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The removal of the foreskin (prepuce) of the male penis. In ancient Israel and in Judaism, circumcision was routinely performed upon infants of eight days (Gen 17:12; Lev 12:3; Luke 1:59; Luke 2:21; Phil 3:5), though circumstances might permit or require performance upon adolescents (Gen 17:25) or even upon grooms (Gen 34:14-24). The Hebrews attributed different aspects of the practice to divine injunction to Abraham (Gen 17:9-27), to Joshua (Josh 5:2-7), and to Israel (Lev 12:1-5; Exod 12:44; Exod 12:48). In one passage (Exod 4:24-26), Zipporah, Moses’s wife, is credited with saving her husband’s life by circumcising her son. In (Gen 17:11), circumcision is said to serve as a “sign” of God’s covenant with Israel. A “spiritual” interpretation can also be found: persons who are deemed to have “uncircumcised ears” (Jer 6:10) or an “uncircumcised heart” (Lev 26:41; Ezek 44:7; Ezek 44:9) are considered to be unreceptive or stubborn. In early Christianity, the merits of continuing the ritual of circumcision were debated, but spiritual circumcision was eventually deemed sufficient (Acts 15; Rom 2:29; Col 2:11; 1Cor 7:19; Gal 6:15).

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.