Circumcision- Token of the Covenant

Circumcision- Token of the Covenant
By
James Scott Trimm

The ancient so-called “Church Father” Epiphanius writes of the ancient Nazarenes:

But these sectarians… did not call themselves Christians–but “Nazarenes,” … However they are simply complete Jews. They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do… They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion– except for their belief in Messiah, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that Elohim is one, and that his son is Yeshua the Messiah. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the Prophets, and the… Writings… are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by the Jews. They are different from the Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Messiah; but since they are still fettered by the Law–circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest– they are not in accord with Christians…. they are nothing but Jews…. They have the Goodnews according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear that they still preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written.
(Epiphanius; Panarion 29)

CIRCUMCISION – ETERNAL TOKEN OF THE COVENANT

Circumcision is first mentioned in the Torah in Genesis 17 where it is introduced to Avraham as an eternal token of the Covenant:

9 And Elohim said unto Avraham: And as for you, you shall keep My covenant you, and your seed after you throughout their generations.
10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your seed after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.
11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of a covenant between Me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old, shall be circumcised among you–every male throughout your generations–he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner, that is not of your seed.
13 He that is born in your house and he that is bought with your money, must needs be circumcised. And My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people: he has broken My covenant.
(Gen. 17:9-14 HRV)

Later in the Torah we read:

And YHWH said unto Moshe and Aharon: ‘This is the ordinance of the Pesach: there shall no alien eat thereof;
but every man’s servant that is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat thereof.
In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry forth aught of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall you break a bone thereof.
All the assembly of Yisra’el shall keep it.
And when a stranger shall sojourn with you, and will keep the Pesach to YHWH, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land; but no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
One Torah shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourns among you.’
(Ex. 12:43-49 HRV)

Now there are a number of things we can learn from this passage:

1. All the “Assembly” of Israel must eat the Passover.
2. No uncircumcised male can eat the Passover.

From these two facts we may conclude that:

If all the Assembly eat the Passover,
and if no uncircumcised males eat the Passover,
then no uncircumcised males are part of the Assembly.

This is an inescapable categorical proposition drawn from the plain statements in Exodus 12:43-49.

Now from Acts 15 we also know that one does not have to be circumcised to be saved. Thus we can add another fact to our reasoning:

3. Some uncircumcised males are saved.

Now if no uncircumcised males are part of the Assembly, and if some uncircumcised males are saved, Then some saved persons are not part of the Assembly.

Again this is an inescapable categorical proposition draws from the facts plainly laid out in Ex. 12:43-49 and Acts 15.

There are in fact some saved persons who are not part of the Body of Messiah, the Assembly of Israel.

UNDERSTANDING ACTS 15

Many have wrongly cited Acts 15 as proof that circumcision has been abolished:

1. And men came down from Y’hudah and were teaching the brothers,
Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of the Torah, you are not able to have life [eternal].

Comments:

In Acts 15 we have a halachic issue being settled by the Rosh Beit Din. In order to understand the proceedings of that meeting and its ruling we must know what the issue was that was before it. In this case Paul’s position is not clearly spelled out in the pashat only his opponents’ position is clearly spelled out in the pashat.

Paul’s opponents’ position is:

“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of the Torah,
you are not able to have life [eternal].”

Now we must ask ourselves: “What are the implications or ramifications of this position?”

We have a good model to work from. A similar position is held today by a group called the “Church of Christ” also known as “Campbelites”. These teach that a person must be baptized in order to be saved. This has resulted in a debate between them and other protestants (especially Baptists). The Baptists often pose the situation of a man who becomes a believer while across the street from a Church of Christ Church. He immediately runs across the street to get baptized and is hit by a truck and killed. the baptists point out that this man according to the Church of Christ position would not be saved. Many Church of Christ evangelists run around with keys to their church so that at any time they can go get that baptism immediately, perchance the person dies before an more opportune time comes.

This would also be the mindset of Paul’s opponents of Acts 15:1. They would believe that that person should become circumcised immediately upon becoming a believer perchance they die before doing so.

The more traditional view in Judaism differs. The more traditional view is that since circumcision and immersion mark the point at which a person becomes a Jew, that they must learn the Torah first. This is because if they are circumcised and become a Jew before learning the 613 commandments of the Torah then they will immediately be violating commandments that they do not know, bringing judgement down upon our whole people (Deut. 28-29 & Lev. 26) . The traditional Jewish approach is therefore to teach the new believer the Torah first.

