IT'S A BOY!
The Origin of Bris Milah
Times change. Styles change. But some things never change: Bris Milah is one of them. It is a bond between God and the Jewish nation for all time. It is a bond that can never be broken.
When our forefather Abraham reached the ripe old age of 99 years (Genesis 17) the Almighty promised him that his descendants would have a special relationship with their Creator. This would forever be symbolized by the Bris Milah (Covenant of Circumcision). "This will be a sign of the covenant between Me and you".
Abraham circumcised himself as well as all the men of his household. When his son Isaac was born, he too, underwent Bris Milah on the eighth day, as Divinely specified.
Heroism Throughout the Ages
Throughout the generations the Jewish people have been unyielding in performing this mitzvah. Bris Milah was often performed in secret, defying innumerable despots and hostile regimes. Spain during the Inquisition, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, and ancient Greece and Rome all tried to ban Bris Milah. They understood correctly that this distinctive rite is the cornerstone of the Jewish faith, and that proscribing it would be the first step towards eliminating our nation.
The Jewish people, non-observant as well as observant, are uncompromising on this issue. They recognize that in order for their children to survive as Jews, they must induct them into the Divine covenant of Bris Milah.
A Mohel performs the circumcision with spiritual intent. A Bris by a Mohel is more than a simple medical procedure; it is a connection with the Divine.
At a Bris Milah blessings are said and prayers are recited as the child takes his place as a member of the Jewish people. Carried out according to Jewish tradition, Bris Milah is a profoundly moving experience for all in attendance. A medical circmcision does not meet all the requirements of Jewish law.
The Mohel's Training
The Mohel undergoes a prolonged, intensive apprenticeship under the watchful eye of an experienced senior Mohel before being allowed to practise. He must also have broad knowledge of Jewish law, be of good character and committed to observing the Torah commandments.
The technique of the contemporary Mohel combines both surgical skill and spirituality. The expert Mohel is a specialist who has advanced the procedure to the highest level. Adherence to rigorous medical standards has always been the rule. In the case of prematurity, low birth weight or illness, the Bris is posponed until the baby is healthy.
The Mohel performs the Bris swiftly, with utmost care and minimum discomfort to the infant. Immediately afterwards the baby is returned to his mother to be comforted.
After the Bris Milah
The surgery usually heals uneventfully within a short period of time. The Mohel advises the parents on how to care for and comfort the child during this period and a certificate is issued.
Highlight of the Jewish Life Cycle
To attend a Bris Milah is to participate in a veritable highlight of the Jewish life cycle. It brings to all present a spiritual feeling that words cannot describe.
It's the Jewish thing to do.
The celebration of a new life, a new beginning, is an unparalleled joy - not only for family and friends, but for the entire Jewish nation. At the Bris the baby is given a Hebrew name which further binds him to our glorious tradition. Now he is a full-fledged member of our people.
For further details please contact Rabbi Sholom H. Adler, CERTIFIED MOHEL.
Contact details as at June 2009:
Rabbi Sholom H. Adler, Mohel
Beth Tzedec Congregation of Toronto
Home Phone: (416) 256-2747
Work Phone: (416) 781-7188
"At a night encampment on the way, the lord encountered him and sought to kill him. So Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin, and touched his legs with it, saying, You're truly a bridegroom to me!' And when He let him alone, she added A bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision" (Exodus 4:24-26).
Moses is symbolically circumcised here. Through the circumcision of his son he is touched in the place where his own fertility comes from, as the feet and legs are often euphemisms for genitals. Through the uncovering of the son the father has become uncovered too. The act of circumcision suggests a change of state. The ritual severing - the cut or milah that unites (b-rith) - is symbolic of a cut through the known to reveal the unknown. The knife inscribes a circle which is a symbol of unity. The B'rith Milah, or covenant with God, suggests that a cut into the flesh is a sign of human/divine wholeness. The act of circumcision is the removal of the orlah or foreskin. When used in scripture the word orlah refers to a barrier in the way of a beneficial result. Adam, the first man, was born circumcised which signified his closeness to God. Because Adam's sin was the failure of mankind the foreskin, symbolizing his new separation from God, became a permanent part of the human body. "Like a sheath holding a sword, the body is a vessel containing the soul. Just as the contours of a sheath tell much about the contours of the sword within, so the body can reveal much about the condition of the soul. (Bris Milah) When Adam retained his intimacy with God the human body mirrored this condition. When the body had no spiritual barrier it had no orlah, but when Adam's sin caused a barrier between him and God the human body mirrored this state also. The foreskin represents Moses' separation from God as Adam's fig leaf did after he ate of the Tree of Knowledge. The fig leaf serves as Adam's foreskin that he later passes on to his descendants. During the time of Abraham the human race still had the spiritual and physical foreskin, but then Abraham demonstrated that man could surmount this sin. God recognized this change in the human race's spiritual essence through Abraham and so gave him the commandment of circumcision. In general, the word orlah has the connotation of something that is uncontrolled. The removal of the orlah then symbolizes the idea of control. Through the act of milah one indicates that they can control the pattern of their life. Circumcision is the removal of a defilement or barrier that could restrict spiritual development.
