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Circumcision - An Alternative Perspective

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Shimon, Nov 23, 2002.

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  1. Shimon

    Shimon Shalom!

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    According to this passage, Paul had Timothy circumcised. The passage strongly hints that Timothy’s father was *not* a Jewish proselyte, or a God-fearer, and that his mother was a Jew. Had Timothy’s father been a Jewish proselyte, or a God-fearer (a Gentile on his way to becoming a proselyte), I believe the passage would have labeled him as such. I think we can safely conclude that Timothy’s mother was Jewish, because in 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul says:

    Paul speaks of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, but doesn’t speak of Timothy’s father as the source of his training in the scriptures. This adds further evidence for us to suggest that Timothy’s Greek father was not God-fearer, and that his religious training was done by his mother and grandmother.

    According to the Mishnah (m.Kiddushin 3:12f.), Jewish lineage could only be determined in marriages ruled valid. The “marriage” of a Jewish woman to a Gentile would not be considered valid, and therefore the children from such a union would not be considered Jewish. Timothy, therefore, would have been considered a Greek, and not a Jew.

    So, at this point, we find Paul circumcising a Gentile.

    HOWEVER, in 1 Corinthians 7:18-19, Paul tells us:

    Do you see an apparent contradiction here? Paul has Timothy circumcised, and then turns around and tell us *NOT* to circumcise someone who is uncircumcised!

    Right here, this should send off alarm signals in our heads, warning us that maybe we need to look a little deeper to find out what Paul meant!

    Does Paul deliberately contradict himself? Is he preaching a “Do as I say, not as I do” gospel? Is he failing to lead by example? Is he being hypocritical by giving us instructions that he was unwilling to follow himself?

    If we accept Paul’s epistles as inspired Scripture (which I believe we should), this prevents us from concluding that he deliberately contradicts himself. If we accept Paul as an Apostle and representative of Yeshua (which I believe we should), this prevents us from concluding that he is giving us instructions that he was unwilling to follow himself. Therefore, I believe that we have to conclude that maybe, just maybe, there is some meaning behind his words in 1 Cor. 7:18-19 that isn’t clear if we look only at the verse itself, and don’t dig a little deeper to find out what he meant. In order to understand what he meant in these verses, we need to develop a better understanding of the Judaisms of Paul’s day – what the Jews of his day believed – so that we may better understand the issues he had to deal with during his ministry.

    According to the Mishnah:

    What did the Sages mean by this statement? They often spoke of Israel as wayward and rebellious, so it is clear they do not mean that all Israelites were without sin. Rather, righteousness is attributed to all who are members of the covenant. Righteousness, according to the Sages, was a matter of God’s willingness to reckon the pious deeds of the fathers to their offspring and to forgive and show mercy when Israel sins. Thus, the place in the world-to-come which belongs to all of Israel was a matter of God’s grace, not something earned or merited.

    To put it in simpler terms, the Jews believed that salvation was granted to members of the covenant, and that the members of the covenant were the Jews. In order for a Gentile to become a member of the covenant, they believed, he had to become a Jew. Circumcision, then, was the method by which they believed a Gentile could become a Jew.

    So, the Jews believed that the status of “righteous” before God and “unrighteous” was determined by one’s status as a Jew.

    This, then, is the reason why we read in Acts 15:1 that “certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], ‘Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.’” They believed that the covenant was made only with the Jews, and that Gentiles had to become Jewish through the proselyte ceremony of circumcision, before they could be saved.

    It is this same issue that Paul was addressing in the book of Galatians. It is these Jews who Paul refers to as the “circumcision group” or “the circumcision faction” in Titus 1:10. The “circumcision group” or simply “the circumcision” were those Jews who were teaching that one had to become a Jew in order to be a member of the covenant family.

    “B’rit milah,” the Hebrew term for “circumcision,” means “covenant in the flesh.” It is the means by which they believed a person became a member of the covenant.

    But, in Genesis 17:9-14, we read:

    Here, we read that God instructed Abraham to circumcise his entire household, including those born to him, and those NOT born to him.

    God was not creating a nationality here. That wasn’t His intent. His intent was to have a separate, set-apart people who would worship Him in Spirit and in Truth from WHATEVER nationality! He wasn’t designating “Jew vs. Gentile,” but was calling a people unto himself, from whatever nationality they may come from, to separate themselves from the things of the world, and be a holy and righteous people who obeyed His commandments. He was designating “righteous vs. unrighteous,” “worshipers of God” vs. “worshipers of false gods,” “those who chose His salvation” vs “those who did not,” “those who accepted His covenant” vs “those who rejected His covenant.”

    "Grace" is not the freedom to live however we please. "Grace" is the empowerment to live a holy and righteous life in a sick and perverse world. We are called to separate ourselves from the things of the world, and become a separate, set-apart people unto God, and it makes no difference what nationality or ethnic status we come from.

