hi Ed, i know you are something of a expert on the bible
I did look at 1 Maccabees 2, but its 5 miles long - that is a lot to read, and it is discussing a history i know nothing of ... AND added to that, i know it is only a very very small part of the whole bible story .... so, sorry but i just cant follow you there ... its too much work ... and i would really appreciate it if you could educate me ...
i feel as though this is your area of expertise and research - so lets just start at the beginning
The first question i have is about the Covenant ... Is the Covenant the defining start of Judaism? how important is the covenant? and is circumcision the ONLY important part of the original covenant? or is there any other part?, --- (or did any other part develop later?).
The second question is simple and practical it concerns old-age phimosis and from my 10 or so reports old-age phimosis always/often ?? seems to happen around 70-72 , so does this fit with Abrahams story and any children he had with other women? for instance how much older was Ishmael than Isaac?
so, please nice simple explanations - remember i know next to nothing about this subject - and if theres a quote then please dont make me have to read whole chapters ! ... If we can (over time) build together a simple explanation of the OT. with a few specualations about which conditions the different bible characters might have suffered - then i would love to put it on my site - it belongs to the "education"
Hello Robin, Well, "expert"... not quite the word I'd use... it's more the case that I'm just willing and able to read it, and maybe learn and/or confirm something from it...
So, 1 Maccabees, I should have started at 1 rather than 2... after Alexander the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, one of his successors, starts "arrogantly" persecuting Jews who hadn't embraced Gentiles' ways, and he outlaws Jews' ways. These ways were in major conflict, to do with idol worship, sacrifices, profanity, unclean animals etc, and, of course, circumcision and foreskin. (A 'gymnasium' was built in Jerusalem. This would expose anyone who was circumcised)
1 Maccabees 1 v 60 - 64: "In accordance with the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Very great wrath came upon Israel."
Then the Jews who were grieved and were zealous for their law and customs regrouped and decided to "fight against anyone who comes to attack us on the Sabbath day; let us not all die as our kindred died in their hiding-places" (1 Maccabees 2 v 41). V 42 - 48: "And all who became fugitives to escape their troubles joined them and reinforced them. They organized an army, and struck down sinners in their anger and renegades in their wrath; the survivors fled to the Gentiles for safety. And Mattathias and his friends went around and tore down the altars; they forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel. They hunted down the arrogant, and the work prospered in their hands. They rescued the law out of the hands of the Gentiles and kings, and they never let the sinner gain the upper hand."
And 1 Maccabees 2 v 49 - 50: Now the days drew near for Mattathias to die, and he said to his sons: ‘Arrogance and scorn have now become strong; it is a time of ruin and furious anger. Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors. Remember the deeds of the ancestors, which they did in their generations; and you will receive great honour and an everlasting name. Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?'
This all took place around 160 - 140 BC and shows the massive divide and anger, with misunderstanding on both sides re foreskin and circumcision seeming to be the major cause, but with the Jews holding out and maintaining, 'look, don't be so hasty and arrogant here, there are issues to work out, to understand' (i.e. my interpretation). So then in the New Testament, when you see the big debates in the book of Acts, and in Paul's letters, a bit of context is set...
I'll reply separately re your questions about the Covenant.
Hi Ed, Very interesting that the Jews also had a time when they persecuted the uncircumcised races - (and start a new thread on "Christian Perspectives, New Testament" anytime you want). But lets start at the beginning and my first interest is still Abraham and how it all started, so i will eagerly await your further writings about the Covenant and old-age phimosis. Robin
Hello Robin, Yes, not only then but also early on with Jacob's sons' revenge (Genesis 34); and David's marriage dowry (1 Samuel 18:25-27).
Right, well, covenant... as I understand it there are eight covenants: two conditional on obedience (Edenic Gen 1:26-31 & 2:16-17; and Mosaic Exodus 20:1-21); and six unconditional (Adamic Gen 3:16-19; Noahic Gen 9:1-18; Abrahamic Gen 12:1-4, 13:14-17, 15:1-7, 17:1-8; The Land Deuteronomy 30:1-10; the Davidic 2 Samuel 7:14-16, 1 Chronicles 17:3-15; the New Covenant Jeremiah 31:31-40, Hebrews 8:6, Ephesians 2:20-22, 5:23, Colossians 1:18).
