Christian Churches of God

Purification and Circumcision (No. 251)

(Edition 1.0 19990313-19990313) Audio

Laws regarding Purification of women and Circumcision of men have a bearing on the faith and are part of the Law of God. This paper examines their relationship to Judaism, Christianity and Islam with some interesting facts and conclusions.

 


Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright ã 1999 Wade Cox)

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Purification and Circumcision

Purification of Women

There are some very difficult issues arising from the laws of female purification. Science has studied food in many of its aspects, especially its physiology and its nutritional value. As a result we can now understand why certain foods are ‘clean’ and others are not and have been forbidden to us (see the paper The Food Laws (No. 15)). However, for generations we have been following those food laws simply because God told us to. We understand that God gave us His laws in order for us to be able to lead healthy, well balanced, well ordered lives. The laws relating to women have not been studied in the same way, therefore, we must do as we have always done. Rely on the fact that if God has said so and that it is in our best interests to do so. These matters are also qualified in and by their spiritual aspects, as they relate to Messiah.

The term ‘unclean woman’ might bother many people. It seems to be offensive, but it is not. It is simply a time of separation because the woman requires rest and understanding. The term ‘unclean’ is not the equivalent of ‘sinner’. The purification is scientifically a time of cleansing for seven days. It is a natural and physical act where the lining of the womb, in not receiving a fertile ovum for the process of impregnation, is rejected during menstruation. Normally it is a period of seven days in every 28. This process of cleaning permits the continuation of human kind, for which this law, in the same manner as all the others, is a blessing from God (Gen. 1:28). The fulfilling of the laws are tied to the daily life of the human being. The Law of God is in force in its totality both physically and spiritually (2Cor. 7:1). With the Jews, it is customary for the women in their period of purification that they:

Do not handle the word of God or the Holy Scriptures.

Do not attend church.

Do not have intimate relationships at this time.

This is Judaic tradition.

Leviticus 15:19-30 19 "When a woman has a discharge of blood which is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20 And everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. 21 And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. 22 And whoever touches anything upon which she sits shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening; 23 whether it is the bed or anything upon which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. 24 And if any man lies with her, and her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.

These verses are dealing with the healthy natural cycle of a woman’s menstrual period. It was very important that a woman was given the time she needed during this period to keep herself clean and to have the rest and peace of mind she needed to maintain her health. Over the ages males have needed this injunction often simply to enable such peace to be extended to women. They did not have the facilities we have today to maintain good hygiene practices. However, that argument is also applied to the eating of swine. Regardless of the modern hygienic practices in the raising of pigs, we are still prohibited from eating them on sound scientific grounds. One would also assume that the female quarantine laws have a sound basis and also still apply. It would appear based on what we know of the scientific basis of the foodlaws, that more than simple hygiene is involved and we must do as we have done for generations. Do what God says we must do. We act in faith.

The next few verses deal with an abnormal discharge. We see that the basis of the assumption is that a discharge must be treated as an impurity, until it proves to be simply a menstrual condition by its cessation. Thus the laws of quarantine lie behind the purification legislation. Women, and the men associated with them, are thus obligated by law to treat all discharge seriously.

25 "If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness; as in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26 Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity; and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her impurity. 27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. 28 But if she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. 29 And on the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and bring them to the priest, to the door of the tent of meeting. 30 And the priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for her unclean discharge. (RSV)

Until it is known whether a condition is contagious or not, it is clear that proper precautions must be taken. If quarantine is affected immediately, then the condition is not spread to others, thereby protecting everyone. If the condition is subsequently shown not to be contagious then the quarantine can be lifted.

The quarantine of a woman is often necessary for the maintenance of her own health. Whilst a disease may not be contagious it is often the case that the woman should be able to be separated and in peace.

Purification in Childbirth

Leviticus 12 deals with women in childbirth. The law dealing with childbirth provides for specific periods of purification dependant upon the child being male or female.

Leviticus 12:1-8 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean.3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying; she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. 5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days. 6 "And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her; then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. 8 And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean." (RSV)

A woman is unclean for seven days following a male child and fourteen after a female. The male is to be circumcised on the eighth day. The eighth day here is very important, as it is at that time that the blood develops the ability to coagulate. Then follows a further period of purification of seven plus thirty-three totalling forty days for the male and fourteen plus sixty-six totalling eighty days for the female.