Circumcision can be seen as a form of ritual bloodletting. A metal knife, called an izmail is used to perform the circumcision. The traditional izmail is sharp on both sides. This helps to eliminate possibility of harming the child by using a blunt edge. Metzitzah, or drawing, is the act of extracting blood from the wound. The Talmud considers this act to be therapeutic which is reminiscent of other feeling about bloodletting acts such as venesection. There is some controversy over whether this should be done orally or if it can also be done in other ways. The Talmud is strongly opposed to omitting this part of the ceremony and says that any mohel who does not perform it should be removed from office. An act which causes bleeding is a violation of the Sabbath. However, since the Torah specifies exactly when the ceremony is to be performed, eight days after birth, the act of milah wins out over this prohibition. This is a case where one ceremony cancel out a blood taboo. According to Jewish law, a boy that is born circumcised has to have a drop of blood drawn ritually instead of a circumcision the same also applies to any converts to Judaism who might already be circumcised. This shows that the blood is as integral a part of the ceremony as the removal of the foreskin. Blood is an integral part of many offerings and sacrifices and the act of circumcision is both an offering and a sacrifice to the covenant with God. The rabbinic notion of salvation is symbolized by the blood of circumcision. The foreskin is the offering with which the people of Israel seal the covenant with Yahweh.
DUTY OF CIRCUMCISION.
1 . It is obligatory on every Jewish father to have his son circumcised.
2. If the father neglects to have his son circumcised, this duty devolves on the Beth-Din (the Ecclesiastical Authorities).
3. Should the child remain uncircumcised, the responsibility falls upon him, on reaching the age of thirteen, to have himself circumcised; and every day he permits to pass without being circumcised, he incurs the penalty of *****.
4. The Mohel must be an adult circumcised Jew, a believer in and an adherent to the tenets of Judaism and who is fully acquainted with the method and the laws of circumcision.
Excerpted from, THE SURGERY OF RITUAL CIRCUMCISION, 3d ed., London 1961 by JACOB SNOWMAN M.D., M.R.C.P., LONDON.
Two saturdays ago I was present at a Bris. A friend and his Jewish partner hosted the Jewish circumcision and naming ceremony at their home. Their son was one week old. (My apologies to any Jewish readers if I have misspelled the name of the rite).
I was curious and wanted to support my friend, so I chose to go. They had clearly thought it through and decided to go ahead with the circumcision for cultural reasons, despite being aware of the genital mutilation point of view.
The Bris was basically a big, multi-generational celebration of the arrival of a new member in the community. Lots of food. Lots of gifts. Lots of people - friends, relatives, neighbours. The actual ceremony took only about 10 minutes, but the whole event lasted close to three hours.
The centre-piece was the circumcision and naming ceremony. People gathered in my friend's dining room where a small table stood. On the table were laid out a folded blanket for the child to lie on, the doctor's bag, a bottle of red wine, and a silver goblet.
There was a chair positioned in front of the table (as opposed to behind the table where the doctor stood during the procedure). The chair remained unoccupied during the whole event. I never did catch the religious significance of this, but it symbolizes something or other.
There were perhaps 40 people packed into this little room. Despite that, I lucked into a position in the crowd that was right along side the table, only a few feet from the fateful event. I was able to see almost everything. A close, gay, uncircumcised friend of mine stood beside me and we had a subdued chat about the ethics of circumcision while we waited.
I suspected that most of the younger Jewish people were at least aware that circumcision is up there with tonsils on the list of ridiculous western medical interventions once thought to be useful or necessary. But, this was not a western medical intervention.
