"Let Him Not Be Circumcised"
The Religious Invalidity Of ALL Modern Circumcision,
This essay is written in response to Christians who continue to believe that circumcision is either ordained by, approved-of, or sanctioned by God, almost 2000 years since it was originally condemned by the heads of the Church. I have found numerous Christian parents who have circumcised their sons "for religious reasons" (including my own), even though this is, scripturally speaking, a banned practice (circumcision for religious reasons). In this essay you will find just a few of the many scriptural references to circumcision written after the atonement of Jesus Christ (some from Latter-day Saint scriptures of the Restoration). In fact, the title itself is a quote from the Bible's New Testament. While I have not quoted every single relevant scripture, be assured that every single relevant scripture is harmonious with, and emphatic that the continuance of circumcision under any guise of Christian tradition is a solemn blasphemy against the Messiah's Atonement and the literal fulfillment of the Law of Moses.
Most Christians today who claim to be pro-circumcision (even if for "religious reasons") have no idea that the New Testament Epistles are riddled with anti-circumcision rhetoric. The apostles were very clear that if you were circumcised when you converted to Christianity, it didn't count against you. But requiring it of new Christian members, doing it to children, or even to one's self was repeatedly and unwaveringly condemned. Paul explain that if you believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ, that circumcision avails literally nothing. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision..." (Gal. 5:6). Paul said that if a male is intact, "let him not be circumcised" (1 Cor. 7:18).
In the times of the Apostles, Jewish converts to Christianity were not only reluctant to give up the practice of circumcising their children, but congregations dominated by Jewish Christians sometimes required it of anyone who wanted to join the Church. Some even claimed that this was the commandment of the Apostles. This was an outrage to the apostles who explained that anything of the sort was indication of a lack of faith in the Christ's atonement, and the fulfillment of the Law of Moses:
23 And they [the Apostles] wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain men which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment. [JST corrected, adding "men".]To me, the most striking verse above, and one of Paul's least-diplomatic moments is verse 2 (...if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing). To me, he is not talking about people who had circumcision forced upon that during infancy or childhood. He is talking about people who willingly circumcise themselves or others for religious reasons (to keep the old covenant). Those people implicitly lack faith in the atoning power of Jesus Christ by their actions. To those people, Christ and His atonement 'will profit them nothing'. Any Christian who claims to circumcise for religious reasons does not understand the Atonement.
Galatians 5: 1-7,13-15
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
If anyone was ever unclear about how Paul "really felt" about circumcision (and those who supported it) we have this in our scriptures:Philippians 3:2 (New International Version)This above verse is only about circumcision, and those who support it. Here the New International Version (NIV) preserves a clearer meaning and emotional message from Paul. In the King James Version, much of the meaning in this and surrounding verses is lost in translation without extensive knowledge of Bible vocabulary. Paul's original word for "concision" in Greek, katatome, had both blunt and subtle meaning here. But Dictionary.com preserves Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary definition of "concision" as used in the Bible:
2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.
Philippians 3:2 (King James Version)
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
(Greek katatome; i.e., "mutilation"), a term used by Paul contemptuously of those who were zealots for circumcision (Phil. 3:2). Instead of the warning, "Beware of the circumcision" (peritome) i.e., of the party who pressed on Gentile converts the necessity of still observing that ordinance, he says, "Beware of
the concision;" as much as to say, "This circumcision which they vaunt of is in Christ only as the gashings and mutilations of idolatrous heathen."For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
In the Bible's Philippians 3:2, Paul does not say, "beware of circumcision". He says contemptuously of circumcision, "beware of multilation" and "mutilators of the flesh", speaking directly of circumcision. Paul himself, an early Church apostle, called circumcision "mutilation", and himself refused under great pressure from many sides, both political and religious, to be circumcised, and forbade the same to other Church members. It is interesting that Paul chose the word "mutilation" to be an outright synonym for circumcision, even in his day of far less-radical circumcisions. A word of the strongest negative connotation. Today, in proper modern vernacular, circumcision in general, independent of gender, is actually properly referred-to as "Genital Mutilation", or GM. GM is a more-accurate term for many reasons, among which the fact that genital "circumcision" for either gender is almost never a simple "circular incision", but it is always GM. Female circumcision is properly referred-to as Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM and they are used synonymously on the internet. Male circumcision is properly referred-to as Male Genital Mutilation, or MGM. The Apostle Paul agreed with modern anti-circumcision sympathizers in both spirit and in letter. He even went so far as to associate people--at least Christians--who either circumcise their children or pressure it on others (i.e. family or Church members) as "dogs" and "workers of evil", saying, "beware of the mutilation". Paul was explicit in his use of the contemptuous Greek word katatome--"mutilation"--and not the proper, polite greek word for circumcision, peritome (peri=around, tome=incision), a word used twice in the same chapter, particularly to refer to Jesus's circumcision. Peritome, or peritomee is a word whose root is still used today in English as a proper medical synonym for general (sometimes non-genital) circumcision or circular incisions: peritomy.
