Two of the greatest Patriarchs, Adam and Noah, were not circumcised, nor baptized; Abraham, on the other hand, at the age of 99 (Genesis 17, 1-10) was circumcised, while, on his eighth day of life, Jesus (as reported in the Gospel according to Luke in Chap. 2), had been removed his Holy Prepuce, and then also baptized at the age of 30 (Mk 1, 9-11; Mt 3, 13-17 and Lk 3, 21-22). The Koran, moreover, does not mention circumcision, nor even baptism, although the Muslim tradition reports that the Prophet Mohammed was born already circumcised. To date this practice (khitan in Arabic) is carried out by almost all believers, making Islam today the largest religious group that practices circumcision.
These two rites of the Abramitic Religions (circumcision for Jews and Muslims, and baptism for Christians) seems more to be an imposition, for believer’s children, practiced more by tradition than by faith.
In contemporary confessions, not wanting to circumcise or baptize a child at its birth turns out to be not only a very difficult position to sustain, but also a harsh test for parents because, with this decision, they would find themselves replacing the institution that has as its purpose the formation and development of the Faith. It is therefore a commitment that is not neglectable, which requires Religion’s knowledge that can in any case sustain and support the growth, in full freedom of religion, of one’s child.
What has been said, however, is not opposed to these two important traditions which in any case remain Biblical precepts [note a] (although referring to unfulfilled Covenants). This arises simply from wanting to give newborns the freedom that every living creature should receive by right from birth, a freedom of thought and religious choice. Only later, in adulthood and by now conscious, will the child be able to choose independently which ritual he deems best suited to his personal sanctification: “Be Saints because I, the ETERNAL GOD, am Holy” (Lv 19, 2). In fact, originally, the concept of sacrament referred to this, the “being Sacred” (or “to be Saints”), or to imitate GOD, committing to be similar to the CREATOR in Love, Compassion and Mercy. Only after being instructed can the believer decide whether to receive circumcision, baptism, or both. This will give a freedom to their children who, although aware of being able to make mistakes, will still have the great privilege of being able to decide themselves about a ritual of such great value.
Circumcision was already practiced in the Arabian peninsula since the 4th millennium BC, when the Sumerians and the Semites moved to the area of today’s Iraq. The first historical testimony of circumcision comes from Egypt: it is an image carved in the tomb of Ankh-Mahor in Saqqara and dating back to around 2400 BC, which depicts this practice performed on an adult. Circumcision was practiced by the Egyptians probably both for hygienic reasons (given that for humans in hot and sandy climates it was more difficult to maintain a good intimate hygiene), but also partly due to their obsession with purity being associated with spiritual development and intellectual of the believer.
But it is in the Torah (Book of Genesis in chapter 17) that we find testimony of the first known individual to have undergone this procedure: Abraham. For him, circumcision was not so much a spiritual act, but a physical and tangible sign of the Covenant (בְּרִית berith) with YHWH. In addition to him his family members, male slaves, were circumcised and to follow all the male descendants of the Prophet:
11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.
(Genesis 17, 11-12)
Also, the Book of Leviticus (Chap. 12, 3) states that “On the eighth day the flesh of the child’s foreskin will be circumcised.” According to the ancient Scriptures, moreover, it was a “dishonor” for an Israelite not to be circumcised (Joshua 5, 9), and the term arelim (“uncircumcised” [plural]) is often infamous, indicating the Philistines and other non-Israelites (1Samuel 14, 6; 1Samuel 31, 4; 2Samuel 1, 20) and used together with tameh (unclean) for the pagans (Isaiah 52, 1). The word arel (“uncircumcised” [in the singular]) is also used to indicate a soul (a heart) difficult to change (Leviticus 26, 41, “their uncircumcised hearts”; see Jeremiah 9, 24-25; Ezekiel 44 , 7-9). And it is precisely referring to this circumcision of the heart, and not of the body, that St. Paul dissolves the Christian believers from this bond with the words:
25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
(Letter to Romans 2, 25-26)
4 You have become estranged from [the doctrine of] Christ, you who attempt to be justified by the Law; you have fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit [of GOD] eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in [the doctrine of] Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through Love.
(Letter to Galatians 5, 4-6)
The tradition of circumcision
Yet the Master of Christians and of Paul, Jesus, was circumcised on the eighth day (Lk 2, 21), but it is now known that the Covenants have undergone total mutations over the centuries, Adam and Eve broke the first and simple Pact:
16 And the LORD GOD commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
17 but of the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
(Genesis 2, 16-17)
Later God changed this first Covenant, and imposed a new one on Noah after the flood (Gen 9, 14-15), to then stipulate another Pact with Abraham, and yet another with David and Solomon, imposing a new Covenant founded on construction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Dwelling and eternal witness (“My Eyes and My Heart will be here forever” 1Kings 9, 3-9) of the LORD on Earth.
So this receiving an indelible cut in the flesh of one’s body (foreskin), which bears witness to being in Covenant with GOD cannot give the certainty of entering the Kingdom, since these old Covenants have been broken over the centuries and to this day the only things which really count to be believers are: the Love for GOD (and therefore towards His creatures and creation), and the works that man and woman do in respect of the Commandments.
