This is an original online publication by the Circumcision Information and Resource Pages.

The New Testament and Circumcision

by Michael Glass


Sometimes people say that circumcision is Biblical and is therefore to be recommended to Christians. It is true that circumcision can be found in both Jewish and Christian scriptures. However, it is not true that the procedure is recommended to Christians.

In fact, the New Testament is clearly hostile to those who encourage circumcision, and opposes rather than encourages the procedure. The reasons for this are set out plainly in the text and can be seen in the words of Jesus, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. As a result, most Christians throughout history have not practised circumcision.1

Nevertheless, it is not hard to give the impression that the New Testament is pro-circumcision. Jesus was circumcised (Luke 1:59) and so were his disciples. The Apostle Paul circumcised Timothy, or had him circumcised, (Acts 16:3). Paul cautioned the Corinthians against uncircumcising themselves. (1 Cor. 7:18). While the New Testament does say this, it distorts its message on this subject.

I have written this paper to show you, the reader, that while circumcision is quite plainly in the Bible it is definitely not recommended to Christians. This might strike some readers as strange or paradoxical, because circumcision is so important in the Old Testament. However, it is just one of a number of Jewish laws that were abolished for Christians.

The message of the New Testament is for all, whether circumcised or not, to bring them together in unity. The debate on circumcision could obscure the universality of this message. Also, attempts to use the Bible could muddy the waters in this dispute. Nevertheless, what the New Testament says on circumcision should be heeded, because it offers important insights into people's motivations for pushing circumcision on others.

The background to the New Testament

The New Testament comes from a multicultural background. It is, of course, grounded in the Jewish religion. Jews circumcised their boys on their eighth day of life, and regarded this rite as essential (Gen. 17:9-14). However, it was written in Greek, and was therefore immersed in the Greek culture, which was dominant in that part of the Roman Empire at the time. These two great cultures came together in the New Testament. There were, of course, many points of convergence between them both, but there were some notable clashes. One was over circumcision.

When the New Testament was written, the Greek standard of beauty - and also male decency - was a foreskin that completely concealed the head of the penis. For Greeks, a man could appear naked in public games as long as the head of his penis was covered.2 The Greek words for circumcision (peritome - cutting round) and mutilation (katatome - cutting down) were related,3 so the Greek hostility to circumcision is reflected in the language in which the New Testament was written.

The Maccabean Revolt and its aftermath

The greatest clash between these two cultures over circumcision is not found in the New Testament or the Hebrew Bible, but in the Septuagint, the famous translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. This contained several books not found in the Hebrew Bible (Deuterocanonical books for Catholics and the Apocrypha for Protestants.) One of the books is 1 Maccabees.

This book gives a gruesome account of a clash between the Jews and the Greek conquerors of Palestine. Between about 175 B.C. and 134 B.C.4 the Greeks insisted that all people they had conquered follow their religious customs. In addition, they tried to stop the Jews from circumcising their infants. The clash that followed included the butchery of mothers who circumcised their infants (1 Macc. 1:60-61, 2 Macc. 6:8-11). Reprisals of the Jewish zealots included forcible circumcision of boys (1 Macc. 2:45), and there were massacres on both sides (1 Macc. 1:29-38, 1 Macc. 5:22,28,35,49-51).

The Jewish Zealots were incredibly tough and uncompromising. They forced the Greeks to allow them to practise their religion, including circumcision. However, this was not just a clash between those who wanted to adopt Greek customs, and those who insisted on the old ways. The fight was dirty and bitter on both sides. The Greek authorities directed the Jews to leave their sons uncircumcised (1 Maccabees 1:48) and:

...put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers' necks. (1 Maccabees 1:60-61, New Revised Standard Version)

Maccabees had revealed that many Jews wanted to adopt Greek ways. They obtained permission to build

... a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcison, and abandoned the holy covenant. (1 Macc. 1:14)

The holy covenant, of course, referred to infant circumcision. Naturally, those who were removing the marks of their own circumcision would not be chopping off the foreskins of their sons. The zealots regarded these Jews as renegades, who had joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil. (1 Maccabees 1:11, 15) The first counter-attack against the Greeks was to turn against those they regarded as traitors in their own ranks:

They organized an army, and they struck down sinners in their anger and renegades in their wrath; the survivors fled to the Gentiles for safety. And Mattathias and his friends went around and tore down the altars; they forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel. They rescued the law out of the hands of the Gentiles and kings, and they never let the sinner gain the upper hand. (1 Maccabees 2:44-48, NRSV)

As you can see from this, the zealots would regard any Jews who turned against circumcision as a traitor, a sinner and a renegade, a person to be struck down. Jesus and his disciples lived less than 200 years after the time of Judas Maccabaeus,5 and the circumcision controversy was still intense. This continuing controversy is reflected in the New Testament.

