Genital cutting in Christianity

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Genital cutting in Christianity was rejected by the Church Fathers at the Council at Jerusalem which was held in or about 49 A.D.

The Christian Bible

The Christian Bible, which is considered to be the authority regarding faith and practice, contains two major sections. They are the Hebrew Bible of the Jews, containing the Books from Genesis to Malachi, which is usually called the "Old Testament" and the Greek Bible of the Christians, which is usually called the "New Testament, containing the Books from Matthew through Revelation. The two testaments differ with regard to circumcision, which can be confusing to Christians.

The 17th Chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament describes the Covenant of Circumcision, also known as the Abrahamic covenant, however this has been questioned since it conflicts with other Jewish values and other reasons.[1]

The early Christian Apostles, meeting at the Council at Jerusalem described in Chapter 15 of Acts of the Apostles, rejected the Jewish teachings regarding circumcision.

Circumcision has been believed to be a good "Christian value" by a few Christians in different parts of the world, including the United States, South Korea, Africa and the Philippines. Christian advocates of male infant circumcision often cite the alleged covenant between god and Abraham as outlined in the book of Genesis (e.g., the Old Testament), or believe that since the men of the Old Testament were circumcised, that it must be a good Christian value. Still others acknowledge that male infant circumcision was outlined to Abraham and his descendants, and that gentiles were excluded, but believe the New Testament says it's just a matter of preference, and that gentiles could choose to be circumcised or not, or could choose to have their children circumcised or allowed to be intact. These are erroneous views.

Circumcision and coercing others to be circumcised

Actually, circumcision is expressly forbidden to gentiles in the New Testament. Whereas Jews adhere to the original 613 laws and commandments outlined in the Old Testament, called "mitzvots" in Hebrew, Christians are supposed to be saved by the blood and grace of Christ, hence the name "Christ-ian." At various points in the New Testament,[2] Christians are told to either follow the law, or be saved by the Grace of Christ alone.

In the early times of the church, there was bitterness between Jews who believed in the laws of the Old Testament, and Jews who wanted to be saved under the New Covenant, and who wanted to live in harmony with gentile believers who were saved by faith in Christ. Followers of the Old Testament, who were made to keep numerous laws and undergo several unpleasant rituals, had bitterness and resentment for followers of the New Testament, who were being spared old burdens. Paul and Peter are desperately trying to unite these groups in order to achieve harmony, but the issue of circumcision and keeping laws and rituals in the Old Testament keep coming up as points of contention. The Council at Jerusalem was held in about 49 A. D. to resolve these differences.

Old Testament believers taunt New Testament believers
And some men came and were teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' But Paul and Barnabas together had great dissention and disputing with these men. . . Then Peter stood up and said to them '...Why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
– Luke (Acts 15: 1-2, 7, 10)

Here, Peter compares circumcision to a yoke that has been a difficult burden.

In the 5th chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians, it is written:

Fallen from grace
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Galatians 5:1-6)

Here too, Paul calls circumcision a yoke of bondage. It is stressed that circumcision is of no Christian merit, and that it is a mistake for Christians to believe that circumcision is a Christian virtue that will profit them anything. Indeed, here, Paul says Christ is worthless to those who believe they are justified by the law, and describes them as having fallen from grace. Above law and rituals, Paul stresses righteousness by faith.

Paul calls out advocates of circumcision as people who don't even actually care about keeping the whole law themselves, but in boasting in the fact that they were able to convince others to do as they wished. In other words, more so than keeping the law to honor god, they were more interested in forcing the law on others in order to feel good about themselves; the whole point of keeping the law had lost its meaning, which was to honor god.

Glory in the flesh vs. glory in the Cross
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
– Paul (Galatians 6:13-15)

Here too, Paul stresses that circumcision has become meaningless to those who believe in salvation by Christ. Paul wanted to make peace between those who are circumcised, and new believers for whom circumcision was no longer a requirement. While it is a mistake to believe that circumcision is a Christian virtue or requirement, having been circumcised as required by earlier laws was not an impediment to becoming a good Christian.

Circumcision is nothing
But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
– Paul (1 Corinthians 7:17-20)

The New Testament warns Christians against those (Judaizers) who insist that they and their children must be circumcised in order to achieve salvation; he condemns them as evil charlatans who wish to do nothing more than deceive others turn a profit and boast while doing it.

Vain talkers and deceivers
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.
– Paul (Titus 1:10-11)
Beware of the circumcision
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.
For we are the true circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
– Paul (Philippians 3:2-3)

Circumcision and Catholicism

The Roman Catholic church condemned the practice formally and ordered against its practice in the Ecumenical Council of Basel-Florence in 1442.[3]

See also

External links


  1. REFbook Glick LB (2005): Chapter One, in: Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America. Edition: 1st. Oxford University Press. Pp. 15-18. ISBN 9780195176742. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  2. The Holy Bible
  3. REFweb Eugenius IV (4 February 1442). Bull of Union with the Copts, Circumcision Reference Library. Retrieved 28 May 2020.