In his notes to v. 5 in the Companion Bible, Bullinger states that the extended period for the female was to ensure fewer female births. The real reason is much more important as we will see.

The sacrificial system is finished but the law stands. The physical or scientific reason why there is a difference in the times involved between male and female births is not known. Is it a matter of different hormones? Is it that there are differences in the stress levels involved? Or more likely, is it a matter of immunity? We know that medical science recommends breast- feeding in the first few months as the child will develop immunity through the mother to various conditions. The period of separation will allow both mother and child to gain strength and develop an ability to withstand the many germs and viruses that abound in modern society. There is also a distinct difference in the attitudes towards the male and the female child. The male child has circumcision and a lesser period of separation. The female child may well have been given a longer period of separation because she was not to be circumcised and that this fact was also indicated by the distinction in the periods of separation. There are other reasons that are expanded below.

In the text in Leviticus 12:4 we see the term to touch not what is holy. In these terms we see the parallel symbolism, which goes to setting apart the elect in purification. This distinction was made until Christ. The theory was that the woman in her condition would defile that which was holy. However, that which was holy would also sanctify that which was in a state of purification. For this reason the woman who was in a state of discharge and in need of cure was made clean by touching Christ’s garment. This did not make Christ unclean but rather the Holy Spirit flowed from him to her making her clean.

Matthew 9:20-22 20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. 22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. (KJV)

This action pointed towards two things. One was that Christ was the new High Priest whose hem was set apart from Exodus 28:33-34; 39:25-26 and whose headband was also Holiness to the Lord (Ex. 28:36; 39:30).

The second lesson was that by faith through the Holy Spirit cleanliness and purification was extended to the sick and the infirm. This is repeated again in Matthew that we might see the importance of the presence of Christ to the impact of the Law and the prophets and the restoration of the sick and the infirm and the unclean.

Matthew 14:34-36 34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; 36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole. (KJV)

Thus that which was holy could touch that which was unholy or unclean and make it holy. This had not been possible until the coming of the Messiah as we see from the prophets.

Haggai 2:11-19 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you. (KJV)

Thus from the Law, that which was unholy could not touch that which was holy. This was asked of the priests and the answer was given. Yet from God’s own law and prophecy the same situation pointed towards a time when God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh and make it Holy within His law and He would write it on their hearts. This action was accomplished through Messiah.

Thus all flesh was made holy in the Spirit and was cleansed through Messiah in the Holy Spirit. The Purification legislation pointed towards the cleansing of the human mother as Israel the Church and Bride of Christ and mother of the new nation.

From this position we see that the mother is cleansed and may partake of the Lord’s Supper and Passover as one of the elect being cleansed in the Holy Spirit. Being confined in actual childbirth is of itself grounds for taking the second Passover should such a situation arise.

Circumcision

It is important at this point to digress into the subject of circumcision.

The practice of circumcision is perhaps one of the oldest rites of all civilisations. It is found among all tribes and areas. It is found from Australia to Africa and into the Middle East. In the documentation of the practices James Frazer (The Golden Bough, Vol., 1, Macmillan, 1976, pp. 96 ff.) indicates the likely origin and thinking behind the practice. Circumcision has a beneficial effect in hot desert climates in the prevention of disease. Aside from this effect the original practice seemed to have a distinct relationship to the concept of rebirth and reincarnation. From the most ancient times the foreskin of the circumcised male was placed in a location of some direct proximity to the totems of the circumcised males, either in rocks or trees or the like. From what we can now tell it appears that the practice of circumcision is actually tied to the concept of the rebirth of the individual in the bodies of the descendants. This appears to have been carried over as a concept among all the ancient tribes; it has specific bearing on the concept of the lie in original sin, namely, thou shalt not surely die.

It appears that by giving the ordinance of circumcision to Abraham as a requirement of the eighth day, God was actually intervening and giving direct and corrective meaning to an existing pagan practice. God was saying, I am your rock or totem and the object of your resurrection and continued life. That it was to be done at the eighth day and not at puberty removed it from the realm of the self existence and manhood of the individual, and placed it on the level of the free gift of God, as a member of the nation of Israel. In this way also, God was saying that Ishmael was brought into the tribe at the same time as Isaac and indeed through the covenant membership as was Abraham himself.

