Truth About Circumcision

Study No. 134

Circumcision is a very important subject in the Bible. There is much  ignorance on this subject today, so it behooves us to examine what the  Bible says about circumcision. In so doing, we will discover valuable information helping us to understand conversion and salvation.

Circumcision in the Old Testament

The Hebrew word for "circumcision" is mool, Strongís #4135, meaning also to cut short, cut in pieces, destroy. We are first introduced to circumcision in Genesis 17, where God instituted a covenant with 99-year-old Abram. The sign, or token, of that covenant was circumcision.

And he that is eight days old [margin: "a son of eight days"] shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed Genesis 17:12.

Abraham did not delay circumcising all his male household, Genesis 17:23-27. Verse 14 adds that Abrahamís descendants who are not circumcised have broken Godís covenant and shall be cut off. Circumcision thus became a most important sign of Godís people.

As a practical matter, one should note that a baby is not a day old the same day he is born. An eight-day-old baby is eight days old when he has lived eight days, that is, on the ninth day of his life. Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when Isaac was eight days old, Genesis 21:4. Later, a statute restated the requirement for eight day old male babies to be circumcised, Leviticus 12:3.

Physical Aspects of Law of Circumcision

In todayís world of science and technology, the laws of the Almighty are often ridiculed and maligned. Dr. S. I. McMillen, in his book, None of These Diseases, pages 85-96, demonstrates the wisdom of the Almighty in His laws of health, particularly circumcision. Circumcision among Israel did not derive from tribal taboos of a primitive and ignorant culture. Circumcision is a divinely revealed law of health. Dr. McMillen cites exhaustive scientific studies proving that God knew what He was talking about by requiring eight day old boys to be circumcised. Squamous-cell carcinoma (cancer of the penis) is almost unknown among males who have been circumcised. Female uterine cervix cancer has been linked to sexual relations with uncircumcised males. "Most experts," McMillen states, "feel that these cancers are caused by smegma, a filthy and foul-smelling paste of bacteria and dead cells trapped under the foreskin," (page 89).

But why the eighth day? Did God know what He was doing? He sure did! After years of research, scientists have finally discovered that the age of eight days is the safest and best time to circumcise a male.

At birth a babyís intestines contain no bacteria. Between the fifth to seventh day of life, these bacteria begin to proliferate and produce the important vitamin K. This vitamin goes to the liver where it plays an important part in forming four different clotting proteins. If any one of these proteins is missing, serious bleeding may result . . . . One of the proteins dependent on vitamin K is called pro-thrombin . . . An average eight-day-old baby has more available prothrombin than on any other day of his life (McMillen, page 92)

This is not a coincidence. It is proof of the validity of the Almightyís laws. Even the manner of circumcision prescribed by God, flint knives (Joshua 5:2, margin), demonstrates the physical concern of our loving Creator for cleanliness. Such newly sharpened knives are practically sterile.

McMillen concludes that just as physical circumcision prevents disease, so also does spiritual circumcision. Spiritual circumcision is putting off sexual immorality, evil desires, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying, Colossians 2:11; 3:5, 8, 9. "And they that are Christís have crucified the flesh with the affections [passions] and lusts" Galatians 5:24. As a result, spiritually circumcised believers are freed from emotional stress, a leading cause of many diseases. "While physical circumcision of menís filthy foreskins prevents cancer, spiritual circumcision of our evil natures prevents a far greater number of important diseases" (page 96).

Some Doctors Are Against Circumcision

Not all doctors will agree with Dr. McMillen. There is heated debate over circumcision among health professionals. A major portion of the medical profession is against circumcision, believing it has no value, or even harms infants. As a result, the percentage of American boys circumcised as newborns has fallen from about 95% in the 1960ís, to about 60% in 1978. Still, some 85% of adult white males in the United States have been circumcised. In Europe, however, almost no males are circumcised.

