A Look behind the Scenes

Worldview in Dreams and Visions in the Ancient Near East and the Old Testament

  • Corinna Körting


The worldview (Weltbild) in ancient times was clearly structured in terms of centre (temple and city) and a periphery (chaotic surroundings) on the horizontal level and height and depth (for example God's mountain and the pillars of the earth) on the vertical level. The experience of the natural world in terms of topography or geography supplements this cosmological model; and this orientation is held as also being relevant for the mythical world or the gateways to it. Dreams and visions are a phenomenon that unlocks worldview. The three examples chosen give an idea about a world in order, which includes the netherworld. Enkidu's dream of the netherworld is such an example. Even in a situation of suffering and distress the world is under control of the gods. Without the constraints of space, humans are able to see and to get an overall picture of the natural world, the mythical world, and the world beyond as one. In times of crisis, as Israel experienced it during the exile, dreams and visions allow a new world view. The pictorial programme, for example in the visions of the prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah, organize what seems to be in disparate states and give orientation. Centre and periphery can be defined anew.