What Jesus said about Circumcision

John's Gospel says that when people criticized Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath day, Jesus responded:

'Moses...gave unto you circumcision;6 (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.' (John 7:22-24, King James Version)

Jesus contrasts the circumcision of Moses and the fathers with his 'making men whole', as the Greeks put it. However, this phrase is sharpened. It says, 'I have made a man 'every whit whole'. (Whit means 'particle, least possible amount') In this context the phrase could hardly be more pointed and the point would not be lost on the largely Greek and uncircumcised readership. They could not help but see it as hostile to both circumcisers and to circumcision itself.

The Jerusalem Bible made this point clearly:

'why are you angry with me for making a man whole and complete on a sabbath?'7

This is a striking thing for Jesus to say. However, a footnote argues that the Jews of that time saw circumcision as healing the penis, and Jesus was arguing for his big healing on the sabbath as well as their little healing.

Such an argument has problems. If you argue that circumcision perfects the body, you argue against the perfection of God's creation. Genesis 1:31 says that God pronounced his creation 'very good'. As man was created with a foreskin, then the foreskin must also have been very good. The Jewish sage, Moses Maimonides, explained the reason for circumcision as follows.

'It has been thought that circumcision perfects what is defective congenitally. This gave the possibility to everyone to raise an objection and to say: How can natural things be defective so that they need to be perfected from outside, all the more because we know how useful the foreskin is for that member? In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally.

'The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened.'8

Moses Maimonides, who stated that a penis is indubitably weakened by circumcision, would have had little trouble in seeing the ironic note in Jesus' statement. After all, Jesus contrasted his healing (making a man every bit whole) with the activities of the circumcisers (who chopped a bit off).

But even if Jesus did mean that his healing was big whereas his critics' healing was small9 this still does not account for two important points:

Some have said that when Jesus claimed he made a man 'every whit whole', he restored his foreskin.10 I do not see it this way. I see it as a clever play on words, something that Jesus often did.11 However, it is still a clear attack on circumcision. At first, (John 5:2-16) we are simply told that a paralysed man was 'made whole'.12 However, when Jesus said that he made that man 'every whit whole' (John 7:23), the expression was much more pointed.

However, Jesus said something far more radical about the origin of circumcision:

'Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs)' (John 7:22a)

What Jesus said about circumcision - that it came from the patriarchs - is true. However, the Torah claims far more for this ancient custom. Both Genesis and Leviticus claim that circumcision came from God (Gen. 17:9-14, Lev. 12).

When Jesus attributed circumcision to the patriarchs he downgraded the importance of this ancient ritual from a command that comes from God to a custom of the patriarchs. Customs of the patriarchs may be overturned; a command from God is not so easy to ignore. Describing circumcision as an ancient custom undermines the belief that circumcision came from God. It was quite a risky thing for Jesus to say (See John 7:25).

This paved the way for Peter to attack circumcision and Paul to attack those who promote it.

Put simply:

John's Gospel attacks circumcision in three ways.

In this, John's Gospel is in harmony with what Peter said about circumcision in the Acts of the Apostles and with what Paul said about it in his letters.

The Commands to Circumcise in the Torah

Some readers may be concerned that Jesus appears to downgrade the Jewish law. Surely that can't be right! Jesus himself said that he came not to overturn the law, but to fulfil it (Matt. 5:17).

However, Jesus' teaching on circumcision is entirely consistent with Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and other places. He was against over-zealous Sabbath-keeping (John 7), but was stricter in his teaching on anger and murder (Matt. 5:20-22), on adultery and lust (Matt. 5:27-28), divorce (Matt. 5:31-32), the taking of oaths (Matt. 5:33-37), on revenge (Matt. 5:39-42) and loving even your enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). When he referred to specific examples of the ancient law, Jesus only said: 'You have heard that it was said… (Matt. 5:21; 5:27, 5:33, 5:45)

Jesus' teaching on circumcision was also consistent with the Acts of the Apostles, where the ancient food laws and the restrictions on mixing with Gentiles were overthrown (Acts 10:9-16, 24-30, 11:1-14), and where contrary to the Torah (Deut. 23:1), eunuchs were welcomed into the Church (Acts 8:26-39). Indeed, the requirement for circumcision (Acts 15:7-10) was just one of a number of the requirements of the Law that was abolished.

The commands to circumcise are often quoted as proof texts. To assess them we have to examine them in context. Take the passage in Genesis:

'God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.... Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."' (Genesis 17: 9-14),13

No one follows this to the letter. Why? Slavery has been abolished! Today, no Jew, no matter how pious, has the right to hold slaves, and if a master should be so bold as to forcibly circumcise his 'servant' there would be an outcry!

Even with the circumcision of infants, Jewish scholars have tempered the rule. If a child is not completely well, the mohel is forbidden to circumcise him14 and if three children of a Jewish woman have died because of circumcision, the fourth need not be circumcised.15 None of this is condoned by the text above. Tradition has added these requirements to soften the impact of this text.

The second passage commanding circumcision comes from Leviticus:

'The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying; she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks as in her menstruation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.

