Circumcision
Is It Necessary Today?

 

Introduction

"Is it necessary that males today be circumcised in order to keep the Passover?" That is a question that has been appearing on forums for discussion. Is that law still in effect or was it done away? To whom does it pertain? Is it required for salvation?

Definitions

Strong's Hebrew #4135, muwl, means to cut short, i.e. curtail (specifically. the prepuce, i.e. to circumcise); by implication to blunt; figuratively to destroy.

Strong's Greek #4059, peritemno, means to cut around, i.e. (specifically) to circumcise.

Quotes And Comments

Smith's Bible Dictionary, page 58-59 -
"Circumcision (cutting around). The cutting off of the foreskin of the man, first practiced by Abraham by divine command, as a token of covenant between God and man. It was a very ancient custom founded on (supposed) sanitary laws, by the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and the practise is widespread in modern days; the Abyssinian Christians holding to the rite strictly. The Egyptian priests were required to observe this rite, and it was only strictly binding on those who entered the priesthood. So it became the badge of a religion that made undue account of outward distinctions, and merely natural virtues. The Hebrews were to practice it because they were to be a nation of priests (Ex. xix. 6), and it was to signify spiritual purity, being so considered by the leading men, implying a call to a holy life and purity of heart. The time was the 8th day after birth; among other people at full age - 20 years. Foreigners on adoption into the Hebrew nation were required to submit to it."

Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, J I Packer, M C Tenney, editors, page 447 -
"Many cultures in the world today practice circumcision for hygienic reasons."
"Circumcision signified that the infant was being taken into the covenant community. The Lord said to Abraham, 'He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you … and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant' (Gen. 17:12-13). Therefore, this practice was carefully observed. An uncircumcised person was considered to be heathen. When Greek culture came to Palestine two centuries before Christ, many Jews gave up their Jewish customs. Some men submitted to an operation that made them appear 'uncircumcised' again. This was tantamount to hypocrisy."

Biblical Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, page 408-409 -
"God emphasizes that this ordinance is binding forever, and that circumcision is 'the sign of the covenant' between Abraham (and his descendants) and God."
"God, however, ordains that Abraham's descendants be circumcised eight days after birth. So basic is this law to future Israelite identity that any uncircumcised male' shall be cut off from his king; he has broken [God's} covenant' (Genesis 17:14)."

Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Sr, editor, page 236 -
"Gentiles came to be regarded by the Jews as the 'uncircumcised,' a term of disrespect implying that non-Jewish peoples were outside the circle of God's love. The terms circumcision and uncircumcision became emotionally charged symbols to Israel and their Gentile neighbors. This issue later brought discord into the fellowship of the New Testament church."
"A crisis erupted in the church at Antioch when believers from Judea (known as Judaizers) taught the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved' (Acts 15:1-2). In effect, the Judaizers insisted that a believer from a non-Jewish background (Gentile) must first become a Jew ceremonially (by being circumcised) before he could be admitted to the Christian brotherhood."

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, volume 1, page 656-657 -
"In the account of the institution of the covenant between Yahweh and Abraham, which is given (Gen 17), circumcision is looked upon as the ratification of the agreement."
"Jeremiah charges his contemporaries with having their ear uncircumcised (Jer 6.10) and their heart (9.26). 'An uncircumcised heart is one which is, as it were, closed in, and so impervious to good influences and good impressions, just as an uncircumcised ear (Jer 6.10) is an ear which, from the same cause, hears imperfectly; and uncircumcised lips (cf Ex 6.12-30) are lips which open and speak with difficulty' (Driver on Dt 10.16)."

Old Testament Scriptures

Many sources say that the practice of circumcision appeared among numerous ancient peoples. It makes the first appearance in the Scriptures with Abraham. Maybe it was something done by people around them because there is no evidence that Abraham questioned Yahweh to ask what He meant, and Yahweh did not give details on exactly what Abraham was to do or how.

Genesis 17:10-14
10 - This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your seed after you: every man-child among you shall be circumcised. 
11 - and you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. And it shall be a token of the covenant between Me and you. 
12 - and a son of eight days shall be circumcised among you, every male in your generation, he that is born in the house, or bought with silver from any son of a foreigner who is not of your seed. 
13 - Surely the child of your house and the purchase of your money must be circumcised. My covenant shall be in your flesh for a perpetual covenant. 
14 - And an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, his soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.

And Abraham obeyed.

Genesis 17:26-27
26 - In the same day that Abraham was circumcised, so was Ishmael his son. 
27 - And all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with silver from a son of a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

The covenant was renewed with Abraham's descendants before they were freed from captivity in Egypt.

Exodus 12:43-44, 48
43 - And Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover. No alien may eat of it. 
44 - and every man's slave, a purchase of silver, you shall circumcise him, then he may eat of it. 
48 - And when a foreigner shall stay with you, and will do the Passover to Yahweh, let every male of his be circumcised, and then he may come to prepare it, and he shall be like a native of the land. But any uncircumcised one may not eat of it.

