The issue of circumcision is somewhat contentious and there seems to be good argument for both sides of the debate. As with the majority of articles on this site, you are presented with mostly Scripture as man’s words can be biased and lead to confusion. We need to lay aside “I think..” and “I feel…” and ask ourselves, what does Yahweh say?
WHAT THE TORAH COMMANDS
Genesis 17:9-14: 9 And Elohim said to Abraham, “As for you, guard My covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations. 10 “This is My covenant which you guard between Me and you, and your seed after you: Every male child among you is to be circumcised. 11 “And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall become a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 “And a son of eight days is circumcised by you, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with silver from any foreigner who is not of your seed. 13 “He who is born in your house, and he who is bought with your silver, has to be circumcised. So shall My covenant be in your flesh, for an everlasting covenant. 14 “And an uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, his life shall be cut off from his people – he has broken My covenant.”
Note: This Scripture is very clear. The sign of the covenant made with Abraham and his seed is, “in your flesh”, “everlasting” and whoever is not circumcised will be “cut off” and has “broken His covenant.”
Exodus 4:21-26: 21 And YHWH said to Mosheh, “As you go back to Mitsrayim… 24 And it came to be on the way, in the lodging place, that YHWH met him and sought to kill him. 25 And Tsipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and threw it at Mosheh’s feet, and said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
Note: It appears from this text that Mosheh should have circumcised his son, yet had not, and that this act of disobedience was worthy of death!
Exodus 12:43-49: 43 And YHWH said to Mosheh and Aharon, “This is the law of the Passover: No son of a stranger is to eat of it, 44 but any servant a man has bought for silver, when you have circumcised him, then let him eat of it…
47 “All the congregation of Yisra’ĕl are to perform it. 48 “And when a stranger sojourns with you and shall perform the Passover to YHWH, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and perform it, and he shall be as a native of the land. But let no uncircumcised eat of it. 49 “There is one Torah for the native-born and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”
Note: The Passover is not to be performed nor eaten by anyone who is uncircumcised.
Joshua 5:2-10: 2 At that time YHWH said to Yehoshua, “Make knives of flint for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Yisra’ĕl again the second time.” 3 So Yehoshua made knives of flint for himself, and circumcised the sons of Yisra’ĕl at the Hill of Foreskins. 4 And this is why Yehoshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Mitsrayim who were males, all the men of battle, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Mitsrayim. 5 For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness on the way as they came out of Mitsrayim had not been circumcised. 6 For the children of Yisra’ĕl walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation – the men of battle who came out of Mitsrayim – were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of YHWH, to whom swore not to show them the land which had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” 7 And Yehoshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8 And it came to be, when they had completed circumcising all the nation, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed. 9 And YHWH said to Yehoshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Mitsrayim from you.” So the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day. 10 And the children of Yisra’ĕl camped in Gilgal, and performed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening on the desert plains of Yeriho.
Note: Either the children of Israel had not performed the Passover during the time spent in the wilderness, or they had continued with the Passover being uncircumcised. Both of these actions breaking Yahweh’s covenant. The Israelites had to be circumcised in order to perform the passover and also to enter the promised land.
CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART
Deuteronomy 10:16: 10 “And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and harden your neck no more. Note: Here we have an indication that circumcision is not just physical matter…
Deuteronomy 30:6: “And YHWH your Elohim shall circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed, to love YHWH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your being, so that you might live.
Note: “…so that you might live.” indicates that one must be circumcised of heart and not just flesh.
Jeremiah 4:4: “Circumcise yourselves unto YHWH, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Yehudah and inhabitants of Yerushalayim, lest My wrath come forth like fire and burn, with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
Note: Another mention that possibly the state of our heart is what Yahweh is concerned with.
Jeremiah 9:25-26: 25 “See, the days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when I shall punish all circumcised with the uncircumcised – 26 “Mitsrayim, and Yehudah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Mo’ab, and all those trimmed on the edges, who dwell in the wilderness. For all the gentiles are uncircumcised, and all the house of Yisra’ĕl are uncircumcised in heart!”
Note: Yahweh makes no distinction between those who are uncircumcised in the flesh or in the heart.
