7 Reasons Christ Was Circumcised


December 29, 2013 by mattfradd

The circumcision of Jesus Christ.

The circumcision of Jesus Christ.

With the feast of the circumcision of Christ coming up I thought I’d share the following excerpt from St. Thomas Aquias.

In his Summa Theologica (Part three, Question 37), Aquinas offered seven reasons why it was fitting for Christ to be Circumcised.

He writes:

For several reasons Christ ought to have been circumcised.

First, in order to prove the reality of His human nature, in contradiction to the Manicheans, who said that He had an imaginary body: and in contradiction to Apollinarius, who said that Christ’s body was consubstantial with His Godhead; and in contradiction to Valentine, who said that Christ brought His body from heaven.

Secondly, in order to show His approval of circumcision, which God had instituted of old.

Thirdly, in order to prove that He was descended from Abraham, who had received the commandment of circumcision as a sign of his faith in Him.

Fourthly, in order to take away from the Jews an excuse for not receiving Him, if He were uncircumcised.

Fifthly, “in order by His example to exhort us to be obedient” [Bede, Hom. x in Evang.]. Wherefore He was circumcised on the eighth day according to the prescription of the Law (Leviticus 12:3).

Sixthly, “that He who had come in the likeness of sinful flesh might not reject the remedy whereby sinful flesh was wont to be healed.”

Seventhly, that by taking on Himself the burden of the Law, He might set others free therefrom, according to Galatians 4:4-5: “God sent His Son . . . made under the Law, that He might redeem them who were under the Law.”

10 thoughts on “7 Reasons Christ Was Circumcised

  1. Abigail says:

    I’m curious to know what the present day church has to say about this matter for our children. Is it a personal preference now? Thanks!

  2. Clinton says:

    Good question Abigail! In Genesis 21:4 “Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him…” – This was Gods sign with Abraham, His sign of the Covenant. Much like the Rainbow was Noah’s sign. This was the physical attribute that went along with Abrahams faith. This was serious business! In Exodus 4:19-26 we see an example just how serious God was about His commandment to circumcise the young males on the 8th day ..”And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah ( the wife of Moses ) took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, ‘Surely you are a husband of blood to me!’ So He (God) let him go. Then she said, ‘You are a husband of blood!’ – because of the circumcision.” — “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. ..He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, THAT PERSON SHALL BE CUT OFF FROM HIS PEOPLE; he has broken My covenant.'” (Genesis 17:10-14) — We as Catholic Christians are now blessed with not having to be burdened with the Mosaic Covenant, or the Abrahamic Covenant. — Our Lord tells us this in the Gospel of Matthew 5:17.. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” — Also, Saint Paul reminds us and the Galatians in chapter 3, verse 23 that “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” — We are no longer bound by the Laws of Moses. But, many during Paul’s time did not believe so. “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” – Acts of the Apostles 15:1. .. Many of the early Christians were Jews, who brought to the Christian faith many of their former practices. They recognized in Jesus the Messiah predicted by the prophets and the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Because circumcision had been required in the Old Testament for membership in God’s covenant, many thought it would also be required for membership in the New Covenant that Christ had come to inaugurate. They believed one must be circumcised and keep the Mosaic law to come to Christ. In other words, one had to become a Jew to become a Christian. .. But God made it clear to Peter in Acts 10 that Gentiles are acceptable to God and may be baptized and become Christians without circumcision. The same teaching was vigorously defended by Paul in his epistles to the Romans and the Galatians—to areas where the Circumcision heresy had spread.The Church is neutral on the question of whether Christians should circumcise their sons. If, after due consideration, a Christian feels that circumcision is in the best interest of his son, he is acting within his parental rights. Our catechism in paragraph 2297 states ” ……. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law. This has been somewhat confusing and apparently controversial amongst Catholics, but we must assume that God would not establish a ritual for his people that can be considered deliberate mutilation and thus intrinsically immoral. Even so, parents who object to non-therapeutic circumcision have the right to refuse to circumcise their sons as a matter of conscience. Im no theologian, but I would say it is a parents preference now days.

  3. Becky says:

    I am a little confused, probably due to my lack of historical understanding and context why it was a heresy for Apollinarius to say that Christ’s body was consubstantial with His Godhead, yet in our “new” translation of the creed we now say “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.” Could someone explain the difference to me?

    • Clinton says:

      Good question — So, “consubstantial” means “of the same substance or essence…” I believe that when we recite this in our Creed, we are simply recognizing and stating that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are indeed the same “Thing”, of the same substance, the Triune Trinity. I am not to familiar with Apollinarius, but my guess would be that if he insinuated that consubstantiation is what occurs instead of transubstantiation during Mass, then he was stating that the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist are “similar” and not literal. Transubstantiation is important for us Catholic’s to understand because it means an original substance is completely changing into a new substance. This is what occurs when the priest exercises his God given, God ordained abilities during Mass. This is what Jesus did in the Upper Room, as an example for us to, and it is authorized for bishops and priests through Apostolic Succession by Jesus beginning with Him giving Peter authority in Matthew 16:17-20, talked about in John 17:19 ( “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.” ), and most evidently shown in John 6:22-59. We can find this truth in history beginning in the Didache which was it’s writings were begun as early as AD 48-49.
      The doctrine of consubstantiation is heretical. It suggests that a single object contains two substances—bread/wine and body/blood—rather than the original substance being changed into the new substance (transubstantiation).

      • Becky says:

        Thanks for the response. Although on re-reading the quote, I’m not sure Apollinarius was referring to the Mass as it is talking about Christ’s body being consubstantial with His Godhead not bread. Maybe Apollinarius was implying that Christ’s body was imaginary similar to the Manicheans??? I guess it’s time for me to do a little research …

      • Becky says:

        I don’t know the accuracy of this source, but this says Apollinarius argued that Christ’s body was human but his mind was fully divine and never human.

  4. Clinton says:

    “The total conversion of the substance of bread is expressed clearly in the words of Institution: “This is my body.” These words form, not a theoretical, but a practical proposition, whose essence consists in this, that the objective identity between subject and predicate is effected and verified only after the words have all been uttered, not unlike the pronouncement of a king to a subaltern: “You are a major,” or, “You are a captain,” which would immediately cause the promotion of the officer to a higher command. When, therefore, he who is all truth and all power said of the bread: “This is my body,” the bread became, through the utterance of these words, the body of Christ; consequently, on the completion of the sentence the substance of bread was no longer present, but the body of Christ under the outward appearance of bread. hence the bread must have become the body of Christ, i.e. the former must have been converted into the latter. The words of Institution were at the same time the words of transubstantiation. Indeed the actual manner in which the absence of the bread and the presence of the body of Christ is effected, is not read into the words of Institution but strictly and exegetically deduced from them. The Calvinists, therefore, are perfectly right when they reject the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation as a fiction, with no foundation in Scripture. For had Christ intended to assert the coexistence of his body with the substance of the bread, he would not have expressed a simple identity between hoc and corpus by means of the copula est, but would have resorted to some such expression as: “This bread contains my body,” or, “In this bread is my body.” Had he desired to constitute bread the sacramental receptacle of his body, he would have had to state this expressly, for neither from the nature of the case nor according to common parlance can a piece of bread be made to signify the receptacle of a human body. On the other hand, the synecdoche is plain in the case of the Chalice: “This is my blood,” i.e. the contents of the Chalice are my blood, and hence no longer wine.”

    ———– Jim Blackburn, Catholic Answers,

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