The doctor, whom I think was also a Rabbi - I never did find out for sure - came in and starting unloading his wares. He poured some of the wine into the silver goblet, and started chatting it up with folks, some of which he had obviously provided this service for previously. His sense of humour was a real ice breaker and helped to ease the tension in the room.
The crowd parted and, in a ceremonious fashion, my friend, his partner, and his partner's mother carrying the baby walked in. The woman handed the child to the doctor, who placed the boy on the table, face up, feet towards him. The doctor then dipped some surgical gauze in the wine and placed the wet end in the baby boy's mouth, tickling under his chin to induce the swallow reflex.
The doctor performed the naming ceremony at this point which consisted of some readings of scripture giving thanks, and a few words from the parents on the origins of the name, honouring the ancestors after whom the child was being named.
The naming complete, the doctor began the circumcision. First, he solicited the help of a man from the group and instructed him to hold the boy's legs apart and down so they would be out of the way. Another man was asked to hold the boys arms still. The doctor then applied two surgical clamps to either side of the foreskin. It must have hurt a little, because the boy began to cry. From this point forward, they had difficulty keeping the wine soaked guaze in the boy's mouth and had to keep tucking it back in.
By pulling on the clamps the doctor was able to make various measurements of the length of the stretched foreskin and the location of the tip of the glans (the "head" of the penis). The boy was not happy with all this pinching and pulling.
The doctor then produced a device clearly designed specifically for circumcisions. It consisted of two flat plates of stainless steel, approximately 3"x2" and 1/8" thick, hinged at one end so that when closed would create a 3"x4" flat plate. He stretched the foreskin again way out over the glans and locked the large flat clamp in place just beyond the point where the tip of the glans would be (as determined by the measurements taken previously). The clamp was applied on an incline, as viewed from the side sort of like this =\ only on a more pronounced angle.
Although the inside edges of the clamp did not appear to be sharp, the device was so tight that as soon as it was locked in place the boy went from being upset to being hysterical. He turned bright red from head to toe, and the quality of his crying became impossible not to empathize with. Many people looked away, including the parents who both seemed a little faint. By the time the foreskin was removed, the baby was relaxing into a endorphin bathed wailing that sounded much relieved compared to the screaming that had gone before. These people knew it would hurt like hell. There was no delusion here.
The two small clamps, no longer necessary now that the foreskin was locked in place by the large clamp, were removed. The doctor produced a scalpel, and in one quick motion drawing it along the flat of the clamp where the flesh emerged, sliced off about 1" of loose foreskin. The clamp was then unlocked and put aside.
I could see from where I stood that the tiny erect penis now had absolutely no foreskin. There was no bleeding to speak of, just a thin red line below the glans. Excellent job. Very clean cut.
The foreskin was disposed of, a piece of vaseline coated gauze wrapped around the penis, and a clean diaper applied. The doctor, picked the exhausted little boy up, who immediately stopped crying to everyone's relief, held him for a few seconds, then handed him off to his mother who whisked him away not to be seen again for the duration of the celebration.
The whole operation took about 5 minutes.
The people returned to their celebration.
Here are two of my reactions to the Bris I attended.
First, it's the natural look for any male children that might spring from my loins, thank you very much. And, this despite my own lack of foreskin. But, I think I would have made that decision even without seeing this.
The second train of thought will require many lines of text...
Perhaps because of the contrast between my culture (white Canadian male), and the Jewish culture, of which I am quite ignorant, I saw something that I hadn't expected. The Bris is not a surgical procedure for health reasons. It is a ritual. A little watered down by modern times, but a ritual nonetheless. A community celebration of new life, with a strong spiritual component, and an emphasis on catharthis through pain.
Everyone has heard of various African cultures that do some sort of genital mutilation. The Jews have been doing it their way since who knows when. Many in the West have been doing it to their kids for some time now. Moslems circumcise boys as part of a manhood rite, not before the age of 15, I believe. My facts are sketchy no doubt, but absolute accuracy is not important to my point, which is...
Whenever a phenomenon like this crosses so many divergent cultures, albeit with variation of procedure and purpose, it says to me that there is something fundamental here that transcends the explanation any one culture puts forward for doing it. Each culture has their reasons. But why do so many different cultures do it?
I've been strongly influenced by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, so I ask myself, what psycho-mythological purpose does it serve?
I think the key lies in the fact that the recipient is subjected to pain.