Ezekiel 44:5-9: 5 And YHWH said to me, “Son of man, set your heart and see with your eyes and hear with your ears, all that I say to you concerning all the laws of the House of YHWH and all its Torot. And you shall set your heart to the entrance of the house, with all the exits of the set-apart place, 6 and shall say to the rebellious, to the house of Yisra’ĕl, ‘Thus said the Master YHWH, “O house of Yisra’ĕl, enough of all these abominations of yours, 7 that you brought in sons of a foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My set-apart place to profane it, My house! That you brought near My food, the fat and the blood, and you broke My covenant because of all your abominations. 8 “And you did not guard the charge of that which is set-apart to Me, but you have set others to guard the charge of My set-apart place for you.” 9 ‘Thus said the Master YHWH, “No son of a foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, comes into My set-apart place, even any son of a foreigner who is among the children of Yisra’ĕl.
Note: This Excerpt from Yehezqel’s vision appears to be prophecy of a time yet to come which would indicate that circumcision of heart and flesh is essential for entry to Yahweh’s Miqdash. However, this vision also includes mention of sacrifices of animals which seems to be in contrast to the one sacrifice for all by Yahushua.
Jeremiah 31:31-34: 31 “See, the days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when I shall make a new covenant with the house of Yisra’ĕl and with the house of Yehudah, 32 not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Mitsrayim, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,” declares YHWH. 33 “For this is the covenant I shall make with the house of Yisra’ĕl after those days, declares YHWH: I shall put My Torah in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts. And I shall be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. 34 “And no longer shall they teach, each one his neighbour, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares YHWH. “For I shall forgive their crookedness, and remember their sin no more.”
Note: The first indication of a renewed covenant not like the first, but inwardly on our hearts.
THE RENEWED COVENANT
At this point the debate is one sided and without doubt advocating circumcision outwardly and inwardly. The question now is: Did the death and resurrection of Yahushua ha’Mashiach fulfill the command to be circumcised in the flesh?
Matthew 26:26-28: 26 And as they were eating, Yahushua took bread, and having blessed, broke and gave it to the taught ones and said, “Take, eat, this is My body.” 27 And taking the cup, and giving thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 “For this is My blood, that of the renewed covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Note: (See also Mark 14:24 and Luke 22:20) Not once does Yahushua Yahushua mention the Torah or circumcision being done away with, but as His blood is that of the renewed covenant it may have some weight in the debate.
Question: are we under the first covenant or under the renewed covenant?
THE YERUSHALAYIM COUNCIL
Since this is the primary text in the B’rit Chadashah regarding the issue of circumcision it is important to read the whole chapter in context.
Acts 15: 1 And certain men came down from Yehudah and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the practice of Mosheh, you are unable to be saved.” 2 So when Sha’ul and Barnabah had no small dissension and dispute with them, they arranged for Sha’ul and Barnabah and certain others of them to go up to Yerushalayim, to the emissaries and elders, about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the assembly, they passed through Phoenicia and Shomeron, relating the conversion of the gentiles. And they were causing great joy to all the brothers. 4 And having arrived in Yerushalayim, they were received by the assembly and the emissaries and the elders. And they reported all that Elohim had done with them. 5 And some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Torah of Mosheh.” 6 And the emissaries and elders came together to look into this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Kĕpha rose up and said to them, “Men, brothers, you know that a good while ago Elohim chose among us, that by my mouth the gentiles should hear the word of the Good News and believe. 8 “And Elohim, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Set-apart Spirit, as also to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by belief. 10 “Now then, why do you try Elohim by putting a yoke on the neck of the taught ones which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 “But through the favour of the Master Yahushua Messiah we trust to be saved, in the same way as they.” 12 And all the crowd was silent and were listening to Barnabah and Sha’ul declaring how many miracles and wonders Elohim did among the gentiles, through them. 13 And after they were silent, Yaʽaqob answered, saying, “Men, brothers, listen to me: 14 “Shimʽon has declared how Elohim first visited the gentiles to take out of them a people for His Name. 15 “And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it has been written: 16 ‘After this I shall return and rebuild the Booth of Dawid which has fallen down. And I shall rebuild its ruins, and I shall set it up, 17 so that the remnant of mankind shall seek , even all the gentiles on whom My Name has been called, says who is doing all this,’ 18 who has made this known from of old. 19 “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the gentiles who are turning to Elohim, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from the defilements of idols, and from whoring, and from what is strangled, and from blood. 21 “For from ancient generations Mosheh has, in every city, those proclaiming him – being read in the congregations every Sabbath.” 22 Then it seemed good to the emissaries and elders, with all the assembly, to send chosen men from among them to Antioch with Sha’ul and Barnabah: Yehudah being called Barsabba, and Sila, leading men among the brothers, 23 having written by their hand this: The emissaries and the elders and the brothers, To the brothers who are of the gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Kilikia: Greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your lives, to whom we gave no command – 25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabah and Sha’ul, 26 men who have given up their lives for the Name of our Master Yahushua Messiah. 27 We have therefore sent Yehudah and Sila, who are also confirming this by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Set-apart Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessities: 29 that you abstain from what is offered to idols, and blood, and what is strangled, and whoring. If you keep yourselves from these, you shall do well. Be strong!
