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Bible verses about Circumcision
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Nobody knows with absolute certainty when, in dim antiquity, the practice of circumcision began. Genesis 17 is certainly one of the earliest mentions of it. Nations other than Israel practiced circumcision, which somewhat confuses the issue. Genesis 17 may well be the earliest mention of it, and therefore the practice began with God instituting it with Abraham.

However, two things are certain to those who look into these things. First, no people used it as extensively or consistently as Israel did. Second, no other people circumcised their male children on the eighth day of life. God used it as a mark or a sign, authenticating that the person had made the Old Covenant with Him. It was done on the eighth day to indicate that Israelites were born into a covenant relationship with God. They had to do nothing except to be born.

God, as usual, was looking far forward in time. In the writing of the Bible, He made extensive use of circumcision as the symbol of what must happen to a person's heart under the New Covenant, which is where circumcision was aimed from its inception. Certainly, it played a role in the Old Covenant, but God, who knows the end from the beginning, was laying the groundwork so that we could understand the spiritual ramifications of circumcision. Therefore, spiritual circumcision must happen to each person who makes the New Covenant with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Paul uses circumcision four different ways in his writings: to signify 1) the rite itself, 2) the Jews as a race of people, 3) the Old Covenant, or 4) the Old Covenant plus the traditions of the fathers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Genesis 17:10

The ordinance of circumcision was an outward physical sign of one's willingness to obey God and be one of His chosen people.

Under the New Covenant, God is calling a spiritual nation composed of individuals converted and regenerated by His Holy Spirit. God's people now are all to be "circumcised" spiritually. Physical circumcision is no longer necessary for religious purposes. It was a forerunner or type of what God really wanted—circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4). Paul told the congregation in Rome that physical circumcision is of no spiritual benefit (Romans 2:25-29). Spiritual circumcision, though, is a process of conversion. That Christ circumcises us spiritually is made plain in Colossians 2:10-11.

This is why the assembled apostles and elders of the New Testament church declared circumcision to be one of the physical requirements of the Old Covenant that is not necessary for Christians (Acts 15:24, 28). It is for entirely non-religious reasons that one may decide to be circumcised or have his son circumcised. There is some evidence that circumcision promotes cleanliness and health, depending on the male's overall cleanliness, morality, and health.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Genesis 17:23

Comparing Genesis 17:23; Exodus 12:41; and Galatians 3:16-18, we have evidence of a significant Genesis event that later became a festival date, and thus it is important to Christianity. Exodus 12:2-6 dates the Passover on the fourteenth of Abib. Israel left Egypt on the next day, the fifteenth. Verse 41 strongly suggests that the Exodus was 430 years to the very day from when Abraham made the covenant with God which was sealed by the patriarch's circumcision. Galatians 3 reinforces the link between the events of the Exodus (Paul sums them up in the term "the law," which was given about two months after leaving Egypt), the 430 years and God's covenant with Abraham. These verses confirm that the Abrahamic covenant, the introduction of circumcision, and Israel's going out of Egypt took place on Abib 15, the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

Genesis 49:10

The patriarch Jacob had twelve sons, and God had to choose from which tribe His Son would descend. He proclaims His choice through Jacob's prophecy in Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, as many scriptures record (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:33; Hebrews 7:14, etc.).

This fact also has spiritual implications for us. Jesus says to the woman at the well, "For salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Paul explains what this means:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman


 

Exodus 12:3

Since God instituted circumcision as the sign of the covenant He made with Abraham (Genesis 17:10-11), it predates the Old Covenant by several hundred years. When God called Israel out of Egypt and gave them His laws, He included the command to circumcise male babies (Leviticus 12:3). Circumcision identified the Israelites as physical descendants of Abraham, gave them a sense of national identity, and set them apart from other nations of the world.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Exodus 12:51

Verse 51 comes at the end of a paragraph that begins in verse 43. This verse does not mean that the Israelite men were circumcised "the very same day," but rather it refers back to verse 41: "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years."

