Circumcision: who invented it?


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At the heart of my curiosity, is the somewhat light-hearted question of - how many men would voluntarily butcher their penis?

Whilst I know that the reasoning for circumcision is due to hygeine concerns, it just strikes myself as very odd that, once upon a time, one man - or a group of men - decided "let's cut our penises, and all the penises of our social group".

Herodotus refers to the Egyptian Priesthood also being circumcised - and I'm under the impression that in Mesopotamia there was some practice - so it's not as if it was a strictly Jewish practice.

Does life in the desert make it such an utter necessity that those with a foreskin pray for circumcision?

Or does it perhaps have other roots?

A particular curiosity is whether the practice may have arisen in matriarchal societies - if the Middle East ever had any - as the idea of cutting bits off men's willies seems such a feminine idea. ;)

I'm curious - what are the actual origins of circumcision? Or is there little really known about the origins of the practice.
That was a really humorous post...lightened up my morning... :D

Anyways, I thought I'd add that circumcision wasn't just practiced in the Middle East , but also by various Native American tribes, as a part of their rite of passage (which is kind of ironic, really - getting your tallywanger cut to prove you're a man)...

...yeah, so anyways...
It was the Tirans first circumscited themselves, wasnt call like that and wasnt following the idea of worshipping or anything, was just out of curiosity to that particular part of the body meat.
The outer shell of the p*nis' head wasnt look appeling,a wrinkled external part that wiggles. One of the sons of a Tiran's Chief streched it out and cut it of and found out that the thing inside still alive and could breath ; ) His brother did the same, so the friends around and so on. Let me add one more info about this butching; the meat piece was actually used in cooking. This pre-pagan belief still continues in some part of anatolia, after the circumcision the little piece is to be put in the cauldron, where the main food of the feast is cooking.
Back to the your history, after a brief while "circumcision" became a symbol for that particular tribe in Africa, where you have first opened the so called school of things. People were newly naming things actually.
After quite a long time it became one the important actions showing that you have enter the hood and ready to be trained and such, and was just only 50 years before its becoming a way of showing people's gratidute on behalf of the magnificient sky they were praising upon.

i guess this was in the bible;
"There are some that they have amale themselves and their sons for the sky we have created, our words are for the ones who shall understand",
this is debatable since circumsion should be seen as one lesser form of amaleing oneself.

"My son's manhood is nothing under your ruling melord" most people pray in circumcision,
hygen is another issue of course, one who is in original form has to be more careful with the wee-wee he has ;)

that is too much p*nis talking, now xcuse my being as the weekend awaits.. fun

I think you've got the wrong end of the stick here! It's typical that in the history of male intelligence of the ritual of circumcision, alway's refer's to what he's got mostly on the brain, and that's his super id reference to the phalic symbol of his prowess, instead of the process of metempsychosis. Simon does mean "second Skin" in it's original hebrew translation!
Does anyone think it is a barbaric practise? If I'm not mistaken it's only the skin that’s cut off isn't it? I think its practises like these that have conflict with modern living standards. I wonder how many Jewish people would circumcise themselves if it was done at the age of 18? I also believe that doctors circumcise children at birth for various medical reason can anyone elaborate on this? And any connection to maybe a group of people in the middle east that suffered from a condition and maybe started off a trible trend?

And how about female Circumcision; that's certainly barbaric and still practised today by certain muslim communities.
well, it starts lighthearted, but it quickly turns very, very nasty and personal if the question turns into "why would anyone voluntarily butcher their son's penis?" so, take care, everyone.

female circumcision is a completely different kettle of fish. i also suggest postmaster retracts his entirely predictable swipe at "certain muslim communities", because it's not an exclusively muslim practice - it's far older than islam and unrelated; indeed, i don't know of any modern muslims that support it.

returning to the, ah, meat of the matter:

Whilst I know that the reasoning for circumcision is due to hygiene concerns
well, there are some people who reason like that, but like all other reason-based faith practices, there would be no reason to continue with it if it was (and it obviously is) possible to live a perfectly safe and hygienic lifestyle with a foreskin and having bacon for breakfast. once hygiene is removed as a consideration, the reasoning becomes something similar to sacred body art like maori tattoos or yanomami lip rings.

there is a deeper level of course, to the specific physical act. to deconstruct the symbology of it, what we are doing is making an outside, permanent, irreversible sign of covenant that reflects the permanent, irreversible inner change that came about when our ancestors signed up to the covenant at Sinai. in the same way that i am born into those obligations, i am not expected to make my own choice to circumcise myself - this would take an exceptional individual, like abraham, or an adult convert. this is one of the reasons you have to *really* want to convert.

the voluntary relinquishment of whatever we relinquish when we get the snip (don't ask me what it is, i was 8 days old too) there is also a connection, believe it or not, with the pericardium, the thingamajig that covers the heart. our sages speak of the "foreskin of the heart" that must be metaphorically circumcised, the heart being traditionally the seat of the intellect (not the emotions) as well as the "circumcision of the lips" and the "circumcision of the fingers" - which denotes that we are in control of our actions and speech as well as our intellectual capacities and our sexual drives and that all of these should be directed for higher goals as far as possible.

Simon does mean "second Skin" in its original hebrew translation!
no it bloody doesn't. the Text even says what the name means!

as for life in the desert, i can imagine that sand under the hood would be somewhat unpleasant - except that the egyptian priesthood didn't really live in the desert and neither did the patriarchs. there are plenty of people in the fertile crescent that did and plenty that didn't, so i would say it's a bit similar to animal sacrifice inasmuch as that was a not-specifically-jewish, but generally religious sort of thing that worked when the rules were given. however, whereas we now substitute prayer for sacrifice, you don't need a Temple for circumcision, just a sharp knife and a steady hand. what i always wonder is how trainee mohelim practice. i mean, hell of an exam.


Maybe the origin of the practice is to simulate the appearance of the male member when aroused and ready for sex - ie as a symbol of virility. This would explain its association with rites of passage into manhood. This is not to detract from the sacramental significance for those who do it for religious reasons.
Interesting fact: when the UK joined in the first war agains Iraq, there was a 'run' on circumcision - keep the sand out and stop from getting sore. Please don't use prhrases like 'wrong end of the stick', circumcision becomes castration if you do that ;-)

It seems to have been a cleanliness thing. One wonders why it is not a question for the evolutionists.
For those interested in circumcision (but probably more pleasing to those who are on the "against" side), Penn & Teller are doing a whole episode on circumcision for their Showtime show "Bullshit!" that will begin airing on April 25.

Bananabrain I would like to apologise for my post towards circumcision. I mean lets all face it, when a culture is different sometimes it's very hard to understand logically that it can make sense. Yet as mankind is moving forward tradition needs to be left behind and this is my main argument. There was a time when tradition was important but not now, tradition to me is a tribal distinctive disconection towards an other group or people. If God is unity, then a lot of people are doing a lot of things wrong, including me :) and it's differences which cause wars. My thoughts have became very Baha'i-istic recently. :D Hats down to the French for banning head scarfs at schools. May this be the reason why the jewish people have sadly had a rough historical past and even present? Although many groups of people all over the world have encountered such problems it's fair to say it got more rough when the differences were and are greater.

Do you believe that it's impossible for human beings to live in peace and harmony with one another while maintaining their differences? Are you a Communist?

Do you think that if people stop cutting off the foreskin of their children's penises that war and bloodshed will cease and a great peace will spread over everything?

There are many paths to God. The Jewish path is very ritualistic, and very beautiful, like all non-agressive ways to God (I do not say non-violent because Judaism practices tactical pacifism traditionally, which to me seems more reasonable than pacifism.) In a Christian society, this really made Jews stick out. But in a Muslim society, it worked out much better, though not perfect. I'd say another one of the problems with the Christians was the charge of deicide and the demonization of the Jewish people both in the Greek Testament and in later Christian writings. So yeah, being different has led to people persecuting us to a degree. We haven't assimilated so well. That's actually the only reason there is a Judaism and a Christianity and an Islam at all, because Judaism didn't get absorbed in the Babylonian Exile. But I've digressed. Is it our fault that people persecuted us for being different? Should we be punished for that or is it something the other folks need to learn to get control of?

