What Did Paul Say To The Galatians
Paul says in his letter to the Galatians that there is justification not by the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus was justified by the law at the time of his death, yet this is not the reason for death. Until the arrival of Christ, God gave the law as a disciplinarian, but it was never justified by anyone.
Mosaic Law In Early Christianity
Similar differences and disputes existed within Early Christianity, but disputes within Christianity extended also to the place of Mosaic Law or Old Covenant in general in Christianity. This is particularly notable in the mid-1st century, when the circumcision controversy came to the fore. Alister McGrath, an intellectual historian and proponent of paleo-orthodoxy, claims that many of the Jewish Christians were fully faithful religious Jews, only differing in their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. As such, they tended to be of the view that circumcision and other requirements of the Mosaic Law were required for salvation. Those in the Christian community who insisted that biblical law, including laws on circumcision, continued to apply to Christians were pejoratively labeled Judaizers by their opponents and criticized as being elitist and legalistic.
What Is Circumcision In The Bible
1. In the Bible, circumcision is the ritual act of removing a males child or adults foreskin. In the Jewish culture this took place eight days after birth. God first instituted circumcision in Genesis 17 when he made an everlasting covenant with Abraham. This act demonstrated the Israelites commitment to the covenant and to let God be God in their lives. It also reminded them of Gods part of the covenant, which was that God promised to make Abraham the father of many generations, that he would be a faithful, personal God, and that he would give them a land to call their own.
2. Other Old Testament references that refer to circumcision are Exodus 12:43-49, which indicates that circumcision was a requirement for participation in Passover. Later, in Joshua 5, before the battle of Jericho, Joshua circumcised all the males born in the desert. Deuteronomy 10:16 refers to circumcision of the heart, so that the Israelites might love and obey the Lord.
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Brit Milah: The Biblical Origins
Where the circumcision covenant comes from.
Brit milah, or the covenant of circumcision, is first mentioned in the Torah when God commands Abraham to circumcise himself and his offspring: Every male among you shall be circumcisedit shall be a sign of a the covenant between Me and you. Whoever is eight days old shall be circumcised, every male throughout your generations . Since this commandment was given before the birth of Isaac, the second of the biblical patriarchs, Abraham performs brit milah on himself, his son Ishmael , and all of his male servants. The following year his son, Isaac, is born and then circumcised on the eighth day as commanded.
It is significant that the Hebrew term for circumcision is brit milah. Milah by itself means circumcision. However, it is always referred to as brit milah, including the word brit, or covenant,because the practice of brit milah is intimately connected to the divine promise and relationship that God establishes with the biblical patriarchs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacoband some would say, with their wives and partnersSarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leahas well.
Given the importance of brit milah, it is surprising that Moses does not perform it on his own son! In the biblical account, when Moses and his wife, Tzipporah, and young son, Gershom, are traveling to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand the freedom of the enslaved Israelites, Tzipporah has to circumcise her son, apparently to allay Gods wrath .
Slaves And Strangers Were Circumcised In The Flesh
But not only the male children from the seed of Abraham were circumcised on the eighth day. The male slaves and strangers also had to be circumcised . They were circumcised so that they would be part of the covenant and could enjoy the privileges of Jewish citizenship.
When a male child was uncircumcised, he didnt belong to Gods people and wasnt under His protection. We see this in the life of Moses. When Moses was on his way with his wife and son, the Lord tried to kill his son. As soon as the son of Moses was circumcised, the Lord left him alone.
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision
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King James Bible Dictionary
Cutting around. This rite, practised before, as some think, by divers races, was appointed by God to be the special badge of his chosen people, an abiding sign of their consecration to him. It was established as a national ordinance . In compliance with the divine command, Abraham, though ninety-nine years of age, was circumcised on the same day with Ishmael, who was thirteen years old . Slaves, whether home-born or purchased, were circumcised and all foreigners must have their males circumcised before they could enjoy the privileges of Jewish citizenship . During the journey through the wilderness, the practice of circumcision fell into disuse, but was resumed by the command of Joshua before they entered the Promised Land . It was observed always afterwards among the tribes of israel, although it is not expressly mentioned from the time of the settlement in Canaan till the time of Christ, about 1,450 years. The Jews prided themselves in the possession of this covenant distinction .