Some cultures require that a teenage boy withstand the pain without flinching. This is one instance of the circumcision ritual where the pain element plays a central and overt role. In other rituals, pain is present but not necessarily a focal point. But, even western medicine has found "excuses" for allowing the pain to continue. I find it fascinating that at the same time that a topical anesthetic specific to infant circumcision is being developed, there is a growing rejection of the procedure within the culture. Raises the question: is it worth doing if it doesn't hurt?
I see emotional pain and physical pain, and the fear of both, profoundly affecting myself and those around me. Pain IS an integral part of life. Philosophy, religion, the arts, even the sciences have tried to understand it and provide relief. We in the west seem to prefer to anesthetize ourselves to it with drugs and denial, much to our detriment and that of the world. Kind of crazy, is it not?
I came away from the Bris knowing that some day the boy would find out from his parents that his community stood witness to him in his pain, and they will do so again when he is a teenager, at his Bar Mitzva. In all of life's changes, there is loss. In all loss, there is pain. His community, through their rituals, is there to help him through these changes by acknowledging his loss and celebrating what is to come.
So, which is better? The Bris with it's spirituality, community, gift giving, and pain and loss inflicted by older men? Or, western circumcision in a sterile operating room, with no community present, no spirituality, denial of the pain, all preceded by a highly commercialized and feminised baby shower? Or, no circumcision, no community, no spirituality, no men helping boys?
I think the species NEEDS overt recognition of life's pain, (especially western men). It is an essential part of good mental health. Circumcisions are a cross-cultural manifestation of this need. Saying no to circumcision is one thing. Saying no to pain is something completely different. If, in our enlightenment, we are choosing to toss away the ritualized recognition of pain, what are we replacing it with?
Sometimes it's hard being Jewish...You know those free postcards sporting ads offered in dispensers in stores and cafes? Here's one I just found
Russian Immigrant Jews Get Circumcised
Some years ago (about 3 or 4) I was volunteering at a recent immigrant support group in Hollywood CA. At that time just after glasnost there were a large number of newly arrived Russian Jewish immigrants, none of whom had been circumcised back in the USSR. Some were reluctant, as adults, to consider circumcisions, others as very observant Jews were very keen to get circumcised as soon as possible, still other said they would do it "eventually".
I managed to help several achieve circumcision status by linking them up with good Jewish doctors who would circumcise them according to Jewish ritual, yet with the appropriate anesthetics. Most even as moderately observant Jews back in Russia had never seen a circumcised penis, and few had any real idea what circumcision really did. I did my best to show them (pictures in Playgirl and other magazines) what they could expect to look like after the surgery.
Some of them even showed me what they looked like after surgery, and told me how grateful they would be to me (a Christian) for helping them fulfil their Jewish law.
Family Converts to Judaism - Father and Sons Get Bris
There was an interesting article in this week's "London Jewish News"
entitled "The Unassuming German Who Moved to Israel to Become a Jew"
which I will quote in parts. The man's name is Reuven Firebrook and his
wife's name is Gudren and they have two sons Noah and Yonah. Both Rueven
and Gudren were not born Jews, but chose to convert to Judaism with
their two sons. Last month Reuven, Yonah and Noah were circumcised at a
private clinic in Haifa to complete the long road to their conversion
Last week, Reuven arrived at the Haifa clinic, with his two sons, so that all three could be circumcised on the same day. Gudren came along to provide moral support.
They were also fortunate that the mohel, Dr Cyril Fine, is a family-doctor who has dedicated many years to performing britot (circumcisions) of converts, or those jews who have not been circumcised, such as many Jewish immigrants from the fomer Soviet Union. Each day in Haifa Dr Fine will perform 20 circumcisions. The children will receive a mild general anaesthetic, while the adults will need only a 'local' injection. Despite the fact that the circumcision is being performed in the sterile condtions of a hospital operating theatre, the religious significance and ritual is not forgotten. In the case of a convert, two witnesses testify to the circumcision being carried out according to Jewish law.
When all 20 circumcisions are complete, those who have undergone the procedure are invited with their familes to participate in a ceremony where Dr Fine announces the Jewish names of all who have been circumcised that morning.
"I'm very happy that now all our family are Jews," says Reuven as they all pose for a commemorative photo with Dr Fine.
While christianity (including Catholocisim) do not require circumcision, the circumcision of the baby Jesus (born into the Jewish faith) is still widely celebrated. Many artists' renderings of the baby Jesus being circumcised can be found in many of Christian places of worship throughout the world.