Note: It seems as though this question of circumcision arose amongst the very first believers and caused “no small dissension and dispute.” It is important to note in verse 21 that the converts were to learn to the commands of Mosheh taught every Shabbat.
Question: If circumcision is “everlasting” and whoever is not circumcised will be “cut off” and has “broken His covenant.” (as per Gen 17:9-14) then why was it not listed in the “necessities” given by all the emmissaries, elders and brothers?
Acts 16:1-3: 1 And he came to Derbe and Lustra. And see, a certain taught one was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Yehudite woman who believed – but his father was Greek – 2 who was well spoken of by the brothers who were at Lustra and Ikonion. 3 Sha’ul wished to have this one go with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Yehudim who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was Greek.
Note: No uncircumcised gentile was allowed into the synagogue, so Sha’ul circumcised Timothy in order for them to witness of Messiah in those places.
Acts 21:21-25: …21 “And they have been informed about you that you teach all the Yehudim who are among the gentiles to forsake Mosheh, saying not to circumcise the children nor to walk according to the practices. 22 “What then is it? They shall certainly hear that you have come. 23 “So do this, what we say to you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 “Take them and be cleansed with them, and pay their expenses so that they shave their heads. And all shall know that what they have been informed about you is not so, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Torah. 25 “But concerning the gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should keep themselves from what is offered to idols, and blood, and what is strangled, and whoring.”
Note: It seems in this portion of Acts that the Yehudim had confused the “necessities” given to the ex-gentiles was all that was left regarding the keeping of Torah.
Romans 2:25-3:31: 25 For circumcision indeed profits if you practise the Torah, but if you are a transgressor of the Torah, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if an uncircumcised one watches over the righteousnesses of the Torah, shall not his uncircumcision be reckoned as circumcision? 27 And the uncircumcised by nature, who perfects the Torah, shall judge you who notwithstanding letter and circumcision are a transgressor of the Torah! 28 For he is not a Yehudite who is so outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But a Yehudite is he who is so inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in Spirit, not literally, whose praise is not from men but from Elohim. 1 What then is the advantage of the Yehudite, or what is the value of the circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Because firstly indeed, that they were entrusted with the Words of Elohim…
29 Or is He the Elohim of the Yehudim only, and not also of the gentiles? Yea, of the gentiles also, 30 since it is one Elohim who shall declare right the circumcised by belief and the uncircumcised through belief. 31 Do we then nullify the Torah through the belief? Let it not be! On the contrary, we establish the Torah.
Note: Very unclear what Sha’ul is teaching here. On one hand circumcision is profitable, and on the other circumcision is inwardly of the heart.
Romans 4:6-12: …6 even as Dawid also says of the blessedness of the man to whom Elohim reckons righteousness without works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered, 8 blessed is the man to whom shall by no means reckon sin.” 9 Is this blessing then upon the circumcised only, or also upon the uncircumcised? For we affirm: Belief was reckoned unto Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it reckoned? Being in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the belief while in uncircumcision, for him to be a father of all those believing through uncircumcision, for righteousness to be reckoned to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the belief which our father Abraham had in uncircumcision.
Note: This text affirms that forgiveness is available to both the circumcised and uncircumcised.
1 Corinthians 7:18-19: 18 Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. 19 The circumcision is naught, and the uncircumcision is naught, but the guarding of the commands of Elohim does matter!
Note: Unless this text has been fiddled with, or lost in translation, the conclusion is clear. Circumcision (the sign of the first covenant) is of little importance, but guarding the Commands is.