In the Old Testament a spiritual idea is attached to circumcision. It was the symbol of purity . We read of uncircumcised lips , ears , hearts . The fruit of a tree that is unclean is spoken of as uncircumcised .
It was a sign and seal of the covenant of grace as well as of the national covenant between God and the Hebrews.
1. It sealed the promises made to Abraham, which related to the commonwealth of Israel, national promises.
Circumcision Of The Heart Is A Foreshadowing Of What Was To Come
One of the things we know from the history of Israel is as much as God implored them to live in obedience and consecration, they struggled with this often turning away from Gods commands. Part of the reason was they had no ability to change their hearts. However, notice what God told Israel later in the same book of Deuteronomy.
The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Deuteronomy 30:6
In this instance notice who was doing the circumcision it was God. This circumcision of the heart was initiated by God, and it was done for one reason, so they could love him. This could be seen as a foreshadowing of the things to come because we like Israel have no ability to change our hearts unless God intervenes.
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Circumcision Controversy In Early Christianity
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According to the Hebrew Bible, circumcision was enjoined upon the biblical patriarch Abraham, his descendants and their slaves as “a token of the covenant” concluded with him by God for all generations, as an “everlasting covenant”.
The Council of Jerusalem during the Apostolic Age of the history of Christianity did not include religious male circumcision as a requirement for new gentile converts. This became known as the “Apostolic Decree”: “But to still the clamours of the converts from Pharisaism who demanded that the Gentile converts “must be circumcised and be commanded to observe the Law of Moses“, the matter was discussed in a public meeting. … By the decree of the Apostles the cause of Christian liberty was won against the narrow Judaizers, and the way smoothed for the conversion of the nations. The victory was emphasized by St. Paul’s refusal to allow Titus to be circumcised even as a pure concession to the extremists .” It may be one of the first acts differentiating early Christianity from Judaism.
St And 2nd Century Ad Judaism
The issue between the Zealot and Liberal parties regarding the circumcision of proselytes remained an open one in tannaitic times
- Rabbi Joshua says that if a proselyte is immersed but not circumcised this is valid. Because our mothers were immersed but not circumcised. Rabbi Eliezer says the opposite. Because such was found regarding our fathers. However the sages say both are required.
P. Kiddushin 3:12 is summarized as follows:
- Rabbi Eliezer says only circumcision is required the same as in B. Yevamot 46a. Rabbi Joshua says both are required.
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Ancient Words God In Control: On The Eighth Day
Luke 2:21: And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. .
At first glance, this scripture reads as ordinary, commonplace and without particular significance. Circumcision has been going on for Israel born boys since God gave the command to Abraham over 2,000 years earlier. Gen. 17:10-14: This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people he hath broken my covenant.
Jesus had to be circumcised to become an official Jew. In terms of the Jewish law, he was not officially declared Jewish until this practice of removing the foreskin was accomplished. Joseph and Mary saw to it that on the eighth day, according to scripture, Jesus was circumcised and his name was called Jesus.
What Book Does Paul Talk About Circumcision
In spite of not consistently changing, Paul, however, criticized this practice, calling himself an Apostle to the Gentiles. The case of Timothy, whose mother was a Jewish Christian and whose father was a Greek, shows him personally ropriating the circumcisions because of the Jews living in town at the time. Moreover, he was enthusiastic about its importance 3:141-2, according to Romans 3:1-2.