And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. And he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her; when she shall be clean from the flow of her blood…. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean." ' (Lev. 12:)

The Jewish rule of ceremonial uncleanliness, which is doubled for giving birth to a girl rather than a boy, has become an embarrassment in an age of equal rights for women. Blood taboos such as those described in Leviticus 12 did not stop Jesus from healing. (Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:42-46) This and the example of Jesus touching and healing lepers (Matt. 8:2-4, Mark 1:40-45) helped to break down the notion of ritual uncleanness in Christianity.

Animal sacrifices have also become obsolete for Christian and Jew alike. It is curious that Leviticus 12 has become largely obsolescent, except for the requirement for circumcision itself.

How should we assess these apparently outmoded passages from the Torah? Paul warned against following Jewish myths (Titus 1:14). This came after a warning about

'…many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what is not right to teach. …For this reason rebuke them sharply…not paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth…' (Titus 1:10-11, 13-14)

We cannot be sure what Paul was referring to or what he considered mythical or which were the commandments of those who rejected the truth. It was before the Talmud was written, so it cannot refer to that. However, as Paul and other early Christians had rejected other parts of the Jewish heritage of that time, he may have considered parts of the Torah as mythical. The idea of rejecting any of the Torah as mythical may strike us as radical, but it certainly was firmly in Jewish tradition. Look at the words of Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:… [I]n the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you." (Jer. 7:22-26)

Even more pointedly he says:

How can you say, "We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us," when, in fact, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie? (Jer. 8:8)

We might think that Jesus was radical in saying that circumcision came from 'the fathers' (John 7:22), or that Paul may have been referring to Jewish myths outside the Hebrew Scriptures. However, these passages from Jeremiah show that one of the Bible's greatest prophets explicitly rejected animal sacrifices and charged that the false pen of the scribes had made the law - the Torah - into a lie!

Paul and other early Christians rejected parts of the Torah and Paul referred to parts of the Torah as mythical. In any case, he saw the Jewish law as being abolished, because of Jesus (Eph. 2: 11-20)

Peter Attacks Circumcision and the Law of Moses

In Acts 15, there is an account of people coming from Judea and pushing circumcision on non-Jewish Christians. Imagine how much consternation this would cause, 1,800 years before the invention of aseptic surgery! Even today circumcisions can become infected. Imagine what it was like then!

This is what Peter said:

'"My brothers, you know that ... God made a choice ... that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleaning their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus just as they will."' (Acts 15:7b-11)

He called circumcision and the Mosaic law an 'unbearable yoke'. Why? The Torah says that every male shall be circumcised on the eighth day. As we have seen, later developments of the law modified this somewhat.16 This is evidence that circumcision before aseptic surgery was a risky business. How could parents bring a baby into the world only to risk losing him to circumcision? Peter, as a married man (Mark 1:30). would be in a position to appreciate this keenly, and it might help account for the emotional tone of his comment.

It might be argued that allowing Christian converts to remain uncircumcised was a strategic move to help gain converts to the faith. While I am sure that it had that effect, I think it would be over-cynical to say that this was the only motivation. Peter was greatly impressed by the faith and piety of the gentile converts, stating that God made no distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised in matters of faith. (Acts 15:7-8)

This could have been a revelation to Peter, The Old Testament says that Jews must circumcise the foreskins of their hearts, (Jer. 4:4) and yet Peter found the uncircumcised were just as fervent believers, as the circumcised! This could help to explain why his attitude towards circumcision developed the way it did.

Another reason for Peter's attitude must have been the sheer burden of the Jewish law. In the case of circumcision, Peter would have been aware that children died because of circumcision. He would also have been aware of the hostility of Greeks and also some Jews to circumcision. It is, therefore, little wonder that he saw the law in general and the requirement for circumcision in particular as a yoke around the neck!

So a changed attitude towards circumcision was not the only difference between the older and the newer religions. As I already pointed out, there were changes in attitudes towards keeping the Sabbath, and observing the food laws. Christianity dispensed with Jewish ceremonial law, including circumcision. Indeed it was at the first church council that it was resolved not to put any 'irksome restrictions' (Acts 15:19)17 on the believers, and Paul, among others, was given the job of spreading the news of their deliberations.

Some might find it surprising that Peter seems to be so hostile to circumcision. He did not say that circumcision was optional, or it was nothing. Peter said that it and the Jewish law was an 'unbearable yoke'. This strong language suggests that Peter himself was hostile to the practice. This might mean a change of thinking on his part, or it could reflect the attitude of many Jews of that time towards this ancient ritual.

The circumciser who became a scourge of circumcisers

Paul, who began by persecuting the early Church, ended his life as a Christian apostle and martyr. Similarly, Paul who circumcised Timothy, or at least had him circumcised18, was to become the fiercest critic and opponent of circumcision and circumcisers in the New Testament. As we trace what he said from letter to letter we can see that his feelings about circumcisers and circumcision became more hostile as time went on.

It should be pointed out that Paul changed his approach to suit his target audience:

… I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. (1 Cor. 9:19-23),

However, we must ask ourselves whether this freedom would stretch to the extent of circumcising one man on one occasion but forbidding circumcision and arguing forcefully against it on several other occasions. Was he acting inconsistently, or even deceitfully?