Now we can see from the remez what Paul’s position is. The opponents are teaching that a person must be circumcised immediately to be saved and then taught the Torah. Paul was teaching that they should first learn the Torah.

2. And Paul and Bar Nabba had much strife and dispute with them. And it happened that they sent up Paul and Bar Nabba, and others with them, to the emissaries and elders who were in Yerushalayim, because of this dispute.

COMMENTS:

So they took the matter to the beit din.

3. And the assembly escorted [and] all of Phenicia and also among the
Samaritans while recounting concerning the conversion of the Gentiles, and causing great joy to all the brothers.

COMMENTS: Notice that Paul has been converting Gentiles !?!?!?!

4. And when they came to Yerushalayim, they were received by the
assembly and by the emissaries and by the elders, and they recounted to them all that Eloah had done with them.
5. And men stood up, those from the teaching of the Parushim who had believed, and were saying, It is necessary for you to circumcise them and you should command them to observe the Torah of Moshe.

COMMENTS:

Here the opponents argument is only abbreviated. Here it is stated as:

“It is necessary for you to circumcise them
and you should command them to observe the Torah of Moshe.”

Why does it say this? This on the surface does not even look like the same argument they were making in Acst 15:1. However if we recall our remez it makes perfect sense. This is a statement of chronology:

[first] It is necessary for you to circumcise them
and [second] you should command them to observe the Torah of Moshe.

Now we can see that they are still making the same argument as in 15:1.

6. And the emissaries and elders were gathered to look into this matter.
7. And when there had been much debate, Shimon stood up and said to
them, Men, our brothers, you know that from the first days from my mouth, Eloah chose that the Gentiles should hear the word of the b’sorah and trust.
8. And Eloah, who knows what is in hearts, gave testimony concerning
them and gave to them the Ruach HaKodesh as [he did] to us.
9. And he made no distinction between us and them, because he
purified their hearts by trust.

COMMENTS: Kefa addresses the opponent’s position as fully stated in Acts 15:1. He points to evidence (from Acts 10-11) that salvation precedes circumcision.

10. And now, why do you tempt Eloah so that you place a yoke upon the necks of the talmidim which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11. But by the favor of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah we believe to have life, like them.

COMMENTS: The “yoke” her in context is NOT the Torah (although often the Torah is likened to a yoke). The context here is clear. Kefa is calling the argument of Paul’ opponents a “yoke”. Thus the “Yoke” in this passage involves earning salvation by works such as circumcision.

Kefa appeals to the patriarchs as an example. Abraham for example was saved by trust first in Gen. 15:6 and was circumcised LATER in Gen. 17.

Now Kefa has given two case examples:

1. Cornelius and his house (Acts 10-11)

2. The patriarch (especially Abraham) (Gen. 15:6 & Gen. 17)

In both cases Kefa points out that salvation preceded circumcision. (although in at least one of them circumcision still came later).

12. And all the assembly was silent and listened to Paul and Bar Nabba
who were recounting everything Eloah had done by their hands: signs and mighty deeds among the Gentiles.

COMMENTS: This parallels verse 3 where Paul is recounting conversions. Paul is likening these cases to the two case examples that Kefa has presented.

13. And after they were quiet, Ya’akov stood up and said, Men, our
brothers, hear me.
14. Shimon recounted to you how Eloah began to choose from the Gentiles
a people for his name.
15. And to this the words of the prophets agree, like that which is
written,
16. After these [things] I will return and set up the tabernacle of
David which has fallen, and I will rebuild that which has fallen of it
and I will raise it up,
17. So that the remnant of men might seek YHWH, and all the Gentiles,
on whom my name is called, says YHWH who made all these [things].
18. The works of Eloah are known from old.
19. Because of this I say, They should not trouble those who from the
Gentiles have turned toward Eloah.
20. But let it be sent to them that they should separate [themselves]
from the uncleanness of that which is sacrificed [to idols] and from sexual immorality and from that which is strangled and from blood.
21. For Moshe, from the first generations, had proclaimers in every
city in the synagogues, who read him on every shabbat.

COMMENTS: A fuller version of the ruling is given below where verse 20 is expanded so I will comment upon it there.