Scientific evidence favoring circumcision is not difficult to find. The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in 1989 that there may be "medical benefits and advantages" to circumcision. Urinary tract infection during the first year of life of uncircumcised boys is ten times that of their circumcised counterparts. Incidence of penile cancer is much lower in circumcised men (Science News, March 11, 1989, page 150). After study of incidence of AIDS in Africa, researcher Jean L. Marx concluded that uncircumcised men may be five to eight times more likely to get AIDS during heterosexual intercourse than men who have been circumcised (Science, August 4, 1989, pages 470-471).

Those who are biased against the Bible will ignore scientific evidence which proves that Godís Word is true. Letís realize that our Creator knows best!

Circumcision and Sexual Relations

In his book, God Speaks Out on ĎThe New Moralityí, pages 226-228, Herbert W. Armstrong explains that circumcision as a religious rite, is no longer obligatory. But as a physical practice, he strongly recommends circumcision:

Left uncleansed this [smegma in an uncircumcised male] may cause inflammation and trouble. It is, therefore, necessary, in the case of an uncircumcised male baby, for the mother to regularly push the prepuce [foreskin] back behind the glans penis, and wash it; and as he grows old enough, the boy must be taught to do this regularly. This very need for sanitation causes irritation of the very seat of voluptuous sensation. It is very likely to stimulate sex arousal, and lead to masturbation [which is wrong]. This has been the chief cause of a serious Ďsex problemí in the lives of countless young men prior to marriage.

The prepuce forms a protective covering over the easily aroused sensation-producing glans ó yet, instead of actually Ďprotectingí it, the cleansing need produces just the opposite [effect]. The glans of the uncircumcised boy or man is exceedingly tender and sensitive. After circumcision, the glans gradually loses much of its sensitiveness, until the touch or rubbing of underclothing over it produces no more sensitiveness than clothing does to any other part of the body. Still, the circumcised enjoy all the voluptuous pleasure God made possible in marital coitus.

Parents are advised not to let a doctor perform circumcision of their baby at the time of birth. Insist that it be done when the baby is eight days old. Finally, Armstrong advises parents to insist that a little of the foreskin be left, for if all of the foreskin is cut off, "the skin is drawn back from the point of joining with the glans on erection, and this causes undue arousal and temptation" (page 228). Proper circumcision, Armstrong notes, will greatly lessen the danger of masturbation (page 280).

Old Testament Spiritual Circumcision

Israel had to be reminded of their stubborn rebellion against God. The Eternal pleaded, "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked" Deuteronomy 10:16. Spiritual circumcision was a requirement of Godís people, even under the "Old" Covenant! This may be a surprise to those who erroneously believe that Old Testament circumcision was only related to physical fleshly matters. Godís requirement for Old Testament Israel to be spiritually circumcised did NOT do away with the statute requiring physical circumcision as well. In Old Testament times, when a Gentile recognized the God of Israel, and demonstrated his faith in the Creator, he was circumcised as a sign that he had already undergone a spiritual change of heart.

In Genesis 34, we are told the story of Shechem the son of Hamor, a Hivite prince, who defiled Dinah, the daughter of Leah, sister to the twelve sons of Jacob. At the behest of Shechem, his father Hamor beseeched Jacob to let Shechem have Dinah for his wife. There was more to this request than one marriage. Hamor proposed a union of the Hivites with Israel so that they would be one people. This was contrary to Godís will, who did not want His people mixing with these pagan peoples (e.g., Exodus 23:23-25). But Shechem was intent on marrying Dinah, even offering an unlimited dowry. Jacobís sons were incensed that their sister had been defiled. They deceitfully demanded that Shechem and all the males of his city be circumcised. Shechem and all the Hivites of that city were forthwith circumcised. Then, "on the third day, when they were sore, [it came to pass] that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinahís brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males" Genesis 34:25. Three days after the operation, the Hivite males were defenseless, and easy prey for two Israelites. This certainly demonstrates the serious commitment required for an adult man to undergo circumcision. It is a painful operation which requires many days to recuperate.

In Joshua 5:2-9, we are told that God commanded Joshua to circumcise the Israelites born in the wilderness, before they could enter the promised land. Israelites had not circumcised their children by the way. They stayed in camp until they were whole, and God said, "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you," verse 9. Since the circumcising occurred after the tenth day of the first month, Joshua 4:19, and Israel kept the Passover at Gilgal where they were circumcised, Joshua 5:10, the Passover they kept was very likely the Passover of the second month as specified by Numbers 9. Because of the severity of the operation, the recently circumcised men probably would not have been able to keep it so soon.