Don't get me wrong, I actually think Judaism is a great faith. In fact Christianity was born out of it. But look how successful Christianity was compared to Judaism, is it a miracle how one man changed the world? Christianity broke away from all the distinctive traditions of Judaism, Gods message served? Or a bunch of political barbarians taking advantage of a religious nut? Who knows....
Postmaster said:
Don't get me wrong, I actually think Judaism is a great faith. In fact Christianity was born out of it. But look how successful Christianity was compared to Judaism, is it a miracle how one man changed the world? Christianity broke away from all the distinctive traditions of Judaism, Gods message served? Or a bunch of political barbarians taking advantage of a religious nut? Who knows....

Christianity was spread by the sword. It historically sponsored the mistreatment of any individual who didn't belong to the family. It also promised salvation without effort, that the only thing required was faith, as opposed to Judaism which say that it is our actions that matter. It also formulated the idea of hell in order to further develop in people the idea that they so desparately need Jesus.

Christianity did not simply break away from Jewish traditions. It created new ones.

Also, Judaism does not say everybody has to be Jewish. Judaism is the Jewish religion. Traditionally, there are seven laws that apply for non-Jews. The rightous of all nations have a place in the world-to-come. There's no need to "spread the word" of Judaism.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Christianity. I do find it amusing that the greatest thing you can say about Judaism is that Christianity was born out of it.

So what makes a religion successful? Is the purpose of a religion to plaster its name on every billboard in every major city or is the purpose of religion to focus on the quality and dedication of its members? On account of the often violent result of missionary religions you know what my answer is.

I'm not going to touch the issue of the historical Jesus because I don't think there's enough info to state anything surely but the gospels read with just as much bias and subjectivity as the Tanach.

I thought I'd throw into the conversation the fact that circumcision has been practiced by the aborigines in Australia and South America for a long time before Europeans ever ventured there too.

It seems to be a practice that was taken up all over the planet. I'm not sure it can be pinned down to just one original location or group.
Joseph Campbell (in his book "Primitive Mythology") details an aboriginal practice among many tribes in Australia involving a procedure called "subincision" of the penis. Upon reaching the age of adulthood (I think it was age 13, but I don't recall for sure), a boy would be ritualistically "kidnapped" from his mother's home by the men of the tribe and put through a coming of age ritual through which he dies as a boy and becomes a man.

The ritual included cutting long incision along the underside of the boy's penis, thereby giving him a symbolic vagina and completing him as a man with both a penis and vagina. The purpose was to co-opt the feminine myth of reproductive power.
Would it be no surprise to tell you that the person who wrote the Di Vinci codes has a Jewish mother? I've actually researched the Di Vinci Codes and going into my research with an open mind, I come out with the conclusion it's a bunch of crap. Judaism is an amazing faith by far but not only because Christianity was born from it but for many pioneering reasons, I mean Judaism plays a big role in Western thinking.

Politicians had no choice but to take on Christianity because it was spreading extremely fast and becoming extremely popular and if you were to do a bit of reading you will understand that originally Christianity was spread by martyrdom and not the sword. Many Christians died by the sword.
Ayai-yai!! If we ever have an awards system, I nominate this one already under "Discussion that make you physically cringe". :)

As for discussion on the spread of Christianity - let's see a new thread on that as a discussion issue, instead of this thread, please. :)
There is absolutely no need for a discussion on the spread of Christianity because the evidence is enormous for anyone with a reasoning mind to see that in first few hundred years it was spread by martyrdom and that's about it really, anyone who doesn't agree is probably only due to justification for other ideas which is fair enough and nothing wrong with it.