Circumcision is the sign of covenant with Abraham. If Abraham hadn't circumcised himself there'd be no Isaac, no Jacob and no twelve tribes etc. It seems to me that this whole family story of the old testament kept together because, despite all the problems along the way, the physical circumcision kept being (and still is) passed down. The new testament (covenant) however clarified and completed all the law including, most significantly the problems with circumcision, i.e. as per Acts 15 19-21 etc (I interpret 'strangled thing' and 'blood' to be referring to symptoms/signs of phimosis (or paraphimosis and frenulum breve), i.e. anatomical conditions that may benefit from some form of surgical intervention and which, I suspect, was the root of much of Abraham's difficulties).
As regards old-age phimosis, I don't know anything about this. Psalm 90:10 talks about 70 and worse trouble up to 80. Do I really believe that Abraham was 99 when he circumcised himself; and 175 when he died? No, not really. It might kind of work if the counting system was half years, so, 49 when he circumcised himself and 87 when he died.
I believe the age difference between Ishmael and Isaac was 12 years (or six?!). But was Ishmael really Abraham's? The story certainly implies that he was, and he'd neither be the first nor the last to have believed it or wanted to believe it. For Hagar, certainly, producing a son for Abraham was a way out of slavery and to freedom. The subsequent story could be interpreted to mean than neither Sarah nor Abraham, actually in all conscience, really quite believed Ishmael was Abraham's. When Abraham sorted out his foreskin problem, miraculously Sarah wasn't "barren" anymore! What does that tell you?!
Well, that's how it seems to me... All the best, Ed
I was thinking how amazing Genesis is purely as a literary work. (among the first written works, like the first Vedas and the I Ching - but i guess this is the only story which could be compared to Shakespeare). Are there any pre-biblical texts or is this the earliest remaining Hebrew text?
So, this is the first recorded account of why anyone circumcises ... (and it seems also the first recorded account of the pro-anti circ problem).
I learned a lot from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham%27s_family_tree#Family_tree The first thing which interested me was the dating seems fairly accurate once Abraham is 75. and Islamic traditions consider Ishmael to be the ancestor of Arab people. And Ishmael was 13 when circumcised - and so they seem to be following his example in islamic tradition!
Abrahams age? There are stories from India and China about 200 yr. old sages. It seems accepted that this is more an indication of wiseness. I notice Mick Jagger is still going strong - so i can well imagine a 100 yr. old man being able to fertilise a woman, but as Abraham points out - "Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" but thats not our subject...
What awareness does Araham have of fertilisation? (I appreciate that he could have been guided by a higher consciousness of some sort but lets just look at it scientifically)
It is an anthropolgical fact that natural peoples do not understand the connection between semen and fertilisation. They think a child spirit enters the woman, this can be totally independant of a man, or the man merely opens a door for the spirit to enter. Sex is fun but secondary to procreation. ( .. and actually who knows - they may be right ..).
The aboriginies in autralia follow this idea - and they were still in a stone age period when discovered (i.e. pre cultivation).
I'm suprised this idea held so long but I was reading about the virgin mary and how the idea of the holy spirit is not so much different to what people thought happened to everyone in those days. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_birth_of_Jesus "The ancient world had no idea that male semen and female ovum were both needed to form a fetus; instead they thought that the male contribution in reproduction consisted of some sort of formative or generative principle. According to the understanding of the time, Mary's bodily fluids would provide all the matter that was needed for Jesus' bodily form, including his male sex."
The logic in this seems to be that man and women have sex often but usually without procreation. On the other hand if they have sex 3 times she doesnt have 3 children. An excellant film i saw recently illustrates this "In a Savage Land" www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQWM6ii-c1w watch at 27.23 for one minute
Since herding began people would have seen some unfortunate animals not being able to penetrate (i once saw a very crazy dog with paraphimosis) and when they didnt penetrate = no offspring ...
So, is Abraham only aware of the need to penetrate? Or does he have some new (maybe from a higher consciousness) awareness of the primary importance of the sex act for having children?
The Jews circumcised because of fertility. This chapter Gen 17 is all about how much the Jews would multiply if circumcised. And Ploss (forgotten but brilliant anthropolgist) discussed it in detail - (i have the translation online)
It seems (from a scientific point of view) penetration would have been the only consideration for Abraham.
