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The Bible on Circumcision

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
So...right now I'm reading the New Testament. And It talked about circumcision. Can someone explain this to me, why would God have someone Circumcise themselves?

Also, I'm not really good with debating why circumcision is wrong, but I would like to be better at explaining it to people. I don't want to come off ignorant, I guess I'm just not a confrontational person. My friend thinks circumcision is for hygiene. I did tell him to do his research though.

Can you guys help me better understand the subject?
post #2 of 39
We are not supposed to talk about religion on the board, but to try and steer in a different direction, I would say that the bible is one thing, and says a whole bunch of stuff about a wide variety of topics that some agree with and some don't. Circumcision for religious reasons is an entirely different ball of wax. The vast majority who circ in America do not do it for religious reasons at all, but for what boil down to simply cultural preferences. My preferred description of it so far is sort of a "tribal" thing (which is a good way to describe the biblical origins too), like tribes that tattoo or practice scarification. People keep doing it because they feel it will make them part of the tribe. That is the reason, plain and simple. The rest is smoke and mirrors. There are just no medical benefits strong enough to outweigh the numerous downsides to the procedure, which is unnecessary at best, and mutilation by many standards.
post #3 of 39
I'm sure many will have better specific resources for you, but Mothering magazine's article "The Case Against Circumcision" (just do a search in the articles) is what gave me the majority of what I found most helpful information.

A few of my thoughts/reasons:
1) Unnecessary, and recognized as such by every major medical organization in the world.
2) Perfomed on a helpless infant (who is restrained and often has little or no anesthesia) without consent
3) Incredibly painful
4) Huge margin of error, with many unfortunate problems like skin bridges, adhesions, meatal stenosis
5) Forces an sensitive internal sex organ to become a desensitized external organ
6) Removes 1/3 of tissue of the penis (along with thousands of nerve endings)
7) Boys are born normal and don't require surgical correction!
post #4 of 39
There is a religeous studies section. Maybe you could ask there? Or get this moved there?

I do know that God required it to set apart his people from the rest. I have no idea why he chose circ though. In the new dispensation, baptism has replaced circ.
post #5 of 39
I thought that convenant was met in the new testament.
post #6 of 39
Judisiam: setting his people apart, mark of his chosen people
New covenant: rejection of these things, break with tradition, baptism as mark of his people

Circumcision was at one time far less common among Christians in the us. But I believe there was "hygiene" campaign in the 50s that changed that. Mostly I think it cultural but I do ave family that don't circa fir the reasons above.
post #7 of 39
Moving to Religious Studies, as religion with regard to RIC is no longer a welcome topic in TCAC.

Thanks for understanding!
post #8 of 39
post #9 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mommyfied View Post
This is kind of a strange article - it says circumcision only makes sense if you believe in evolution. Even accounting for hyperbole, that is an odd thing to say.
post #10 of 39
To the OP - skim on down to the part about modern circumcision vs. biblical circumcision: "The circumcision that Abraham and his descendants practiced was something entirely different from modern circumcision. It merely involved cutting the tip of the foreskin, not removing it!" I've seen other resources discuss this same distinction and I think that is the most important part to understand.

Bluegoat - I reread the part about evolution that to see what you were referring to. I think the author is making the point that God created all of our parts for a reason and they all have a function (even if scientists didn't realize it in the past). The author chooses to make the point by saying that if you believe the foreskin is worthless, you might as well believe in evolution. I think it's worded in a way that doesn't explain this very well and I agree that using evolution to make this point doesn't add much to the discussion. The distinction is also made that it's referring to modern circumcision, if that helps.
post #11 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mommyfied View Post
"The circumcision that Abraham and his descendants practiced was something entirely different from modern circumcision. It merely involved cutting the tip of the foreskin, not removing it!" I've seen other resources discuss this same distinction and I think that is the most important part to understand.
It's not really my area in which to comment, but I vaguely remember this assertion being called at minimum questionable in terms of supportability when it had been brought up before in discussions of specifically Jewish circumcision practices.
post #12 of 39
My understanding is that it was part of the covenant for the Jews to set them apart, hygiene was an issue at that time so were a lot of the food that are considered unkosher (interesting enough mixing meat and dairy is only referenced once with don't boil a baby in its mothers milk) I believe at the time it was to protect God's people from illness that was an major issue then.