God was striking at the lie of the soul and the reincarnation doctrines of the pagan or Satanic- teachings of the Sin and Ishtar systems (cf. the papers The Golden Calf (No. 222) and The Origins of Christmas and Easter (No. 235)). This practice was also seemingly coupled with another practice namely that of tooth extraction. Teeth were removed or knocked out on circumcision in the more primitive tribal systems. Frazer is of the opinion that this practice probably derived from the concept of the durability of the tooth in the skull after death and thus it served as a symbol of the afterlife. We know with certainty that the early Australians practised this custom for millennia and the famous Lake Nitchie male displays this characteristic. It is thus most ancient as a custom, probably dating back to the earliest times pre-flood.

The more modern Australian aborigines also practised the ancient rite of cutting or marking by tribal insignia. It appears that this practice was anciently used to denote dedication to a deity and hence those with the markings were able to summon their deity. The practice was forbidden to Israel (Lev. 19:28; cf. 21:5; Deut. 14:1). It was known anciently among the Arabs and each tribe has its own tribal mark (wasm) for its cattle (Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (ERE), vol. 2, pp. 326 ff.). According to Lucian all the Syrians bore stigmata of religious significance on their wrists or neck (ibid.). Herodotus tells us that the fugitive slaves who fled to the Heraculeum at the canopic mouth of the Nile were tattooed and made over to the god and hence could not be reclaimed by their masters. Thus the prohibition has clear reference to the removal of idolatry in Israel. Among the Semites all marks within such categories were badges of relationship to either a god or fellow (ibid.). Hence a man’s reliance on another man was marked by an awl in the ear, as an indication of a lack of faith in God who was the real master. These badges probably all go back to the totem as common origin.

The ritual "cutting for the dead" was part of this ancient practice of ancestor worship, which had also at its base the reincarnation of the ancestor. This belief was also endemic to the Celts who got it from the same source. We know beyond doubt that the Caucasians, who appear to be relatives of the Aryan Celts, practised mummification also.

We have evidence now from the finds in what may have been classed as Ancient Scythia. The mummies were found at Urumchi (or Urumqi) in what is now modern China in the Tien Shan in the Uygur Autonomous Region near the border with Kazakhstan. They are some thousands of years old and cover the period ca. 1000 BCE at the time of David and the subsequent Aryan invasion of India.

The mummies are at present in the hands of the Chinese government, who had kept them from public scrutiny because of the obvious ramifications of the Caucasians apparently related to the Celts, being in Ancient Scythia or what is now China. We have the record of the time of David and the wars in Scythia against Mesech and Tubal and in the tents of Kedar (Ps. 120:5-7). This subject will be examined in detail in the series on the history of nations (cf. E. J. W. Barber, The Mummies of Urumchi, W. W. Norton, 1979).

The Blood Covenant

The markings among the Arabs were done as a covenant and this was originally between man and God and subsequently became between man and man (ERE ibid.). This marking was followed by the collection of blood and it was drunk as a sign of the covenant. This is the spiritual basis behind the injunction against drinking of blood in the Bible. There are serious health consequences also arising from this practice. Thus Christ made the comment that they had to drink his blood and eat his body as part of the covenant.

Ancient Practices and Movements

Circumcision thus became the badge of this covenant between Yahovah and His people. Originally circumcision was very widespread and appears to have been in Egypt at the Exodus and before that, and so is thought to have been the origin of the practice in Israel. God gave Israel the true meaning of the symbolism. The Fallen Host under Azazel seems to have given the symbolism as a mark of the immortality of the soul and the system of reincarnation in man. Much is made of the Australian aboriginal being forty or untold thousands of years old and in occupation of Australia, but the fact is that the evidence does not support that claim and they actually came to Australia in some eight waves over the past few thousand years.

Professor Berndt holds that they were related to the ancient Egyptians and the tribal Dravidians of India. Their characteristics, and from examination their customs, seem to support this contention. Some of the evidence and anthropological theories relate them to the early types found in the Choukoutien Upper Cave in China which also included three different racial types in the one group of "primitive Mongoloid, Melanesoid and Eskimoid types." Birdsell, quoted by Hooten, also regards the Murrayian or Archaic white or Caucasoid or second migration wave skulls as having closest affinities with the Old Man of the Choukoutien Upper Cave (cf. R. M. and C. H. Berndt Aboriginal Man in Australia, Angus and Robertson, 1965, pp. 29-31). Weidenreich notes that:

some workers [anthropologists] have regarded the Aboriginal Australian as a direct descendant of European Upper Paleolithic Man and a migrant in recent time from Europe or Central Asia to Australia (ibid. p. 31).