Paul varied his message to appeal to different audiences. This reveals a sensitivity to cultural differences, and a man who shows this sensitivity would be more likely to be influenced by the people he was reaching out to. I believe that though Paul said he varied his message for different audiences ( see 1 Corinthians 9:19-23), his thinking about circumcision changed and developed over time and this accounts for the apparent inconsistencies in his words and actions.. Evidence for a development in his thoughts can be traced in his letters when they are examined in the approximate order in which they were written.19

Acts: when Paul appeased the circumcisers

In Acts 15, when speaking at the first Church Council at Jerusalem (A.D. 50)20, we have seen that Peter condemned circumcision and the law of Moses (Acts 15:10-11). The first Council was careful in the wording of its resolution but it endorsed Peter's sentiments, refusing to put any unnecessary burdens on the new converts.

'For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.' (Acts 15:28-29)

Note that the strong condemnation of circumcision in Peter's speech had been omitted from the final resolution. This talked about Gentiles, not Jews, ad did not refer to circumcision directly. This is evidence of the sensitivity of the question at that time.

The very next chapter begins with Paul circumcising a man! This action came straight after the Council.

There was a disciple:

'.. named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.' (Acts 16 1-3)21

The policy of the church council was clear: no irksome restrictions were to be placed on converts. And yet, because of the pressure from Jews, Timothy was circumcised! Paul appears to be out of step with Peter, and even to be circumventing the decision of the Council!

Later, there was another instance where Paul did his best to conform to Jewish practices. When he got to Jerusalem the local church expressed its concern:

'… it is said that you teach all the Jews in the gentile world to turn their backs on Moses, telling them to give up circumcising their children and following our way of life. What is the position then?' (Acts 21: 21-22, New English Bible)

Christian leaders in Jerusalem, knew that this idea was extremely controversial, and called on Paul for guidance.

Paul did not answer their question directly. He affirmed that he instructed gentile converts to abstain from fornication and a few other rules. He said that he followed the law. However, nothing is recorded as directly refuting the charge that he had been advising Jews to turn their backs on Moses and to stop circumcising their children. In any case, the whole point was lost in an enormous melee that resulted in Paul being arrested at Jerusalem and finally sent to Rome.

Paul's actions about circumcision in Acts are noticeably different from the thoughts he expressed in his letters. Some of this may be due to the fact that he was dealing with Jews in Acts whereas in his letters he was writing to Gentiles. Another difference is that Acts writes about his actions whereas in his letters, Paul is writing for himself. However, there does appear to be a development of his thought on the subject. When his letters are examined in the order in which they appear in the New Testament, his attitude to circumcision becomes steadily more hostile.

When Paul spoke against circumcising and uncircumcising

In 1 Corinthians, (dated about A.D. 55)22 Paul appears quite even-handed about circumcision, telling people, whether circumcised or not, to remain as they are and not to try to change their circumcision status. He dismisses circumcision as nothing.

'This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.' (1 Cor. 7:17b-20)

Does this passage prohibit both circumcision and uncircumcision?

Would this passage prohibit both circumcision and foreskin restoration?

A key to the passage is the phrase: 'Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.' As the passage makes clear some were called as Jews, while others were Gentiles. Some were slaves and some were free. Some were men and some were women. Paul's message to all was the same: remain in the condition in which you were called.

However, there were limits. For instance, he preferred that people remain unmarried, but only if they could do so without burning up with lust!

'To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.' (1 Cor. 7:8-9)

Immediately after talking about circumcision, Paul said this about slavery:

'Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.' (1 Cor. 7:21-24)

The passage appears to rule out people selling themselves into slavery: 'you were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters'. However, Paul is not keen for slaves to seek their freedom: 'Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.' His attitude is clear: let people remain as they have been called.

So the argument here against circumcising or uncircumcising appears to have been an acceptance of things as they are. This is quite different from his condemnation of those who pushed circumcision, and those who received it.

How this passage would be applicable today is a matter of conjecture. However, there is one thing we can be sure of. His advice - and it appears to be no more than advice - neither to circumcise or to try to remove the 'marks of circumcision' is confined to this passage. In contrast, his condemnations of those who push circumcision are made repeatedly and always with passion and anger. Also, his statement that circumcision was 'nothing' was not repeated.

Romans: Circumcision is of value only if you keep the law

Romans is dated somewhere between A.D. 56 and 59,23 between one and four years after 1 Corinthians, and it shows that Paul's thinking on circumcision had developed further. He argues that all are sinners, first the Gentiles, and then the Jews, who fail to keep the Mosaic law. Of Jews he said:

'Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.' (Rom. 2:25)

Of the value of circumcision he said:

'Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.' (Rom. 3:1-2)

Paul saw the value of the law as a means of pointing out sin (Romans 3:20). However, he had already said that all have sinned, whether Jew or Greek (Romans 3:9) so all were in the same boat.

