Bible Articles on the Topic of Circumcision

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

Help with Old Testament Allusions

...Of much greater value are the instances when the Septuagint helps appreciably with the understanding of obscure passages. “Beware of dogs, beware of the concision,” wrote Paul in curt contempt (Philippians 3:2). It was obviously a slighting reference to Judaists with their confidence in circumcision (see v. 3). But the point of it comes out so much more when the same Greek word is traced to the ordeal of Elijah on mount Carmel. Then the priests of Baal sought to commend themselves to the attention of their god by the way they “cut themselves... with knives and lancets” (1 Kings 18:28). To liken dedicated Judaists to such men was an act of temerity. Yet what fundamental difference was there? For these zealots for the Law also sought the favour of Jehovah by “cutting themselves with knives and lancets.”

Circumcisional Progression in Paul’s Letters

Beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:2-3)

Who Would Forge a Letter on Circumcision?

The argument of this epistle in some measure proves its antiquity. It will hardly be doubted, but that it was written whilst the dispute concerning the circumcision of Gentile converts was fresh in men’s minds: for, even supposing it to have been a forgery, the only credible motive that can be assigned for the forgery, was to bring the name and authority of the apostle into this controversy. No design could be so insipid, or so unlikely to enter into the thoughts of any man, as to produce an epistle written earnestly and pointedly upon one side of a controversy, when the controversy itself was dead, and the question no longer interesting to any description of readers whatever.

Paul, Puppies and Tattoos

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:1-3)

Why Did God Seek To Kill Moses?

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. (Exodus 4:24)

Commentary: Joshua 5:5

“The people that were born in the wilderness were NOT circumcised.” (Joshua 5:5)

Surgery: Circumcision

No account of surgery in the Bible would be complete without mention of the exceedingly common and important operation of circumcision. The spiritual implications of the act of cutting off of the flesh and casting it away are reflected throughout Scripture from Abraham onwards, but for a moment we must consider the medical implications of this act as well. It is an operation practised in many parts of the world and in many races it has become part of tribal ritual (the earliest Egyptian mummies, B.C. 2300, were circumcised). In this country it was practised widely until 1949 when a paper was published in the British Medical Journal¹ criticising the operation as being unnecessary in the great majority of cases; it is now seldom performed except when very definite indications are present. Nevertheless, Jewish children are still invariably circumcised on the eighth day by a specially appointed rabbi, who, it must be confessed, performs this operation with more expertness and skill than the finest surgeons in the country.


Cutting around. This rite, practised before, as some think, by divers races, was appointed by God to be the special badge of his chosen people, an abiding sign of their consecration to him. It was established as a national ordinance (Genesis 17:10, 11). In compliance with the divine command, Abraham, though ninety-nine years of age, was circumcised on the same day with Ishmael, who was thirteen years old (17:24-27). Slaves, whether home-born or purchased, were circumcised (17:12, 13); and all foreigners must have their males circumcised before they could enjoy the privileges of Jewish citizenship (Exodus 12:48). During the journey through the wilderness, the practice of circumcision fell into disuse, but was resumed by the command of Joshua before they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 5:2-9). It was observed always afterwards among the tribes of israel, although it is not expressly mentioned from the time of the settlement in Canaan till the time of Christ, about 1,450 years. The Jews prided themselves in the possession of this covenant distinction (Judges 14:3; 15:18; 1 Samuel 14:6; 17:26; 2 Samuel 1:20; Ezekiel 31:18).


sûr-kum-sizh ́un (מול, mūl, מולת, mūlōth; περιτομή, peritomḗ): The removal of the foreskin is a custom that has prevailed, and prevails, among many races in different parts of the world—in America, Africa and Australia. It was in vogue among the western Semites—Hebrews, Arabians, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Egyptians, but was unknown among the Semites of the Euphrates. In Canaan the Philistines were an exception, for the term “uncircumcised” is constantly used in connection with them. Generally speaking, the rite of circumcision was a precondition of the enjoyment of certain political and religious privileges (Exodus 12:48; Ezekiel 44:9); and in view of the fact that in the ancient world religion played such an important role in life, it may be assumed that circumcision, like many other strange customs whose original significance is no longer known, originated in connection with religion. Before enumerating the different theories which have been advanced with regard to the origin and original significance of circumcision, it may be of advantage to consider some of the principal references to the rite in the Old Testament.