Personally, I have known a Hungarian adult man, who, after becoming baptized, was later circumcised. He was confined to a bed for many days. So, it is much better for circumcision to be performed when a boy is eight days old, when God intended it, rather than endure the operation in adulthood. As a physical health practice, it is proper for an uncircumcised adult to be circumcised, when he understands that this is a physical law God intended to prevent disease. But, physical circumcision is not a requirement today for entering the Church of God.

What does God require of us today? Believe it or not, He requires obedience, just as He did during Old Testament times!

And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13.

How is this to be done? Verse 16, "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." This sounds like the Gospel message of the New Testament, and it is, for Moses preached the Gospel, Hebrews 4:2.

Deuteronomy 30:6 tells us, "And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." Today, as it was in the times of ancient Israel, we need to repent and get back to Godís ways. "Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart" Jeremiah 4:4. The message of repentance is intimately tied to the lesson of circumcision.

It is difficult for an adult who has been recently circumcised to be anything other than humble. Shechem and his fellow Hivites couldnít even lift a finger to defend themselves.

Moses was one of the most meek individuals who ever walked the earth, Numbers 12:3. He referred to himself as a man of "uncircumcised lips," Exodus 6:12, 30. Upon being called by God, Moses was told by the Eternal to tell Pharaoh that Israel was Godís firstborn son. Pharaoh was to let Israel go from slavery or God would slay the firstborn son of Pharaoh, Exodus 4:18-23. However, the leader of Israel had committed a grave sin! He had neglected to circumcise his own son (Gershom or Eliezer). As a result, God was about to slay Moses. Then Zipporah, Mosesí wife, took a sharp stone knife and circumcised her son by herself, and flung the bloody foreskin at the feet of Moses, performing this dangerous surgery to save her husbandís life. Then God let Moses go, and Zipporah exclaimed, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me," Exodus 4:24-26. Moses now could become Godís servant to lead Israel to freedom.

Those who refuse to hear Godís instructions have uncircumcised ears, Jeremiah 6:10, as they have no delight in the Word of God, which is a reproach to them. This is what Stephen referred to in Acts 7:51. In Leviticus 26, we are told that the disobedient will reap the cursing of God. After He brings them into captivity,

. . . if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob . . . and I will remember the land Verses 41-42.

Unless they repent, Israel will be punished with the uncircumcised heathen, for "all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart," Jeremiah 9:25-26. Ezekiel repeats the warning that in the future, when He dwells again with Israel, no stranger, "uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in the flesh" shall be allowed to pollute His sanctuary, Ezekiel 44:7, 9; 43:2, 7-9. Again, this shows clearly that physical and spiritual circumcision are both required. There will be no uncircumcised and unclean in the New Jerusalem, Isaiah 52:1.

There are numerous references to the uncircumcised Philistines, Judges 14:3, 15:18, I Samuel 14:6, 17:36, 31:4, II Samuel 1:20, I Chronicles 10:4. God despises the uncircumcised who deserve to be slain, Ezekiel 28:10, 31:18, 32:19, 21, 24-32. "Uncircumcised" is a term so revolting to God that He even uses it in reference to fruit we are forbidden to eat during the first three years of a fruit tree, Leviticus 19:23.

Circumcision in the New Testament

There is much misunderstanding relative to circumcision in the New Testament. Some today, attempting to justify throwing away the Truth of God, have said that the New Testament Church was in error for twenty years regarding circumcision, and that Acts 15 demonstrates that the true Church of God changes when it discovers it has been in error. Others, mainly Protestants, have twisted Acts 15 to justify an abrogation of Godís Law. Let us examine what the New Testament actually says regarding circumcision, and see what Acts 15 really teaches.

