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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Seeds, Weeds and Walking the High Wire: Prolepsis and Zikkaron/Anamnesis

This posting is the second part of a series on where the Messianic Jewish Movement needs to be heading and why.

“Prolepsis” is a Greek term that has passed into English usage because there is no suitable English equivalent. It refers to “the representation or assumption of a future act or development as being presently existing or accomplished.” Prolepsis names the future as dynamically present to shape and empower present thinking and conduct.

We must become a proleptic movement. As a community of covenant responsibility, God is calling us to focus on an idealized Jewish future, theologically and canonically developed in Scripture, clarified in communal discussion, and enshrined in our sacred calendar, liturgy, and ritual life. This idealized future is our destiny. It must live within us, and we must live for it. Because the Holy One holds us responsible to be signs, demonstrations and catalysts of this proleptic future, we must become a community in which the future has arrived. This is our first mustard seed idea. Its significance will becomes clearer as we discuss its companion.

A Second Mustard Seed Idea: Zikkaron/Anamnesis

Our second mustard seed comes from the other end of the same pod. It focuses on our relationship to the past rather than our relationship to the future.

The Hashivenu motto, “Bring us back to you, Hashem, and we shall return; renew our days as of old,” was the seed of the Hashivenu vision. Proponents of the Hashivenu perspective have long known that contemporary Messianic Jewish renewal requires we reconnect with the holy Jewish past.

For a few years I have been maturing in my understanding of what this means. Now I see how this seminal idea is rooted in the biblical understanding of remembrance, as expressed in such terms as the Older Testamental zikkaron, and its Newer Testamental equivalent, anamnesis. I see as well that we will never comprehend who we are called to be and what we are called to do until we understand what the Bible means by “memory”—zikkaron, or anamnesis.

In 1962, Brevard Childs wrote Memory and Tradition in Israel, a monograph on the nuances of how the Older Testament uses words from the zkr word group, words related to remembrance. A number of his insights help clarify the Hashivenu vision and demonstrate why the mustard seed of memory is a non-negotiable imperative if we would embody Israel’s destiny. Childs helps us understand how, in God’s design, the past is present among us, holding us accountable, transforming us, and propelling us forward.

The Holy Past is Present as Catalytic Memory: Obedience

Childs says, “Present Israel stands in an analogous situation with the people of the Exodus. Israel is still being tested [as to whether we will demonstrate by our obedience that we remember the saving acts of God and our covenantal obligations].” (Childs, 50-51). Typically, we are commanded to do “this” because God did “that.” A failure to obey is a failure to remember both what God has done, and the response he demands. Zikkaron-memory is more than mere recalling. Such memory entails honoring God’s redemptive mercies by embracing covenant obligations.

Childs reminds us, “As in the past, Israel‘s history continues to be God’s forcing his people to decide between life and death.” We choose life by obedience, death by disobedience. “Memory plays a central role in making Israel constantly aware of the nature of God’s benevolent acts as well as of her own covenantal pledge.” [Childs, op. cit., 51]. The keyword here is “pledge.” Israel cannot fulfill its destiny nor honor its legacy apart from honoring this pledge. And if we are part of the Messianic Jewish Remnant of Israel, this must be is true for our Union as well.

More to come. More on zikkaron.