A piece of mine has just been published over on the Theopolis Institute’s website, in which I respond to an article by Dru Johnson. Johnson’s article argues for a close relationship between moral and ritual knowledge and I explore the particular case of circumcision in this regard.
In The Savage in Judaism, Howard Eilberg-Schwartz speaks of circumcision as a ‘fruitful cut’. He observes the way that fruit trees are spoken of as being ‘uncircumcised’ and having ‘foreskin’ (Leviticus 19:23-25). He suggests that this association implied that the tree needed to be pruned of its ‘foreskin’ for a few years before its fruit could legitimately be enjoyed. This not only made it permissible to eat from the tree, but also served its fertility. And this association illumines the meaning of circumcision too. Circumcision is a sort of pruning of the generative organ of the body, so that it might bear legitimate fruit in a well-cultivated manner. Through the ‘pruning’ of Israel’s foreskins, they cease to be a wild tree and are domesticated by God to bear fruit for him. In removing part of the body, they cease to be an untamed people and their bodies are rendered ‘whole’.
There is a sexual import of circumcision to observe here. Circumcision conscripts the sexual conduct of Abraham and his household. They must now act as a well-cultivated tree and no longer a wild one. They must not repeat the error of seeking to produce the promise through the virility of the flesh, nor must they imitate the rapacious sexuality of the Sodomites.
Read the whole thing here.