In old age as the skin gets less flexible and atrophies - the phimotic ring AND the frenulum become SLOWLY tighter and more problematic.
INFO There are 6 easily definable tightnesses of the phimotic ring. The first signs of phimotic ring is the ring rubbing over the coronial ridge of the glans during masturbation. Then as the ring gets tighter the rubbing becomes scraping. The next stage leads to paraphimosis, even tighter and the ring causes the foreskin to "bag up" infront of the glans, then a full phimosis covering the glans but still allowing penetration, and even tighter causing ballooning when urinating.
So it is only the middle conditions which actually hinder penetration.
There are so many different positions for the frenulum that it is far more difficult to define than the ring, but the main conscious problems are AFTER penetration, ripping or pain and bruising after sex.
So thats all very interesting but it doesnt really mean anything clearly! :-) I am still thinking about it all - do you have any ideas? It would be pretty astounding if we could come up with a clear interpretation - so i dont feel too disappointed ...
----------- Before we move on from Genesis what interests me is the first recorded pro-anti circ animosity - so please explain about Jacob's sons' revenge -
you said before: "the problems with the blanket circumcision solution policy really started with Abraham's great grandchildren when they got a group to agree to be circumcised then killed them while they were still suffering from the effects of the procedure, i.e. before the scars had healed. (WHY?) So circumcision and foreskins became a weapon and trophy of war or raids, and argument has polarised ever since, waxing and waning."
Foreskins were trophies way back in stone age cultures, way before Genesis - but is this recorded in Genesis, or do we get to that later?
... i could read it myself, but im lazy, and you know it already and we have a forum waiting for simple explanations. cheers - robin
Hello Robin, You pose some interesting questions! Where to start....? Certainly at Genesis 38:9 Onan understood that pregnancy could be avoided "he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother".
"So, is Abraham only aware of the need to penetrate? Or does he have some new (maybe from a higher consciousness) awareness of the primary importance of the sex act for having children?" That's difficult to know. Onan's story was certainly later. So maybe Abraham's experience provided some kind of breakthrough in understanding. He was a herdsman so maybe a lifetime's observation helped him figure things out in relation to his own situation. While you say the Jews circumcised because of fertility, I'm not sure that's strictly true. Yes, Abraham circumcised because of fertility, and because, for him, it was such a brilliant idea (i.e. successful for him) and so rubbish for him before this, he wanted it passed down so that not only would he have this great dynasty, but none of them would suffer the problems he suffered either. Well, that's my theory.
So, yes, Jacob's sons revenge: Genesis 34, "The rape of Dinah" "13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 They said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: that you will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised. 16 Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.’ "
"24 And all who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. 25 On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males."
"30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.’ 31 But they said, ‘Should our sister be treated like a whore?’"
Hi Ed, i'm an idiot! And its suprising how much i have forgotten ... I have been researching in my own writings and translations. While re-reading Felix Bryk (anthropologist 1931) i realise Abraham was to do with establishing the operation in the culture's tradition. Not the origination.
The origination of routine circ., and the continuation of it, have different reasons.
p.114 "Now all authors today, even the theologians, know well that circumcision of infants is a derivative of the original circumcision of youths ..."
The practice was probably introduced and forgotten many times before it became anchored in a culture's traditions.
Some red berries killed a few people, so they stopped eating red berries for a while and then forgot why - so started again till the next time it happened - etc. - only when it became undertood that the blue eyed monster needed the red berries for himself - did it become established in the tradition.
more later ... robin
at Genesis 38:9 Onan understood that pregnancy could be avoided "he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother".
That's extremely valuable, so the wikipedia is wrong, and sure Abraham must have known about fertility.
hi ed, i'm thinking so i may as well start writing.
In Genesis we have the first recorded beginning of a custom or tradition of circumcision - (still in debate, the quote from Bryk : and could it have been divine inspiration? ) and the beginning of recorded history on anti-pro circ. wars -
we dont yet have the beginning of confirmed phimosis ... we only think Abe and Ishmael could have had phimosis. (esp. Ishmael is a typical age for problems) (we can know with ca: 98% certainty that Isaac had an apparent infant phimosis).
