A Cut Above the Rest

GTA remarked about having a baby boy circumcised on the 8th day when that day would be on a Sabbath. He joked about only getting a baby circumcised “for health reasons” and the 8th day was no different than any other day. He added “sacrifice a dove while you’re at it.” (Actually, a dove is part of the offering that follows the mother’s purification period.) So here is another case where the COG strict obedience to scripture should be flagged with “conditions apply.”

HWA stated in “Missing Dimension in Sex” the circumcision command was “forever”, however, it was originally “physical” but now it’s “spiritual”. But he insisted if circumcision is done, it must be done as instructed, on the 8th day. According to the Talmud, it’s okay if the 8th day is a Sabbath, though health-related issues permit a different day.

The COGs go with the mainstream assumption that the decision of the Apostles in Acts 15 and the teaching of Paul did away with the command to circumcise boys on the 8th day. (Lev. 12:3, codifying Gen. 17­) The common argument is physical versus spiritual (and that is another story) and proof-texts such as Rom. 2:28-29 (right answer, wrong question.)

The origin of this problem is with the conversion of Gentiles. Adult, uncircumcised, male Gentiles became Christians. There is no requirement for them to become circumcised. So why was an Apostolic ruling necessary? What does this have to do with the command to circumcise baby boys?

Nothing. It was about ritual conversion to Judaism.

In the Second Temple period, particularly after Greek occupation of Judah, Jews had to deal with “the Gentile Problem”. Some Gentiles had an interest in the Jewish religion, and this posed a problem. In the 1st Century BCE, the Jewish sage Shammai came up with a process of ritual conversion to Judaism, the “18 Measures”, or, colloquially, “circumcision”. Acts 2 mentions “proselytes” or “converts to Judaism” – Gentiles who went through ritual conversion, including circumcision, and became “born again Jews”.

The Gentiles that Paul dealt with were mostly interested in Judaism (they were at the Synagogues) but had not gone through ritual conversion. The “circumcision party” or “Judaisers” insisted that for a Gentile to convert to “Christianity” (here the word is an anachronism) they must also undergo ritual conversion to Judaism (also an anachronism), “circumcision”.

So, the Acts 15 ruling on “circumcision” was that a Gentile can become a “Christian” without ritual conversion to “Judaism”. The letter the Apostles wrote and comments about Moses are another story. Adult males don’t need to be circumcised is the issue here. It had nothing to do with the command to circumcise baby boys. If Rom. 2:28-29 is read in context, it can be seen to refer to circumcision as part of ritual conversion.

An RCG writer, COGWriter, and others recognize that circumcision of
adult male converts was not required. So how did we get the idea that the Apostles abolished the command for circumcision on the 8th day? Possibly from the Greeks, who considered the ritual as barbaric and disfigurement; during their occupation of Israel, to “fit in” some Jews would undergo surgery to “reverse” their circumcision.

And misinformation is always abounds. In Acts 21, there was some concern in Jerusalem when Paul was accused of teaching Jews living among Gentiles not to circumcise their sons, and to abandon the law and tradition. So, in an effort to show the accusations false, Paul was asked to take part in Nazarite vows, which he did – he was still a “Temple Jew”.

The COG position is a bet each way: they assume 8th day circumcision not required, but it’s good for health reasons. Then there is a lapse into “physical” versus “spiritual” (a Platonic argument) and “baptism now replaces circumcision” (which is not supported by scripture). By the way, when Paul wrote “circumcise your heart” he may have been recalling that phrase from Leviticus or Deuteronomy.

COGWriter again, “we in the COGs normally do circumcise our sons”. Good, as traditionally, it is the father’s responsibility to do it! This makes me think of the “circumcision party”, David’s bag of Philistine foreskins, and “Shaky the mohel” from an episode of Seinfeld.

Now why didn’t  HWA figure out this mistake? One reason could be that it wasn’t  “revealled” to him – Rupert and others may not have mentioned it. But there was a reason to go with the mainstream flow – it looks like the Apostles were allowed to change things, And one thing he changed was tithing – from Agriculture to any form of income.

As for GTA’s ridiculing circumcision: anyone out there know if he was snipped? (Sorry, my copy of the videotape was censored.)