Those who were of the "true circumcision", ones done before the Expiation (Atonement), Paul calls "circumcised". Those circumcised after the atonement, or under any other pretenses, Paul refers to as merely "mutilated". Since true physical circumcision no longer exists after the Atonement, Paul says, referring to uncircumcised Christians, including himself, "We are [now] the [true] circumcision..." (Philippians 3:3) meaning the Saints/Christians, who are obviously uncircumcised. Since true physical circumcision no longer exists after the Atonement, Paul calls all modern circumcised Christians "mutilated".
Latter-Day Revelation: No Wiggle Room
The Latter-day Saints' Book of Mormon (a religious history of ancient American Israelite emigrants) and Doctrine & Covenants (a book of modern revelations from God) go beyond this. They are typically more clear and do not offer any diplomatic cop-outs.
Moroni 8:8 (Law of Circumcision is done away in Christ):
Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
Doctrine & Covenants, Section 74
Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Hiram, Ohio, January 1832. HC 1: 242. The Prophet writes, “Upon the reception of the foregoing word of the Lord [D&C 73], I recommenced the translation of the Scriptures [the Bible], and labored diligently until just before the conference, which was to convene on the 25th of January. During this period I also received the following, as an explanation of 1 Corinthians 7: 14.”
1. [1 Corinthians 7:14:] "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy."
2. Now, in the days of the apostles the law of circumcision was had among all the Jews who believed not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. And it came to pass that there arose a great contention among the people concerning the law of circumcision, for the unbelieving husband was desirous that his children should be circumcised and become subject to the law of Moses, which law was fulfilled.
4. And it came to pass that the children, being brought up in subjection to the law of Moses, gave heed to the traditions of their fathers and believed not the gospel of Christ, wherein they became unholy.
5. Wherefore, for this cause the apostle wrote unto the church, giving unto them a commandment, not of the Lord, but of himself, that a believer should not be united to an unbeliever; except the law of Moses should be done away among them,
6. That their children might remain without circumcision; and that the tradition might be done away, which saith that little children are unholy; for it was had among the Jews;
7. But little children are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ; and this is what the scriptures mean.
Again, a striking thing the above is that if you are a Christian and circumcise, you are expressing doubt as to the efficacy of the Expiation of the Christ. But perhaps even more shocking, we have God himself expressing his will that "children might remain without circumcision."
If there were ever any doubt about the New Testament imperative on circumcision, it is now gone. The declaration of will is as plain and matter-of-fact as it could be. Knowing God's will, and knowingly acting against that will, is called sin. What will your choice be? Sin against self is one thing; sin against others is another. Any honest Latter-day Saint reading that verse alone, without any of the other scriptures, will know God's will.
But how many Latter-day Saints fight for God's stated will on this point? As you can see from verse 4 above, the continuation of certain religious traditions under the Law of Moses (circumcision is the only one which is expressly mentioned here, and therefore I assume the most important) necessarily led to a lack of belief in the Atonement to those who followed them. This is because the intent of the Law of Moses was that it would not be practiced after the coming of the Messiah, and to continue such a thing indicates doubt in the efficacy and completeness of the sanctifying power of the Atonement. So, in other words, "if you're a Christian, you won't do it." The only thing comparable to this during the same time was the practice of eating meat sacrificed in religious ceremony, with remarkably congruent explanation. See 1 Cor. 8 (entire chapter deals with this) and Acts 15:29.