However it is significant that Ya’akov presumes that these gentiles will be hearing [the Torah] of Moshe proclaimed in the synagogues on Shabbat.

Ya’akov seems to say here that the gentiles would need to maintain a minimum standard of purity and learn the Torah BEFORE becoming circumcised. Remember the issue being heard involves chronology of three things:

1. Becoming circumcised
2. Obtaining salvation/eternal life
3. Instruction in the Torah of Moshe

The above chronology is that of Paul’s opponents. The beit din is determining if this is true or if another chronology should be followed, namely:

1. Obtaining salvation/eternal life
2. Instruction in the Torah of Moshe
3. Becoming circumcised

Paul’s opponents placed circumcision first in the chronology, while Paul placed it last.

The beit-din agrees with Paul.

22. Then the Emissaries and elders, with all the assembly, chose men
from them and sent to Antioch, with Paul and Bar Nabba, Y’hudah who was called Bar Sabba, and Sila, men who were chiefs among the brothers.
23. And they wrote a letter by their hands [saying] thus: The
emissaries and elders and brothers, to those who are in Antioch and in
Syria and in Cilicia, brothers who are from the Gentiles, shalom.
24. It has been heard by us that men from us have gone out and
disturbed you with words and have upset your nefeshim while saying that you must be circumcised and observe the Torah, which we did not command them.

COMMENT: Again note the chronology of Paul’s opponents:

[1] you must be circumcised
[2] and observe the Torah

Each of the three times their position is stated it is abbreviated more (15:1, 5 & 24)

If we put them altogether to get the fullest form of their argument we get:

“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of the Torah,
you are not able to have life [eternal].”
[therefore] It is necessary for you to circumcise them [first]
and [second] you should command them to observe the Torah of Moshe.

25. Because of this, all of us, while gathered together, purposed and
chose men and sent to you, with our beloved Paul and Bar Nabba,
26. Men who have committed themselves on behalf of the name of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
27. And we have sent with them Y’hudah and Sila who will tell you these same [things] by speech.
28. For it was the will of the Ruach HaKodesh and also of us that a
greater burden should not be placed on you, outside of those [things] that are necessary,
29. That you should abstain from that which is sacrificed [to idols]
and from blood and from[that which] is strangled and from sexual
immorality, that as you keep your nefeshim from these, you will do well. Be steadfast in our Lord.

COMMENTS: Note the phrase “a greater burden” this is not an exhaustive list but the furthest parameters. The questionable areas made clear. There was no doubt as to whether gentiles could murder or steal so these are not listed. Thus the furthest limits of idolatry would extend to include eating meat offered to idols etc. With this in mind these closely parallel the seven laws of Noach. Also thse would set purity rules which would allow these gentiles to interact with the Torah observant community while learning the Torah.

CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART

Paul writes of a “circumcision of the heart”:

28 For he is not a Jew who is one in appearance [only]: also what is made visible in the flesh [alone] is not circumcision.
29 But that one is a Jew, who [is one] secretly: and circumcision is that of the heart by the Spirit, and not by the letter [only]; whose praise is not from men, but from Eloah.
(Rom. 2:28-29 HRV)

11 And by Him, you were circumcised with the Circumcision which is not by our hands, by the putting off of the flesh of sins, by circumcision of the Messiah.
(Col. 2:11 HRV)

Some have wrongly taught that this circumcision of the heart is a new circumcision that has replaced physical circumcision of the flesh. However this circumcision of the heart was not a substitute for physical circumcision nor a substitute for Torah observance in general. To the contrary the Torah itself speaks of the circumcision of the heart:

40 And they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, in their treachery which they committed against Me: and also that they have walked contrary unto Me.
41 I also will walk contrary unto them, and bring them into the land of their enemies. If then perchance, their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they then be paid the punishment of their iniquity,
42 Then will I remember My covenant with Ya’akov, and also My covenant with Yitz’chak, and also My covenant with Avraham will I remember: and I will remember the land.
(Lev. 26:40-42 HRV)

In Lev. 26 we read a series of curses which will come upon Israel for failing to observe the Torah, and the Torah refers

to those who do not observe Torah as having an “uncircumcised heart”.

