Definition of Circumcision
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin – a fold of skin which covers and protects the rounded tip of the penis. It is a religious practice widely observed amongst those of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, as well as some West African and Pacific Island tribes.Although it is not specifically stated in the bible, circumcision is a central practice of numerous Old Testament religions and is widely believed to be a requirement to enter the covenant between God and his people.
The Basic Concept of Circumcision According to the Bible
The circumcision of the penis was first mentioned in the bible in the book of Genesis. The act was presented as a covenant between God and the children of Abraham. Abram was the first to be mentioned as having been circumcised, followed by his entire household. In exchange for his performing the first circumcision, God promised Abram that he would be a father to a nation and that his descendants would claim land for themselves.
Covenant and Sign of Circumcision
Circumcision was seen as a sign of this agreement between God and the Israelites, with the male descendants of Abraham being instructed to carry out the practice on the eighth day after their birth. Circumcision was seen as having benefits in health, requiring the men to be ‘clean’, and those who were not circumcised were seen as outside of the covenant. It was believed that by undergoing circumcision, Jewish men signified their obedience to God’s commands and entered into the agreement.
Circumcision and Baptism
The Bible also refers to circumcision as a form of baptism. This notion is well illustrated in Acts of the Apostles where a convert to Christianity, who had not undergone circumcision, was instructed to go through the rite of baptism as ‘a sign and seal of the covenant of grace’.
Significance of Circumcision in Christianity
Initially, circumcision was seen as being of important significance in the establishment of the Christian faith. It was seen as a sign of the covenant between God and the Jews and as necessary for salvation. As the faith evolved, however, the importance of circumcision declined and Paul of Tarsus wrote extensively on the reduction of the importance of the practice. It was held that the spiritual aspects of the act were more important than the physical, and that one could enter the covenant without the need of undergoing circumcision.
Modern View of Circumcision
Modern Christian views on circumcision vary widely. For some, it is simply a personal decision with no religious overtones, for others it is very much an important part of their faith. In some cases, it is seen as a sign of Health and cleanliness and in others it is something to be avoided. The modern Christian’s view of circumcision is very much bound up in personal preference and interpretation of the scripture.
Circumcision in the New Testament
Circumcision is not referred to in the New Testament in terms of it being a necessity for salvation, but rather as a sign of the covenant with God. It is associated with ritual ritualistic practices and, as with many religious practices, it is seen as something to be respected but not necessarily of great religious significance.
Ending Circumcision in the Christian Faith
The Christian faith does not directly state that circumcision is necessary for salvation, in fact, it teaches the opposite. Many denominations embrace the freedom of choice in matters of faith and Church teaching does not support any type of forced circumcision, spiritual or otherwise. Church teaching does not advocate for the practice of circumcision in modern times, although some religious orders continue to perform the procedure.
Circumcision and the Role of Parents
When it comes to the issue of circumcision, the role of the parents is paramount. The decision to circumcise should never be taken lightly, and parents should be educated as to the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the practice. In the end, the decision to circumcise should be made with careful consideration of the religious, ethical, and medical implications of the procedure.
Controversy Surrounding Circumcision
Although circumcision is a practice with a long history, it is still a controversial one. Some view it as an outdated and barbaric practice, while others look upon it as an important religious ritual. The debate is likely to continue for some time and parents will have to weigh their own beliefs and those of their faith with any medical and ethical issues involved when making a decision whether or not to circumcise.
Legislation on Child Circumcision
The legality of circumcision has been the subject of debate in many countries both in Europe and the United States. Most countries have laws which require the consent of both parents or a guardian before the procedure can be performed on a child, while in other countries the procedure is outlawed. In the United States, laws on circumcision vary from state to state and are largely left to the discretion of the parents.
Medical Research on Circumcision
There has been a great deal of research into the medical effects of circumcision. This research generally suggests that there are health benefits to be had from circumcision, including lower risk of urinary tract infection and reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases. It should be noted, however, that the evidence for these health benefits is not definitive and is still the subject of debate by medical experts.
In conclusion, what does the Bible say about circumcision? While the Bible does not explicitly state that circumcision is required for salvation, it does refer to the practice as a sign of the covenant with God and speaks for the importance of circumcision for Abraham and his descendants. The practice is still widely observed in many religions, including Judaism and Islam, as well as some West African and Pacific Island tribes. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to circumcise should be left to the discretion of the parents based on their religious and ethical beliefs.