CIRCUMCISION

Ritual removal of the foreskin, practiced by various peoples see Ep. Barn. 9,6; Epiphanius, Haer. 30,33; Jerome, In Ier. 9,2; Cyril Alex., C. Jul. 9, it became for the Jews the sign of inclusion among the descendents of Abraham, in the people of the covenant, and of submission to the law. The prophets pointed out the importance of circumcision of the heart for being pleasing to God Lev 26:41; Dt 10:16; Jer 4:4. Philo interpreted these prophetic texts as an allusion to the renunciation of all sensuality Spec. Leg. I,1-11, 304-306. The Christians, following St. Paul, stressed this aspect see Rom 2:25-29, presenting the circumcision of Christ as the stripping away of everything carnal Col 2:11: for them it is baptism, which joins one to the new Israel, the church, the people of God; bodily circumcision was its prefiguration see Justin, Dial. 29,1 and 41,4; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. IV,16,1; Ambrose, Abr. I,29; Augustine, Serm. 196A,1; 260,1. Some sects like the Ebionites and Cerinthians returned to circumcision Epiphanius, Haer. 30,26; 33,34. Various Fathers argued against a purely carnal conception of circumcision, opposing it to spiritual circumcision see Ep. Barn. 9,4-6; Justin, Dial. 41,4 and 43,2; Tertullian, Ad ux. I,2,3; Origen, C. Cels. I,22 and VI,24, which can be defined as knowledge of God and of his Christ Justin, Dial. 28,4, and is manifested in service to God and cultivation of truth in the heart Augustine, Serm. 196A,1. Circumcision according to the flesh recalls symbolically the need for ascesis and chastity: cut out the passion of lust Ambrose, Abr. 2,91; see also Origen, Hom. Jos. I,7; Methodius, Symp. 1,3.

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