South African Study Backs Circumcision; Historically, Nazarene Christians Have Often Practiced It

COGwriter

Another study back benefits for males who have been circumcised:

IAS: Circumcision Benefit for HIV Sustained Over Time

by Michael Smith, 22 July 2011

Male circumcision is having a direct effect on HIV prevalence and incidence in South Africa, a researcher said here.In the region of Orange Farm, near Johannesburg, the prevalence of HIV among circumcised men is 55% lower than among their uncircumcised counterparts, according to Bertran Auvert, MD, PhD, of the University of Versailles.

And incidence among them is 76% lower than among the uncircumcised…

Another reason to support circumcision

Samantha Schaefer, 22 July 2011 Los Angeles Times

A successful circumcision campaign in South Africa worked to help decrease HIV infections in men by 76%, The Times reported. The results of the campaign could be a game-changer for countries with high HIV transmission rates…The procedure has been ramped up in sub-Saharan Africa since the World Health Organization’s announcement four years ago that circumcision reduces a man’s HIV contraction by 60%, according to NPR.

Interestingly, in the local newspaper last night, I read an article by San Luis Obispo medical doctor Steven Sainsbury who also advocated various benefits for males being circumcised (Debunking Circumcision Myths  The Tribune, July 21, 2011, page B5).    Some of the facts he presented were:

  1. Male circumcision lowers human papilloma virus (HPV) in female partners.
  2. Male circumcision confers an element of protection from HIV (and he cited a USA study)
  3. Uncircumcised males can get their foreskins swollen, sometimes in a dangerous fashion called paraphimosis.
  4. Uncircumcised males are more likely to get a urinary obstruction called phimosis.
  5. Uncircumcised males are more likely to have hygiene problems.

He also mentioned that the procedure for infants has little, if any pain, especially since a local anesthesia is now being used.

Despite all the positive evidence, in Northern California, some are trying to make this thousands of years old practice illegal.  However, a new bill has been introduced in California to not allow cities/counties from banning male circumcision:

Bill to block circumcision bans

Tempo - ‎22 July 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Two California lawmakers have filed a bill that would pre-empt local governments from enacting laws regarding male circumcision and reserve such legislation for the state level.

So, apparently, there are several in California that understand that making male circumcision illegal is a bad idea.

NOTE: Here is an update from the news of March 12, 2012 which seems to show another benefit from male circumcision:

 Circumcision lowers prostate cancer risk

Times of India - ‎12 March 2012

Circumcision before a male’s first sexual intercourse may help protect against prostate cancer, a new study has found. The study, conducted by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, suggests that circumcision can hinder infection and suggests that circumcision can hinder infection and inflammation that may lead to this malignancy.

Infections are known to cause cancer, and research suggests that sexually transmitted infections may contribute to the development of prostate cancer.

Additionally, certain sexually transmitted infections can be prevented by circumcision.

Circumcision is not, of course, a new concept.  Thousands of years ago, God told Abraham to implement circumcision:

9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 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; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 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. 13 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. 14 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 17:9-14)

Later, the Old Testament also provided instruction to the children of Israel to circumcise their male babies:

1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.  (Leviticus 12:1-3)

(Note: Male circumcision is nothing like so-called female circumcision, which is NOT enjoined in the Bible and should not be done.)

Jesus once stated:

22 Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  (John 7:22)

Now, although the New Testament teaches that Gentile adult males do not have to be circumcised in order to be Christians (Acts 15:24-29), the Apostle Paul had Timothy circumcised anyway (Acts 16:3).

Even though the apostles ruled that adult Gentiles did not have to be circumcised in Acts 15 (as well as Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:18), my own reading into early church history suggests that many Christians continued to circumcise their male babies after this declaration.

The early 20th century theologian J.J.L. Ratton reported:

The early Church at Jerusalem, retained most of the distinctive customs of the Jews, such as circumcision, kosher meats, the Jewish Sabbath, the Jewish rites, and worship of the Temple. Our Lord, Himself, lived the exterior life of a Jew, even so far as the observance of Jewish religious customs was concerned. The early Church of Jerusalem followed His example. The Jews looked upon the Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem simply as a Jewish sect, which they called the sect of the Nazarenes. (Ratton JJL  The Apocalypse of St. John: a commentary on the Greek text, 2nd edition.  R. & T. Washbourne, ltd., 1915.  Original fromt he University of Michigan.  Digitized Jun 12, 2007, p. 4)

The historian E. Gibbon wrote:

The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. (Gibbon, Edward ; Eckler, Peter. History of Christianity: Comprising All that Relates to the Progress of the Christian Religion in “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” and A Vindication of Some Passages in the 15th and 16th Chapters. Published by P. Eckler, 1916. Original from the New York Public Library. Digitized Jun 19, 2006, p. 117)

Now, it should be mentioned that in the second century, non-Nazarene professors of Christ, like the heretic Justin, did not practice circumcision.

