Ecstasy And The Prophets -- By: Robert L. Alden
BETS 9:3 (Summer 1966) p. 149
Ecstasy And The Prophets
The use of the term “ecstasy” to describe the state of revelation in the Old Testament is not altogether modern. The “deep sleep” (tardema) of Abraham in Genesis 15:12 is rendered by ἔχστασις in the Septuagint. The Greek translators also chose that term to describe Daniel’s trembling at the great vision (10:7). 1 Rab, the celebrated Babylonian Amora and founder of the academy in Sura (d. 247 B.C.), in reference to Genesis 15:12, called Abraham’s deep sleep the “deep sleep of prophecy.” 2
Tertullian used the word in his discourse “On the Soul.” This power we call “ecstasy,” a deprivation of the activity of the senses which is an image of insanity...[Citing Gen. 2:21, the tardema falling on Adam] Sleep brought rest to the body, but ecstasy came over the soul and prevented it from resting, and from that time this combination constitutes the natural and normal form of the dream. 3
Elsewhere he said:
When a man is rapt in the Spirit, especially when he beholds the glory of God, or when God speaks through him, he necessarily loses his sensation because he is overshadowed with the power of God. 4
Origen denied this and similar views of ecstasy. 5 Most of the ancient discussions of the matter centered on ecstasy among the people present and not on the prophets of a former era. Another focus was on inspiration but the word “ecstasy” was not used in this connection.
Apart from mystics who engaged in their own kind of ecstasy, no one until modern times paid any attention to the matter. 6 Duhm was the
BETS 9:3 (Summer 1966) p. 150
first to draw attention to so-called ecstatic elements in the prophets. 7 Gunkel 8 and Holscher 9 followed and popularized the theory. T. H. Robinson was the most notable exponent of it in England. 10 Robert Pfeiffer espoused it in America. You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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