Next we read of circumcision of the heart in Deuteronomy:

16 Circumcise therefore, the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.
(Deut. 10:16 HRV)

In fact in this section of Torah we are told to circumcise our heart (Deut. 10:16) love YHWH with all our heart and keep his commandments (Deut. 11:1, 13) and place the Torah in our heart (Deut.11:18). Thus

circumcision of the heart would seem to involve loving YHWH and keeping his commandments and and placing the Torah in our hearts:

1 Therefore you shall love YHWH your Elohim, and keep His charge, and His statutes, and His ordinances, and His commandments, alway….
13 And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love YHWH your Elohim, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,…
18 Therefore shall you lay up these, My words, in your heart and in your soul. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
(Deut. 11:1, 13, 18 HRV)

Also as the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel also referred to the this circumcision of the heart:

4 Circumcise yourselves to YHWH, and take away the foreskins of your heart, you men of Y’hudah and inhabitants of Yerushalayim: lest My fury go forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
(Jer. 4:4 HRV)

24 (9:25) Behold, the days come, says YHWH, that I will punish all them that are circumcised in their uncircumcision:
25 (9:26) Egypt and Y’hudah, and Edom and the children of Ammon, and Mo’av and all that have the corners of their hair polled; that dwell in the wilderness. For all the nations are uncircumcised, but all the House of Yisra’el are uncircumcised in the heart.
(Jer. 9:24-25 (25-26) HRV)

9 Thus says the Adonai YHWH: No alien, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My sanctuary–even any alien that is among the children of Yisra’el.
(Ezek. 44:9 HRV)

The circumcision of the heart is not a new “New Testament” replacement for the circumcision of the flesh. In fact the Torah and Prophets speak of the circumcision of the heart in terms of Torah observance (which by definition would include circumcision of the flesh).

IS THERE NO PROFIT IN CIRCUMCISION?

In arguing against circumcision many will cite Gal. 5:2. Interestingly there is an apparent contradiction between Gal. 5:2 and Rom. 3:1-2:

Behold, I Paul say to you, that if you be circumcised,
Christ shall profit you nothing.
(Gal. 5:2 KJV)

What advantage then hath the Jew?
or what profit is there of circumcision?
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them
were committed the oracles of God.
(Rom. 3:1-2 KJV)

So what is the profit in circumcision? Is it “nothing” as we read in Gal. 5:2 or “much every way” as we read in Romans 3:1-2?

The key is in understanding Galations 5:2 in context. At first glance one might think after reading this verse that this one verse disproves the entire case made throughout this article. But the key is that we must take the verse in context. One basic rule of hermeneutics is to ask yourself “who is speaking?” and “who is being spoken to?” Now we know that Paul is the speaker, but who is the “you” in Gal. 5:2? Is it the Galatians in general? Is it all mankind? Is it the modern reader? The answer to all of these quertions is “no”. If we look up just a little bit in Paul’s letter here we will see that Gal. 5:2 is the summary of an argument that he initiates in Gal. 4:21 and which he illustrates in Gal. 4:22-31.

Gal. 4:21 tells us exactly who the “you” in 5:2 is. He writes:

Tell me, you that desire to be under the law,
do you not hear the law?
Gal. 4:21

Note that “you” is defined in 4:21 as “you that desire to be under the law” Thus Gal. 5:2 should be understood to mean:

Behold, I Paul say
to you, [that desire to be under the law]
that if you be circumcised,
Christ shall profit you nothing

Now the phrase “under the law” does not refer to the Torah itself but to a false teaching that was never true. This phrase may best be understood from its usage in Rom. 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace.” Paul, therefore, sees “under grace” and “under the law” as diametrically opposed, one cannot be both. The truth is that since we have always been under grace (see Gen. 6:8; Ex. 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer. 31:2) we have never been “under the law”. This is because the Torah was created for man, man was not created for the Torah (see Mk. 2:27). “Under the law” then, is not an obsolete Old Testament system, but a false teaching, which was never true.

So Paul is telling these people who are ready to apostatize and seek salvation through the false “under the law” doctrine, that their circumcisions will profit them nothing. Following the context then the rest of Gal. 5 is addressed to the “you that desire to be under the law” of 4:21.

Now let us examine the midrash Paul gives in Gal. 4:22-31. Remember now, we know from Gal. 4:21 that Paul is going to be illustrating a contrast between the Torah and the “under the law” teaching. The parable may be illustrated in a chart as follows:

The Torah is freedom. False teachings such as the “under the law” teaching brings only bondage.