It is that time of the year again and I thought that it might be of interest to communicate a certain curiosity revolving around the "Holy Prepuce", the severed foreskin of Jesus Christ. Most of this info can be found in a quaint old book by Felix Bryk "Circumcision in Man and Woman" (N.Y.: 1934).
As we all have been told, Jesus was born a Jew and as a result He underwent the usual Jewish ceremonies and upbringing. Well, Jesus was also circumcised, like a good Jewish boy. What the rabbi that circumcised Jesus didn't know was that the piece of foreskin that he severed from Jesus would eventually become a holy relic and the center of much heated theological contention:
Centuries after the blessed event, in an age when the worship of holy relics was in full bloom, the question of the day was: "What really happened to the holy foreskin of Jesus Christ?"
It seems that their was a legend that Mary, the Mother of God, had carried Her son's severed foreskin with Her all her life like some precious treasure. That way, the legend went, she would have been able to again accept Christ on the Day of Judgement.(?) The point was that Jesus would appear before God, His Father, both spiritually and physically intact. Hence, it was important that He be re-united with his severed prepuce!
A Swedish saint, Saint Birgitta, had a revelation whereby she learned that Holy Mary had entrusted the Holy Prepuce with Saint John, before Her death. (Another version says that She entrusted It with Mary Magdalen!). One way or another, the Holy Prepuce fell into the caring hands of the Apostles and from there to their successors. However, somewhere in the shuffle It got lost!:
It finally emerged after centuries when an angel brought it to Charlmagne at Aix-la-Chapelle. He, then, presented It to the Roman Church. During the siege of Rome by Charles V (1527 A.D.), a low-life soldier had stolen the relic, but then it was found again! A characteristic of the Holy Foreskin of Jesus Christ was that it was possessed of a wonderful aroma which enchanted the pious nostrils of the aristocratic women in Renaissance Italy -- a miracle according to many sources.
Soon, the Holy Foreskin emerged in other places, so that finally more than 12 abbeys seemed to posses the relic!!: Typically, the relic was set in silver casing and was shown to pregnant women to relieve them of the worst discomforts they might have been subject to. The French were calling it 'Le Saint Repuce'! There was the miracle when the Queen of Sicily made a pilgrimage to the Holy Prepuce and returned cured from the ostensibly incurable disease she suffered from! Of course there were perverts, too!:-) In some nunnery it was discovered that some pretty damnable behavior occred that involved the nuns and the Holy Foreskin!
Some theologians raised the "red flag"! If that is the Holy Foreskin, then what does Jesus have in Heaven? Well, that was only the beginning, dare I say the tip, of heated scholastic controversy revolving around the deep existential question: "Has Christ a foreskin in Heaven, or has He not?" There was a school of thought that declared that Jesus did not need the foreskin in Heaven any more than He neede his umbilical cord, or the hair that he had cut, or His nail-clippings. Afterall, He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it, right? The other side said that all this is obscuring the sad fact that one day when it will be time for the Final Judgement, Jesus will be at a disadvantage since he wouldn't have His foreskin and others would.
The Holy Prepuce was a relic unlike any other; According to Bryk (always), it was always the pre-occupation of the female sex and many visions of female saints were connected with this blessed relic. Saint Agnes of Blannbekin felt the very object materialize in a most interesting way. Of course, Saint Agnes had been pre-occupied since childhood with the idea of the Holy Foreskin: She would shed tears of compassion on the day of the Feast of the Circumcision, thinking about all that blood that little Jesus had shed for the Good of Humanity! Then things got a little bit hotter when she grew up and the Holy Prepuce would materialize before her;-) Saint Agnes would recognize that It had materialized, because she could feel a small membrane on her tongue, a membrane full of ecstatic sweetness! When she would touch It with her finger, the sweet membrane (i.e. the Holy Foreskin) would slide down her throat by Itself! It was so sweet, that Saint Agnes felt herelf being tranformed and sensed a sweetness permeate all her body!
So there you have some little-known info on such an important matter. Of course you will all rush to secure a copy of Muller's De Praeputio Domini, or Bryk's book to learn more.
In time before time, there was an Anglican nunnery in Oxford. One year, the Mother Superior realised, when it was already too late, that she had neglected to send a Christmas card to her spiritual director, so she bought a New Year's card, and feeling this to be a rather secular festival, enlivened it with the following inscription: "I wish you a very happy circumcision."