"Christian Circumcision" is a Contradiction In Terms
Chistian circumcision is a contradiction in terms. This of course is intended to mean circumcision for "religious reasons", but if a Christian has faith and fully understands that it is the Will of the Father that circumcision "might be done away", then they would truly trust the word of God over the constantly-changing mind, science, and medical scams of man, which, for decades, urged circumcision in several countries, most notably the USA. The second most shocking thing to me was to realize that most "Mormons" are not even aware that their own religion has an entire canonized modern revelation concerning the topic of circumcision. There must be a lot of Mormons out there who did not include an index search under "circumcision" before having their child, since Utah ironically has the highest rate of Routine Infant Circumcision in the country, and almost certainly the entire world! Tragically sad, and almost unbelievably hypocritical... If only more Mormons were as aware of their religion as they are of "false traditions of men," of which the Book of Mormon so often warns us!
The irony and hypocrisy of "Christian circumcision" is illustrated when it is pointed out that almost no Jewish babies are circumcised in hospitals. Jews have their males circumcised at the age of 8 days by one holding priesthood authority, and one who is (hopefully) trained to do circumcisions--a circumciser (not necessarily a rabbi) called a mohele (moyle). The few Jews who are circumcised in hospitals are usually reluctant to discuss it, because their circumcisions are religiously invalid. A Jewish circumcision ceremony, or bris, is also a religious and familial event. Christians who perceive the circumcision of their son as a religious ordinance heighten their hypocrisy by leaving their sons alone with the medical technician for this supposed unceremonious religious ceremony. In fact, many gentile circumcisions are done by trainees.
Did you ever notice that there is never any concern about the priesthood authority or even gender of the person performing this supposed Christian "religious rite?" Have you ever noticed that no Christian parents ever insist that a circumcision be performed in the the name of Jesus, nor even dedicate it to God? Nor do they ever discuss the spiritual ramifications of those left intact, if circumcision is supposedly necessary or meet. All "Christian circumcision" is in violation of the law of God, and, with the known long-term effects and short-term risks of circumcision (covered in other essays), it is reasonable to conclude that it is even moreso a "solemn mockery before God" than infant baptism (Moroni 8:9).
The Religious Invalidity of Modern Jewish Circumcisions
Further blaspheming the concept of circumcision is the practice of "radical circumcision". "Original" circumcisions were far less damaging and left most of the skin (including the mucosa and frenulum) intact. Basically, part of the "overhang" babies have for later growth is cut off. Although the term has become ambiguous, this is sometimes known as a "bris milah". Almost all of the skin, nerves, function, and sensitivity of the penis is left intact, although still unfortunate. Shortly after the Christian apostacy, Jews were engaging in an early form of foreskin restoration to evade Roman persecution and taxation of Jews. Men used a device called a Pondus Judeaus ("Jewish weight") to stretch the preputial tissues back to a normal appearance. (This technique has been resurrected within the past few years with the aid of modern medical tapes.) Such restoration enraged the the Jewish heirarchy, who instituted the far more damaging and radical circumcision called "bris periah". This radical circumcision could not be very successfully undone with the technology available then. Even today, nonsurgical techniques take years, and surgical techniques are not even worth attempting. So while even though there is no ceremonial significance to a Christian circumcising their child "for religious reasons", even the injury itself bears almost no similarity to a true circumcision, and is far more damaging. Although the separation behind the names is often blurred, both bris milah and bris periah are supposedly practiced in Jewry today, but only the more damaging bris periah equivalent, most-commonly known as "radical circumcision", occurs in American hospitals today.
Brian Levitt, "Statement to the United Kingdom Law Commission...", 1996:
...over the millennia, the Jewish practice of circumcision has changed radically before becoming the deeply intrusive surgery we see today. Numerous times circumcision has fallen into complete discontinuance by the Jews, only to be resurrected in times of oppression. Moreover, the circumcision of biblical times, a small cut of the preputial tissue that overhangs the infant glans, was replaced by the year 140 AD with the radical circumcision performed by today's mohels. This latter, significant surgery may have become traditional, but it is not the circumcision commanded by God in Genesis 17. Nor should it enjoy any special protection whatsoever by government and its laws.