According to the fourth century Catholic historian Eusebius, starting in the first century:

James, the first that had obtained the episcopal seat in Jerusalem after the ascension of our Saviour…The first, then, was James, the so-called brother of the Lord; the second, Symeon; the third, Justus; the fourth, Zacchæus; the fifth, Tobias; the sixth, Benjamin; the seventh, John; the eighth, Matthias; the ninth, Philip; the tenth, Seneca; the eleventh, Justus; the twelfth, Levi; the thirteenth, Ephres; the fourteenth, Joseph; and finally, the fifteenth, Judas. These are the bishops of Jerusalem that lived between the age of the apostles and the time referred to, all of them belonging to the circumcision.  (Eusebius. The History of the Church, 2005 Book III, Chapter V, Verses 2,3.& Book IV, Chapter 5, Verses 2-4 .  Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert.  Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), pp. 45, 71)

But circumcision was not just the practice with the first and second century bishops of Jerusalem.  Epiphanius wrote of this group from the time of 69/70 A.D. until his day, that he called the Nazarenes:

All Christians were called Nazarenes once…They were so-called followers of the apostles…they dedicate themselves to the law…However, everyone called the Christians Nazarenes as I said before.  This appears from the accusation against Paul…[Acts 24:5]…For they use not only the New Testament but also the Old…For they also accept the resurrection of the dead and that everything has origin in God…Only in this respect they differ from the Jews and Christians: with the Jews they do not agree because of their belief in Christ, with the Christians because they are trained in the Law, in circumcision, the Sabbath and the other things…(Epiphanius.  Panarion 29 as cited in Pritz R.  Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 30-34)

Notice the following, by the scholar B. Pixner:

…after Jerusalem was rebuilt as a Roman city named Aelia Capitolina — to obliterate any associations with the Jews — and Hadrian was succeeded by a much milder emperor named Antoninus Pius (138-161 A.D.), the Judeo-Christians drifted back to Mt. Zion. (Pixner B. Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion. Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1990)

Their adherence to Jewish customs, especially circumcision and observance of Jewish holy days, naturally alienated the “Nazarene” Christians from the church that distanced itself away from many practices it considered to be Jewish.

Here is some of what the Catholic scholar Bagatti wrote about some of the gentile Nazarenes in the fourth and probably fifth centuries, that were sometimes derisively referred to as Minim by some Jews:

In fact some Minim of gentile stock, following St. Paul, taught that the Law had been abolished with the exception of the Decalogue…Some Jews…intensified the observance of the Law…especially regarding circumcision and the Sabbath.  The Judaeo-Christians in this were in accord with the Jews…(Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 108)

While it was not a required practice, throughout history, many “Nazarene” Christians have practiced circumcision, not as a commandment, but as a biblically-based concept, knowing that God’s statutes were good (cf. Nehemiah 9:13).

One of the inquisitors in the Middle Ages found that a certain type of “heretic” (in his mind) uniformly observed the Sabbath and sometimes (though apparently not always) observed circumcision (Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, p. 88).

Thus, it seems that circumcision was (and still is) often practiced by many trying to be faithful Christians.  And because of  “Judeo-Christian influence” (like from the Bible), this may be why there have always been a relatively high proportion of circumcised males in the USA (though this may be changing).

While the Bible does not list health benefits that come from circumcision, it would make sense that the Creator of the universe would only recommend physical practices that were beneficial for His human creation.  And this practice seems to have many health benefits.

Several articles of possibly related interest may include:

Read the Bible Christians should read the Bible. This article gives some rationale for regular bible reading.
What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation? Should the Bible be literally understood? What do the writings of the Bible, Origen, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Augustine show?
Bible and Historical Resources on the Internet Electronic bibles, Two Babylons, early Christian literature, photos, and even links to old Herbert W. Armstrong materials.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what doctrines the early Christians actually had? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil Some feel that the ten commandments are a burden. Is that what Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John taught?
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?



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