The Bible and imaginative remembering

A Tanach

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In our beginning study of the gospels, I hear echoes of Year 1’s emphasis on “traditioning”: Bringing the past alive in the present moment. It’s what the Israelites did with the Torah. You shall read this Law aloud in the presence of all Israel… Your children also, who do not know it yet, must hear it and learn it (Deuteronomy 31:10-11, 13). In the Torah tradition, wrote Bernhard W. Anderson, “old memories are endlessly re-presented and reinterpreted, rearticulated and re-imagined in ways that keep the main claims of faith pertinent and authoritative in new circumstances.” Today’s believers, he wrote, may learn from the Jews “the sustaining power of imaginative remembering, the ongoing, lovely process of traditioning.” 

It’s a process also known as anamnesis—a recalling to mind, so one never forgets. It’s what we do through study of the Old Testament: Genesis and Exodus are not just the stories of the Israelites; they’re our stories, with applications to our lives today. It’s what the early Christians did with their teaching and preaching about Jesus. And it’s what the evangelists did with the gospels, retelling the stories with applications to the lives of the communities they were addressing. 

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