To touch on the notion of dreams again — I don’t know what dreams and visions meant historically to the people who would have first created/told/listened to this story. We can agree that a man named Joseph that dreams is a big flashing neon sign of “stop and listen”. Yes?
But dreams/vision/prophecy — we here and now don’t really think about that as being real, just “artsy” or perhaps “made up” or perhaps a “lie”. Because, here’s the thing, in real life, generally dreams don’t make sense. Or they make sense only in retrospect. If you find yourself dreaming and it is one of the dreams that matter, then listen. Don’t be afraid.
One of those dreams for me came the day before 9/11. Yep. I had gotten so angry and upset at a situation that I don’t even remember now. Yep. I just remember the feelings: wild, upset, unclear, hopeless, shame, anger….. powerful feelings. And I took a nap and I dreamed of my husband’s dead grandfather, sitting in his chair, smiling gently at me and pointing out his window to a field (that wasn’t there in real life, although the room and the window and the chair were). The field was a vast beautiful golden field of wheat, blowing in a breeze. It was astonishingly beautiful.
I had and have no idea what that dream means; it felt like the visual equivalent of “don’t be afraid”. And a bit like “you are just one little speck of a whole” and instead of feeling insignificant it felt great to be a part of a whole. And a touch of life is fragile. It was all feelings.
Both Josephs had powerful dreams, more clear cut than anything I can imagine. And the dreaming meant something. And the dreams would mean something to the people listening. So I think we should be very careful to not dismiss this story as just a dream, just a thing that a man made-up to save face so he could marry the girl in trouble. I think that even though a good part of the story is framed as a dream does not make it untrue, but perhaps more deeply true.