“So I think Jews should make a modification to the circumcision ritual in just the way they’ve modified hundreds and hundreds of other biblical injunctions. They should become like Abraham and Ismael, and decide for themselves, at an adult age, whether or not they want to have their foreskins removed. At that point, I predict they will feel just as Abraham and Ismael must have–that a foreskin is kind of a nice thing. If it’s more painful to be circumcised as an adult, then so be it. The pain was part of the meaning of the ritual for Abraham and Ismael. Adult circumcision would be a true sacrifice, a way to express dedication to God. ”
I actually really liked what a commenter posted…. I will copy paste it below
“July 14, 2012 3:34 PM
If I may, I’ll do this in two parts to fit posting parameters.
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This is really a complex issue, far more nuanced than the outraged Jewish leaders in Germany imply.
First, as the previous poster notes, there’s the question of when infant circumcision actually began in Judaism. One can take the Pentateuch at face value and say that the chain of circumcision has been unbroken since Abraham. This requires us to believe that for over 1000 years fathers performed surgery on their sons in unsanitary conditions with crude instruments. Logically, there were no mohels; we now that they didn’t come along until about 130 AD. Also logically, this would have put many children at mortal risk. It makes no sense.
More and more biblical scholars believe that the Hebrews instituted infant circumcision at the behest of their priests around 500 BC, and the story of circumcision being the seal of the covenant was woven back through the Pentateuch — and not terribly gracefully. Genesis 17 largely replicates Genesis 15, but adds the circumcision story. And there are some hair-raising stories about foreskin and circumcision in other books of the bible.
Hebrew circumcision started off as the removal of the acroposthion, or skin that overhangs the glans. This type of circumcision was safer, in that it did not tear the adherent infant foreskin from the glans, and healed more quickly. It also resulted in the unique half-cut look among Jewish men at the time, which is what allowed young Jewish athletes to practice epispasm, or skin stretching. WIth half a foreskin to work with, these young men could eventually cover the glans so they could participate in Hellenic games in the nude, as was the norm. Greek culture at the time accepted nudity but strongly objected to the glans being revealed in public.
Even cutting the acroposthion and epispasm carried risks. But they were safer than what the rabbinical council ordered up next around 130 AD: a ban on epispasm, likening it to never having been circumcised in the first place, and replacement with today’s “radical” circumcision that tears apart the synechia binding the foreskin and glans. Two more steps the rabbis demanded were much more skin taken off, enough such that the wound would not even come in contact with the glans, and metzitzah, or oral contact with the wound.
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more in next post
July 14, 2012 3:36 PM
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These dramatic, manmade changes partly form the basis for the talmudic instruction that if parents lose 2 sons from circumcision, they can skip circumcising the third. (The other logical reason is hemophilia in the family, but that doesn’t quite explain why you still have to cut sons 4 & 5.) They also made it all but impossible for fathers to safely cut their sons, so this led to the introduction of the new job of ritual circumciser: mohel.
The New Testament tells us that Joseph circumcised the infant Jesus, so it’s probable that Hebrews at that time practiced only the removal of the acroposthion. The timing of the rabbinical council more than 100 years later suggests it, too.
Over the centuries there has been considerable debate among Jews of the appropriateness of brit milah. Some prominent German Jews of the mid-1800’s wanted to eliminate it altogether as being inconsistent with modern health practices. Freud spoke against it, saying it could create psychological harm. And today, only about 70% of Jews outside of Israel or English-speaking countries consistently practice infant circumcision in their families. Even within the very compliant Anglo world, 70% of American Jews choose to have their sons circumcised at birth (not day 8) in the hospital (not by a mohel), thus not fulfilling any Jewish obligation. Somehow they’ve confused “having a bris” with “not having a foreskin”, or have rationalized to themselves that just following the American custom also fulfills their religious duty.
Given this historical dog’s breakfast of ritual circumcision within Judaism, it’s a bit rich for Jewish leaders today to be trying to sell the story that infant circumcision is a cherished, consistent, unbroken tradition for 4,000 years. That version isn’t even close to the truth.
Disclaimer: yes, I’m Jewish (at least my parents are)”
I did not alter the commenter’s reply only deleted his name. I also did not fact check him but I have read similar claims in the past
a good book is
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Circumcision (Paperback)