fōr ́skin (ערלה, ‛orlāh; ἀκροβυστία, akrobustía, often euphemistically translated “uncircumcision”):


Circumcision, (מוּלָה, mulah’; Sept. and N.T. technically περιτομή, which is translated by the Latin circumcisio, i.e. a cutting around), a custom among many Eastern nations of cutting off part of the prepuce, as a religious ceremony. The Jews, through Abraham, received the rite from Jehovah; Moses established it as a national ordinance; and Joshua carried it into effect before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan (see generally Michaelis, Laws of Moses, 4:30 sq.). Males only were subjected to the operation, and it was to be performed on the eighth day of the child’s life; foreign slaves also were forced to submit to it on entering an Israelite’s family. Those who are unacquainted with other sources of information on the subject besides the Scriptures might easily suppose that the rite was original with Abraham, characteristic of his seed, and practiced among those nations only who had learned it from them. This, however, appears not to have been the case (Celsus, ap. Orig. contra Celsum, 1:17, 250; Julian, ap. Cyril, contra Julian. 10:354; compare Marsham, Canon Chron. p. 73 sq.; Bauer, Gottesdienstl. Verfass. 1, 37 sq.; Jahn, I, 2, 277 sq.; see Borheck, Ist die Beschneidung urspriinglich hebraisch? [Duisb. and Lemgo, 1793]).


Uncircumcised, (עָרֵל i.e. having a foreskin, ἀκροβυστίαν ἔχων; and so ἀκροβυστία, the prepuce, alone, for “uncircumcision”), a word literally denoting a heathen among the Jews. So also it is sometimes used figuratively “of uncircumcised lips,” i.e. dull of speech; stammering, one whose lips still have, as it were, the foreskin, and are therefore too thick and large to bring out words easily and fluently (Exodus 6:12,30). So, likewise “their ear is uncircumcised,” shut up by a foreskin (Jeremiah 6:10); also “their uncircumcised heart,” to which the precepts of religion and piety cannot penetrate (Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:9; Isaiah 6:10; Acts 7:51; James 1:21; Colossians 2:13). So, also, “the foreskin of a tree” i.e. uncircumcised fruit, the fruit of the first three years, which by the law was to be regarded as unclean (Leviticus 19:23). SEE CIRCUMCISION.

Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision


The Circumcision: Small Plate (17th c. etching) (detail)


The Circumcision: Small Plate (17th c. etching)


Brit milah

The brit milah (Hebrew: בְּרִית מִילָה‎, [bʁit miˈla]; Ashkenazi pronunciation: [bʁis ˈmilə], “covenant of circumcision”; Yiddish pronunciation: bris [b?ɪs]) is a Jewish religious male circumcision ceremony performed by a mohel (“circumciser”) on the eighth day of a male infant’s life. The brit milah is followed by a celebratory meal (seudat mitzvah).

Circumcision controversy in early Christianity

The Council of Jerusalem during the Apostolic Age of the history of Christianity did not include religious male circumcision as a requirement for new gentile converts. This became known as the “Apostolic Decree” and may be one of the first acts differentiating early Christianity from Judaism. Circumcision was enjoined upon the biblical patriarch Abraham, his descendants and their slaves as “a token of the covenant” concluded with him by God for all generations, as an “everlasting covenant”. ([Genesis 17:13])


Male circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the human penis. In the most common procedure, the foreskin is opened, adhesions are removed, and the foreskin is separated from the glans. After that, the circumcision device (if used) is placed, and then the foreskin is cut off. Topical or locally injected anesthesia is occasionally used to reduce pain and physiologic stress. For adults and children, general anesthesia is an option, and the procedure may be performed without a specialized circumcision device. The procedure is most often an elective surgery performed on babies and children for religious and cultural reasons. In other cases it may be done as a treatment for a condition or for preventative reasons. Medically, it is a treatment option for problematic cases of phimosis, balanoposthitis that does not resolve with other treatments, and chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs). It is contraindicated in cases of certain genital structure abnormalities or poor general health.