of an editorial process and thus redactional critical methods are quite relevant. Taking the view that the oracles were secondary in nature, he finds that the oracular material served to reinterpret the visions, tie together various texts in Zechariah, and connect Zech 18 with other prophetic works.
In chapter 11, Stead argues that removing oracle from vision in Zechariah creates a variety of interpretive problems, and thus challenges the notion that the oracular material is secondary. This view makes sense for Stead since he finds Zechariah to fall in line with prophets such as Amos and Jeremiah, where both vision and an explanation of the vision is found.
In chapter 12, Lear investigates three instances where the author of the book of Revelation uses the Old Testament, with a view towards understanding the authors compositional techniques and how the author interpreted previous Scripture.
In chapter 13, Wagner investigates the impact of Isa 6 on the formation of the book of Isaiah as a whole. Isaiah 6 influences the rest of the book in its focus on divine kingship, but the way this concept is conceived changes throughout the years of the formation of the book as a whole.
In chapter 14, Klein considers the tradition history of Ezek 37:114, along with Pseudo-Ezekiel, its parallel in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Klein argues that each redactional layer of Ezek 37 reinterprets what it means that the bones came back to life (i.e., who is it exactly that is being restored), and that we find more of the same in Pseudo-Ezekiel.
In chapter 15, Tooman investigates the expansions found in Targum Jonathan that add depth and dimension to the description of the celestial creatures in Ezekiel's vision of the merkabâ (p. 221). Most prominent among the expansions, however, is the interest the Targum has in updating Ezekiel's angelology to accord with the more developed angelology one finds in the second through fourth centuries c.e.
My main criticism is that the book is perhaps too focused on Zechariah (six of the essays focused on it), whereas there may not be enough of an investigation into the visions of Daniel. But, overall, those interested in topics related to this volume will find it stimulating and well worth reading. As mentioned above, the research group noted that they also investigated dreams and visions in early and late Judaism, the New Testament, and Late antiquity, so I am hopeful that there is more to come.