The circumcision of John the Baptist demonstrates that it was customary to name male babies at their circumcision, for "on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John" Luke 1:59-60. Likewise, concerning Jesus, "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb" Luke 2:21. Revelation 3:12 notes that overcomers of the Philadelphia church will receive a "new name." Paul reminded the Philippians that he was "Circumcised the eighth day . . ." Philippians 3:5, which we know from Genesis 17:12, means when he was eight days old. It was so important for Jews to obey the Eternal in circumcising a boy when he was eight days old, that they would labor on the Sabbath to circumcise when it was necessary, John 7:22-23.

On the other hand, Jews infected with Greek (Hellenistic) philosophy and culture wanted to do away with their "humiliating" mark of the covenant, circumcision. Sports events at that time, according to Greek custom, were conducted in the nude. Some renegade Jews underwent a painful operation which undid or hid their circumcision. This is documented in the Apocrypha, in I Maccabees, chapter 1, verse 15, "They removed their marks of circumcision and repudiated the holy covenant," and Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 12, 5, 1. Paul alludes to this in I Corinthians 7:18 where he says, "Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised [in order to enter the church]." Adam Clarke, commenting on this verse, says, "Let no man who, being a Gentile, has been converted to the Christian faith submit to circumcision as something necessary to his salvation" (Adam Clarkeís Commentary on the Bible, p. 1101).

The Almighty gave Abraham "the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day. . ." Acts 7:8. Jewish believers in general were called "the circumcision," Acts 10:45, 11:2, Galatians 2:12, Colossians 4:11. Carnal Jews who were physically circumcised, looked down on Gentiles, referring to them as "the uncircumcision" Ephesians 2:11. Paul was given the "gospel of the uncircumcision" (one of his major areas of labor was with the Gentiles), while Peter was given the work to "the circumcision," Galatians 2:7-9. Paul and Peter carried the same gospel message to two areas of labor among two groups of people, Jews and Gentiles. The Savior "was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers," Romans 15:8. Jesus confined His work to the Jews, validating Godís promises that salvation is of (beginning with, proceeding forth from) the Jews. In Colossians 2:13, we are told that prior to the forgiveness of our sins through the Messiah, we were dead in our sins and the uncircumcision of our flesh.

Peter was called by God to baptize the uncircumcised Roman Centurion Cornelius, Acts 10. Other Jewish Christian believers contested this action, Acts 11:2, but Peter rehearsed with them what the Eternal had done, and they rejoiced and glorified God, saying, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" verses 1-18. However, the matter was not to be settled so easy. "Certain men," Jewish believers in the Messiah, "came down from Judea [and] taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised, after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" Acts 15:1. At one time, Peter did not want to offend these "certain" men, and withdrew from fellowshipping with the Gentiles because he didnít wish to offend "the circumcision," Galatians 2:11-14. There is no record in the New Testament of any of the apostles or faithful brethren teaching that circumcision was necessary to enter the church.

Spiritual Meaning of Circumcision

True, Spirit-led believers in the Messiah as our Savior "are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" Philippians 3:3. Physical circumcision does not change the inner heart and mind of a person. It is purely a physical matter. Paul terms those who only circumcise their foreskins as of a "false circumcision" (NASB), and we should beware of them as spiritual dogs and evil workers, verse 2. In Titus 1:10, Paul warns, "there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision." These are not fulfilling the spiritual purpose of circumcision.

There is a spiritual circumcision, "made without hands," Colossians 2:11. In Romans 2, Paul defines spiritual circumcision as those who keep Godís law:

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision [uncircumcised Gentiles] keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? . . . For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God Romans 2:25-29.

Those truly circumcised, are keepers of the laws of God:

[Physical] Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but [the important thing, spiritual circumcision, is] the keeping of the commandments of God I Corinthians 7:19.

This is done through the power of the Holy Spirit, which gives us the mind of God, and puts His laws in our minds, making us a new creation:

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love. . .a new creature [creation] Galatians 5:6, 6:15.

We need to

put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision . . . but Christ is all, and in all Colossians 3:10-11.

Paul said plainly that "if ye be circumcised [and you trust in circumcision to make you right with God], Christ shall profit you nothing [there is no reason to accept Christís sacrifice for your sins]. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law" Galatians 5:2-3. Godís grace, not being circumcised, or being uncircumcised, results in our justification by and through faith, Romans 3:30.