To varying degrees, circumcision is a law or commandment of the branches of Judaism, but it is not definitive of membership in the Jewish religion. It is accepted that he that is not circumcised, but is the son of a Jewish mother, is a Jew. Numerous scholars of Judaism have clearly pointed out that this damaging surgical ritual is inconsistent with all other tenets of the Jewish religion to protect the integrity of the individual and do no harm to another person. The Law Commission would be doing all Jews great service, in fact, to finally recognize the universal harm, the permanence, and the impossibility of informed consent of non-therapeutic circumcision on any infant boy, regardless of religion. To fail to do so, to create a "special exception" for Jewish boys, would be tantamount to governmental discrimination against infants born into the Jewish faith by assuming that their pain is less (it is not) and that they will simply learn to accept their harm. Our pain is real, we are part of the larger society, and we need and expect full protection under the law...
Selections from Robert S. Van Howe, M.D. F.A.A.P.'s "'Modern' Circumcision: The Escalation of a Ritual":
The Biblical technique of circumcision designed to fulfill the Covenant with Abraham removed only preputial tissue that extended beyond the tip of the glans penis (Bris Milah). By first pulling up on the foreskin, then placing a glans shield, the operator preserved virtually all of the sensitive inner lining of the prepuce.
In 1934, the Gomco Clamp, and even more recently the Plastibell [ed. note: and now more methods], were invented. Both are still widely used in foreskin removal in America. Both remove tissue at the base of the glans, resulting in a total loss of the sensitive inner lining of the prepuce. This tissue is an integral part of the structure of the penis and contains large numbers of specialized nerve endings involved in normal sexual response.
Biblical circumcision, that type used during Biblical times (c. 1700 B.C. - 140 A.D.)  placed a metal shield with a slit in it near the tip of the foreskin, so only the tip was removed. Often the operator, or mohel, pulled up on the outside of the foreskin before placing the shield. The result was that virtually all of the inner lining of the prepuce was preserved. This was known as Bris Milah.
The wonderful statue of David by Michelangelo appears intact but is in fact correctly represented because the future King David has been circumcised by the accepted procedure of the Biblical era. Only the tip of his foreskin has been removed, fulfilling the Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17).
Why have modern techniques departed so radically from the much more conservative Biblical approach? To the best of our knowledge, at the end of Biblical times, some rabbis agreed to try to stop Jews who, by stretching their remaining prepuce forward, tried to pass for Gentiles. Bris Milah gave way to Bris Periah, a more radical procedure where the inner lining is stripped away. Many Jewish men are unaware of this tragic escalation in the technique, which has nothing to do with the Covenant.
Click here to read Howe's full article on historical changes in circumcision technique.
Circumcision does not make someone Jewish, and not being circumcised does not keep someone from being Jewish. Circumcision has fallen in and out of practice among the Jewish during their whole history, even happening , many would be surprised to learn, under the leadership of Moses (Joshua 5:2-9) . In fact, the Book of Joshua records that no children were circumcised between the exodus from Egypt and entry into the promised land. Joshua was the successor to Moses and required it of all the males in what was then the greatest mass circumcision to date. As a morbid sidenote, different Islamic cultural groups today compete worldwide for word records in mass circumcision, treating the events like a mix between a carnival and a public service project with ashen-faced little boys awaiting their fate.
It is important to note here that despite circumcision falling in and out of favor throughout Jewish history, the Jewish people did not cease to be Jewish, either ethnically or religiously. In fact, there are so many laws of Judaism which are completely disregarded by Jews today, it seems tragically silly that such a fervor is made to force an aspect of religion upon a helpless person incapable of accepting or choosing it, even if the act were to be performed in a biblically legitimate way, which it no longer is. Jews stressing a superlative religious necessity to circumcise baby boys is analagous to Catholics believing that a baby who dies without baptism is automatically consigned to hell, or at least barred from heaven. Religion can only be accepted by the self. True religion can never be forced on a person. "The only true law is that which leads to freedom." (Richard Bach).