    Within His covenant family – His separate, set-apart people – there is no distinction between “Jew” or “Greek.” One’s ethnicity or nationality has absolutely no bearing on one’s status before God. The only status that makes a hill of beans of difference is the status of “in Messiah.”

    This is what Paul meant when he said:

    There is neither Jew nor Greek because *BOTH* are one in Messiah!

    Circumcision, then, is the sign by which we designate which group we belong to: God’s people, or not His people. It is just like the lamb’s blood that was placed on the doorposts in Egypt – its purpose is to distinguish those who accept His salvation that the spirit of death may pass over us, and those who do *not* accept His salvation and choose death. By being circumcised, we are declaring “I’m one of His people.”

    "Gentile," then, doesn't mean "not Jewish," it means "of the world" as opposed to "separate and set apart from the world."

    Throughout the Torah, God made it clear that there was One Torah For All, whether Jew or Gentile:

    There was no distinction between "Jew" and "Gentile" among God's people. There was no set of laws given to "Jew" and a different set given to "Gentile."

    So, when Paul said "let him not be circumcised," what he was trying to say is: "Don't think you have to become a Jew, because that has no bearing on your status of 'righteous before God.' It is your *faith* that gets you into the covenant, and not your ethnic status." He isn't saying "don't become circumcised," he's saying "it makes no difference whether you are Jew or Greek!

    So, 1Cor 7:18-19 could be just as accurately interpreted as:

    So, he wasn't talking about the *act* of circumcision per se, he was talking about the creation of a "Jew" from a "Greek" through the ritual of circumcision.

    Shimon
     
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  2. Andrew

    Andrew Well-Known Member

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    "Circumcision, then, is the sign by which we designate which group we belong to: God’s people, or not His people."

    I'm a little confused by your long post (didnt have time to go thru the details). In a nutshell, are you saying that Christians ought to be circumcised in order to "belong" to God's "people"?

    can u plse summarise your point?
     
  3. Shimon

    Shimon Shalom!

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    I'm saying that Christians should be circumcised, but definitely *not* for the purpose of becoming a member of the covenant. It is by faith alone that we become members of the Covenant Family. Circumcision is our signature at the bottom of the contract, indicating that we agree to abide by the terms of the covenant.

    Shimon
     
  4. Caedmon

    Caedmon kawaii Supporter

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    Circumcision is unnecessary. I don't plan on having my boys circumcised.

    Baptism brings us into God's covenant. That is the way we are enrolled into the Christian faith.
     
  5. Shimon

    Shimon Shalom!

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    And who told you that? God or Man?

    Shimon
     
  6. adam332

    adam332 Deut. 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD t

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    Shimon,
    I like much of what you said and the way you put it. But, I think your conclusion was scripturally a little off.


    Just so as you know where I stand, I'll first give you a little info that I believe is common ground. My view is that scripture portrays that Israelites will be the only humans that will be received of God. And, when I say Israelites I synomously mean, wheat, of the cicumcision, sheep, the church, Jews, saints, in Christ, righteous, elect, Abraham's seed, the body, etc....

    That said, now on to some discussion....

    What I think you may be missing is; that Paul never made any claims in Acts 16, that righteousness or faith was accounted to his circumcision. Nor did he hint that this was instruction to the church assemblies. Paul has stated firmly that circumcision was an act performed by Abraham AFTER he was found righteous!

    _________

    Rom. 4:1  What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
    2  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
    3  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
    4  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
    5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
    6  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
    7  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
    8  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
    9  Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
    10 
    How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
    11  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
    12  And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
    13  For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.


    _________

    What I believe we are seeing in Acts 16, is neither an example that 1. we should be circumcised nor 2. an act of righteousness.

    But, instead it is a simple matter of doing what is required by that culture. Such as paying taxes to Rome, or even perhaps getting a flue shot before you enter into public schools. As long as circumsion isn't against God's laws then there was nothing wrong with him getting himself cut, so he could fellowship with the Jews.

    Paul has expressed over and over that circumcision of faith is that of the heart. Why? Because we have always been saved by faith through God's grace. Nothing has changed in the method of salvation.

    Phil. 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

    We are all circumcised if we are in Christ, because it is our faith that makes us righteous never the physical act.

    It was a "seal"/"token" between God and Abraham, after righteousness had been accounted to him(Rom. 4, Gen. 17). 