In Romans 4, Paul shows that Abraham was not justified, made right with God, by works such as circumcision. He was justified by his faithful obedience to the Creator. Faith was reckoned to Abraham before he was circumcised. Later, he received the "sign of circumcision, a seal [outward symbol or type] of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised," Romans 4:9-12. Today, we are baptized as an outward symbol of what has already taken place in our hearts and minds, showing that we truly are faithfully submitting to God.

Circumcision Compared to Baptism

The Spirit-led believer is circumcised in Christ, "with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead," Colossians 2:11-12. Baptism is compared with circumcision. When a man is circumcised, the old flesh is put away, and a new clean life is begun. So at baptism, the old man is to be buried in the grave of water, and the new man is to arise and live righteously with the indwelling of Godís Holy Spirit. Just as nobody was allowed to keep the Old Testament Passover unless he was circumcised, Exodus 12:43-49, so likewise, one must be baptized in order to keep the New Testament Passover. We must examine ourselves whether we be in the faith, I Corinthians 11:27-28, II Corinthians 13:5. Before we were called and converted by God the Father, we were spiritually uncircumcised:

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses Colossians 2:13.

Being circumcised, then, is akin to being converted and becoming a Messianic believer. If the New Testament Church did not understand circumcision until Acts 15, then they did not initially understand conversion. However, that is not the case. Notice at the founding of the New Testament Church on the Feast of Pentecost, Peter did NOT say, "Repent, and be circumcised!" Instead, Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" Acts 2:38. Baptism is a spiritual requirement for entering the true Spirit-led Church of God. If you are a mature adult who believes in the sacrifice of the Messiah for your sins, and are not yet baptized, you should and must be baptized.

From the start, Peter and the rest of the Apostles of the New Testament Church understood that baptism had replaced circumcision as a physical symbol of putting aside the old carnal man and becoming a new creation in our Savior. Yet, there was a nettlesome group of Pharisees who "joined the church" and brought with them the heresy that physical circumcision was still a requirement for entering the church.

Acts 15 and Circumcision

We now come to Acts 15 and the matter of circumcision in the early New Testament Church. In Acts 10, Peter did not compel Cornelius to be circumcised prior to baptism. In the next chapter, Peter was questioned by Jewish converts for associating with Gentiles, and he successfully defended what God had done through him. None of the other faithful leaders of the Church insisted that converts be circumcised as a condition for entering the Church. However, among the early converts were a number of leaders from the Jewish religion, Acts 6:7, John 12:42. Some of these became known as "judaizers" and wrecked havoc in the church with heretical teachings.

The judaizers, Pharisees recently converted to belief in the Messiah, taught, wrongly, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved," Acts 15:1, and "to keep the law of Moses" verse 5. Paul and Barnabas sharply disputed them. Since the church had not previously issued a written statement confirming what God had done in calling Gentiles through Peter and Paul, the matter was now brought before the Jerusalem church.

The Apostles and elders, and the whole Jerusalem church heard arguments and disputations from both sides. The Apostle James, expressing the opinion of the vast majority of the church, rendered an inspired judgment that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to enter the church. Gentiles did not have to bring sacrificial offerings required by the Law of Moses. But, the Gentiles were forbidden to partake of idol worship and fornication, and improperly slaughtered sacrifices that have not been bled correctly, verses 13-21.

The literal meaning of Jamesí pronouncement is "For this reason [what God had done, previous verses] I judge not to trouble those from the Gentiles turning to God; but to write to them to hold back from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and that strangled and blood" Acts 15:19-20, Interlinear Bible by J.P. Green, Sr. "Judge" or "sentence" (KJV) is the Greek krino, Strongís #2919, meaning "to be of opinion, deem, think" (Thayerís Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page 360). Krino does not mean "come to new understanding," it means to "render the righteous judgment of God." See Matthew 19:28, "judging [krino] the twelve tribes of Israel."