What is also important is that these diverse racial types were found in the one group and strata in Choukoutien in China, indicating perhaps a common dispersal point for the racial types of Asia and/or a wider genetic pool at that time in the species.

For centuries Buddhist priests at their ordination ceremonies, have three heaps of incense burned into their forehead and this is repeated as they rise in ranks and order until there are nine scars on the forehead (ERE ibid., 2, p. 327). At the Theravadin pre-ordination ceremony even today the deity or spirits are invoked to come down through the five levels into the novice. The deity is worshipped and its priests are marked accordingly.

Thus God issued the injunction to Israel against such practice. However, anciently in Israel the prophets seemed to have had some form of a mark or a badge on the forehead as some deduce from the text in First Kings (cf. 1Kgs. 20:35-43; cf. ERE, vol. 2, p. 327).

Moses appears to have evidenced the practice of marking among the Midianites and the descendants of Abraham. Job, the son of Issachar (Gen. 46:13) in the times pre-Exodus in Midian appears to have had a mark dedicating him to Yahovah. The original text of Job 31:35 says:

Oh, that I had one to hear me! See my mark! Let the Almighty answer me and let my Accuser write an indictment.

This is obscured in the KJV but it is certainly there and refers to Job’s mark (cf. Green’s Interlinear Bible and ERE ibid.). This was replaced by the Law of God as a memorial between the eyes and on the hand being written into the heart. It always pointed towards the Holy Spirit being given to write God’s Law in our hearts and minds and in our actions.

Judaism wore phylacteries at the time of Christ as symbols of the Law of God, but they were ostentatious.

Badges for Jews did not come into use until the Pact of Omar (ca. 640 CE) where in Muhammedan countries all Jews were obliged to wear a yellow seam on their upper garments. In Egypt during the fourteenth century Jews wore a yellow turban. After the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 Rome ordered that all Jews and Muslims should wear a distinctive badge. It had already come into use in 1208 in France for Jews. The Roman church gave as the reason to prevent intermarriage and concubinage with Christians. In France the badge was yellow but in the east it was red (cf. e.g. following the Council of Buda).

The rite of circumcision came to be seen as being the precursor to baptism and hence in the Reformation Churches the infant was "baptised" at eight days as circumcision demanded and was then confirmed at puberty by the laying on of hands by the bishop. See the paper Repentance and Baptism (No. 52).

The Church Position on Circumcision

In the early church the circumcision controversy arose where the so-called Hellenizing party rejected it and the Judaising party affirmed it (cf. Acts 11:2; 15:1,5; 21:21). Paul had himself been circumcised, and, under Jewish pressure, he circumcised Timothy (Phil. 3:5; Acts 16:3). He considered it a mark of divine favour of the nation (Rom. 3:1 ff.). However, in the case of Gentile converts it was considered unessential (Acts 15:19 ff.; cf. Gal. 5:2-4).

Paul regarded the presence or absence of physical circumcision as equally immaterial to the covenant between the adult male and God (Rom. 3:30f.; 4:9ff.; 1Cor. 7:18f.; Gal. 5:6; 6:12f.; Col. 3:11). By faith the Law is established and righteousness through faith. For they themselves that are circumcised do not keep the law, but attempt to glory in the flesh of we who do keep the law (Gal. 6:12ff.).

For the only true circumcision is spiritual (Rom. 2:25ff.; Phil 3:3ff.; Col. 2:11ff.). In this teaching Paul reinforces Jeremiah (Jer. 4:4; 6:10; 9:26; cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6). He allows for divergent procedures under different circumstances (cf. Acts 16:3 with Gal. 2:1ff.).

He held that he might by all means save some (1Cor. 9:19ff.). What is important is a personal honesty of conviction as to what is correct for each individual (cf. Gal. 2:11ff.). Paul considered himself to be entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, whereas Peter had been entrusted with the gospel of the circumcision (Gal. 2:7-9). Thus Peter’s mission had been to the Jews in the dispersion and also to Israel. Peter was never bishop of Rome. It was never his job.