Circumcision was a part of the law that Moses and the Children of Israel received at Sinai, to be done on newborn males.

Leviticus 12:3
And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

Through the forty years in the wilderness, this law was apparently ignored and the issue had to be addressed before Joshua took the people across the Jordan River to settle in the land.

Joshua 5:2-7
2 - At that time Yahweh said to Joshua, Make for yourselves flint knives, and again circumcise the sons of Israel, the second time. 
3 - And Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 
4 - And this is the reason Joshua circumcised: All the people who had come out of Egypt, who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness, in the way, as they came out of Egypt. 
5 - For all the people who were born in the wilderness, in the way, as they came out from Egypt, had not been circumcised. 
6 - For the sons of Israel had walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who had come out of Egypt, who did not listen to the voice of Yahweh, to whom Yahweh had sworn to them, not to show them the land which Yahweh swore to their fathers, to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey, these were consumed. 
7 - And he raised up their sons in their place. Joshua circumcised them, for they had been uncircumcised; for they had not been circumcised in the way.

New Testament Scriptures

Joseph and Mary followed the law with Yahshua.

Luke 2:21
And when eight days were fulfilled to circumcise the child, His name was called Yahshua, the name called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Peter was attacked for being with and eating with men who had not been circumcised.

Acts 11:2-3
2 - And when Peter went up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 
3 - saying, You went in to uncircumcised men, and ate with them.

Peter explained to them what He had already learned from Yahweh.

Acts 10:28
And he said to them, You know how unlawful it is for a man, a Jew, to unite with or to come near to one of another race. Yet Yahweh showed to me not to call a man common or unclean.

By the way, where is it in Yahweh's law that a person could not eat with one who was not circumcised or of the same race or belief system? Or is it one of the traditions of men to which the Jews scrupulously adhered?

Notice later in the same chapter.

Acts 10:44-45
44 - As Peter was yet speaking these words, the Set apart spirit fell on all those hearing the word. 
45 - And the faithful of the circumcision were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Set apart spirit was poured out on the nations also.

So what did they then do? Require immediately that they be circumcised?

Acts 10:46-48
46 - For they heard them speaking in languages, and magnifying Elohim. Then Peter answered, 
47 - Can anyone forbid the water that these not be baptized, who the Set apart spirit received, even as we also? 
48 - And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Master. Then they asked him to remain some days.

Peter only asked that they be baptized - not that they be circumcised.

There arose a dissension over this issue because there were some going around teaching that all the males must be circumcised in order to receive salvation. The apostles met at Jerusalem for a conference to discuss the subject. They had not ordered circumcision for all.

Acts 15:1, 5, 7-11
1 - And going down from Judea, some taught the brothers, saying, If you are not circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. 
5 - But some of those from the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses. 
7 - And so much disputation having occurred, rising up Peter said to them: Men, brothers, you recognize that from ancient days, Yahweh chose among us that through my mouth the nations should hear the word of the gospel, and to believe. 
8 - And the heart-knowing Yahweh testified to them giving them the Set-apart spirit, even as also to us. 
9 - And He made distinction in nothing between both us and them, having purified their hearts by faith. 
10 - Now, then, why do you test Yahweh, by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we had strength to bear? 
11 - But through the grace of the Master Yahshua Messiah, we believe in order to be saved according to which manner they also believed.

Wait a minute! Consider something. The problem was that men were going around claiming that circumcision was necessary. If the issue of circumcision had been "set in stone", why would that be a problem? If it were something that continued through the ages and was required at the time of the apostles (like for Passover), to be a part of "this way", why would it be a problem? If it were something that the apostles thought would be covered when the people heard Moses read in the synagogue, then why would it be a problem? As we say today, "this does not compute".

What did Peter mean by verse 10? Simply the fact that the ancestors did not keep Yahweh's law throughout all their history. If the ones to whom the law had been given couldn't do it, why try to impose it on others? Even Yahshua acknowledged they did not obey the Law

John 7:19
Did not Moses give you the Law, and not one of you does the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?

The apostles and brethren had a discussion and came to a consensus.

Acts 15:23-29
23 - writing by their hand these things: The apostles and the elders and the brothers, to those throughout Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, brothers from the Gentiles: Greeting. 
24 - Since we heard that some of us having going out have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, Be circumcised and keep the law; to whom we gave no command; 
25 - it seeming good to us, having become of one mind, to send chosen men to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 
26 - men who have given up their souls on behalf of the name of our Master, Yahshua Messiah. 
27 - Therefore, we have sent Judas and Silas, they by word also announcing the same things. 
29 - To hold back from idol sacrifices, and blood, and that strangled, and from fornication; from which continually keeping yourselves, you will do well. Be prospered.