He wrote that the blessing of God is not only for the circumcised (Romans 4:9), pointing out that Abraham was uncircumcised when he was called by God (Romans 4:10). This, he argued, made Abraham the father of all who believed, whether circumcised or not (Romans 4:11-12).

So Paul was at pains to stress the essential equality and unity between Jewish and Greek Christians, whether circumcised or not. This was necessary. Some Judaizing Christians had claiming extra knowledge and insight because they knew the law (Rom. 2:17-24). In contrast, Paul saw true circumcision as a circumcision of the heart, where people actually kept the law, whether they were circumcised or not (Rom. 2:25-29).

Galatians: Turning to a Different Gospel

The Galatian church was troubled by people preaching that Christians must be circumcised. In his letter to the churches, Paul takes immediate issue with this idea:

'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…' (Gal. 1:6)

Paul then vindicates his apostleship, pointing out that he, who was zealous for the traditions of his ancestors and who had persecuted the Church, had been called by God to proclaim the gospel. (Gal. 1:11-24) He argues that it was he who took a principled stand against circumcision.

'But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.' (Gal. 2:3)

Paul blames the concern about circumcision on

'…false believers secretly brought in, who have slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus so that they might enslave us - we did not submit to them even for a moment.' (Gal. 2:4-5)

It sounds like a detailed rebuttal of any idea that Paul was 'soft' on circumcision. Paul defends by attacking. He says that it was he who was entrusted with the job of evangelizing the Gentiles and it was he who corrected Cephas and Barnabas when they withdrew from eating with the Gentiles.

Then Paul returns to the central point of his message:

'We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners: yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ….no one will be justified by the works of the law.' (Gal. 2:15-16)

He repeats it even more pointedly, referring to the flesh:

'You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?…Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?' (Gal. 3:1-3)

This reference to the flesh will be expanded on later. It is a frequent theme of Paul, and when he uses this word he refers to carnal desires - the lusts of the flesh - and also to the organ of generation itself. When Paul wants to make a point he does not shrink from such frankness.

Paul then explains why the law was important and why it has been superseded:

'Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.' (Gal. 3:23-24)

He then explains the new Christian view:

'As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female: for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.' (Gal. 3:27-29)

Now he sees their old beliefs as slavery and is distressed that the Galatians would turn to them again:

'Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special, days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted.' (Gal. 4:8-11)

To illustrate the point he turns to the Book of Genesis, and in allegorical form teaches the Galatians that they do not have to return to the Torah, for they are already children of promise. He also contrasts the flesh with the promise.

'Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother.' (Gal. 4:21-26)

He sees the Judaizers as persecutors. Once again he contrasts flesh with Spirit.

'Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? Drive out the slave and her child: for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman. So then, friends we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman.' (Gal. 4:28-31)

This leads straight to the great passage that explains what is at stake if Christians submitted to circumcision. Paul does not shrink from sexually explicit reference.24 They are also submitting to a yoke of slavery. Note also the use of language and imagery, which is taken from the original story of the covenant, where those who were not circumcised were cut off from the Children of Israel. (Gen. 17:14)

'For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

'Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.' (Gal. 5:1-4)

Once again Paul teaches equality between believers, circumcised or not, and reveals what the new covenant means - inclusion, not exclusion:

'For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.' (Gal. 5:6)

Paul's anger is directed towards those who led the Galatians astray:

'You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you….

'I am confident about you…But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!' (Gal. 5:7-8, 10-12)

The last statement is the most extraordinary of all. This statement, if nothing else, shows the depth of his anger against those who push circumcision.

The works of the flesh contrasted with the works of the Spirit

Paul is concerned that the Galatians live by the Spirit, not the flesh.

'Live by the Spirit, I say, and no not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh…

'Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.' (Gal. 5: 16, 19-20)

Paul's final warning contained these words:

'It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised- only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.' (Gal. 6:12-13 NRSV)

An earlier translation, however, was more frank:

'…they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.' (Gal. 6:13-15, Revised Standard Version)

Galatians shows a further development of Paul's thinking, with a much stronger anti-circumcision and anti-circumciser line than Romans or 1 Corinthians. The date given in the New Bible Commentary is A.D. 49,25 which would put it before the Council in Jerusalem (A.D.50) and his circumcision of Timothy that immediately followed. I suspect Galatians is later than the Council in Jerusalem because Paul appears to be answering charges that he was 'soft' on circumcision.

Those who 'want to make a good showing in the flesh' and 'glory in your flesh'

A modern reader may miss the sexual implications of Paul's statements. In Hebrew, the word flesh was used as a euphemism for the penis (e.g., in Genesis 17:13, Leviticus 15:2-3). When Paul wrote about the works of the flesh, he was talking about carnal desires but some of the Hebrew meaning seemed to carry over as well. It also appears to be particularly apt in describing some of those who campaign for circumcision.

