Sunday, December 27, 2015


CANDIDA MOSS: Male Circumcision: What Would Jesus Do? On the eighth day of his life, before the Wise Men visited, Jesus was circumcised. What would he make of the debate raging today over male circumcision? (The Daily Beast). Excerpt:
It’s true that the Christmas story is more babe in a manger than bris in the synagogue, but as a Jewish male infant Jesus was circumcised and, chronologically speaking, on the eighth day—and thus before the appearance of any wise men from the east. And yet somehow with all the food, presents, and Santa-fetishizing, the circumcision of Jesus doesn’t get a look in. But as debate about the ethics of circumcising children rages on, perhaps it really should.

The only biblical evidence for Jesus’s circumcision comes from the infancy narrative found in the Gospel of Luke. On the eighth day, we are told, he was circumcised and officially given the name Jesus (although Gabriel had called it at the Anunciation).
Two thoughts.

First, it is interesting and entertaining to compare the debate about circumcision among first-century Jesus followers to the current debate about it, but they are really very different and I do not see that the first sheds any useful light on the modern discussion. The first-century issue was whether gentile followers of Jesus needed to keep the ritual law, particularly circumcision. The present debate is about hygienic matters and the right of patients to make informed decisions.

Second, we should be careful not to draw a moral equivalence between male circumcision and female "circumcision" (better, female genital mutilation). (Professor Moss mentions this position, but frames it hypothetically and refrains from endorsing it.) There is a debate on the costs and benefits of male circumcision and people of goodwill disagree about it. Female genital mutilation is a horrific and barbaric practice that inflicts serious damage on a woman's body and it cannot be justified. The two are not comparable.

Some posts about the present-day debate over male circumcision are here and links. And this debate is not about circumcision per se, but rather about a particular traditional method of circumcision (metzizah b’peh) that poses some significant health risks.