Notice that the subject of the so-called "Jerusalem Conference" was what was required of Gentiles upon entrance to the New Testament church. The subject was NOT the Old Testament statute requiring eight-day-old boy babies to be circumcised (Leviticus 12:3)! Physical circumcision as a sign of conversion to the religion of God was required under the statute of Exodus 12:48. It is not required under the New Testament. That is the judgment inspired by God in Acts 15. Gentiles do not have to offer animal sacrifices as required by numerous Old Testament statutes. Peter, Paul, James and all the rest of the true believers understood this from the beginning. They did not have be corrected of "error"! The written doctrinal statement of Acts 15 was not a doctrinal change; it was a recognition of what God had already done in calling and converting Gentiles without them having to be circumcised and offer sacrifices as requirements prior to entering the Church. In no way does Acts 15 justify doctrinal changes today.

The New Testament Church was NOT wrong for the first 20 years about the matter of conversion requirements and salvation. The judaizing heretics were wrong, and had to be corrected. The Jerusalem meeting resulted in the correction of these heretics. Acts 15:22-24 shows that the Apostles, elders and the whole faithful church had never given such a commandment requiring Gentiles to be circumcised upon entrance to the Church. The faithful ministers did not come into "new" Truth!

Of course, numerous anti-law heretics have gone to the opposite extreme. They have falsely claimed that Acts 15 does away with Godís Law entirely. The subject of Acts 15 was not the Sabbath, not the Ten Commandments, not tithing, nor the Holy Days, nor unclean meats. It was circumcising converts and ceremonial sacrifices. In no way does Acts 15 justify abolition of Godís Law. Notice that the Gentiles were not told they could break the Sabbath, lie, commit adultery and steal. They were carefully instructed to avoid sacrifices that had to do with pagan idolatrous practices. This clearly shows that the subject was circumcision and sacrifices, not the Ten Commandments.

However, the heretical judaizers did not accept Godís inspired decision in the matter of circumcision and ceremonial law. They continued to be a problem in the church. How Paul conducted himself after Acts 15 is most revealing. In the very next chapter, Paul and Silas are shown traveling in Galatia delivering the decrees from the Jerusalem meeting. Paul wanted young Timothy, half-Jew and half-Greek, to accompany them. Because some unconverted Jews in the environs would object to having contact with an uncircumcised half-Jew, Paul had Timothy circumcised, Acts 16:1-5. Timothy was not circumcised in order to join the church, for he was already a member well-reported of, by the brethren. Paul circumcised Timothy in order not to give offense to Jews whom Paul wished to convert. This does not sound like someone who believes circumcision to have no importance whatsoever. Paul greatly respected circumcision and the Jews, because unto them were committed the oracles of God, the preservation of the Holy Scriptures (and, we believe, the Sacred Calendar), Romans 3:1-2.

Paul did not compel Titus, who was raised as a Greek, to be circumcised, Galatians 2:3. But Judaizing believers who fought against Paul in Galatia tried to force Gentile believers to be circumcised, Galatians 6:12-13, boasting when they accomplished their objective. This blatant heresy was not stopped by the Jerusalem council mentioned in Acts 15, but remained a problem throughout the history of the early church.

Finally, in Acts 21, a death blow is given to those who misinterpret the judgment of Acts 15. Going to Jerusalem prior to his captivity, Paul rehearsed before James and all the elders the miracles God had done through Paulís ministry to the Gentiles. James and the elders rejoiced, and reported to Paul the results of their work, that many thousands of Jews had been converted to Christianity. Many of these Jewish Christians believed false reports that Paul taught Jews who lived among Gentiles to forsake the Law of Moses and not to circumcise their children. So, at the encouragement from the Church leaders, Paul and others with him, entered the temple to perform a purification rite with an offering, Acts 21:15-26. Paul was not a hypocrite or a liar. It was untrue that he taught against circumcising male babies. He performed a ceremonial rite to demonstrate that he did not teach against circumcising babies, or against ceremonial sacrifices.

Again, this proves that Acts 15 did not concern circumcising male babies. The Leviticus statute remains intact. Acts 15 concerned spiritual requirements for entering the church. Much lack of understanding, from one side or another, has been promulgated about Acts 15. When one examines all the passages about circumcision, the matter becomes very clear. W