This brings up the curiously ambiguous relationship of the Christian church to circumcision. Alone among the three monotheist "peoples of the book", Christians have with few exceptions abandoned and even condemned the practice of circumcision. Yet the idea, the representation have remained alive from the Bible, from the feast of the circumcision, and from paintings. Up until the 18th Century there were even a number of churches that exhibited Christ's foreskin (as being the only part of Jesus Christ to have remained on earth) alongside relics of other saints. In the end, the number of blessed foreskins was so great that they tended to weaken rather than reinforce belief!
Circumcision was replaced by the not altogether satisfactory concept of "circumcision of the heart" (could one say: "My heart is not circumcised - I just keep it skinned back"???) which shows that circumcision was seen as a symbol of purity - perhaps giving credence to the notion that it is a protection against masturbation. Many sermons dwell on the question of why Jesus was circumcised, when he was without sin - the inference being that while man was in a state of sin, circumcision was a kind of pre-emptive strike or pre-paid punishment. The line - taken inter al by Fenelon - was that the sacrifice of the foreskin was a kind of down payment of the sacrifice of redemption.
When I was young, and still today, perhaps, there was a Latin litany once a term in the University Church, which we used to attend for the Latin sermon that followed. Contained the words "mysterium circumcisionis tuae" - and we used to wonder where, in the cutting off of a prepuce, was the mystery; probably in the concept of sacrifice.
For those worried about Routine Infant Circumcision (RIC) though, we might ponder the following. Mary was conceived without sin, so she started off with a clean slate. She herself conceived without sin. And did not die, but was assumed into heaven, with no pit-stops in purgatory, in a process also much depicted in western painting, known as "the dormition". At no point was her progress to a throne of stars impeded by anyone saying: "Hang on, you had you son circumcised - surely you should have let him choose later on whether he wanted it as an erotic experience".
Given the considerable debate there once was about whether JC could ejaculate (he must have been able to because he was perfect, but chose not to, for the same reason) I suppose an erotic experience as an adult would have been difficult.
I hope circlisters will celebrate 1st Jan as being their day in the calendar, and the one time the memory of circ was kept alive during the middle ages outside the shetls.
David (Dublin, Ireland)
It was, I believe, Catherine of Sienna who used to have mystical-erotic fantasies about Jesus's foreskin. Apparently she recounts these in her diaries, although I have never taken the time to look up the passages.
There is an interesting painting by Peter Paul Rubens called "The Mystical Marriage of Catherine of Sienna," depicting one of her fantasies/visions. Catherine is standing there as a bride, extending her fourth finger to receive the wedding ring. In this case, the ring is Christ's severed foreskin, which the baby Jesus, held in his mother's arms, is attempting to tug over Catherine's finger.
The poet John Milton also has a poem entitled something like "On the Feast of the Circumcision," in which Christ's circumcision is analogized to his final sacrifice. It's a rathe sober poem, of course. Not so interesting as "The Mystical Marriage of Catherine of Sienna."
There is also a latin epigram on circumcision and baptism by the Welsh poet, John Owen (1564-1622), which I transcribe below, with a translation:
Circumcisus eras et baptizatus, Iesu
Christe, tibi neutro cum tamen esset opus.
cui purganda parum est utrumque ad crimina, quare
alterutro tantum fas mihi, christe, frui?
"You were circumcised and baptized, Jesus Christ, although you needed neither one of them. Why, when both are insufficient to wash away my sins, am I permitted to enjoy only one or the other, but not both?"
Please note too that St. Paul had his companion, Timothy, circumcised (Acts 16:3) Timothy's mother was Jewish, his father Greek, they were both apparently Christians. Paul was concerned that circumcision would be turned into a condition for becoming a Christian - he was opposed to laying any conditions on any one with regards to becoming a Christian, except perhaps for baptism. Most early Christians were Jews and therefore the males had all been circumcised as infants. The Jews were careful not to associate with uncircumcised folks and so the new Christian converts were asked to accept circumcision. This blew Paul's mind and he was against circumcision as a condition of acceptance in the community, but not necessarily against circumcision per se. According to Paul, and the first ecumenical council held in Jerusalem with the apostles, Christians were not obligated to follow the ceremonial law of the Jews. After the 1st century most Christians were no longer of Jewish background and so circumcision just didn't occur in those areas where gentiles were in the majority. However, in those places, such as Egypt, Ethiopia, where circumcision was practised, the Christians maintained the practise, attaching no religious significance to it however. Present day Chrisitans in Egypt are all cut; in other areas of the middle east they may or may not be, depending.
and the Law