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Mark Kinzer: Searching Her Own Mystery

Mark S. Kinzer, Searching Her Own Mystery: Nostra Aetate, the Jewish People, and the Identity of the Church (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015), 262 pages, ISBN 9781498203319.

The Messianic Jewish movement includes a broad spectrum of claims regarding authentic Jewish life and expression of faith in Jesus as Messiah. Mark Kinzer represents one band of thought within that spectrum and is recognized for his scholarly work in Jewish-Christian relations, particularly his advocacy for inclusion of the Catholic Church in Jewish-Christian dialogue. Although never officially joining Roman Catholicism, his extensive familiarity with and knowledge of Catholic tradition was gained during many years of work within a Catholic Charismatic community. Coupled with his ethnic Jewish family background, Kinzer now focuses on the 1965 Roman Catholic declaration Nostra Aetate as the backdrop for furthering his efforts to develop the identity of the Church in linkage with the Jewish people.

Messianic Jewish Theologian, Rabbi Mark S. Kinzer

Nostra Aetate (NA) promotes the reversal of centuries-long antagonism toward those of other non-Christian religions; most significantly, §4 specifically addresses the Jewish people and Judaism. Searching Her Own Mystery (SHOM) is Kinzer’s attempt to evaluate NA-4 for the contribution it may have had in overturning Christian antagonism towards the Jewish people; he also seeks to bring Jewish identity to the foreground of the Church’s purview. Ultimately, SHOM’s nine chapters and four appendices comprise Kinzer’s next step in positing the need for a Bilateral Ecclesiology (xiii). Introduced in his earlier 2005 work, Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism (PMMJ), Bilateral Ecclesiology idealizes the Church comprised of Jews and non-Jews, yet retaining ethnic distinctiveness within two parallel but separate ecclesiological communities.

Kinzer “is not motivated by a Christian missionary agenda” towards Jewish people.

As in PMMJ, this latest work also reveals that Kinzer “is not motivated by a Christian missionary agenda” towards Jewish people (186), and this highlights a non-evangelical perspective that dominates throughout SHOM. Unlike PMMJ, however, some helpful, personal background is presented (Ch. 2) giving insight about key events that influenced Kinzer’s theological perspectives. It is also in this chapter that the first hint of soft antagonism towards evangelicalism comes to view as he distinguishes ‘Hebrew Christians’ (as differing little from those in Protestant Christian congregations) from Jewish believers who seek a more integrated Jewish life as followers of Jesus (33). Recognizing this early on will help the reader understand later statements as he separates himself theologically from Hebrew Christianity shaped by “conservative evangelical Protestant models” in favor of Jewish and Catholic sources that are credited for his intellectual and spiritual formation (35).

Evangelicals will have to wrestle with concepts such as Israel-Ecclesiology and Israel-Christology as they wade through highly nuanced philosophical arguments, which attempt to join the Church to “genealogical-Israel” through Christ who is asserted to be both in the Church as much as He is the “inner mystery of the Jewish people” (60). Two examples illustrate this point. In Chapter Four, Israel-Ecclesiology posits a mysteriously inherent “priestly vocation of the Jewish people as a whole” (88) paralleling Catholic sacramental orders of priestly and apostolic ministry through a suggested mystical connection to Messiah. Consequently, Kinzer maintains there is a deficiency of and need for an explicitly Jewish overseer/bishopric structure for exclusive communities of believing Jews. The result, again, is an implicit appeal for a bilateral ecclesiology.

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Category: Fall 2017, In Depth

About the Author: Brian N. Brewer holds an M.A. in Theology (University of Chester, England) and is currently engaged in pre-doctoral research regarding Gentile involvement in the Messianic Jewish Movement.

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