Note, in verse 24, the apostles had given no command regarding circumcision.

The Apostle Paul's words have caused a lot of confusion because of the way he wrote. Part of the problem comes because we have only the letters Paul wrote. We do not have the other side of the discussion in conversations or letters. We have to read between the lines.

Romans 2:24-29
24 - For the name of Yahweh is blasphemed among the nations through you, even as it has been written; 
25 - For indeed circumcision profits if you practice the Law, but if you are a transgressor of Law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 
26 - If, then, the uncircumcised keeps the demands of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 
27 - And will not the uncircumcised by nature by keeping the Law judge you, the one who through letter and uncircumcision becomes transgressor of the Law? 
28 - For he is not a Jew that is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that outwardly in flesh; 
29 - but he is a Jew that is one inwardly; and circumcision is of heart, in spirit, not in letter, of whom the praise is not from men, but from Yahweh.

"If you are a transgressor of the Law" - well, that applies to all, doesn't it?

Romans 3:10, 23
10 - As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. 
23 - For all sinned and come short of the glory of Yahweh.

Think about "circumcision profits if you practice the Law" - as long as you keep absolutely all the points of the law. "but if you are a transgressor…." - but if you break the law, the circumcision is as worthless as if it had never been done.

Meaning, if you insist that everyone must be circumcised, then you had better be keeping all the law perfectly, or your own circumcision is worthless. So let us consider a few points.

  1. Do you keep Yahweh's Sabbath faithfully every week - or do you sometimes do your work or your own pleasure? (Isaiah 58:13-14)
  2. Do you faithfully keep Yahweh's high days and meet with His people as commanded (in a holy convocation)? (Leviticus 23)
  3. During the last fall festival, did you stay in a booth (sukkah) made with branches of trees for seven days as the law says? (Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15-16)
  4. Do you ever tell a "little white lie"? (Exodus 20:16)
  5. Do you wear the fringes as Scripture stipulates, exactly as the Children of Israel did? Or is it what is the custom today? (Numbers 15:37-41)
  6. Do you utter the name of other gods at any time? (Exodus 23:13)
  7. Do you keep a Sabbath for the land, even if it is only a small garden plot? (Exodus 23: 10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7)
  8. Do you carefully pay attention to the foods you are being served? (Leviticus 11:2)
  9. Do you look to your horoscope and to astrology? (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:9-14)

Something to think about, isn't it? If you are circumcised, but break any of these commands (or any of the other numerous laws Yahweh instructed), then your circumcision is worthless and avails nothing.

James 2:10-11
10 - For whoever shall keep all the law, but stumbles in one, he has become guilty of all. 
11 - For He who said, 'You shall not commit adultery,' also said, "you shall not murder.' But if you do not commit adultery, but commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

I Corinthians 7:18-20
18 - Was anyone called having been circumcised? Do not be uncircumcised. Was anyone called in uncircumcision? Do not be circumcised. 
19 - Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of Yahweh's commands. 
20 - Each one in the calling in which he was called, in this remain.

According to this, circumcision is not something to worry about - a man should remain the way he was when Yahweh called him.

One person said to me that this was only figurative since circumcision could not have been reversed. But it was. When the Greeks moved in to the area of Israel, they built gymnasiums in which the men exercised in the nude. The Jewish men were identified early because of their circumcision and they wanted to appear like the Greeks, over one hundred years before the time of Messiah. It was a painful procedure and took some time, but there were those who did endure it.

I Maccabees 1:16
So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the pagans have, disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to the heathen rule as willing slaves of impiety.

Galatians 5:2-6
2 - Behold, I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Messiah will profit you nothing. 
3 - And I testify again to every man being circumcised that he is a debtor to do all the Law; 
4 - you who are just by law are deprived of all effect from Messiah - you fell from grace. 
5 - For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness out of faith. 
6 - For in Messiah Yahshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength, but faith working through love.

The issue here? It is regarding justification. Paul is saying that a person being circumcised must do all the law. But if he feels he should and that he will be justified by keeping the law, then he is neglecting the Messiah and depriving himself of the mercy that can be found through the Messiah.

In other words, no matter how good or obedient a person is, not one can receive justification - salvation - without the Messiah. It cannot be done through our actions. We cannot earn it by obedience.

Colossians 2:8-13
8 - Watch, that there not be one robbing you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world and not according to Messiah. 
9 - For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Elohim-head bodily; 
10 - and having been filled, you are in Him, who is the Head of all rule and authority, 
11 - in whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made by hand, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah; 
12 - being buried with Him in baptism, in whom also you were raised through the faith of the working of Yahweh, raising Him from the dead. 
13 - and you, being dead in the offenses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all the offenses.