At this point in the story, the males had already taken the Passover, and therefore the men had been circumcised previous to that. They could not have taken the Passover, which occurred at the beginning of Exodus 12, unless they had been circumcised. So this section then, from verse 43 through 51, is a reminder of an earlier command. They were not circumcised after Passover and immediately get up and leave Egypt! That would be physically impossible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame Day


 

Exodus 22:29-30

Here, God tells the Israelites that their firstborn cattle and sheep must be offered to Him on the eighth day of life. Likewise, the firstborn of the Israelite children—or rather the redeeming sacrificial lambs with which the parents bought back their newborn babies from God—must be offered on the babies' eighth day of life. In the case of a boy, this coincides with the day of his circumcision. The baby was "presented" to God at this time, and, although the parents had redeemed the baby, God still claimed the firstborn as being special to Him and still belonging to Him!

Note that the eighth-day presentation and offering were peculiar to the firstborn and was in addition to the sin offering and burnt offering (pigeons, turtledoves, or lambs) that were required for every other newborn baby and for the ritual purification of the mother: "Speak to the children of Israel, saying, 'If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. . . . And on the eighth day [he] . . . shall be circumcised'" (Leviticus 12:2-3).

Staff
The Law of the Firstborn


 

Deuteronomy 10:16

Two parties are necessary to circumcise the foreskin of our heart. In Deuteronomy 10:16, God tells us to "circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer." Here, He commands us to do the circumcising. Compare this to Deuteronomy 30:6, where God says He will perform the circumcision: "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart." These two passages do not contradict. God cannot create perfect, righteous character—that is the character of the new man—unilaterally. We build that character as we labor with God, cooperatively working with him over, generally, an extended period of time. That is what the Latinate word collaborate means, to "labor with."

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Deuteronomy 10:16

This is a command, an exhortation, and an admonition. It puts the responsibility for yielding on us. We are the ones that have to to submit. Circumcision, in this context, is something we must do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Jeremiah 6:10

God's Word offended them and caused them to stumble. It did not please them at all. They were not eager to use it as a guide for life. Because of this, they had "uncircumcised ears." That is an unusual metaphor. Could we have uncircumcised ears? No one has ever cut a bit of skin out of our ears, but God says that ears can be uncircumcised.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Matthew 23:15

Proselytes were common in the days of the apostles. Acts 2:10 records their presence, with the Jews, in Jerusalem on Pentecost. Nicolas, "a proselyte from Antioch," is numbered in Acts 6:5 as an original deacon. Finally, Acts 13:43, mentions "devout proselytes" who followed Paul in Antioch. In context, these clearly refer to Gentile proselytes to Judaism.

Indeed, Paul's problems with the circumcision party had its roots in the widespread Jewish practice of proselytism in those days. The members of this party - almost certainly (misguided) members of God's church - followed Paul from city to city, telling Gentile converts of their need for physical circumcision. They took their cues from Exodus 12:48 and other scriptures. These Jews were men of their age, and therefore took no exception to the practice of proselytism. Also, they apparently accepted the validity of Paul's commission to carry Christ's "name before Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Their only issue was physical circumcision. As a result of this controversy, the apostles had to redefine circumcision in its proper New Covenant terms.

In the New Testament, God clearly commissioned some to preach the gospel of God's Kingdom actively. Paul received such a commission, as Acts 9:15 clearly relates. Christ also commissioned His other apostles to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19). These commissions have their parallel in the commissions received by the Old Testament prophets. Examples include the prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1) and Jonah (Jonah 1).

It is important to recognize, though, that neither the Old Testament commissions to the prophets nor the New Testament commissions to the apostles remove the responsibility on the part of the people to be examples. God has always used this means - the example of His people - as a fundamental method of reaching others. As one excellent New Testament example, notice I Thessalonians 1:7-9, where Paul lauds the converts in Thessalonica, pointing out the breadth of their example to other church congregations and to the world at large:

. . . so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. . . .

So strong was their witness that Paul needed not "to say anything." These people certainly did not hide their light under a basket. Example can speak louder than preaching.

Charles Whitaker
Proselytism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Part One)


 

Luke 2:21-24

Some try to convince others that Jesus was born under the law by pointing out the scriptures that show His parents performing Old Covenant rituals. This includes His circumcision and giving the commanded offering after His birth. However, note that these were things that were done by Joseph and Mary, not by Christ Himself. Jesus was only eight days old at the time of His circumcision and was not even aware of what was going on.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?