New covenant With Christ circumcision is not needed, but then again hygiene had changed by that time with more access to water and non-nomadic housing.

This is what I was taught in a non religious bible class in college, thus the logic spin on it.
post #13 of 39
I've seen research on the idea (modern circumcision being different) in many places. Many resources cite the historical evidence and I'd like to delve into it myself to confirm its validity, however, I think it makes sense that the radical form of circumcision we see now wasn't feasible (with the tools they had available along with the possibility of infection, bleeding, etc.)

This article discusses it a bit further:
http://www.cirp.org/library/history/#n8

I found another link that has some diagrams to show the difference:
http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcisi...rnal/v1n1.html

I don't know if I agree that it was for hygiene reasons. When the Israelites were in the Wilderness for 40 years, circumcision was suspended. If it were for hygiene reasons, you'd think that would be the time that it was "needed".
post #14 of 39
There are Jewish board members who certainly know more about it than me; I'm simply pointing out that my understanding is that that viewpoint is not universally accepted fact.

As far as the argument goes regarding available tools, obsidian blades are actually still among the sharpest known cutting tools. As a matter of fact I was just reading in another forum about single use obsidian flint stone scalpels being used as modern specialty surgical tools: http://www.finescience.com/commerce/...n-scalpels.htm (Aside from any conversation on circumcision, how cool is that?) It can also be noted that quite dramatic body modifications, including genital modifications, are a part of the histories of any number of cultures, not only Semitic ones, and in general it would appear that it is a broader human habit that tools are fashioned to suit body mod purposes far more than body mod purposes are thwarted by a lack of tools.
post #15 of 39
That's fine. There are a lot of viewpoints in this world that aren't universally accepted as fact. I'm just saying a lot of people have researched it and have come to that conclusion. I agree with it because it makes sense to me and I haven't seen any evidence that refutes it. I'd certainly consider it if the evidence were presented.

First and foremost I don't think God would have instituted circumcision if it destroyed the entire foreskin and all its important functions along with it. Then the thoughts of complications and tools come to mind. The form of circ that I'm citing only cut off the tip of the foreskin and left the glans unharmed. A more radical form of circumcision like the circ that we see nowadays seems like it would be even more dangerous in those living conditions. I don't doubt the tools they had access to were sharp. I was referring to tools that would be used to separate the fused foreskin from the glans. This difference in tools is discussed in one of the links I referenced...
http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcisi...rnal/v1n1.html
post #16 of 39
In the New Testament, I don't recall God asking anyone to circumcise himself. Paul did circ Timothy (his disciple, an adult) so that he'd be accepted by the Jews, but I can't think of any other instances. Circ is discussed at length in, um, Galatians? and it is specifically said to be unnecessary, as "circumcision of the heart" is what counts (and according to Paul, what always counted, even back in the OT) - referring to a spiritual attitude of being "cut off" from "fleshly" desires, impulses and so on. It's to do with being a spiritual, not a carnal being, and living for heaven rather than being in love with this world.

As for why God told Jews to circ in the OT - well, I believe it was as a kind of blood sacrifice, representing - rather gorily and painfully - the Biblical law that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, as well as being a sign that separated Israel from the surrounding nations (in the intent and specific performance of the ritual, not the circumcision itself, which quite a lot of people practiced). The idea that it was done for hygiene reasons is not Biblically supported - neither is the hygiene argument for the dietary laws, although that makes sense to a degree. But in both cases it's an explanation people have developed from outside the text, in order to make sense of some laws which seem kind of random or arbitrary - it's possible that wasn't God's reasoning at all, so I think we need to be careful about viewing those explanations as absolute fact.
post #17 of 39
Oook, I see what you're getting at. The initial quote I mentioned seemed to be talking about the assertion that circumcision originally amounted to effectively a ritual nick, which is what I have seen discussed here before.