An interest in 'the flesh' can be noted in circumcision enthusiasts. This is obvious in a sexually charged website like Circlist,26 but examples of 'glorying in the flesh' can also be seen in medical and other circles. Take a neonatal nurse, quoted in Circlist:

'Assisting during circumcisions is the favorite part of my job, as I think it's a moment of magic when a baby boy's glans is permanently exposed for the first time in his young life.' Sandra (US)27

Naturally, she took steps to ensure that she had more moments of magic:

'As a nurse in the maternity wing of a large hospital, I have assisted with several hundred circumcisions. I am 100% in favor of routine circumcision. The pain the baby experiences is no doubt considerable, but I think it's more than worth it. … I strongly encourage any expectant mother to do it.'28

Circumcision also made a good show for this doctor:

'[C]ircumcision is a beautification comparable to rhinoplasty, and a circumcised penis appears in its flaccid state as an erect uncircumcised organ - a beautiful instrument of precise intent.'29

Doctor Brian Morris, a circumcision advocate, makes the same point. After noting a survey of American women where 90 per cent of respondents said that the circumcised penis 'looked sexier' he wrote:

'What then is sexier about a circumcised penis? Quite likely it is that the glans is exposed in both the erect and unerect state, and therefore the unerect state still suggests the erect.'30

So it seems that American women like the same show. And so do some of the men. Marvel Williamson and Paul Williamson, two medical researchers, said:

'While the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis can be retracted, the circumcised penis exists in exposed beauty whether flaccid or erect.'31

Frankness is indeed a feature of their study. It asked new mothers what kind of penis they preferred for certain kinds of sexual activities. What they found was the sexual involvement in the decisions of the mothers who had their sons circumcised.

'While many mothers may not consciously view their sons as sexual beings, many may opt for circumcision with the belief that the son will be more sexually attractive to his future sexual partners, based on how they themselves feel.'32

When Saint Paul talked about circumcision enthusiasts glorying in the flesh, he knew what he was talking about! He knew that circumcision enthusiasts can take in Christians, and this, too, can be seen today. Take, a Christian website. It offers what it calls 'A Positive Scriptural View' of circumcision and provides a link to the Williamson & Williamson article with this warning:

'Women's Preferences for Penile Circumcision In Sexual Partners If you think you would be easily offended by a frank discussion of this subject, DON'T CLICK HERE.'33

The sexual content of the study was enough to ring warning bells with, but the warning did not sound loudly enough to stop them from providing a direct link to this article. I wonder if St Paul would say to's operator, 'You foolish Christian! Who has bewitched you?'

Paul calls circumcisers 'dogs' and 'mutilators of the flesh'.

In a later letter, dated between A.D 61 and 63,34 Paul is even more scathing about those who push circumcision. He called them dogs. This was a sexual insult. In the Old Testament the term was applied to male prostitutes. Look at Deuteronomy 23:18 beside Philippians 3:2.

'You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a male prostitute (Hebrew: a dog) into the house of the LORD your God … for both of these are abhorrent to the LORD your God.' (Deut. 23:18)

'Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God…' (Phil. 3:2)

Note Paul's comment about mutilating the flesh! Previously, he said that circumcision is nothing. Now he talks of circumcisers as mutilating the flesh. This is a startling development.

In another late letter, one that has been dated as late as A.D. 65 or even A.D. 68,35 Paul slams ‘those of the circumcision’:

‘There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach.' (Titus 1:10-11)

Now the motivation is not fear of persecution or 'glorying in the flesh', but money. Paul also notes that this teaching about circumcision upsets whole families. He says they must be silenced. Obviously he saw them as a great threat.

How Paul became more hostile to circumcision

Paul's position on circumcision became more hostile to the practice and to the practitioners as time passed. In the Acts of the Apostles, (A.D. 50) he was comfortable in either circumcising Timothy or getting him circumcised. By 1 Corinthians, (A.D. 55) he took an even-handed approach, counselling against both circumcision and uncircumcising. In Romans (A.D. 56-59) he stressed the similarity and equality between Jew and Gentile regardless of circumcision. In Galatians (A.D. 49), (but I suspect it was later) he had a particular problem with circumcision advocates, accusing them of undermining the Gospel and acting from sexual motives, glorying in men's flesh. He wishes that those who upset the church by promoting circumcision would castrate themselves!

This was not the end of it. In a later letter (A.D. 61-63) he accused circumcisers of operating for sordid gain, sowing dissension in families and churches. Most startling of all, Paul called circumcisers mutilators (A.D. 65-68). His attitudes had come a long way from the time when he circumcised Timothy because of the Jews (Acts 16:3).

Note Paul's increasing hatred of circumcisers and circumcision. As time went on, he found out more about the motivation of circumcisers, and the more he found out about them the less he liked them. Also I would suggest that as he associated more and more with Gentiles he absorbed more of their abhorrence of the practice, and this is also reflected in his writings.

Why Circumcision and the Law were abolished

I don't want you to think that circumcision was a special case, divorced from Paul's main message. It was not. In fact, the issues surrounding circumcision were near the heart of his message. Paul knew how revolutionary this message was. Look at why he said circumcision and the law were abolished:

'So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision" - a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands - remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.' (Eph. 2:11-20)

What a wonderful vision of peace and reconciliation between Jew and Gentile! All that remained of circumcision was a symbolic one, made without hands. Indeed the legal demand for circumcision of the flesh was nailed to the cross.