Speaking of freedom, please do not believe that the Jews saw circumcision as a religious "choice", to be practiced or forced only on themselves or their own ethnic/religious group. Jews circumcised their slaves, regardless of their race, religion, or origin, even "every man child" (Genesis 17:10,12-13). For a non-Jew to enjoy the priveleges of citizenship, not just he must have been circumcised, but had to require "all his men" to be circumcised, too (Exodus 12:48). How this was "token of a covenant", seeing as this was forced upon religiously and ethnically non-Jewish babies, slaves, and foreigners, without requiring any voluntary inward conversion, I don't think I'll ever understand, as a covenant is a voluntary pact. The English root for "covenant" comes from the French covenir, "to agree". Technically, these Jewish doctrines still stand, but are among the many disregarded or informally-discarded doctrines of the Jewish faith (see above paragraph).
All "Islamic" Circumcisions Are Religiously Invalid
Circumcision is almost always perpetrated due to the parents' sense of conformity, even when executed under false religious pretenses. There are other religions other than Christianity under which circumcision is performed under completely false religious pretenses. The most notable one is Islam. Circumcision is never mentioned in the Koran, and some Islamic scholars have mentioned that circumcision is not religiously relevant. Because of this, as with Christianity, in this sense at least, it does not appear to be the religion itself which is not respectable, but the way in which it is "practiced" and added-onto with cultural baggage. Yet every year, uncountable mass and individual circumcisions of pubescent and pre-pubescent boys and girls take place under the pretense of Islam. Islam borrows heavily from both Judaism and Christianity, declaring (in theory) the New Testament and Old Testament as canonized scripture. If the New Testament is considered as canon under Islam, and circumcision is not mentioned in the Koran, then Islamic circumcision is not only religiously invalid, but in opposition to the religion, due to the numerous and unanimous anti-circumcision scriptures of the New Testament. But, like many Christians, they don't let this stop them.
Some are aware that this is more of an ethnic Arab tradition, not a bona fide Islamic religious rite. But the lines are blurred because father Abraham, or Ibrahim, is a main figure in the memory of the circumcision tradition. Plus, Abraham is not only the father of the Arabs through his son Ishmael or Ismael, but considered by them to be a father of the Islamic religion too, Islam being in at least part an ethnocentric religion in the sense that all true Muslims must learn to speak, read, and pray in Arabic, and take a pilgrimage at least once in their lives, if possible, to Mecca in Arabia.
Even so, at least Muslims and Arabs in general wait until near or early puberty to amputate the male foreskin, unlike the Law of Moses's mandate that it occur at 8 days old. At or near puberty, the penis is more developed and grown, or at least usually naturally unfused from the glans, leading to less damage (though still extremely damaging, both physically and psychologically). Also, it comes at an age when children are more capable of resistance or refusal, versus the added terror of newborns of not knowing what or why this is happening to them, being completely helpless and incapable of resistance, and in a state of life where everything negative which happens is the most negative experience they have ever experienced. I do not believe it to be coincidence that the most historically violent region of the earth also has the historically highest worldwide rate of circumcision (infant [Jews] + child [Arabs]). The more you understand the psychology behind circumcision, and its effects, the more it becomes clear.
It is hypocritical to bash Arabs and Muslims for practicing female circumcision while being complacent about male circumcision. All "reasons" behind female vs. male circumcision are identical, identical, identical. True, female circumcision is not a true part of Islam (original Islam, anyway), but it is not any more religiously invalid than male circumcision, and equally as damaging. The western world will not play an effective part in reducing what is the illegal and, from the western point of view, morally wrong religious/cultural practice of female circumcision, until we protect ourselves equally & honestly along gender lines. This issue is addressed further in my article, "Circumcision: Much More Dangerous Than A Foreskin" under the subtitle, "Female vs. Male Circumcision".
The biggest reason behind both religious and "medical" circumcision is ignorance. When ignorance is not an issue, fear-based conformity is. Now you are not ignorant. Those who are not ignorant are accountable. And those who know the truth have the obligation to spread it. To those who choose to both physically and psychologically sacrifice their children, seeing it more important to selfishly continue to follow a false tradition out of fear and conformity, I have one question which has guided my life since 2003. That is, "Why, in the name of all that is good, would you really want to fit in?"
©2003 Matheas. This contents of this article may be distributed and copied for non-profit purposes, as long as writer's credit is given, the spirit and integrity of the article remain intact, and, where reasonably possible, a hypertext link to the original article is provided.