By Spencer D Gear
I read Macro Torres’ article with interest, ‘When, how & why do we continue to let this happen‘ (online), Prevent Disease, Oct 25, 2011. In this article, Torres stated:
Circumcision is one that still baffles many. When was it that men (and women) decided it was ok to actually start cutting the skin of babies’ and young boys’ penises in an attempt to curb masturbation? Again, why was there always such an interest in curbing masturbation and why resort to such barbaric rituals in an effort to reduce this natural instinct in boys? Why does it still continue today when there is absolutely no accepted and established scientific evidence for any benefits?
This article has many excellent points to make about what is happening to our environment, but it has one major flaw and that has to do with the origin and nature of circumcision. The origin of circumcision had nothing to do with cutting skin off babies’ and young boys’ penises in an attempt to curb masturbation.
This writer shows a gross lack of knowledge about how circumcision began in the Jewish nation in calling them ‘barbaric rituals’. There is a brief overview of the origin of Jewish circumcision in the BBC article, “The circumcision ceremony: Judaism and circumcision“. The BBC article rightly stated, ‘According to the Torah (Genesis 17:9-14), Abraham was commanded by God to circumcise himself, all male members of his household, his descendants and slaves in an everlasting covenant”. For the Jews, this was God’s command to them re circumcision as a sign of an everlasting covenant he made with them:
9And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:9-14 ESV).
As a non-Jew, but a committed Christian, I can assure you from 65 years as a circumcised male that it has not had the effect of curbing masturbation.
Torres states that ‘there is absolutely no accepted and established scientific evidence for any benefits’. Really? NO EVIDENCE? Let’s check out the evidence.
“Recently, however, several large studies revealed a 60% decrease in HIV transmission in circumcised males compared to uncircumcised males”.
Professor Brian Morris provides this evidence-based appraisal of circumcision. Here is the summary:
Circumcision of males represents a “surgical vaccine” against a wide variety of infections, adverse medical conditions and potentially fatal diseases over their lifetime, and also protects their sexual partners. In experienced hands, this common, inexpensive procedure is very safe, and can be pain-free. Although it can be performed at any age, the ideal time is infancy. The benefits vastly outweigh risks.
The public health benefits are enormous, and include protection from urinary tract infections, that are common over the lifetime, inferior genital hygiene, smegma, sexually transmitted HIV, oncogenic types of human papillomavirus, genital herpes, syphilis and chancroid, penile cancer, and possibly prostate cancer, phimosis, paraphimosis, thrush, and inflammatory skin conditions such as balanitis and balanoposthitis. In women circumcision of the male partner provides substantial protection from cervical cancer, genital herpes, bacterial vaginosis (formerly termed “gardnerella”), possibly Chlamydia (that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy), and other infections.
Circumcision has socio-sexual benefits and reduces sexual problems with age and diabetes. It has no adverse effect on penile sensitivity, erectile function, or sensation during sexual arousal and is reported to enhance the sexual experience for men. Most women prefer the circumcised penis for appearance, hygiene, lower infection risk and sexual activity. At least half of all uncircumcised males will develop one or more problems over their lifetime caused by their foreskin, and many will suffer and die as a result. The benefits exceed the risks by over 100 to 1, and if fatalities are taken into account in men and their sexual partners the benefit is orders of magnitude higher than this. Given the convincing epidemiological evidence and biological support, routine circumcision should be highly recommended by all health professionals.
See Professor Morris’s articles:
- “Why circumcision is a biomedical imperative for the 21st century”;
- “Circumcision facts trump anti-circ fiction: A medical perspective on a contentious issue”;
- “Circumcision: who should you believe?”
Who is Professor Brian J Morris?
Professor of Molecular Medical Science
Physiology, School of Medical Sciences
F13 – Anderson Stuart Building
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006 Australia
It is not unusual to have secular people object to a quote from Genesis, calling it myth and that it can not be believed as fact. Here I mention Abraham from Genesis 17:9-14. Is Abraham a real historical person? Is Genesis a reliable historical source? I’m not a specialist in this area, so I rely on those who know this field well. I refer to two who know their product:
- Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool (UK), Dr. K. A. Kitchen (2003) and
- Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (USA), Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr (2001).
Here I present their views based on a study of history and a study of the Old Testament.
Professor Kitchen, based on his research, has answered these kinds of questions in his 500 pages of research:
Whether or not the existing Old Testament writings were composed (and their contents originated) entirely within the brief and late period of circa 400-200 B.C., or whether or not their contents are pure fiction, unrelated to the world of the Near East in circa 2000-400 B.C.
