Biblical circumcision - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have heard that the way circumcision is done today is different than the way it was done in Biblical times. Does anyone know if this is true or have any more information on this?
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#2 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 11:06 AM
 
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If you google this you will find tons of info but we're not allowed to discuss religion and circ here. There is a religious studies forum here on MDC that you could post on. PM'd you a response.

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#3 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 11:10 AM
 
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I think it is appropriate to discuss methods and nature of the actual procedure as it evolved through out time as long as one doesn't get into discussion of debate about the religious reasons or mandates for circ.

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#4 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 11:19 AM
 
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Ooops...Sorry! I've already PM'd my response...basically I believe that circ likely was less invasive in biblical times...more just a docking of the end of the foreskin than removal of. You don't have to go whole hog just for the purpose of group identification. But I could be wrong...

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#5 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 11:37 AM
 
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I have heard this a lot but if you ask the Jewish mamas in the religious studies forum, they will say that this is not true. There have been several threads about this in that forum, so you can search for them there.

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#6 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 11:57 AM
 
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Yeah, I'm not interested in it (for this purpose) as a religious question, but as a historical one. I don't need an agenda, thanks; I have one of my own , but that doesn't mean I wanted it painted to suit my preferences, just the truth as the most accurate historians can reconstruct it. (And thanks for the clarification, Pup.)

So it is being maintained that the whole 'Olympics' scenario (of tighter circumcisions being introduced at that point) is a fiction?

Hm. Must delve deeper. (This is where I wish I'd pursued that financially useless other-than-acadamia history degree. Ah well, something to do when I'm old & rich. ;D) Connections! Who has University Classical History connections?
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#7 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 12:25 PM
 
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I posted this in Religious Studies....

Interesting article / reconciling circumcision with risks/issues??

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.momentmag.com/opinion/Jun...6_opinion.html
Here are some snips from the article:


Quote:
Hershel Shanks
A Flip of the Foreskin
The ancient way to reverse circumcision

….Epispasm is circumcision in reverse. During the Hellenistic period, beginning in about 125 B.C.E., it became a fairly common operation among Jewish men. In Greek gymnasia and Roman baths, men worked out in the nude. The same for public games and athletic contests. Gymnasia and baths were where you established your social standing and where business deals were often struck. To expose the head of the penis in these circumstances was considered vulgar—or humorous. Certainly indecent.

Some circumcised Jews tried to hide their circumcision….

I don’t think you have to be a doctor to realize that this won’t work on a circumcised Jewish penis today. Certainly not on a mass basis and not without enormous pain. “No one today would even try it,” an urologic surgeon recently told me.

This comment led me to explore whether circumcision was different in ancient times. It appears to have been… different

Rabbis, understandably, didn’t like epispasm. It was they who established the intricate rules of modern circumcision. ..

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#8 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 12:48 PM
 
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Thanks for the article. Apparently the editor emeritus of 'Moment' recognizes what the situation was. I am curious how & if this was refuted (but not enough to go get thoroughly depressed in 'religious studies' today ). Since this is a historical, not a religious, question, I am glad that it is deemed appropriate to discuss here.
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#9 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 01:22 PM
 
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Well considering we are discussing a time with less developed healthcare less radical forms would certainly have been safer...
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#10 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 01:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Revamp
Well considering we are discussing a time with less developed healthcare less radical forms would certainly have been safer...
That is a good point.

Didn't Ronald Goldman write a book that discusses the historical evolution of circ? I have not read it but I seem to remember hearing about it.

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#11 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 02:43 PM
 
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Originally Posted by PuppyFluffer
Didn't Ronald Goldman write a book that discusses the historical evolution of circ? I have not read it but I seem to remember hearing about it.
Sounds like a good book...
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#12 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 07:55 PM
 
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Here is a bit of info about it:
http://www.noharmm.org/choices.htm

Take care,
Tara

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#13 of 22 Old 06-10-2006, 09:02 PM
 
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I just bumped an old thread for you - I remembered it having some good information which you might find helpful.
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#14 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 01:44 AM
 
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I don't think that anyone knows what 'biblical circumcision' looked like. I'm one of the Jewish mamas referenced above and no, I didn't say that circ. wasn't different today that it was then. However, it was NOT 'just the tip' as some have indicated. An added step of removing the inner membrane was added by the rabbis as Shanks mentions:
Quote:
. Just to make sure, rabbis decreed that the mohel must also remove the membrane under the foreskin where it attaches to the shaft of the penis, a procedure called periah, which means laying bare or uncovered. Otherwise, the circumcision is not valid according to Mishnah Shabbath 9.6 and its Gemara, b. Shabbath 137b.
The 'mishnah' and 'gemara' mentioned comprise the Talmud.
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#15 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 10:44 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2seven
I don't think that anyone knows what 'biblical circumcision' looked like. I'm one of the Jewish mamas referenced above and no, I didn't say that circ. wasn't different today that it was then. However, it was NOT 'just the tip' as some have indicated. An added step of removing the inner membrane was added by the rabbis as Shanks mentions:

Quote:
Just to make sure, rabbis decreed that the mohel must also remove the membrane under the foreskin where it attaches to the shaft of the penis, a procedure called periah, which means laying bare or uncovered. Otherwise, the circumcision is not valid according to Mishnah Shabbath 9.6 and its Gemara, b. Shabbath 137b.

The 'mishnah' and 'gemara' mentioned comprise the Talmud.
If you take into account the structure of the foreskin and its attachment to the glans in infancy, what you described/quoted is essentially going from "removing the tip only" to "removing the whole foreskin".