Galatians 5:2 (and this is echoed through the rest of Galatians) tells apostates that their circumcision will not profit them anything, but Romans 3:1-2 tells believers that circumcision profits “much every way”.

SHOULD AN UNCIRCUMCISED MAN REMAIN UNCIRCUMCISED?

Paul also writes:

18 If a man was called while circumcised, he should not return to un-circumcision: and if he was called in un-circumcision, he should not be circumcised.
19 For circumcision is not anything, neither un-circumcision: but the observances of the commandments of Eloah.
(1Cor. 7:18-19 HRV)

Many have isolated this passage out of context in an effor to prove that anyone who is uncircumcised should not become circumcised.

In order to understand what Paul is saying here, we must understand the context of his statement. 1Cor. Chapter 7 is a very confusing section of scripture. To begin with this section unusually delineated Paul’s opinions from YHWH’s commands.

7:6 But this I say as to the weak (or sickly) not by commandment.

7:10 It is not from me but from the Master.

7:12 I say–I, not the Master.

7:17 The rule *I* lay down.

7:25 I do not have a command from the Master, but I offer an opinion.

7:40 In my opinion

Among the personal opinions Paul lays out in this chapter are a controversial call to remain unmarried (7:8) and uncircumcised (7:18-19).

In order to understand this passage we must understand some things about the Torah. During the forty years in the wilderness none of the newborn were being circumcised, as we read in the Book of Joshua:

2 At that time YHWH said unto Yahushua: Make you knives of flint, and circumcise again the children of Yisra’el, the second time.
3 And Yahushua made him knives of flint, and circumcised the children of Yisra’el at Giv’at-ha-araloth.
4 And this is the cause, why Yahushua did circumcise all the people that came forth out of Egypt that were males: even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came forth out of Egypt.
5 For all the people that came out were circumcised, but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way, as they came forth out of Egypt, had not been circumcised.
6 For the children of Yisra’el walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation– even the men of war that came forth out of Egypt–were consumed: because they hearkened not unto the voice of YHWH, unto whom YHWH swore that He would not let them see the land, which YHWH swore unto their fathers that He would give us–a land flowing with milk and honey.
7 And He raised up their children in their stead; them did Yahushua circumcise, for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised by the way.
8 And it came to pass, when all the nation were circumcised, every one of them, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole.
(Joshua 5:2-8 HRV)

Now you might ask whe were these circumcisions not taking place during the forty years in wilderness. The Talmud poses this same question and records the following tradition:

Why were they not circumcised in the wilderness? If you wish I might
say: Because of the fatigue of the journey; and if you prefer I might
say: Because the North wind1 did not blow upon them. For it was
taught: In all the forty years during which Israel was in the
wilderness the North wind did not blow upon them. What was the reason?
If you wish I might say: Because they were under divine displeasure.
And if you prefer I might say: In order that the clouds of glory might
not be scattered.

Rabbi Papa said: Hence, no circumcision may be performed on a cloudy day or on a day when the South wind blows; nor may one be bled on such a
day. At the present time, however, since many people are in the habit
of disregarding these precautions, The Lord preserves the simple.

The Pharisaic Rabbis taught: In all the forty years during which Israel was in the wilderness there was not a day on which the North wind did not
blow at the midnight hour; for it is said, And it came to pass at
midnight, that the Lord smote all the firstborn etc. How is the
deduction arrived at?” By this we were taught that an acceptable time
is an essential.
(b.Yeb. 71b-72a)

Earlier in this chapter of 1Corinthians Paul also gives the opinion:

But I speak to those who do not have wives and to widows,
that it is profitable for them to remain like me…
(1Cor. 7:8)

Now we read in the Book of Jasher:

And Noah… refrained from taking a wife in those days,
to beget children, for he said, Surely now Elohim will destroy the earth,
wherefore then shall I beget children.
(Jasher 5:12)

So what was the basis of Paul’s opinion in 1Corinthians 7?

Paul wites:

If a man was called while circumcised, he should not return to uncircumcision. And if he was called in un-circumcision, he should not be circumcised.