To pursue such questions, the only practical method of inquiry was to go back to those ancient times and compare the data in the Hebrew Bible with what we have from its putative world. Merely theorizing in one’s head can achieve nothing. Looking back, we do have some definite results. On the independent evidence from antiquity itself, we may safely deliver a firm “No” to both questions as posed above. Namely, the Old Testament books and their contents did not exclusively originate as late as 400-200 B.C.; and they are by no means pure fiction – in fact, there is very little proven fiction in them overall.
What can be said of historical reliability? Here our answer – on the evidence available – is more positive. The periods most in the glare of contemporary documents – the divided monarchy and the exile and return – show a very high level of direct correlation (where adequate data exist) and of reliability. That fact should be graciously accepted by all, regardless of personal starting point, and with the firm conclusion of alien, hence irrelevant, modern “agendas”….. The primeval protohistory embodies early popular tradition going very far back, and is set in an early format. Thus we have a consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability … the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all (Kitchen 2003:499-500).
Professor Kaiser stated:
The claims for the historical accuracy of the patriarchs, despite the rich archaeological finds in the middle of the twentieth century, have not found smooth sailing in this twentieth century ever since Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) declared around the turn of the century that “no historical knowledge” of the patriarchs could be obtained from Genesis, for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were a mere “glorified mirage” projected backward into Hebrew history. However, from the 1940s to the 1960s a successful challenge was made to Wellhausen’s estimates of the historical worth of the patriarchs. Two scholars set the stories of the three ancient worthies into the background of the ancient Near East: William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971) and Cyrus Herzl Gordon (1908-2001)….
W. F. Albright, Cryus H. Gordon, and Ephraim A. Speiser mounted an impressive number of parallels between the patriarchal stories and second millennium laws and social customs. The effect was so strong that the evidence seemed to support the essential historicity of the narratives found in Genesis 12-50. A consensus did occur in identifying many of the poems in the Pentateuch as being very early, such as Genesis 49, Exodus 15; Numbers 23-24; and Deuteronomy 33.
Given this mounting evidence, Roland de Vauz declared “that these traditions have a firm historical basis,” while John Bright concluded, “We can assert with full confidence that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were actual historical individuals”….
It must be acknowledged that there is no direct external evidence supporting the existence of any one of the three patriarchs. However, the data does exist to demonstrate the fact that they are correctly located in the Middle Bronze setting beginning approximately 2000 B.C…. An increasingly high degree of probability and corroborating evidence continues to mount up from the external evidence to such a point that the case for the genuineness of the patriarchal stories is strong indeed (Kaiser 2001:84-85, 96).
Let’s go back to the first two chapters of the first book of the Bible, Genesis. How do we know whether these two chapters are poetic, figurative, mythological or historical? See Kaiser Jr, et al (1996:89f), Hard Sayings of the Bible for a refutation of the mythological, poetic view and support for the language containing figures of speech in affirming its recording of actual events in the space-time world. Here are a few points made:
- Genesis 1 and 2 do not contain the mythic, poetical style of ancient Near Eastern stories. But, like much writing, it contains figures of speech, with God depicted with hands, nostrils, etc. Bullinger lists 150 examples in Genesis 1:1-11:32 of figures of speech used.
- It is an error to think that because figurative language is used in Genesis 1-3 that it is not a straightforward presentation of real events.
- The biblical account of creation does not demonstrate the forms and substance of myth as ‘nothing has been found in the biblical narrative of creation to tie it to the mythical ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies’ (Kaiser et al 1996:89).
- We can’t link Genesis 1-2 to a poetic form as the the Hebrew form of the verb is the same as that used in Hebrew narratives. There are other grammatical and syntactical forms in these 2 chapters that conform to literary genre and are not those used in poetry.
- Gen. 1-2 provides a closely reasoned narrative of events ‘in almost a dry didactic form’ with emphasis on ‘definition, naming, evaluating and a general ordering of events. As such the accounts have more in common with narrative prose than anything else’ (Kaiser et al 1996:89).
- Based on the available evidence from ancient history, we can rely on the Book of Genesis as a reliable historical document.
- While we cannot say that Gen. 1-2 is ‘historical’ in the ordinary sense that facts can be independently verified through other sources and witnesses, ‘it certainly appears to be claiming to record actual events in the stream of happenings in our kind of space-time world’ (Kaiser et al 1996:89).
We can conclude with Professor K.A. Kitchen that “the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all” (Kitchen 2003:500).
Kaiser Jr., Walter C.; Davids, Peter H.; Bruce, F. F. and Brauch, Manfred T. 1996. Hard sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.
Kaiser Jr., Walter C 2001. The Old Testament documents: Are they reliable & relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois /Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press.
Kitchen, K A 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 May 2018.