Because if you don't "remove the membrane under the foreskin" or lay the glans bare, you simply cannot cut off more than the tip of the foreskin in an infant ("tip" being defined as the part of the foreskin that protrudes past the glans). Because the rest of the foreskin, the part that directly covers the glans, is so firmly attached to the glans that they form one structure at that age.

And to uncover all of the glans, you have to remove the whole foreskin, because if you don't, the remaining foreskin will at best just glide back over the glans, to be retracted easily, at worst grow back to the glans, making retraction impossible, usually referred to as adhesions. So the aim of "laying bare" can not be achieved this way.

While the wording in the Talmud may be a bit more "creative" and less scientific and physiologically detailed, it doesn't seem to mean anything different than what's been expressed here. I agree though that we cannot say whether the old method removed all of the tip (still leaving a substantial amount of foreskin) or just a sliver of tissue (leaving essentially all of the foreskin).

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#16 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 12:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2seven
I don't think that anyone knows what 'biblical circumcision' looked like. I'm one of the Jewish mamas referenced above and no, I didn't say that circ. wasn't different today that it was then. However, it was NOT 'just the tip' as some have indicated. An added step of removing the inner membrane was added by the rabbis as Shanks mentions: The 'mishnah' and 'gemara' mentioned comprise the Talmud.
Do you know when this added step began? What is the Talmud exactly? Does it differ from the Old Testament?
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#17 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 12:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stardust27
I
While the wording in the Talmud may be a bit more "creative" and less scientific and physiologically detailed, it doesn't seem to mean anything different than what's been expressed here. I agree though that we cannot say whether the old method removed all of the tip (still leaving a substantial amount of foreskin) or just a sliver of tissue (leaving essentially all of the foreskin).

Stardust
So you're basically saying that however it was done then, it still removed a lot less foreskin than is removed today?
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#18 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 01:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stardust27
If you take into account the structure of the foreskin and its attachment to the glans in infancy, what you described/quoted is essentially going from "removing the tip only" to "removing the whole foreskin".

Because if you don't "remove the membrane under the foreskin" or lay the glans bare, you simply cannot cut off more than the tip of the foreskin in an infant ("tip" being defined as the part of the foreskin that protrudes past the glans). Because the rest of the foreskin, the part that directly covers the glans, is so firmly attached to the glans that they form one structure at that age.

And to uncover all of the glans, you have to remove the whole foreskin, because if you don't, the remaining foreskin will at best just glide back over the glans, to be retracted easily, at worst grow back to the glans, making retraction impossible, usually referred to as adhesions. So the aim of "laying bare" can not be achieved this way.

While the wording in the Talmud may be a bit more "creative" and less scientific and physiologically detailed, it doesn't seem to mean anything different than what's been expressed here. I agree though that we cannot say whether the old method removed all of the tip (still leaving a substantial amount of foreskin) or just a sliver of tissue (leaving essentially all of the foreskin).
Perhaps that was left intentionally vague?

For if it is so vital, central and integral a ritual one would imagine they might have been a little more specific.
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#19 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 03:58 PM
 
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The "Talmud" is comprised of the mishnah and gemorah. The mishnah is the 'oral law'. The mishnah is the explanation of the laws recorded in the Torah (the first 5 books of the 'old testament') which were preserved orally until the dispersal of Jews from Israel necessitated writting them down lest they be lost. The gemorah is the exposition of the rabbis, basically their discussions about the laws of the mishnah. Recorded together about 1800 years ago, these two parts comprise the Talmud. *Most* laws in the torah are not terribly specific and therefore we have to rely on the oral law for the explanation.

Since ancient Jewish sources are riddled with comments about how circumcision was a recognizing sign of a Jew and that during the Greek era Jewish assimilationists went to great lengths to try to hide their circumcision b/c of the embarassment factor, it is hard to imagine that is was 'just a nick'. I think we all agree that the nature of the circ changed, but it was not as minimalist as some here would indicate. FWIW, a Jewish circ done by most Orthodox mohels to this day are 'looser' than a hospital OB typical circ.
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#20 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 06:54 PM
 
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Whoops, I didn't know my post had gone through. When I tried to send it, the board apparently went down and I still couldn't access it an hour later. Whatever... :


Quote:
Originally Posted by caedmyn
So you're basically saying that however it was done then, it still removed a lot less foreskin than is removed today?
Logic and the physiology of the foreskin suggest so, yes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2seven
Since ancient Jewish sources are riddled with comments about how circumcision was a recognizing sign of a Jew and that during the Greek era Jewish assimilationists went to great lengths to try to hide their circumcision b/c of the embarassment factor, it is hard to imagine that is was 'just a nick'. I think we all agree that the nature of the circ changed, but it was not as minimalist as some here would indicate.
Yes, you're right, it must have been done in a way that it was a noticeable difference from an intact man. But a partial circumcision in an infant will have a much more drastic effect once the boy has grown into a man, because the foreskin becomes shorter in relation to the penis, especially during puberty. It's always said that the loose circumcisions done today, the boys will grow into as they age, making it look "properly circumcised" later. So that might have been the case with the biblical Jewish circumcisions, as well.

Also, the Greeks had a very peculiar attitude about nudity and the penis: Being naked and displaying the genitals was fine, but if the glans was exposed, that was an offense. So any type of circumcision that didn't leave the glans covered completely would have made the Jews stick out in the Greek society.

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#21 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2seven
FWIW, a Jewish circ done by most Orthodox mohels to this day are 'looser' than a hospital OB typical circ.
What do you mean by "looser"...like they take less off?
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#22 of 22 Old 06-11-2006, 08:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caedmyn
What do you mean by "looser"...like they take less off?
Yes.
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