While I suspect you might be surprised by the longevity of somewhat more thorough foreskin removal practices -- far longer than the advent of plastibells and the like -- I suppose that much is not really relevant at all to different readings of the far reaching origins of religious circ.
post #18 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
As for why God told Jews to circ in the OT - well, I believe it was as a kind of blood sacrifice, representing - rather gorily and painfully - the Biblical law that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, as well as being a sign that separated Israel from the surrounding nations (in the intent and specific performance of the ritual, not the circumcision itself, which quite a lot of people practiced).


Nope. Sorry.

A bris is not "shedding blood" bringing "forgiveness of sins." Not in the least. No relation to forgiving sins at all.

There is a sacrifice that had to be brought for particular sins (the korban khatat), and it was a goat.

And children don't sin. At all. (According to Jewish law, that is.) And a bris happens to an eight-day-old baby, right? No sin involved.




But the "separation" idea, you've got something there.
post #19 of 39
Quote:
A bris is not "shedding blood" bringing "forgiveness of sins." Not in the least. No relation to forgiving sins at all.
There is a sacrifice that had to be brought for particular sins (the korban khatat), and it was a goat.
And children don't sin. At all. (According to Jewish law, that is.) And a bris happens to an eight-day-old baby, right? No sin involved.
I'm not giving the Jewish perspective on this issue. I assumed the OP wanted the Christian perspective on circumcision, as she was reading the New Testament. Naturally the Christian view of Jewish circumcision is not the same as the Jewish view - Paul, for instance, refers to it as a mutilation (not the Jewish view), declares that it is only of value to those who keep the law (not the Jewish view), says that not all circumcised Jews are true children of Abraham (not the Jewish view), declares there is no spiritual difference in Christ between circumcised and uncircumcised believers (miles away from any Jewish view), and so on.

That said, I wrote the above post in a hurry and wasn't very clear. I do believe the primary purpose of circ was separation/a sign of the Covenant, and I do not believe it actually forgave sins (as my post made clear, in fact). I do believe in original sin, so I believe even infants need forgiveness/salvation. From the Christian perspective, circumcision does not impart that, but if it is part of the process by which a baby grows up following God's law and believing God's promises - which we believe resulted in salvation for people like Abraham and Moses - it is related to forgiveness of sins. (It ties in to the circumcision/baptism parallel in the NT, in which baptism is referred to at one point as "for the forgiveness of sins". I don't believe it means baptism actually forgives sins, as that would contradict other teachings of salvation; rather, I believe it views baptism as part of and a symbol of the salvation process. Other Christians will disagree with me on this one.) And I don't think it's a stretch to think that God chose a bloody, painful method to demonstrate the very serious and life-altering consequences of being one of God's people, and perhaps to encourage His people to look forward to a better time when it was unnecessary - as I believe it now is, under the New Covenant.
post #20 of 39
Gods command to circumcise has always made sense to me in that there is no half hearted weak commitment there. God was asking men to cut off one of their favorite things. He was asking something hard, something sacrificial and further more he was asking them to do it to their babies! This was not an easy thing. There was someone (holy crap, I should know this like the back of my hand buts it late and I am sugar drunk on Halloween candy) who hesitated and his wife grabbed the baby and did it because the father was weak. And I believe God was really unpleased with him (the father not the son). This was not a easy thing for people to do to their children. it hurt. it changed them. It changed the function of their penis. You had to be all in to do it. But they did do it. Because they were indeed committed to following God and being set apart and bearing the mark of someone who was following God. It was a blood covenant between them and God of the most difficult kind. What would you cut off for God if he asked? What would you cut off your child if God asked? At what point would you say "well, I love God and want to follow him but he is just asking too much here."

Christians are not expected to enter into that covenant or convert to Judaism to follow Christ. Both scripture and church history make that very clear.
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