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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Foreskin

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(עָרְלָה, orlah', a native term for this special rite; Greek ἀκροβυστία;' both used in their literal and metaphorical meaning), the prepuce or projecting fold of skin in the distinctive member of the male sex, which was removed in circumcision, so as to leave the glans penis artificially uncovered. This well known symbolical rite was instituted by Jehovah for the consecration of all the male Israelites originally descendants. of Abraham (and in that case on the eighth days after birth, Genesis 21:4; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 1:59; Luke 2:21; see Philo, 3:5; Josephus, Ant. 1:12, 2; yet compare Exodus 4:25, with 2:12, and the Mishna, Shabb. 19:5, where in certain cases the ceremony is deferred till the ninth or twelfth day: the Sabbath, however, did not cause a postponement, John 7:22 sq.; compare Wetstein, 1:887; but delicate children might be circumcised after weaning, Mishna, 1.c.), and in later times "Proselytes of Righteousness" (Exodus 12:48; comp. Judith 14:10; see Tacit. Hist. 5:5, 3), as a ratification of their title to the theocratic citizenship. (Whether circumcision among the Egyptians stood in connection with Phallus worship [Tuch, Genesis page 344] is not determined, but its use among the Israelites is rather against such a supposition. Baur [Tub. Zeitschr. 1832, 1:104 sq.] refers it to the idea of separation from heathendom, which is consistent with the entire system of Mosaism [comp. the Mishna, Nedar. 3:11].) House-born (heathen) slaves were also to undergo the. operation (Genesis 17:12), as a sign of participation in the covenant with Jehovah. (But children born of a heathen father and an Israelitish mother must not be circumcised, according to Yebam. 55:2; yet comp. Acts 16:3.), Every Israelite (Joseph., Anisa. 12:5, 4), generally the father of the house (Genesis 17:23; but, in cases of exigency, also women; see Buxtorf, Synagog. Jud. page 90; comp. Exodus 4:25 : not heathens, however, yet see Aboda Sara, ed. Edzard, 2:40 sq. In adults a physician was required, Joseph. Ant.. 20:2, 5.

In case two sons by the same mother died of the operation, the [later] rabbins allowed the circumcision of the third son to be delayed till he was full grown; Maimonides, Hil. Milah, 1:18), should perform the rite, and they employed for the purpose a sharp knife (Quanat, De cultris circumcisoriis et secespitis Rebr. Regiom. 1714; also in Ugolini Thesaurus, 22), earlier an edged stone or stone knife (Exodus 4:25; Joshua 5:2 sq.; comp. Herod. 2:86; see Dougtaei Analect. 1:59; Abicht, De cultris saxeis, etc. Lips. 1712; also in Hasei Thesaur. 1:497 sq.; and Gedaei. Diss. de instrumentis circumcis. Lips. 1698; also in the Nov. thesaurus philol. 1:263 sq.; and in Ugolino, 22), as the Galli or priests of Cybele castrated themselves with a shell ("Samia testa," Pliny, 35:46; comp. Catull, 63:5; Martial, 3:8; see Arnobius,. adv. Gent. 5:16) under the idea that healing was. thereby promoted. The Christians of Abyssinia also performed the operation with stone knives (Ludolf, Hist. Aticlop. 3:1, 21) Modern Jews use for this purpose steel knives, and the operation is thus described by Otho (Lex. Rabb. page 133): "The circumcizer applies a rod to the organ, and draws the prepuce forward over it as far as possible; then with a forceps be seizes a part of its and cuts it off with a razor. He next seizes the prepuce with his two thumbs, and rolls it back till the whole glans is exposed, after which he sucks out the blood (Mishna, Shabb. 19:2) till the blood comes from the remoter parts of the body, and finally be applies a plaster to the wound." (Comp. Thevenot, Trav. 1:58; Cheliusn Handb. d. Chirurg. II, 1:50; Wolfers, in Henke, Zeitschr. f. Staatsarzneik. 1825, 1:205 sq.; also in the Encycl. Worterb. d. medic. Wissensch. 5:256 sq.) On Arab circumcision, see Arvieux, 3:146. That so severe and painful an operation (comp. Targ. Jonath. on Genesis 22:1) could not well be performed on an infant less than eight days old is evident. The practice of female circumcision, or excision, referred to by several ancient and modern writers, as practiced by certain nations, may have consisted in removing the anterior flap of skin which in some actual specimens of Hottentots or Bushwomen has been found to cover the female genitals, apparently wholly distinct from the vaginal membrane (see the Penny Cyclopcedia, s.v. Circumcision). As circumcision was a symbol of purification, the prepuce was a type of corruption; hence the phrase "foreskin of the heart" (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:10), to designate a carnal or heathenish state (Romans 2:29; compare Philo. 2:258). (See UNCIRCUMCISION). The part removed by circumcision thus naturally became one of the harshest terms of opprobrium (1 Samuel 17:26; 1 Samuel 17:36; comp. Ludolf, Comment. in Hist. AEth. p. 274), like verpus among the Romans (Martial, 7:82, 6). It was sometimes brought as a trophy of slain Gentiles (1 Samuel 18:25; 2 Samuel 3:14), like scalps by the North American savages. Paul, on the other hand, uses the ironical terms "concision" (Philippians 3:2) to stigmatize the extreme attachment of a Judaizing party to this ordinance. (See CIRCUMCISION).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Foreskin'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/f/foreskin.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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