Archive for the ‘Circumcision’ Category

Circumcision Ended Without Scripture?

July 15, 2010

In the discussion between Matt Slick and Robert Sungenis, Dr. Sungenis made the following comment:

In Acts chapter 15, where the debate over circumcision arises. And Peter stands up and says, “We’re no longer going to practice circumcision.” And he had no Scriptural precedent to do so.

(see 53:51 in this mp3 recording of Dr. White’s partial review of the discussion)

Dr. White provided some responses (as you will hear in the mp3), but I’d like to provide six of my own:

  1. The debate in Acts 15 was really a debate over sola fide, which the Judaizers opposed, claiming that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. Compare Acts 15:8-9 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

  2. Peter stood up, but what he stood up to do was to argue for faith alone and against the burden of circumcision: Acts 15:7-11 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

  3. Peter’s comment was not the announcement of a decision. The decision was pronounced by James. Acts 15:13 & 19 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: … Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: … And then by all the church at Jerusalem, not just the apostles and elders. Acts 15:22-23 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: … .

  4. The decision of the council was specifically directed to Gentile converts, not to Jews. (see the verses in the previous bullets) It was not actually a call to end circumcision, just a recognition that circumcision is not necessary for salvation. Jews continued to be circumcised. Act 16:1-3 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
  5. Peter’s argument itself refers to his experience with Gentiles such as Cornelius. That experience is recorded in Scripture, whether or not an as-yet-incomplete book of Acts had been written. So, the precedent on which Peter relied is in Scripture, although it may not yet have been in Scripture at that time.
  6. The decision of the church of Jerusalem, however, was based on Scriptural precedent. Specifically, as James explains it we can see the Scriptural precedent, I’ll provide cross-references in brackets. Acts 15:15-18 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: [Amos 9:11] that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, [cf. Hosea 3:5] and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. [Amos 9:12] Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. [cf. Isaiah 46:10]

So, for at least these reasons, I would have to respectfully disagree with Dr. Sungenis’ argument.

-TurretinFan

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Heart and Ear Circumcision

February 22, 2008

I happened to be reading and came across this gem:

*****

He saith also again concerning our ears how he hath circumcised our heart. The Lord saith in the prophet, They have hearkened unto me with the hearing of their ears; and again, he saith, They that are afar off shall hear with their ears; they shall know what I have done; and be ye circumcised, saith the Lord, in your heart; and again, Hear, O Israel, for thus saith the Lord thy God; and again the Spirit of the Lord prophesied, Who is he that wisheth to live for ever? let him hearken unto the voice of my Son.

And again he saith, Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken these things for a testimony. And again he saith, Hearken unto the voice of the Lord, ye rulers of this people. And again he saith, Hearken ye children unto the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

To this end, therefore, hath he circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe; for the circumcision in which they trust is done away with.

For he hath said that circumcision is not that which was made in the flesh; but they have transgressed, for an evil angel hath deluded them. He saith unto them, These things saith the Lord your God, —here I find a new commandment—Sow not among thorns, but be ye circumcised unto your Lord. And what saith he? Circumcise the hardness of your hearts, and harden not your neck. And again, Behold, saith the Lord, all the Gentiles are uncircumcised in their foreskin, but this people is uncircumcised in their hearts.

*****

Who is this Calvinistic writer? Who is it that believes that God circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe? The answer is the author of the Epistle of Barnabas (usually thought not actually to be written by the companion of Paul).

Our knowledge of the content of the book is largely thanks to its inclusion in the Codex Sinaiticus, and has been dated to the first or second century (generally between A.D. 70 – 150).

The translation above is Charles Hoole’s (I have not verified its accuracy against the Greek) and is available via Google Books here (link).

Praise be to God for the Irresistable grace of Circumcision of heart, mind, eyes, and ears,

-Turretinfan

Modern Views on Circumcision

February 8, 2008

This brief article describes a situation that is not a good one (link). The man has two wives and eleven children. It’s not good for men to have more wives than one, and such men are prohibited from serving as elders in the church.

This man did two things that most people would consider strange today:

1) he forbade his wives from seeking prenatal care during their pregnancy; and
2) he performed home circumcisions on two of his boys when they were eight days old, using a utility knife.

Apparently referring to the latter item, the article quotes a neighbor as saying that such a thing is “sick” and that he couldn’t understand how anyone could do that:

“Sick, he’s got a sick mind,” a former neighbor said. “Anybody that would do that to their children — there’s something really wrong with them.”

It’s not all that different from the ancient outside view on circumcision:

Exodus 4:24-26
24And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him [Moses], and sought to kill him. 25Then Zipporah [Moses’ wife] took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. 26So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

But consider the contrast. The modern polygamist used a utility knife, whereas Zipporah used simply a sharp stone. The modern polygamist did it himself (and forbade his wives from seeking prenatal care) because he apparently distrusts doctors, a perfectly understable phobia, even if it is not one to which can fully relate.

I’m not defending the polygamist. Today we have doctors who can perform medical circumcisions, and there is no religious reason for continuing the rite of circumcision in view of the replacement of circumcision by baptism in the New Testament administration.

Nevertheless, to say that someone would have to have a “sick mind” to circumcise their children is simply to fail to recognize the religious significance of the act. The religious significance is the symbolic removal of the uncleanness of the flesh, as a symbol of the hoped-for removal of sin from the heart of the child. In a bloody way, it pictures what the bloodless sacrament of baptism pictures: the work of the spirit in regeneration.

The sacraments of the Old Testament (Passover and Circumcision) were bloody sacraments, picturing the blood of Christ with literal blood. The sacraments of the New Testament are not bloody, though they symbolize blood (both the wine of the Lord’s Supper and the water of Baptism picturing the blood of Christ).

The passage above should also be a klaxon to those who think the paedobaptism issue is trivial. The paedocircumcison was not trivial to God. If Zipporah had not circumcised Moses’ children, God would have executed the sentence of death for breaking the covenant:

Genesis 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

God takes the symbols seriously, and so should we.

-Turretinfan


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