 

Acts 10:44-48

The important thing here is something that is not even mentioned. No circumcision is required, which becomes important later. To whom does God reveal that one need not be circumcised to receive the Holy Spirit? They are all astonished, but Peter gives the authoritative answer, and it is to him that God speaks throughout these events. God does not reveal this to the other eleven but to Peter, first among equals, preeminent among them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Acts 15:1

In Acts 10:44-48, God did not require circumcision of the Gentile converts, and so a dispute arose in the church regarding circumcision and all it represented.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Acts 26:5

The Pharisees were strict, but wrong in their interpretation of the Scriptures. They were wrong primarily because their strictness was in the area of ritual purity and morality than true spirituality and ethics. Both by Jesus' and Paul's testimony, they were not living according to God's commandments as a way of life. Paul states clearly: "For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh" (Galatians 6:13).

A number of years earlier, Jesus said virtually the same thing, recorded in a couple of places:

"And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do. (Mark 7:7-8)

Mark 7:1 verifies that He was speaking to the Pharisees. They were zealously and religiously adhering to Halakah, which was an interpretation of both the written law, given at Mt. Sinai, and a collection of verbal or oral laws that had been passed from one generation to the next for centuries. This law they elevated to divine status. In so doing, they rejected the commandments of God.

When some in the Jewish faith merged their zealous practice of Halakah with Gnostic concepts, they became a persuasive and persistent enemy of the church. Gnosticism played a significant, background role in what Paul wrote in the book of Galatians.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Romans 2:25

In other words, even if one is circumcised, if he breaks the law, it becomes as if one were not circumcised.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Romans 2:26

This verse begins to clarify what makes a person circumcised or uncircumcised.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Romans 2:27-29

The law he is writing about here is obviously the Ten Commandments. Within this context is the Bible's definition of what God means by circumcision. Circumcision is broadly defined as "when one keeps the law." Uncircumcision is "when one breaks the law." He does not mean an occasional breaking of the law but consistently breaking it as a practice or as a way of life.

It was the shocking disparity between what the Pharisees urged others to do and what they did themselves that ignited Jesus' strong rebukes against them. Here, Paul accuses the typical Jew—not necessarily the Pharisee, the scribe, or the Sadducee—of bringing blasphemy against God by doing the same thing the Pharisees did. They taught and demanded one thing of others and did something else.

The Jews, then, had acquired a bad reputation throughout the Roman Empire by teaching one thing and doing another in the business of life. Thus, Paul says that, spiritually, they were uncircumcised. The average Jew was externally in conformity with the Covenant, but inwardly, as shown by the way that he lived his life—how he conducted his business, his family life—he may just as well have been as uncircumcised as a Gentile! There is a powerful lesson in this for us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Romans 4:11-13

Circumcision represents any work or any body of works that an individual might attempt to use as payment—they are unacceptable for this use, any and all of them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

1 Corinthians 7:18-19

Paul says so plainly that it is important to keep the commandments of God! There is no contradiction in the Scriptures. When Paul seems to write about a doing away with the law in Galatians 5, that perception is mistaken. These verses make it clear that it is very important for a person to keep God's commandments, but it is not important that he be circumcised. One changes the heart, and the other does not. The one builds character, the other does not. The one brings a person into the image of God, and the other does not. There is nothing wrong with the rite of circumcision, but do not expect it to have any spiritual impact.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Galatians 5:2-3

Remember, the overall subject here is justification by faith. Circumcison is certainly permissible, as Acts 16 says that Paul circumcised Timothy, so he is not talking about the actual cutting away of the foreskin. Here, though, circumcision stands for keeping the ceremonial additions to the law for the purpose of receiving justification. Circumcision is a symbol that stands for the whole law. We know this because he writes, "He is a debtor to the whole law." It is obvious that the whole law is not physically binding upon us, as the ceremonies—the various washings, sacrifices, and offerings—do not have to be kept.