Galatians 2:1-3: 1 Then after fourteen years I again went up to Yerushalayim, with Barnabah, taking Titus along too. 2 And I went up by revelation, and laid before them that Good News which I proclaim among the gentiles, but separately to those who were esteemed, lest somehow I run, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus who was with me, though a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
Note: It appears that over time (14 years) the acceptance of uncircumcised believers had increased.
Galatians 5:1-6: 1 In the freedom with which Messiah has made us free, stand firm, then, and do not again be held with a yoke of slavery. 2 See, I, Sha’ul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Messiah shall be of no use to you. 3 And I witness again to every man being circumcised that he is a debtor to do the entire Torah. 4 You who are declared right by Torah have severed yourselves from Messiah, you have fallen from favour. 5 For we, in Spirit, by belief, eagerly wait for the expectation of righteousness. 6 For in Messiah Yahushua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength, but belief working through love.
Note: This is the strongest indication in the B’rit Chadashah that the blood of Yahushua (the renewed covenant) has replaced the sign of the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision).
Sha’ul appears to be saying that those seeking to be justified by circumcision are bound to the entire Torah which includes the sacrifices.
Galatians 6:12-16: 12 As many as wish to make a good show in the flesh, these compel you to be circumcised, only so that they should not be persecuted for the stake of Messiah. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even watch over the Torah, but they wish to have you circumcised so that they might boast in your flesh. 14 And for me, let it not be that I should boast except in the stake of our Master Yahushua Messiah, through whom the world has been impaled to me, and I to the world. 15 For in Messiah Yahushua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength, but a renewed creature.16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and compassion be upon them, and upon the Yisra’ĕl of Elohim.
Note: Some were apparently more interested in the outward appearance than that of the heart and Sha’ul repeats the previous teaching.
Philippians 3:2-5: 2 Look out for dogs, look out for the evil workers, look out for the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who are serving Elohim in the Spirit, and boasting in Messiah Yahushua, and do not trust in the flesh, 4 though I too might have trust in the flesh. If anyone else thinks to trust in the flesh, I more – 5 circumcised the eighth day…
Note: If this text is not referring to circumcision then it’s a mystery; but it seems apparent that “the mutilation” refers to those who would have everyone circumcised, yet Sha’ul alludes to our circumcision “in the Spirit”, and chastises those who would trust in fleshly circumcision.
Colossians 2:11-14: 11 In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah, 12 having been buried with Him in immersion, in which you also were raised with Him through the belief in the working of Elohim, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having blotted out the certificate of debt against us – by the dogmas – which stood against us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the stake.
Note: Again we find the allusion to the inner circumcision.
Colossians 3:10-11: …10 and have put on the new one who is renewed in knowledge according to the likeness of Him who created him, 11 where there is not Greek and Yehudite, circumcised and uncircumcised, foreigner, Scythian, slave, free, but Messiah is all, and in all.
Note: This text is clearly teaching that there is no distinction between the circumcised or uncircumcised who are on Messiah.
Hebrews 8:7-12: 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, “See, the days are coming,” says YHWH, “when I shall conclude with the house of Yisra’ĕl and with the house of Yehudah a renewed covenant, 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Mitsrayim, because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,” says YHWH. 10 “Because this is the covenant that I shall make with the house of Yisra’ĕl after those days, says YHWH, giving My laws in their mind, and I shall write them on their hearts, and I shall be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. 11 “And they shall by no means teach each one his neighbour, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ because they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12“Because I shall forgive their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawlessnesses I shall no longer remember.”
Note: This is the letter to the Hebrews who were very familiar with the first covenant and Sha’ul quotes the Scripture above through Yermiyah (31:31-32) that the renewed covenant is not according to the first.
Hebrews 10:16-17 16 “This is the covenant that I shall make with them after those days, says YHWH, giving My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them,” 17 and, “Their sins and their lawlessnesses I shall remember no more.”
Note: Sha’ul repeats to emphasise the giving of His laws into our hearts.
The conclusion of the matter is up to you in the end, but there appears to be a heavy lean under the renewed covenant toward circumcision being of little value. The most concerning being Galatians 5:2 that Yahushua and His death and resurrection be made worthless.
This issue isn’t that simple and those who feel spiritually compelled to obey the whole of Torah regardless of Yahushua and those who see Yahushua as the sign of the renewed covenant shouldn’t be judged by anyone but Yahweh.