Paul is warning the people to be careful and not get caught up in traditions and opinions of men. It is Yahshua who counts. And what did He do in this respect? In verse 11, He provided a "circumcision not made by hand." We are made alive with Him in repentance, forgiveness and baptism.

Acts 16:1-3
1 - And he (Paul) arrived in Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple named Timothy was there, the son of a certain believing Jewish woman - but his father was a Greek. 
2 - This one was being testified of by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium. 
3 - Paul desired this one to go forth with him, and taking him he circumcised him, because of the Jews being in those places - for they all knew his father, that he was a Greek.

People look at this, saying that since Timothy was circumcised, all should be. So why did Paul circumcise Timothy? Was it to justify him? No, it was because of the Jews. Timothy was half Israelite. He should have already been circumcised as a baby.

  1. Paul followed the law of circumcision in order for a descendant of Abraham to inherit the promise.
  2. Paul established by circumcision Timothy's Abrahamic promised Jewish lineage.
  3. Paul nullified Timothy's Greek lineage.
  4. Paul nullified the Jews' objections to Timothy.
  5. Paul established the fact that circumcision was for inheritance purposes only.

Galatians 2:3
But not even Titus, the one with me, a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.

At the time of the discussions in Jerusalem, Titus - a believing Greek - was there with Paul. He was not a descendant of Abraham, so he had not been circumcised as a baby. And he did not do so at that time.

  1. Paul had not circumcised Titus because he was fully Greek.
  2. Titus being fully Greek was not eligible to inherit Abraham's physical blessings.
  3. Titus would not have gained salvation from physical circumcision.

But did it prevent Titus from being a follower of Yahweh? From participating in the assembly? Who was Titus?

2 Corinthians 8:23
If any asks as to Titus, he is my partner, and a fellow-worker for you; or about our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Messiah.

Spirit Filled Life Bible, page 1860 -
"Titus was a Greek and evidently a convert of Paul. The fact that Titus was not circumcised (Gal. 2:3) indicates that he had not been raised in Judaism nor had he become a proselyte."
"Paul gave to Titus, a relatively young preacher of the gospel, the difficult assignment of directing the work in Crete. Later he wrote this letter to give Titus more detailed instructions concerning the performance of his pastoral duties."

Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Sr, editor, page 1058 -
"Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem as a living example of a great theological truth: Gentiles need not be circumcised in order to be saved."
"Titus was given responsibility for completing the collection for the poor of Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:6, 16-24; 12:18)."
"Titus appears in another important role on the island of Crete (Titus 1:4). Beset by a rise in false teaching and declining morality, Titus was told by Paul to strengthen the churches by teaching sound doctrine and good works, and by appointing elders in every city (Titus 1:5). Paul then urged Titus to join him in Nicopolis (on the west coast of Greece) for winter (Titus 3:12). Not surprisingly, Titus was remembered in church tradition as the first bishop of Crete."

Titus 1:4-5
4 - To Titus, a true child according to our common faith. Grace, mercy, peace from Yahweh the Father and the Master Yahshua Messiah our Savior. 
5 - For this cause I left you in Crete, that you might set in order the things lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I ordered you.

Then if physical circumcision is not what Yahweh is looking for, what does He expect?

Deuteronomy 10:16
And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and you shall not harden your neck any more.

Deuteronomy 30:16
And Yahweh your Elohim shall circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.

Even back in the time He gave the law, Yahweh was looking at the heart. Could it be He gave the physical symbol because He knew man and how stiff-necked they can be?

Jeremiah 4:4
Circumcise yourselves to Yahweh, and take away the foreskin of your heart, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; that my fury not go forth like fire and burn, so that no one can put it out; because of the evil of your doings.

Okay. Maybe circumcision is not necessary for salvation, but what if a person wants to inherit as a descendant of Abraham?

Galatians 3:26-29
26 - For you are all sons of Yahweh through faith in Messiah Yahshua. 
27 - For as many as were baptized into Messiah, you put on Messiah. 
28 - There cannot be Jew nor Greek; there is no slave nor freeman; there is no male and female; for you are all one in Messiah Yahshua. 
29 - And if you are of Messiah, then you are a seed of Abraham, even heirs according to the promise.

Colossians 3:10-11
10 - And having put on the new, having been renewed in full knowledge according to the image of the One creating him; 
11 - where there is no Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, slave or freeman - but Messiah is all things and in all.

Once the Messiah had come and given His life as a ransom, the law does not have the same hold on us. It has not been done away, but it will not justify us. Only Yahshua can do that.

Romans 5:9-11
9 - Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 
10 - For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to Yahweh by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 
11 - and not only so, but we also joy in Yahweh through our Master Yahshua Messiah, by whom we have now received the atonement.

But through Yahshua, we also come under the promises to Abraham and will inherit those promises as well. Though the promises were made originally only to the descendants of Abraham, Yahweh made a way to include the entire world - through the single seed of Abraham.

 

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