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Circumcision Of The Heart
In the Bible, circumcision almost always refers to a physical act. And this is true of Pauls writings as well. But in at least three passages he alludes to a circumcision of the heart, a spiritual circumcision. In Romans 2:28-29, Philippians 3:3 and Colossians 2:11 he discusses this spiritual circumcision. This circumcision, rather than cutting off a small part of the flesh, is a cutting off of the fleshly nature.
Colossians 2:11 especially illustrates this circumcision. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ. This circumcision is not done by human hands but by Christ. And it is not just males. All believers have experienced this circumcision of the heart by Christ.
Circumcision Of The Heart Is About Consecration And Repentance
In Deuteronomy 10, the Israelites were implored again to walk in obedience to the Lord.
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lords commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13
After imploring the people with these words a few verses later we see this.
Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. Deuteronomy 10:16
In this instance, the circumcision of the heart was a commitment to walk in obedience to the Lord. To consecrate yourself, to love God, and to serve him. We, therefore, understand that circumcision of the heart was an inner commitment that reflected itself in the outward lifestyle. Please pay attention to how this is different from the physical circumcision which affected the body but not the heart.
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Meaning Of The True Circumcision
In sharp contrast to The Circumcision, God teaches through the apostle Paul that the True Circumcision are Christians, that is, those who have believed in Jesus Christ. They are the ones who have humbly acknowledged their sins, believed that only Jesus can forgive our sins, and have given their lives to God to change them to be godly men and women . For in Philippians 3:2-3 the apostle Paul, who was himself a Jew, said,
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh . . . Philippians 3:2-3
While the NASB added the word true to the verse, that is the correct understanding of Pauls statement.
Christians are the true circumcision, because our hearts have been transformed, or we can say symbolically circumcised. Other passages dealing with circumcision teach the same principle . In truth, the physical cutting of the flesh is not important to God . What is important is a transformed heart that responds to the convicting and guiding work of the Holy Spirit.
Biblical Controversy Within The New Covenant
The earliest Christians were all Jews. And even as believers in the Lord Jesus, they still considered themselves Jews under a covenant relationship with God a covenant relationship that involved circumcision. So, it was only natural that they would expect all believers to follow the Old Testament covenant requirements. And that was OK until the church began to reach beyond a Jewish audience and into the Gentile world. And then, requiring Gentile converts to become circumcised became a point of contention.
It would seem most of the early work done among the Gentiles did not advocate circumcision for them. Acts 11:19-21 is the first recorded intentional outreach to the Gentiles, taking place in Antioch. Nothing in that passage is said about circumcision. But in Acts 15:1 some Jewish believers from Judea come to Antioch and attempt to push circumcision as a requirement for salvation. That this created an uproar in the church at Antioch would indicate that this church had never required it, at least for the Gentile believers.
Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem, representing the church at Antioch as well as the greater Gentile mission. They meet with the apostles and elders there to settle this question. Must the Gentiles be circumcised in order to be saved? And the answer coming from this first church council was that no, the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. They were essentially free from the old covenant obligations.
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Brit Milah Circumcision Performed By Abraham
The Mosaic Law required circumcision on the eighth day after birth . Luke 2:21 tells us that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth in the temple in Jerusalem. In Jesus day, circumcision of males was performed on the Sabbath according to John 7:22-23.
It is common for people to believe that a man is either circumcised or not circumcised. But the decision to circumcise can be more complicated because there are various styles of circumcisions. It is believed that the style of circumcision that was performed on Abraham, Ishmael, and all of his male servants , was a Brit Milah. This ancient circumcision was performed by Abraham on himself but did not remove the frenulum.
Though the exact amount nicked or removed is not agreed upon by all scholars, religious Brit Milah performed in ancient Judaism is known to have been significantly less than todays modern Brit Periah, where the entire prepuce itself is amputated
Professor Jack M. Sasson concurs with this statement. The Hebrew term for this ancient circumcision is Brit Milah. The word milah refers to circumcision. The word brit means covenant. Consequently, this circumcision is called the Brit Milah, according to Jewish tradition.