    Re: 1Cor. 7

    The contradiction actually lies not in the writings of Paul, instead it's in the ommittance of context. In plain English; "Ya' left out a verse.". Also, I would say that you left out the guidelines for the instruction of whether to be circumcised or not. The verses clearly emphasize the importance of the statement directly related to ones "calling".1Cor. 7:18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

    These verses don't forbid becoming circumcised. I'm sure you know that Israelites/Jews of the flesh were known as "of the circumcision", right(Gal. 2:12)? It was a descriptive and almost derogatory term, such as the Jews considering themselves clean and Gentiles to be unclean. 

    Now let's look at this passage in the context of what we know these terms to represent. And let's rightfully  consider this as instruction towards Jewish and Gentile Christians. How do you think this might have come across in todays English. Maybe a little something like this....

    "If when you were called to be a Jew, then stay as a Jew. If you weren't called to be a Jew, then don't try to become one. Because, whether you are a Jew of the flesh or not, doesn't matter. What matters is that you obey God. So each person stay on the path to which you were called."

    If you look at it a little less rigidly, and apply the language that Paul was known to use(Gal. 2:12), you would see there is no conflict. Especially, considering your own statements regarding Timothy, you said; ".....his religious training was done by his mother and grandmother".

    Ahhh.... so you are like me and are under the impression that he was trained according to the Jewish faith. So the only possible descrepency is if Timothy was not on the path to being a Jew when he was called of God. Because we have to remember the context, right?

    19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.


    I believe the whole of Pauls writings paints a clear picture that physical circumcision doesn't matter. And, that some have been called as Jewish Christians and some Gentile Christians. And, that the only thing that really matters is if we are circumcised in our hearts. Thus, we have our righteousness sealed by our hearts faith. That is the only circumcison my Bible indicates as ever having any bearing.

     
     
  7. Andrew

    Andrew Well-Known Member

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    Exactly my sentiments!

    Acts 16: Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

    The reason Paul had him circumcised is simply the bolded part. That's it. No need to build a doctrine of circumcision from there.
     
  8. Shimon

    Shimon Shalom!

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    Adam332 and Andrew:

    Ahhh, but here's the catch:

    Moses taught the children of Israel that if any man came along, performing signs and wonders and yet taught the children of Israel to abandon the Torah, they were to recognize him as a false prophet and put him to death:

    So, with that in mind, how could Paul expect to preach to Jews if he disobeyed the Torah commandment of circumcision? He would, in essence, be teaching them to abandon the Torah and be worthy of death.

    Shimon
     
  9. Higher Truth

    Higher Truth Active Member

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    Shimon,

    As far as being Jewish or non-Jewish, God decides that before birth, and we have no say in it. There has been a movement as of late, created by a false teaching, and now there is a group of non-Jewish believers claiming to be 'born again Jews' Romans 11 is very clear about the root and the branch. People of non-Jewish origin must be careful so that they do not become like the Judaizers referred to many times in the scriptures by Paul.
     
  10. Andrew

    Andrew Well-Known Member

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    The verse you quoted says nothing abt this false prophet teaching others to abandon the Torah. It simply says " whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;" ie worshipping and serving other Gods.

    It does say, however, "Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments,"

    But all Christians already know that the law of the NT is the Law of Christ -- which is to believe in Him and love one another.

    that wld make just abt every one of us non-Messianic Jewish Christians a false prophet, according to your interpretation, since we dont tell new believers to go circumcise themselves in order put their "signature" as you say, on the covenant.
     
  11. Higher Truth

    Higher Truth Active Member

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    Shimon,

    So that we can all be on the same page, who's translation are you using?
     
  12. adam332

    adam332 Deut. 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD t

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    Shimon,
    Paul did not abandon the Torah, neither did he disobey the Torah commandment of circumcision. He showed them the fulfillment of circumcision in the gentile believer. Again, this is NOTHING NEW,
    and is beginning to sound abit like the agruement that OT saints were saved by works and NT saints were saved by faith.

    Grace has always been through faith by the grace of God. Circumcision was of the flesh in a symbolic manner because Christ dwelled with them physically in tabernacles. He was the Shikinah Glory and the one who made the covenant with Abraham in the first place. But, now the dwelling is spiritual and it is better. For He ascended to heaven that He may send His spirit to indwell His believers hearts.

    This is why when the true seed of Abraham came(Christ), he fulfilled circumcision in the heart of the believer, where His spirit dwells and has engraved His commands.

    Deu. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

    Deu. 30:6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

    Jer. 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

    It appears that circumcision of the heart was what God was paying attention to all along. Had you ever consider that Paul was inspired of God and knew this and the Jews didnt? And maybe Paul understood Christ's spirit fulfilled this circumcision of heart, which was the objective all along?
     
  13. Caedmon

    Caedmon kawaii Supporter

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  14. ZiSunka

    ZiSunka It means 'yellow dog'

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    I believe that Paul hd Timothy circumcised so he would ba accepted by the Jewish believers, not as a fruitful ritual that has meaning to Christians today.