The uncircumcision prevailed and it is often asserted that only a few minor sects who were regarded as erroneous kept circumcision. One was the judaising Ebionites who regarded circumcision as "the sign and stamp of the prophets and of the righteous" as it was of Christ himself basing their own practice on Mt. 10:25 (ERE, 3, pp. 665f; cf. Iren. Adv. Her. xxx. 26). Cerinthus also took a similar attitude and for this he is often considered a Judaising Gnostic (ERE ibid.). This view is however quite incorrect. We will see why below.

The Third council of Toledo (8 May 589) prohibited Jews from purchasing Christian slaves and enacted that any Jew circumcising such a slave on the basis of Genesis 17:12f. should forfeit him. This attitude was also carried on into the legislation by Recared in the Leges Visigothorum [Laws of the Visigoths] (ed. Zeumer, Hanover, 1894, p. 305 [=XII. ii. 12]) stating: ‘ille autem qui Christianum mancipium circumciderit, omnem facultatem amittat et fisco adgregetur.’ (cf. ERE ibid., p. 664).

Thus the non-Trinitarians, or so-called Arian sects were in agreement with the Trinitarians on this matter. The Trinitarians or Catholics took power shortly after this and in 590 established the Holy Roman Empire. Eugene IV gave the official Roman Catholic pronouncement in the Bull Cantate Domino (4 Feb. 1441). He held that the requirements and ceremonies of the Law, however proper for the time, were abrogated by the coming of Christ and the sacraments of the NT. Thus baptism was seen as replacing circumcision.

In the Coptic Church it was not so that baptism was seen as replacing circumcision. Boys were baptised at 40 days old and girls at 80 days old. This procedure reflected exactly that the purification legislation and circumcision for males remains general (ERE, vol. 4, p. 119).

The Copts were part of the earliest Christian Church of North Africa from Egypt. They separated from the so-called Orthodox Church ca. 451 as a result of the doctrines arising from Constantinople (381) and Chalcedon (451). It may be correctly argued from the evidence of the Copts, that baptism was not seen as replacing circumcision, as whilst the Copts adopted infant baptism based on the male/female purification distinctions, the males were still circumcised, as was the practice in ancient Israel. Thus the male and circumcision itself was seen as being the distinctive factor in the purification distinctions, which mirrored the biblical distinctions.

We can conclude from the early Coptic church practices, which were also practised among Sabbatarian sects in Europe and Asia Minor, that circumcision for infants was considered essential as part of the nation of Israel as the Church. When they entered the Church, adult Gentile males were not required to be circumcised. When in the church the Gentiles had their children circumcised, as did everyone else. This practice was general and was not pronounced against officially in the Catholic system until the Fifteenth century.

Circumcision was endemic among the American Indians and Lewis Spence (ERE, vol. 3, p. 670) regards it as a practice that evolved from, and was a substitute for human sacrifice. The symbolism noted by Frazer and commented on by Spence shows then a relationship, not just to reincarnation, but to the rebirth of the spirits of the earth, which we saw in the Christmas and Easter Religious systems of the pagans (cf. The Origins of Christmas and Easter (No. 235)). Spence regards circumcision in two types; one, as a symbolical sacrifice of sexuality and desire and the other as a partial sacrifice, symbolic of the sacrifice of the whole being to the deity in question (ibid.).

Egyptian circumcision goes back at least to the VIth Dynasty, from the evidence found at Saqqarah, and the actual evidence of such practice at such an ancient date was at first doubted by eminent authorities (ERE ibid., 3, 671 ff.).

Circumcision is found, as we might expect, with the ancient sect of the Bene Israel, the ancient Israelites called "The Saturday Oil men" in India spreading from the South of Bombay throughout the Konkan (cf. ERE, vol. 2, pp. 471 ff.). Circumcision was always performed in the home until the time of the Geonim. Between the sixth and the eleventh centuries it was transferred to the synagogue and performed publicly as a religious ceremony in front of the congregation. All mournful activities in worship were omitted on these days.