The word derives from the Greek (βάπτισμα, βαπτίζειν), where the corresponding root indicates “immersion in water” (“ablution” “purification”), and in fact baptism, through the very complete immersion of the believer in water, symbolizes the burial of the “old” man (unbeliever or sinner) towards a new life in the Faith.
The first to use water as an element of purification of souls was John the Baptist, one of the most important personalities of the Gospels. Close relative of Jesus (the mothers Mary and Elizabeth were cousins Lk 1, 5-36) and one of the greatest prophets who preceded Muhammad, present in the Koran with the name of Yaḥyā. An ascetic who dwelt in the desert, calling on the faithful and non-believers to redeem themselves from their sins and change their way of life by means of the rite of purification of Baptism by immersing them in the water of the Jordan River.
The tradition of baptism
From here the Christian tradition takes its cue that only centuries after the death of both prophets (Jesus and John the son of Zechariah), he obliged believers to this rite, claiming that this sacrament conferred entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.
But the Sacraments (which derive from the Hebrew term qadosh “sacred”) in truth have gradually been defined in the Centuries with the growth of the Christian doctrine and of the Church itself as a religious, political and social institution. As a result of a need, of the less formed believers, to feel closer to the Divinity, a tangible proof of their faith, and a desire to “touch” (the confirmation of having reached this state of salvation) as the apostle Thomas teaches.
But if not even the name of YHWH can be mentioned (the 3rd Commandment) as too much beyond human understanding, how can one hope to approach the Divine by means of earthly rites, imparted by mortal men?
In the first centuries of Christianity, therefore, with “sacrament” was indicated the set of sacred signs and gestures that had the purpose of placing the faithful in mystical communion with GOD. Subsequently, the meaning (and the number of sacraments) has been defined, and today it is very different in the various Christian denominations.
Augustine of Hippo affirmed that the Church lives of many sacraments, and among these he cites the holy water, the marriage, the Eucharist and the funeral, and in other cases the term “sacrament” is used in abstract expressions to indicate the mysterious union between the Work of GOD and the work of man.
In Protestantism only two sacraments are recognized on the basis of what Jesus affirms to the apostles in the Gospels, “Go therefore and make all my people baptize my disciples” (Mt 28, 19) and “Do this [Eucharist] in memory of me” (Lc 22, 19), the other five are considered only ecclesiastical rites.
As it was possible to analyze previously, on the question Circumcision there are debates that have been open for millennia of years and have not yet been clarified, and the conviction of not wanting to circumcise or baptize a newborn child is generated precisely by this great confusion. The laws of GOD, the really important ones, are very clear and often repeated several times in the Scriptures (Do not worship other Gods, do not kill, do not steal, and others), understandable even to a child. Those fundamental to the true Faith then are easily summed up in a few simple words, all the rest must remain secondary and cannot be imposed. Moreover, if according to the Jewish tradition the Biblical precepts are 613, why today only some of them can be put into practice? Surely because they referred to Covenants of the past (such as the sacrifices that were offered in the Temple of the LORD) and therefore nowadays to advance the Faith and improve it, (finally crossing the threshold of a long-awaited Era of Peace, Messianic Era) not we can blindly stick to the traditions of religious institutions thinking we are so safe.
Surely as believers we have the obligation to know and respect the traditions, also because it is precisely through these rites that we have been able to preserve and increase (however absolutely imperfect it will always be) over the centuries the knowledge of GOD. Moreover, it is also to consider how important the social aspect that circumcision and baptism are have been, and still is today. A goodwill, and an intruding to the faith that, willy-nilly, will allow the children of believers to become part of a community, a religious group that will assist them in any way during their growth.
Not everyone has the means, time and means of support sufficient to undertake this journey in faith in a personal and free manner, and it is precisely for this reason that in some cases the convectional path of the institutions remains a wise choice. Even if in the midst of a people of different religious faiths, we remain in constant growth towards a cultural unity, without forced imposition of beliefs, and for this we must be grateful to GOD.
What is venerated by all, it is right to consider it one and the same Being. We look at the same stars, the sky is common to all, the same universe surrounds us: what is the importance of the philosophy through which every man seeks the truth?
We cannot reach such a great mystery through a single road.
(Quintus Aurelius Symmachus)
We learn to discern between the teachings of GOD and those of men, having the obligation, as believers, first of all to work in the present (tikkun olam “to repair the World”), to study the history and the background of faith to guarantee a future and an even better religion for our children.
This is why it is good that everyone can decide for himself, in a conscious age, which is the best path to take for his Faith, avoiding to impose paths made mainly of convictions.
[note a] Objectively we could consider circumcision more a Biblical precept (Genesis 17, 10) than baptism (Mt 28, 19) since in Genesis the words of GOD: “This is My covenant which you will observe, among Me and you, and your descendants after you: every male among you will be circumcised. “ they are much more imposing than those of the Son of GOD: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the FATHER and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
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