'In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism. You were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demand. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.' (Col. 2:11-14)

If Paul's objections to circumcision were only religious, as is the case in Romans, we could perhaps dismiss them as a by-product of the development and growth of Christianity as it separated from Judaism. In 1 Corinthians we could dismiss his arguments as those of a conservative, who believed that people should accept their lot in life. However, there was more to it than that.

In Galatians, Paul was furious with circumcision advocates for upsetting the congregation and leading them away from Jesus and also Christianity but he also raised questions about the sexual motivation of those who pushed circumcision. In Philippians he accused circumcisers of being sexually deviant mutilators. Finally, in Titus, he said they were in it for the money. As Paul came from a circumcising culture, was himself circumcised on the eighth day (Phil. 3:5), and was responsible for one man's circumcision (Acts 16:3), his rejection of circumcision and his condemnation of those who encouraged this practice is particularly telling.

Why was Paul so incensed by the pro circumcision advocates? Why did he call them mutilators, deceivers, teaching for sordid gain and sowing dissension in families and churches? I suggest that Paul, knew what they were like. And if you would like evidence of what some modern-day circumcisers are like, I would refer you to Circlist, <>, and you will see that the Apostle was speaking the sober truth.

This is a message that we should take notice of, because it has great relevance today.


My motive in writing this has been to demonstrate that the New Testament raises serious questions about the motives of those who encourage circumcision. While welcoming all, whether circumcised or not, the New Testament condemns those who push circumcision. There no discrimination in the New Testament against anyone for their being circumcised or not, but there is clear opposition to receiving circumcision and furious condemnation of those who encourage the practice.

However, two other things became clear to me as I was writing. Paul said to the Galatians:

'…I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.' (Gal. 5:2-4)

In this astonishing use of imagery, Paul says that those who cut off their foreskins cut themselves off from Christ! If this was not clear enough he said plainly that they have fallen away from grace. Here the issue of circumcision has become a powerful metaphor for the relationship between the believer and Christ. Thus the question of circumcision in the New Testament went to the heart of the message of Christianity.

It was also a powerful inversion of the original command to circumcise, as recorded in Genesis. This said:

'Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.' (Genesis 17:14)

Paul's response, using the same imagery, was to say:

'...every man who lets himself be circumcised…is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.'

No other words he said could have made it clearer that he had rejected the Law that demanded circumcision. It is a point by point rebuttal of the first covenant, clothed in the language and imagery of that covenant itself.

When Paul wrote about believers cutting themeselves off from Christ he was of course referring to the converts turning from Christianity to Judaism, with its requirement for circumcision. However, his words have become prophetic in another way. Galatia is now part of Turkey, a secular state whose majority religion is Islam. So the Galatians did turn to the requirements of Islam and thus to circumcision.36

What is the lesson to us today? For many, the New Testament would be the last word on the subject. Such people will heed the plain words of Jesus, Peter, and Paul on circumcision. Paul said (Gal. 2:4) that those pushing circumcision were 'false believers' or 'false brothers'37 and that would be warning enough for them. Others will not feel so bound. However, there is one thing that all people should take notice of: the accusation from the Apostle Paul that those pushing circumcision acted from sordid motives. He said they were:

• pushing circumcision for 'sordid gain' (Titus 1:10-11);
• had a sexual involvement in it - 'glorying in the flesh' (Gal. 5:12-13 );
• were 'dogs' - 'sexual deviates' (Phil. 3:2); and
• were 'mutilators of the flesh.' (Phil. 3:2)

These claims may appear extreme. Some might think that these comments might apply to the early church, but not to our times. However, these two things should be noted. First, Paul was no fool, and we must give him credit for knowing something about human nature. Secondly, as I have shown, there is evidence that some of today's circumcision enthusiasts reveal a clear sexual motivation. This does not mean that everyone who argues for circumcision is doing so for sordid motives. However, it is a warning that we should take on board.

Those who believe that circumcision serves some useful purpose should take particular notice of these warnings. Not all have pure motives in pushing for circumcision. People should ask themselves if they, like the Galatians, have been bewitched.