From the time of Christ and in later Talmudic Judaism, the child was named immediately after the ceremony. Hence we see the later baptismal naming proceed from this ceremony, rather than from baptism itself. Much later infant baptism came to be inserted in place of the circumcision ceremony. In Talmudic Judaism the ceremony consists of three parts:

1. the milah the cutting away of the outer part of the prepuce which is done with one sweep of the knife;

2. peri’ah the tearing of the inner lining of the prepuce which still adheres to the gland and is done using the thumbnail and index finger;

3. or the sucking of the blood from the wound. (This act contravenes biblical law)

Circumcision is not regarded as a sacrament of the Jews (or of ancient Israel) in the same way that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two Sacraments of the Christian Faith (cf. The Sacraments of the Church (No. 150)); cf. ERE, vol. 3, p. 680). The Reformed Jews from 1843 have made efforts to abolish circumcision without avail, but since 1892 the Reformed Jews of America have not required it of proselytes on the grounds of cruelty when performed on adults.

Circumcision in Israel is a symbol of the ethical and ritual structure of the heart and mind, which places all spiritual-converts as part of the body of Israel (cf. Deut. 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Lev. 26:41; Rom. 2:28; Col. 2:11). Philo 38d notes it as coming from El who circumcised himself and his allies (ERE, vol. 9, p. 896).

Herodotus (ii 104) notes the Phoenicians and Syrians adopted circumcision from Egypt.

One of the ancient rites of the worshippers of Ashtarte or Ashtaroth or Ishtar or Athargatis depending on the area in the Middle East, was that of emasculation. The young men worked themselves into a frenzy using music and other religious exercises and then castrated themselves. From then on they went about in women’s clothing. They carried an image of the goddess about, which they worshipped in wild orgies. They flogged and cut themselves. There were also female devotees in the Temple and licentious rites were practised. There was a reverence for fish at the centers in Hierapolis and Bambyce. We might then deduce that the fish was thus the symbol of Easter or Attis and had nothing to do with Christianity. The ceremonies also involved other practices, which have crept into Christianity. The ceremony of carrying the third image (‘Ate) to the seashore and then taking jars of water back to the temple to pour into a hole in its precincts was observed. The spring festival consisted of piling up branches and heaping them with goods and treasure and then burning them in the presence of the gods of Syria, who were all assembled in the Temple for the procedure. Animals and sometimes children were also offered in this way. Pilgrims always shaved their heads when coming to the temple in this way and young men and women offered their hair in gold or silver boxes before marrying. Tattooing in honour of the god was also common practice (cf. ERE, article Atargatis vol. 2, pp. 166-167). From this we can see the link with the early Arab practice below. Lewis Paton is of the opinion that the Lydian god Attis may be merely another form of the name of Atargatis, or Ishtar in the form ‘Ate (cf. ERE, ibid., ‘Ate, vol. 2, p. 168). Attis was castrated by Rhea and then went about in women’s clothing. Lucian gives two reasons for this activity. He says it was in honour of Ate or Attis and also in honour of Combabus who mutilated himself in order to stop compromising himself with Queen Stratonice (ERE ibid.). This religious system, which we meet with in the Bible on repeated occasions, is no doubt the origin of the Bible prohibitions on the practices. It is also easy to see the relationship between Ishtar or Easter and the dying god Attis who was sacrificed by hanging on a pine tree cross (cf. the paper The Cross: Its Origin and Significance (No. 39)). The worship of Attis was endemic in Rome at the beginning of the current era.

The priests of Attis continually protested in the fourth century that the Christians had stolen all their doctrines. The modern religious system of the Sun cults even uses the name Easter in the worship of the system and keeps the festival and the statues of the goddess and the god. Tertullian says that Atargatis was the goddess of the Syrians. Macrobius says they called the Sun Hadad and the earth Atargatis. Hence ben Hadad means son of the Sun. The Talmud calls her Tar’atha. In Armenia she is Tharatha. She is simply the form of the Semitic goddess Ishatar-’Athtar or simply in the ancient Anglo Saxon Easter. Strabo and Hesychius both identify her with Athara and the Delos inscriptions call her Aphrodite (ERE ibid.). Askelon, Karnaim and Delos were long devoted to Astarte. Known as Derketo at Askelon her lower half was a fish. This seems to be the origin of the mermaid. Lucian does not identify the Syrian deity at Hierapolis with the deity at Askelon, seemingly on the grounds that the deity at Hierapolis had perfect human form and he called her Hera, but admits that she may be identified with Rhea. There is little doubt they are one and the same deity. The followers of both Atargatis and Astarte did not eat fish, and the sex rites identify both goddesses as the one and the same deity. The deity was distinguished by the locality and thus was locally distinctive in the minds of the common people just as she was as Ishtar in Assyria at both Nineveh and Arbela. The native name of Hierapolis is Mabog and means spring in the native Aramaic (cf. ERE ibid.). Thus the association with water and springs also.