…because of the urgency of the time…
…[because] the time is now shortened…
…[and because] the fashion of this world passes away.
(1Cor. 7:18-19, 26, 29, 31)

And likewise Paul said:

But I speak to those who do not have wives and to widows,
that it is profitable for them to remain like me.
(1Cor. 7:8)

Likewise Paul says this was
…because of the urgency of the time…
…[because] the time is now shortened…
…[and because] the fashion of this world passes away.
(1Cor. 7:26, 29, 31)

Paul’s opinion here is not against physical circumcision, but that because of dangers they were living in at that particular time and place, conditions were no more suitable for circumcision than they had been in the wilderness, nor for marriage in the days before the flood. However the people in the wilderness did eventually get circumcised before entering the promised land, and Noah eventually received instruction to get married and had children inspite the danger of the times. Regardless of whether or not we agree with Paul’s opinion in this passage, it was no more anti-Torah than the abstinence form circumcision during the forty years in the wilderness. Moreover we do not live in the same time and place as the situation Paul was addressing in Corinth at that time. Anyone who argues that believers should not get circumcised based on Paul’s “opinion” in 1Cor. 7:18-19 must also argue that believers should not get married based on Paul’s Parallel opinion in 1Cor. 7:8. Likewise if believers should still get married in spite of 1Cor. 7:8 then they should also get circumcised in spite of 1Cor. 7:18-19.

Why Titus was not Compelled to be Circumcised (Gal. 2:3)

Many who teach that circumcision is not for today will cite Galatians 2:3 saying that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised, but what does that really mean?

Even Titus that was with me, who was an Aramean,
was not compelled to be circumcised.
(Gal. 2:3 HRV)

“compelled” = The Aramaic word here is IT’ENAS literally “to be forced” from a root meaning “to act violently”.

The text is telling us not that Titus was not circumcised, but that he had done so voluntarily and not been circumcised by force as the Maccabeans had done:

Then Mattathias and his friends went round about, and pulled down the altars:
And what children soever they found within the coast of Israel uncircumcised, those they circumcised by force.
1Macc. 2:45-46

In fact a comparison with Acts 15-16 will show that at this same time Timothy was also circumcised voluntarily and not by force.

Paul advocated the Pharisaic teaching of Antigones of Soko (who lived in the Maccabean era):

Antigones of Soko received [Torah] from Simeon the Righteous.
He used to say, “Be not like servants who serve their master
for the sake of wages, but be like servants who serve their
master with no thought of a wage – and let the fear
of Heaven be upon you.”
(m.Avot 1:3)

Paul did not want people to be circumcised by compulsion, either by the offer of a reward or the threat of a punishment, but from their own heart, out of the fear (respect) of YHWH, not trying to earn anything. This was at odds with hie Essene opponent who was compelling circumcisions as a method of earning salvation.

Is Circumcision Mutilation of the Flesh? (Phil. 3:2)

Another passage that has been frequently quoted in an attempt to wrongly teach that circumcision has been abolished is Philippians 3:2.  The following are a number of translations of this verse taken from the Greek:

Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.
(Phil. 3:2 NIV)

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;
(Phil. 3:2 NAS)

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
(Phil. 3:2 KJV)

Some have even mistranslated the Aramaic so as to agree with the false Greek reading:

Beware of dogs; beware of evildoers; beware of the circumcisers.
(Phil. 3:2  Aramaic Bible in Plain English, Bauscher)

Beware of vicious men, beware of evil workers, beware of circumcising.
(Phil. 3:2 Lamsa)

However this translation is totally without basis in the Aramaic.  The Aramaic literally reads, as it is rendered in the HRV:

Beware of dogs; beware of evildoers; beware of the cutting of flesh.
(Phil. 3:2 HRV)

The Aramaic is also similarly translated in the Murdock and Etheridge translations:

Beware of dogs; beware of evil doers; beware of the clipped in flesh.
(Phil. 3:2  Murdock)

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the cutting of the flesh.
(Phil. 3:2  Etheridge)

This passage is not speaking about circumcision at all.  Instead it is referring back to the Gentile practice of making tatoos forbidden by the Torah:

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you: I am YHWH.
(Lev. 19:28 HRV)

CONCLUSION

 

The ancient Nazarenes did in fact continue to practice physical circumcision of the flesh, just as Epiphanius records, because the Torah teaches us that circumcision of the flesh is a token of our covenant with YHWH for all generations forever. Circumcision is not now, nor has it ever been a path to salvation, and therefore one may be saved without being circumcised. At the same time one must be circumcised to be part of the Assembly of Israel.

 

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