November 2001

  1. Two groups of Christians circumcise, the Coptic Christians in Egypt, and some Christians in the United States and other English-speaking countries. However, the practice of circumcision has spread to the Philippines and to Korea because of American influence.
  2. Dirk Schultheiss, M.D., Michael C. Truss, M.D., Christian G. Stief, M.D., and Udo Jonas. Uncircumcision: A Historical Review of Preputial Restoration. Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 1998, 101:1990. <>; Also Frederick M. Hodges, The Ideal Prepuce in Ancient Greece and Rome: Male Genital Aesthetics and Their Relation to Lipodermos, Circumcision, Foreskin Restoration, and the Kynodesme. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 75, no. 3 (Fall, 2001) pp. 375-405.
  3. The note to Philippians 3:2 in the New Century Version says, 'cut.' The word in Greek is like the word "circumcise" but it means, "to cut completely off." The transliterations of the words are from Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Twenty-Second American Edition (Revised) by W. B. Stevenson, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, reprinted 1991. (ISBN 0-8028-8084-3, ISBN 0-8028-8085-1)
  4. The Good News Bible With Deuterocanonical Books/Apocrypha, The Bible Society in Australia Inc. Canberra, 1976.
  5. See the notes to 1 Maccabees in the Jerusalem or New Jerusalem Bible.
  6. Curiously, the book of Joshua records that the Children of Israel did not circumcise during their 40 years in the wilderness. (Josh. 5:2-7) During that time, Moses was their leader.
  7. John 7:23, The Jerusalem Bible, Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd, London, 1966. The French edition of the Jerusalem Bible translates 'tout entier' for 'whole and complete'.
  8. Moses Maimonides. 'The Guide of the Perplexed', part III Chapter 49, Shlomo Pines, trans. University of Chicago, 1963. <>, accessed 15 October 2001.
  9. This is argued in the Jerusalem and New Jerusalem Bibles in a footnote to John 7:23.
  10. Van Lewis. Circumcision and Christianity: A Call to Christian Action. July 2000. <>, accessed 15 October 2001.
  11. Jesus' word plays include the time when Jesus told Peter that he would found his church on 'this rock', the time that Jesus said that some have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake (Matt. 19:12), and the sayings 'This is my body' (Matt. 26:26 et al) and 'This is my blood' (Matt. 26:28 et al). Christians have, of course, debated how literally these sayings should be taken.
  12. 'Made whole' is the literal translation in the King James Version. Later versions say 'healed'.
  13. All Bible quotations unless otherwise indicated are from the New Revised Standard Version, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1989.
  14. The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner. Number 251. Volume XIII.B: Tractate Yebamot, Chapters 4-6. Program in Judaic Studies Brown University. Atlanta: Scholars Press. 1992. <>
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. This is the translation to be found in the New English Bible and the Revised English Bible.
  18. Or the man who had Timothy circumcised, the translation given by many of the most recent translations. This has recently become a sensitive point, for starting with The Jerusalem Bible, most of the latest translations tell us that Paul had him circumcised, thus avoiding the confronting idea of Paul circumcising Timothy himself.
  19. I take the dates as given in The New Bible Commentary, 2nd Edition. Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London, 1954.
  20. The New Bible Commentary, p. 1002.
  21. Older translations, including the RSV, NIV and the New English Bible say that Paul circumcised Timothy. More recent translations such as the Revised English Bible, NRSV, and also the Jerusalem Bible say that Paul had him circumcised. Probably people now find the idea of Paul circumcising Timothy too suggestive or too confronting.
  22. The New Bible Commentary, p. 968.
  23. The New Bible Commentary, p. 940.
  24. He used similarly sexually explicit language when he warned the Corinthians against fornication: 'Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them.' (1 Corinthians 6:13, King James Version) But the word belly can also be translated as 'womb'. Two verses later he said: Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.' (1 Corinthians 6:15-16 KJV)
  25. The New Bible Commentary, p. 1002.
  26. Three examples of many are the illustrations in 'Styles & Results of Circumcision' <>, and, if you can stomach them 'Circumcision Practices by the Nubians of Upper Egypt' in <> and Some Women Find Circumcision Erotic <>, accessed 15 October 2001.
  27. Circlist: Personal Preferences and Experiences. (Spool down or seach for "Sandra".) <>, accessed 15 October 2001.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Goodwin quoted by Kaufman JJ: Should circumcision be done routinely? Med Aspects Hum Sexual 1:27-28, 1967. It was quoted in 'Whither the Foreskin? A Consideration of Routine Neonatal Circumcision' by Capt. E. Noel Preston, MC, USAF, Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 213 Number 11: Pages 1853-1858, September 14, 1970. <>
  30. Brian Morris, In Favour of Circumcision, UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia, 1999, page 55.
  31. Marvel L. Williamson and Paul S. Williamson. Women's Preferences for Penile Circumcision In Sexual Partners. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy vol 14, No. 2, (Fall/Winter 1988) pp. 8-12. <>, accessed 15 October 2001.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Marci O'Daffer. Circumcision: A Positive, Scriptural View <>, accessed 15 October 2001.
  34. The New Bible Commentary, p. 1032-1033, gives the most probable date for Philippians as between A.D. 61 and A.D. 63.
  35. The New Bible Commentary, p. 1063, gives a date between A.D. 62 and 65 or 68.
  36. It should be noted that circumcision is not mentioned in the Koran. It is, however, alluded to in the traditions of the Prophet. For further details see: Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh. 'To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah: Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision' New enlarged edition. Medicine and Law, Vol. 13, No. 7-8: pp. 575-622, July 1994. <>
  37. The New Revised Standard Version puts 'false believers' in the text and the more literal 'false brothers' in the margin.

Michael Glass is an Australian teacher, husband and father.

© 2001 by Michael Glass. All rights reserved.

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(File revised 29 February 2004)