From 2Maccabees 12:26 Judas Maccabeus went against the Temple of Atergatis at Karnion in 164 BCE and killed 25,000 people. Paton concludes from the text in 1 Maccabees 5:43 that the cult of Atargatis flourished not only in Hierapolis and Askalon, but also in Bashan. Inscriptions between Damascus and Banias at Kefr Hauwar indicate a temple was there and also a number of inscriptions at Delos, dating from shortly before the Christian era, identify her with Hadad and also identify her as Aphrodite (cf. ERE, vol. 2, p. 166). Thus she is the consort of Hadad, the sun, or Baal. As Rhea she castrated Attis who is also identified with her.

Paton also notes that Ovid writing in 17 CE tells how Dercetis was changed into a fish in Palestine. Germanicus, in 19 CE, calls her the Syrian goddess Derceto and Atargatis and adds the new information that she was changed into a fish at Bambyce the Greek name for Hierapolis. Strabo writing in 24 CE says:

‘Artargate (or Artagate in some MSS) the Syrians call Arthara, but Ctesias calls her Derketo. Here Atargatis is identified with ‘Athar (= Athtar, Ashtart, Astarte), in the same manner with which she is identified with Aphrodite in the Delos inscriptions (ERE ibid).

Cornutis (ca 68 CE) records that fish and doves were sacred to Atargatis goddess of the Syrians. This is doubtless the real origin of the fish symbol in Rome in the first century. Christians would never have made the symbol of their faith an object that was an idol worshipped in Palestine for centuries before and during the time of Christ. Pliny in 79 CE says that Ceto is worshipped at Joppa. Both Pliny and Strabo state the skeleton of a sea monster was displayed at Joppa. Ceto is perhaps to be regarded as the truncated form of Derceto, but Paton says this is uncertain (ERE ibid.). Pliny identifies Atargatis as Derceto and says that she was worshipped at Hierapolis or Bambyce or Mabog. Plutarch says there was a pond of sacred fish at Hierapolis and says that this goddess worshipped there, is identified with Aphrodite and Hera, or the goddess who produces out of moisture the seeds of all things. (ERE. ibid.). The most extensive account was given by Lucian writing ca. 200 CE, and as an eye- witness, being himself a Syrian. As we have noted, he prefers to identify her as Hera, but Paton says there is no doubt we are dealing with Atargatis (ERE ibid.). Thus the cult of Atargatis, Ishtar, or Astarte, Ashtaroth or Easter, is the basis of the rites condemned in the Bible involving these various aspects. The purification aspects involve the removal from this system of worship. It dates back to the system of the Golden Calf under various names (cf. the paper The Golden Calf (No. 222)). Thus the system of Attis and Easter were still operational in Syria as late as 200 CE.

The purification and circumcision rites were seen as the elimination of these fertility and sun cults in Israel and the children of Abraham. Circumcision was always practised among the Arabs and was adopted into Islam without question, based on the ancient practices, no doubt derived from Abraham. Islam has exactly the same practices in regard to males, in that the circumcision is performed ideally after seven days. However, often it is delayed for five, six or more years. The child’s hair is also shaved and weighed and the weight in gold or silver is given to the poor. The purification period is the same period of forty days and the mother goes to the bath at this time (ERE, vol. 2, p. 660).

The ancient practices of redemption of the child in sacrifice also came in to the traditions of Islam from older times. The term ‘aqiqah is applied both to the shaving of the child’s head and the slaying of the goat in redemption on the seventh day (ERE, ibid.). The circumcision is thus confused as being on the seventh day from this ancient practice. The hair here has similar significance to that of the Nazirite in biblical legislation, in being dedicated to God (cf. also ERE, Vol. 12, p. 148a).