I think the first mention of foreskin problems was 2 of davids sons - circing each other? ... so they must have stopped circing for a time when david was king ... and with the years in the desert when they stopped circ. WHY DID THEY START AGAIN? ... what is the first recorded history of phimosis?! ...
and was that Moses, in exodus through the desert ? i dont think so, !! but Moses had something to do the circ tradition ? -or not?
anyway thats what youre here for! ... :-)
what i would enjoy reading, from you, is the main story - the game changers ... (your project may end up bigger than you started!)
the circumcision tradition - why they stopped - why they started again. and any reference to phimosis or references to strangled/ constricted conditions ...
(i suggest unless its relevant to the other questions lets leave the less important anti-pro circ wars till a later date.) CU robin
The written Bible evidence provides only a circumstantial account possibly of degrees of phimosis/frenulum-breve. The writers didn’t appear to have words for those anatomical conditions. I don’t understand your c. 98% certainty re Isaac? My understanding is that Abraham had made the decision that Isaac was going to be circumcised regardless of foreskin condition and this was going to be when Isaac was eight days old. And that this was on the basis of Abraham’s own experience and, conceivably as you suggest, Ishmael’s. So, circumstantial evidence… what was Abraham up to? Genesis 15 v9: “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ 10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.” This was just before he “descended into a deep and terrifying darkness”. So, yes, what was he up to? Some kind of anatomy lesson, maybe? A female cow and female goat and a male sheep and a turtle dove and a young pigeon. I imagine he cut the cow, goat and sheep along rather than across and then made some kind of comparison between each of them “laying each half over against the other”. It seems to me he was in some kind of desperate struggle or search which drove him to breakdown, "a deep and terrifying darkness". We know he was desperate for an heir who was his own flesh and blood.
I haven’t heard of the story of two of David’s sons circumcising each other. What’s the reference? I have heard it said, though, that David was not himself circumcised (and not only because of Michael Angelo’s ‘David’ sculpture!).
Yes stopping circumcising was Moses in Exodus through the desert. I suppose the first question about Moses has to be, was he himself circumcised? Conceivably not. His mother hid him for three months when he was born and needed to make sure he wouldn’t be identified as a Hebrew, otherwise Pharoah would have had him killed. It was Pharaoh’s daughter who found him in the basket in the reeds, assumed he was a Hebrew but took pity on him. Did she assume he was Hebrew because he had been given up? Or because he was circumcised? Or both? Or she couldn’t believe that anyone else would have given him up? I would have though, though, that had he been circumcised Pharoah’s daughter would have known for certain that he was a Hebrew. Then, a bit like Abraham, Moses had some sort of crisis as regards his own son’s circumcision…. See Exodus 4 v21-26. What’s all that about!!?? Either way, circumcision took on another level of importance/significance… his wife circumcising his son somehow saved Moses from getting killed! Why is that?
Post by Robin (admin) on Oct 20, 2016 16:44:46 GMT
Hi Ed, At least 98% certainty that an infant is born with an apparent phimosis, modern jews know some children could be born already circumcised .. it is supposed to mean something like specially blessed ...
Abraham certainly would have thought that children were born with an (apparent) phimosis. In all probability he had never heard (at that stage in Hebrew knowledge probably no-one had heard) of the almost 2% who were born "already circumcised".
The statistic is from Shoeberlein's study, he also expressed suprise that the figure came out so high, but his other statistics are about the most reliable ever made.
What relevance is Genesis 15 v9 to circ? i thought we'd covered everything on Abraham?
David's sons: i imagine i got something confused if you havent heard of it, but i thought i read somewhere that davids 2 sons - or somewhere in the bible 2 brothers circumcised each other with their swords. obviously not if you dont know about it.
While looking for references to the 2 brothers which i couldnt find, i found this
www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4391-circumcision the 3rd paragraph: Strange as was this omission on the part of Moses, the omission of the rite on the part of the Israelites in the wilderness was no less singular. As recorded in Josh. v. 2-9, "all the people that came out" of Egypt were circumcised, but those "born in the wilderness" were not; and therefore Joshua, before the celebration of the Passover, had them circumcised with knives of flint (compare Ex. iv. 25) at Gilgal, ...
(which is the same reference you gave me: Exodus 4 v21-26.) Is Zipporah married to Moses or his mother? it might well be clear to you , but i have to start with a few simple facts
... and so from the above passage it seems the Jews did stop and start again twice, ... so my previous question was why did they stop and why did they start - what motivated it?
and who is this Joshua fellow? how many generations away from Moses is he?