The removal, by cutting, of the foreskin of the male penis. Though widely advocated in modern Western societies on the supposed ground of hygiene, circumcision is particularly associated with practising Jews by whom the rite is immensely valued as the occasion when a male child is initiated into the covenant of Abraham, eight days after birth (Lev. 12:3).
However, as the OT itself (Jer. 9:25–6) recognizes, circumcision was known amongst other peoples in the Near East, though not all required total amputation of the foreskin. The Hebrews had several versions of the origin of the rite—to Abraham (Gen. 17:9–27), or to Moses (Lev. 12:3) or to Joshua (Josh. 5:2–7), and these served as useful justifications from Israel's traditions for the continuing insistence on the rite. In fact the origin may have been a kind of magic: a curious reference to this may survive in the story that Moses's wife saved his (Moses') life by circumcising their son (Exod. 4:24–6).
At any rate circumcision was always a vital part of Jews's life—valued, exported (according to Josephus [[➝ Josephus, Flavius]]), defended even by martyrdom (1 Macc. 1:48, 60) by the fervent, but detested by Jews who welcomed Hellenistic culture and desired assimilation to the Greeks. (Hellenized Jews took painful steps to cover up the embarrassment of circumcision by means of surgery.)
In the NT circumcision was an issue between Paul and the Jewish Christians who expected pagan converts first to become members of the covenant of Abraham by circumcision before being baptized as Christians. For Paul, this demand represented an attempt to add something to Christ, which was an absurdity: indeed it is virtually to reject Christ; it means that one has transferred one's allegiance to Christ alone on to an alternative system, namely the Law, in which circumcision is basic. The issue was whether the Church had taken over the role of the New Israel, or was a reformed Jewish sect.
There is no mention in the OT of the barbaric surgery of female circumcision traditionally practised in some African countries today and clandestinely in the West by people from those regions.

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • CIRCUMCISION — (Heb. בְּרִית מִילָה, berit milah; covenant of circumcision ), the operation of removing part or all of the foreskin which covers the glans of the penis. Circumcision dates back to prehistoric times and together with the trepanning of the skull… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Circumcision — • The Hebrew word, like the Greek (peritome), and the Latin (circumcisio), signifies a cutting and, specifically, the removal of the prepuce, or foreskin, from the penis Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Circumcision     Circu …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Circumcision — Cir cum*cision, n. [L. circumcisio.] 1. The act of cutting off the prepuce or foreskin of males, or the internal labia of females. [1913 Webster] Note: The circumcision of males is practiced as a religious rite by the Jews, Mohammedans, etc.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Circumcision — Circumcision, die Beschneidung; Circumcisi, Beschnittene, christl. Sekte aus dem 12. Jahrh., besonders in Oberitalien, die jüdische Satzungen mit dem Christenthume vereinigen wollte …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • circumcision — (n.) late 12c., from L. circumcisionem (nom. circumcisio), noun of action from pp. stem of circumcidere to cut around, from circum around (see CIRCUM (Cf. circum )) + caedere to cut (see CIDE (Cf. cide)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • circumcision — [sʉr΄kəm sizh′ən] n. [ME circumcisioun < LL(Ec) circumcisio] 1. a circumcising, or being circumcised, either as a religious rite, as of the Jews or Muslims, or as a hygienic measure 2. Archaic a cleansing from sin …   English World dictionary

  • Circumcision — This article is about male circumcision. For female circumcision, see Female genital mutilation. Circumcision Intervention Circumcision being performed in central Asia, possibly Turkmenistan c. 1865–1872. Restored albumen …   Wikipedia

  • Circumcision — Penis, beschnitten im Erwachsenenalter Die Zirkumzision (von lat. circumcido, rings abschneiden [1]) oder Beschneidung ist die teilweise oder vollständige Entfernung der männlichen Vorhaut. Gründe für die Beschneidungen sind neben medizinischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • circumcision — /serr keuhm sizh euhn/, n. 1. an act, instance, or the rite of circumcising. 2. clitoridectomy. 3. spiritual purification. 4. (cap.) a church festival in honor of the circumcision of Jesus, observed on January 1. [1125 75; ME < LL circumcision (s …   Universalium

  • Circumcision —    Cutting around. This rite, practised before, as some think, by divers races, was appointed by God to be the special badge of his chosen people, an abiding sign of their consecration to him. It was established as a national ordinance (Gen.… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

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