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Trance


Trance. (1) In the only passage—Num. 24:4, 16—in which this word occurs in the English of the Old Testament there is, as the italics show, no corresponding word in Hebrew. In the New Testament we meet with the word three times—Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17. The εʼκστασις (i.e., trance) is the state in which a man has passed out of the usual order of his life, beyond the usual limits of consciousness and volition, being rapt in visions of distant or future things. The causes of this state are to be traced commonly to strong religious impressions. Whatever explanation may be given of it, it is true of many, if not of most, of those who have left the stamp of their own character on the religious history of mankind, that they have been liable to pass at times into this abnormal state. The union of intense feeling, strong volition, long-continued thought (the conditions of all wide and lasting influence), aided in many cases by the withdrawal from the lower life of the support which is needed to maintain a healthy equilibrium, appears to have been more than the “earthen vessel” will bear. The words which speak of “an ecstasy of adoration” are often literally true. As in other things, so also here, the phenomena are common to higher and lower, to true and false, systems. We may not point to trances and ecstasies as proofs of a true revelation, but still less may we think of them as at all inconsistent with it. Thus, though we have not the word, we have the thing in the “deep sleep,” the “horror of great darkness,” that fell on Abraham. Gen. 15:12. Balaam, as if overcome by the constraining power of a Spirit mightier than his own, “sees the vision of God, falling, but with opened eyes.” Num. 24:4. Saul, in like manner, when the wild chant of the prophets stirred the old depths of feeling, himself also “prophesied” and “fell down”—most, if not all, of his kingly clothing being thrown off in the ecstasy of the moment—“all that day and all that night.” 1 Sam. 19:24. Something there was in Jeremiah that made men say of him that he was as one that “is mad and maketh himself a prophet.” Jer. 29:26. In Ezekiel the phenomena appear in more wonderful and awful forms. Ezek. 3:15. As other elements and forms of the prophetic work were revived in “the apostles and prophets” of the New Testament, so also was this. Though different in form, it belongs to the same class of phenomena as the gift of tongues, and is connected with “visions and revelations of the Lord.” In some cases, indeed, it is the chosen channel for such revelations. Acts 10; 11; 22:17–21. Wisely for the most part did the apostle draw a veil over these more mysterious experiences. 2 Cor. 12:1–4.