However, there is no shortcut to discerning which laws are binding and which are not. We would like things to be tied up in neat little boxes, but God has not chosen to do it that way. We must study—comparing scripture with scripture—especially the words and examples of Christ and His apostles. We must also meditate, seeking God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

Galatians 6:12-16

Some had taught the Galatian Christians that "Gentile" Christians should become physically circumcised. Paul disagrees. He makes it plain that the real motive of those teaching this doctrine is to "make a good showing of the flesh . . . that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12; 5:11; I Corinthians 7:19; Romans 2:28-29). In verse 15, he asserts that "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but the new creation." Paul reiterates what he says in Galatians 5:6: What is important is a walk of "faith working through love." Upon those who so walk, the apostle concludes, will be "peace and mercy" (verse 16).

Physical descent - whether one is a Gentile or an Israelite - matters nothing. What matters is whether a person is nurturing the new man, once established by God, through a renewal process which involves walking in His law.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Galatians 6:12-16

In Galatians 6:12-16; Ephesians 2:10-18; and Colossians 3:9-11, Paul broaches the subject of circumcision. He often connects the new man with circumcision because he understands the symbolism behind circumcision, and so should we.

When practiced according to God's law, the ritual of circumcision pertains to men, that is, males, taking place on the eighth day after parturition. Eight is the number of "new beginnings," the idea being that seven is the number of perfection, and seven plus one - eight - restarts the cycle. Thus, the eighth day of the week is Sunday, in reality the beginning of the new week. The Last Great Day, which occurs eight days after the Feast of Tabernacles begins, looks forward to the day when God will make all things new. This is the important symbolic message behind physical circumcision: The boy - the man - circumcised on the eighth day is a "new man."

However, the new man of whom Paul speaks is not new because of physical circumcision. He is new because he has obeyed God's command to "circumcise the foreskin of [his] heart, and be stiff-necked no longer" (Deuteronomy 10:16, see Jeremiah 4:4). Paul, understanding this, claims that "circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit." "Heart," of course, refers to mind. The new man is new because he is "renewed in the spirit of [his] mind" (Ephesians 4:23). By definition, the new man is spiritually circumcised - circumcised in his mind.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Galatians 6:15

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any great importance in terms of conversion, the way of God. What is important is that there is a new creation. This verse, then, is really neither for nor against circumcision. It is only saying that what matters is whether a person has been divinely transformed into a morally new and different person. In that, there is great spiritual benefit, a new creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Galatians 6:15

The ritual itself does not change a person's heart, as it has no power to do so. However, what really avails, what is really important, is "a new creature," that is, a new creation: a person who is then born of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Ephesians 2:10-18

In verse 15, Paul says that God "create[s] in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace." The apostle defines what these "two" are in verse 11: "Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh - who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands. . . ." The two, Gentiles and Israelites, share one Spirit in Christ, "who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us" (verse 14). Whether physically Gentile or Israelite, those who have "put on the new man" have one Spirit, God's Holy Spirit.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Ephesians 5:27

The problem of sin is in man's thinking, which is why God says the problem is in the heart—in the mind. Humans are limited to thinking what is in their minds. If we have God's Word in our minds—along with the Holy Spirit—then there is a good chance that our minds will begin to change, to become circumcised, as it were—to be purified, to become holy as God is holy. God says, "My thoughts are higher than yours, better than yours—greater than the east is from the west." Yet, we have to take steps in that direction to begin thinking as He does.

A person who is not holy will not see God because they will not think as He does. Along the same lines, He will not recognize Himself in any of them! So, until the heart is changed, nothing will change. The change begins by taking in the Word of God on a daily basis and applying it in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

Colossians 2:11-13

In verses 11-13, Paul explains what Christ did for us and how those who have believed in Him are now spiritually circumcised. The subject under discussion is the means of our justification. Paul is saying that, when we repented and were baptized, the "old man" of sin was buried in a watery grave, and our sins were completely forgiven through our faith in the sacrifice of Christ. After being raised out of the water, we were "made alive" with Him and imputed to be righteous in God's sight. Paul refers to this process as "circumcision made without hands," that is, spiritual circumcision.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was God's Law Nailed to the Cross?


 

Colossians 2:11-13

Paul shows that circumcision typifies putting off the old man of sin that is buried in a watery grave at baptism. After being raised from the water in newness of life (Romans 6:4), the repentant sinner stands before God perfect, holy, and sinless. The process of spiritual circumcision is complete, and the symbol of physical circumcision is fulfilled.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Find more Bible verses about Circumcision:
Circumcision {Nave's}
Circumcision {Torrey's}
 




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