Dreams and Divination from Byzantium to Baghdad, 400-1000 CE
Oxford Studies in the Abrahamic Religions
- Increases understanding of the continuities across the major religious traditions of Late Antiquity by comparing pagan, early Christian, Byzantine, Talmudic, and Islamic sources up to 1000 CE, with a focus on the prophetic role of women
- Traverses traditionally separate disciplines—Classical studies, biblical studies, Late Antiquity, Byzantine studies, and gender studies
- Cites examples from the major sources in translation and tackles complex philosophical and theological differences in an accessible style
Why did dreams matter to Jews, Byzantine Christians, and Muslims in the first millennium? Dreams and Divination from Byzantium to Baghdad, 400 - 1000 CE shows how the ability to interpret dreams universally attracted power and influence in the first millennium. In a time when prophetic dreams were viewed as God's intervention in human history, male and female prophets wielded was unparalleled power in imperial courts, military camps, and religious gatherings. The three faiths drew on the ancient Near Eastern tradition of dream key manuals, which offer an insight into the hopes and fears of ordinary people. They melded pagan dream divination with their own scriptural traditions to produce a novel and rich culture of dream interpretation. Prophetic dreams enabled communities to understand their past and present circumstances as divinely ordained and helped to bolster the spiritual authority of dreamers and those who had the gift of interpreting their dreams. Bronwen Neil takes a gendered approach to the analysis of the common culture of dream interpretation across late antique Jewish, Byzantine, and Islamic sources to 1000 CE, in order to expose the ways in which dreams offered women a unique opportunity to exercise influence. The epilogue to the volume reveals why dreams still matter today to many men and women of the monotheist traditions.
Published: 14 January 2021
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