Circumcision is a rite of passage in my culture. The topic of circumcision popped up during our bible study, and there was contradicting information about it. Having undergone the rite of passage myself, I became more interested in understanding its context and how it related to Christianity and promised to research more about it. One of the questions that came up during the bible study was; how many times is circumcision mentioned in the Bible?
The number of times the word circumcision is mentioned differs in various translations. For instance, the New International Version mentions circumcision 23 times, 4 times in the Old Testament and 19 times in the New Testament. The Good News Translation mentions it 17 times, 6 times in the Old Testament and 10 times in the New Testament. The King James Version mentions it 32 times, once in the Old Testament and 31 times in the New Testament.
If you have unanswered questions about circumcision, keep reading to learn what the word means in the Bible, what it says about the rite of passage, the religious reason for it, and why it was so important to God. You will also get to know some of the bible verses about circumcision.
What is the meaning of circumcised and uncircumcised in the Bible?
Circumcised in the Bible means a man who has undergone a procedure to remove the foreskin from his reproductive organ. At the same time, uncircumcised is a man who has not undergone this process. Ephesians 2:11 confirms this definition, as can be seen when Paul affirms that circumcision is done by human hands in the body. In this verse, Paul reminds the Ephesians, who were formerly Gentiles, how they were called uncircumcised by those circumcised.
What Does the Bible Say About circumcision?
The Bible clearly does not emphasize circumcision as a physical act but as a spiritual deed, supported by actions that speak louder than being circumcised only. Romans 2:25 explains that circumcision is only valuable when people observe the law, but when they break the commandments, they are viewed as uncircumcised.
Romans 2:27 continues to say that if someone is uncircumcised but obeys the law, they can condemn a circumcised person with the written code if they are lawbreakers. Romans 2:28 and Romans 2:29 continue to explain how a person is a Jew both outward and inward, the same way circumcision is not only physical and outward but also inward in the heart and by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 7:19 further affirms that the Bible is not keen on circumcision as a physical act by exclaiming that both circumcision and uncircumcision are nothing. The verse posits that following God’s teachings is more valuable and is what counts.
Galatians 5:6 also explains that circumcision and uncircumcision do not hold any value in Jesus Christ. The verse asserts that showing faith through love is the only thing that matters.
Biblical references about circumcision
There are different verses in the Bible about circumcision, with the King James Version having the most accounts with 32 verses.
In Joshua 5:2, God was telling Joshua to prepare the knives so he could circumcise the Israelites, which he did at Gibeath Haaraloth. After leaving Egypt, the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness for 40 years, and those born during that period had not been circumcised on the way. Thus, God commanded Joshua to circumcise them so that the whole nation would be circumcised.
In John 7:22, Jesus was questioning the people about the law that they followed. It was during the Festival of Tabernacles, and while teaching, Jesus asked the people why they circumcised on the Sabbath, but they were angry with him for healing a man’s whole body on the same day.
In Galatians 6:13, Paul tells the Galatians that even the circumcised individuals did not keep the law, while in Galatians 6:15, he tells them that one’s circumcision status does not matter; only the new creation within the person counts.
Titus 1:10 states that there are many deceptive and rebellious individuals, more so those who call themselves circumcised.
Things to Know about Circumcision in the Bible
One thing to know about circumcision in the Bible is that it was not initially a law in the Old Testament. It was not commanded until Ishmael was born, and it became a law for newborn males to get circumcised.
Additionally, the Bible does not emphasize on circumcision as a physical act in the New Testament but wants believers to be circumcised in their hearts. Baptism can symbolize circumcision because it is an outward symbol of an inward transformation representing being reborn in Christ.
What is the religious reason for circumcision?
The religious reason for circumcision is to seal the righteousness of believers, those who believe in the word of God even when uncircumcised. In the Old Testament, circumcision was done as a covenant and a law commanded by God. In the New Testament, circumcision is a sign of faith by the Romans. Paul posits that circumcision is used figuratively in the new testament to symbolize the sealing of righteousness, that which comes by faith and not the actual physical act of circumcision. In Romans 4:11, Paul tries to explain the conditions under which righteousness was credited to Abraham. He explains that God declared the father of all nations righteous before he was circumcised, and he only got circumcised as a symbol to seal his righteousness.
Philippians 3:3 explain that the people who are the circumcision serve God by spirit, are proud to pronounce Jesus Christ as their savior, and do not put emphasis on the flesh. Colossians 2:11 continues to explain that believers are circumcised in Jesus Christ, with a circumcision not conducted by human hands but by Christ. The verses all agree that circumcision only seals the righteousness believers have, but it is in itself invaluable if one does not follow Jesus Christ and do according to God’s will.
Why was circumcision so important to God?
Circumcision is important to God, especially in the Old Testament, because it was a covenant between Him and Abraham and all his descendants thereafter. In Genesis 15:18, God made a covenant with Abram and promised him that his descendants would be as many as the stars.
In Genesis 17:1, God appeared to Abram again at the age of 99 and commanded him to walk before Him with righteousness and remain blameless. God then asked him in Genesis 17:11 to get circumcised. The act of circumcision would be the physical symbol of the covenant between them. Circumcision was not only a command to Abram but also to his descendants. God commanded every male to be circumcised when they were 8 days old.
It is important to note that Abraham believed in God and became righteous before he was circumcised, which came much later to symbolize his already strong and existing faith.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.