We might deduce from the relationship of the seven days of purification and the activities of the circumcision of the eighth day, that we are dealing with the plan of salvation. The seventh day of purification relates to the final millennial system and the purification of the earth. The eighth day relates to the final resurrection and the restoration of all flesh on the earth, as part of the nation of Israel and hence part of the City of God (cf. Rev. 21:1-3 and the paper The City of God (No. 180)). Females are sanctified in the Holy Spirit and then the children are also sanctified through the parents.

We will see below the concept of sanctification taken on to the higher levels. The things referred to in the Law that are excluded on grounds of purification, we will see made clean in Messiah. These symbols have great significance for the elect and can not be understood if confined to the physical plane in which we see Judah trapped at present.

Female Circumcision

The distinction in the purification legislation regarding separation was seemingly aimed at establishing another clear distinction in the male-female relationships. That is of the barbaric and pagan practice of female circumcision, which long preceded either Islam or Christianity and even Judaism itself. Female circumcision has nothing to do with God or His Laws and is pure pagan barbarism, stemming from aberrant customs among some Middle East tribes.

Female circumcision consists of the cutting off of the nymphoe or labia minora of the vulva, which unite over the clitoris. The rite is still performed among the Arab tribes of Moab as the time of marriage approaches. Originally it was probably a sacrifice to the goddess of fertility to secure more abundant offspring, but may have reflected the sacrifice of a part of the person instead of the whole person, which practice was endemic to the Moabites (cf. ERE. ibid.). The mutilation of the clitoris in female circumcision to prevent orgasm is a bizarre rite derived from some Middle East tribes and has no support from either the Bible or the Koran.

The protection of female children

One of the practices that was endemic in the ancient times was that of the sacrifice of infants to Moloch and the Moon god Sin, or whatever the name was in the various regions in which it was worshipped. One of the little known facts in this process was also that females were buried in sacrifice to the deity of the earth. This practice was also as old as that of circumcision. The practice among the Arabs was noted in the article on Arabs (Ancient) (ERE, Vol. 1, pp. 669 ff.). The Koran (Qur’an) notes the practice and ascribes the true motive to it, namely poverty (Surahs 5:152; 17:33).

The victim was slain without shedding blood. In other words buried alive. This practice may well have been the basis of the legislation for the protection of female children. Our knowledge of the practice is scant now from this distance in time, but it cannot be dismissed that this injunction was laid upon us as a sign and symbol of the protection of the female child in Israel and her dedication to God in purification and removal from the pagan system of the nations, from which Israel had been selected and called.

The purification legislation also appears to have some relationship to the separation of the Messiah and his sacrifice. Messiah, having pre-existence was brought to his ministry at the end of the fourth millennial system, or forty centuries, being born in 5 BCE. The female which was the bride of the male was drawn out and kept separate for seventy centuries from Adam to the First Resurrection and then over the thousand years of the Seventh Millennium and on into the Second Resurrection of the Eighth Millennium. Thus the male was circumcised on the eighth day, being also symbolic of the end of the system symbolised by the female at eighty days. The last phase is a new heaven and a new earth.

Symbolism of the Law and the sacrifices

The sacrificial system was itself symbolic of a number of aspects of worship. The peace offering with its communion feast showed the ideal of the fellowship between God and man. The tamid or continual offering symbolised Israel’s pledge of unbroken service to Yahovah. The sin offering:

with its sprinkling of blood showed that one of the conditions of cleansing oneself from sin was to place oneself submissively before God (ERE, vol. 12, p. 148).

Circumcision was a national badge of dedication to Yahovah. The Sabbath symbolised the completion of the work of creation. The Sabbaths were themselves also the sign of the sanctification of Israel and the people of God (Ex. 31:13).

Exodus 31:13 13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. (KJV)

Thus any other system of Sabbaths is indicative of the worship of another God and must by law and worship, constitute idolatry. It is a compromise of the purification following on from the sacrifice of Messiah. The Law itself and the purification legislation could never make the person perfect and pointed towards a more perfect system.

Hebrews 10:1-23 1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (KJV)

In this way we were all cleansed. The eunuch and the Gentile, who were prevented by Law from service, were made part of the Temple of God in the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Acts 8:26-40 26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. (KJV)

From this point on the eunuch had no need of a teacher and Philip was removed to show by miracles in the Holy Spirit, that the eunuch was taught directly by the spirit and had no further need of a teacher other than Christ in the Holy Spirit as the power of God being all in all. That which was in sin was purified and made holy.

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