    Timothy's mother was Jewish and his father was not. BUT, it was the Jewish father that was to circumcise his son, not the mother, therefore, since the tradition meant nothing to his Greek father, he didn't circumcise Timothy or recognize him as a Jew. That's the reason he wasn't circumcised as a baby.

    When Timothy grew up, it was done to him, perhaps even at Timothy's own request, to solidify his status as a Jew, a faith he adopted but was not fully born into. Keep in mind that most believers at that time were Jews and Gentiles were being converted, too.

    Do you remember in the book of acts where they had a big conference about what to do about circumcision? Should they keep doing it and do it to Gentile converts? Or should they cease the practice now that the old covenant was completed? They decided to stop, since circumcision didn't have any magical powers and that it was the state of the heart that determined who was a Christian, and not the presence or absence of a foreskin. It could be that Timothy's circumcision preceded this conference and that he was circumcised as a part of his conversion experience.

    Just some thoughts.
     
  15. Shimon

    Shimon Shalom!

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    Andrew:

    Following after false gods *IS* an abandonment of the Torah commandments. Recite the 10 Commandments, what is the first one?

    *Every* sin is an act of disobedience to God and an act of obedience to HaSatan. That's what Adam's sin was: He followed after HaSatan and not after God.

    That's where Christianity is wrong. The *Torah* is the "Law of Christ." Every commandment that Yeshua spoke was already written in the Torah.
    The Beattitudes are the attitude with which we are to obey His Torah. Jeremiah 31:31-34 tells us that the "New Covenant" is the Torah written on the heart -- that's what Yeshua was doing, writing the Torah on our hearts, telling us how to obey His Torah with the proper attitude.

    Yes, exactly. What were Yeshua's own words? "He who breaks the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven." What had Yeshua just gotten through telling us? "Think not that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill." Obviously, "fulfill" cannot mean "abolish," He had just said He didn't come to abolish. "Fulfill" means "to confirm," and "to establish." He came to *fulfill* and to *establish* His Torah, not to give us license to start transgressing His Torah all over again.


    Shimon
     
  16. Shimon

    Shimon Shalom!

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    Higher Truth:

    I use several translations, but the quote that I provided was King James.

    Adam332:

    Yes, it *is* new. That isn't the gospel that the Apostles preached. God doesn't change and His commandments are *eternal.* Last time I checked, "eternal" meant "forever."

    You can take it to the bank: God doesn't change. The commandments He gave from the very beginning are still given today. Once a command is given, it stays given. God never repeals His commandments.

    Yes, but "faith" can *never* be divorced from "faithfulness." There is no such thing as "faith in God" without exhibiting faithfulness to His commandments. We have a covenant relationship with God, just like a marriage covenant between husband and wife. One cannot simply have "faith" in their spouse and expect their marriage to be healthy. One must *BE FAITHFUL* themselves. Why was Israel so often called a "harlot?" Because she was *unfaithful* to her marriage covenant.

    *Faithfulness* to His commandments is the method by which we have "faith." If one does not obey His commandments, one does not have "faith" in Yeshua, and has not accepted His sacrifice.


    HumbleJoe:

    That's informative. Was this revealed to you through scripture? By divine revelation? How?

    If by scripture, what is the reference?


    lambslove:

    Did you read my post at the beginning of this thread? This has already been explained in great detail.


    Shimon
     
  17. Caedmon

    Caedmon kawaii Supporter

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    I know it through the support of 2000 years of Scriptural scholarship.
     
  18. Andrew

    Andrew Well-Known Member

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    Mt 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

    2 Cor 3:11 For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor.


    both cant be permanent and in force at the same time.
     
  19. adam332

    adam332 Deut. 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD t

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    Shimon,
    Yes they law must be obeyed, but it doesn't always have to be physical.
    The ceremonial laws that pointed to Christ work during His ministry were physically fulfilled. we no longer have to sacrifice lambs because the real lamb came, etc...., right.

    All the rituals and laws of the sanctuary are still in effect and have their place either in the spiritual walk of the believer, and/or in the heavenly sanctuary where we have the real High Priest(again fulfilled in Christ), acting on our behalf.

    Did not these very physical things, find spiritual fulfillment upon Christ' work here on earth? Then, why would you focus on one item and not the hundred others? I've already shown Biblically, that in the OT and NT the circumsised heart of the believer is what was considered, never the physical act. And I showed that Paul never instructed anyone to disobey the laws of God.

    But, if you insist on being inconsistant and focusing on one thing and not the rest, and you feel that it's absolutely necessary for you, then by all means get yourself circumcised.
    As Paul says; whichever direction you were called by God, whether it be circumcision or uncircumcision, then stay on the path you were called? Because, to be cut or not to be cut, matters not.
     
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