May 1996: Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Submitters Perspective

Page 2

Male Circumcision: Scriptural Perspective

Lately many of our readers have asked about male circumcision. The key question has been if there is a religious basis for circumcision, and if so, whether it is required for a male Muslim (Submitter).

Origin of Circumcision

The Quran does not mention circumcision. The reference to the origin of circumcision is found in the Torah. Genesis (17:9-14) states:

God also said to Abraham: “On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.

Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the mark of the covenant between you and me.

Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including the houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your blood.

Yes, both the houseborn slaves and those acquired with money must be circumcised. Thus my covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting pact.

If a male is uncircumcised, that is, if the flesh of foreskin has not been cut away, such a one shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

These are the clearest verses in the Old Testament regarding the subject. Other references in Deuteronomy 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:4 are not as clear.

New Testament References

There are many references to circumcision in the New Testament. For example, in the Gospel of Luke, a section regarding the birth of John (Yahya) states the following:

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke praising God. (Luke 1:59-64)

In the Gospel of John, it is clear that Jesus was aware of all Mosaic laws, including circumcision:

The Jews were amazed and said, “How does he know scripture without having studied?”

Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not my own but is from the one who sent me. Whoever chooses to do his will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no wrong in him. Did not Moses give you the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

The crowd answered, “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. Moses gave you circumcision—not that it came from Moses but rather from the patriarchs—and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a sabbath? Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.” (John 7:15-24)

Therefore, circumcision was practiced by the followers of Abraham and Moses

up until Jesus according to many references in the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament). Nowhere in them do we read that the practice was revoked by Jesus. Outside the Gospels, the subject of circumcision sometimes becomes vague and confusing:

And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal on the righteousness received through faith while he was uncircumcised. Thus he was to be the father of all the uncircumcised who believe, so that to them also righteousness might be credited, as well as the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised, but also follow the path of faith that our father Abraham walked while still uncircumcised (Romans 4:11-12).

While Jesus never revoked the practice of circumcision, it was Paul in his letters (that later made it into the New Testament), who advocated that people to abandon their customary practices and not circumcise their children:

The next day Paul accompanied us on a visit to James, and all the presbyters were present. He greeted them, then proceeded to tell them in detail what God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. They praised God when they heard it but said to him, “Brother, you see how many thousands of believers there are from among the Jews, and they are all zealous observers of the law. They have been informed that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to abandon Moses and that you are telling them not to circumcise their children or to observe their customary practices. (Acts 21:18-21)

Since Paul is the one whose doctrines and teachings became the basis of today’s Christianity, one can see why Christians abandoned or lost many

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