I recently read an argument which was basically 'Paul against Jesus' type and was something like this:

Jesus said that He didn't come to abolish the Jewish laws but to fulfill them:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17, NET)

And we have this verse in OT:

Any uncircumcised male who has not been circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin will be cut off from his people – he has failed to carry out my requirement. (Genesis 17:14, NET)

It is argued that even though Jesus was circumcised, it is not a requirement now for Christians because Paul preached so.

What is the Biblical basis for not making circumcision a requirement for Christians?

  • I already asked the same and it was closed. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/14472/…
    – Mawia
    Mar 14, 2013 at 10:22
  • 3
    Have you read Acts 15? Mar 14, 2013 at 10:36
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    I thought I will contribute something more that I had compiled some time back on this subject. I checked these other question but they are not specifically tackling the charge of Islam that it was Paul whom we are following not Jesus. I have quoted verses from OT to counter this but I would be the happiest person if someone counters this charge more professionaly by stressing on baptism and Lord's sacrifice on cross. Mar 14, 2013 at 13:22
  • We Christians usually treat all OT laws almost equally no longer useful, which makes us think this question as duplicate. But, since the focus here is on circumcision, I think it's acceptable.
    – Mawia
    Mar 14, 2013 at 13:53
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    I think, based on the fact that this particular topic is directly addressed in the NT (and based on the wording of the OT commandment), it should not be lumped with the rest of OT law as dupe and should be addressed directly. Even if the answer is effectively the same.
    – wax eagle
    Mar 15, 2013 at 18:53

6 Answers 6


Scripture (and that I mean here the law) clearly tells us that the circumcision is not to be of only physical nature.

Jeremiah 4:4 Just as ritual circumcision cuts away the foreskin as an external symbol of dedicated covenant commitment, you must genuinely dedicate yourselves to the LORD.

In Jeremiah 9:25, scripture says that if we are not circumcised in our hearts than it is of no use. Here the argument of Paul verses Jesus is clearly defeated since Paul is basing his teaching on what was said in the law which Jesus was saying in Matt. 5:17 that He came to fulfill the law. Paul being a learned Jewish scholar knew all these prophecies which were being fulfilled in Jesus.

Jeremiah 9:25 The LORD says, “Watch out! The time is soon coming when I will punish all those who are circumcised only in the flesh. 9:26 That is, I will punish the Egyptians, the Judeans, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and all the desert people who cut their hair short at the temples. I will do so because none of the people of those nations are really circumcised in the LORD’s sight. Moreover, none of the people of Israel are circumcised when it comes to their hearts.”

So above verses and following verses from scripture (law) rather tells us that we need to be circumcised in heart also.

Ezekiel 44:7 When you bring foreigners, those uncircumcised in heart and in flesh, into my sanctuary, you desecrate it – even my house – when you offer my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant by all your abominable practices.

Ezekiel 44:9 This is what the sovereign LORD says: No foreigner, who is uncircumcised in heart and flesh among all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, will enter into my sanctuary.

Now coming to the New Testament, we see in verse of Act:10.45 that even uncircumcised believers were filled with Holy spirit.

Acts: 10:45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,

And in Verse Act. 11:5 Peter’s vision tells us about to accept uncircumcised believers:

Acts 11:5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 11:6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 11:8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 11:9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!’

Elsewhere also we see that there is a strong Biblical basis for not following the practice of circumcision in the following verses:

Acts 15:7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 15:9 and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith. 15:10 So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 15:11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.”

Romans: 2:25 For circumcision has its value if you practice the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 2:27 And will not the physically uncircumcised man who keeps the law judge you who, despite the written code and circumcision, transgress the law? 2:28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, 2:29 but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person’s praise is not from people but from God.

Romans 4:12, “And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

So it is not Paul who stopped the circumcision on his own but his preaching was firmly based on the various verses in the law which Jesus came to fulfill and those verses are to be fulfilled by not circumcising physically but spiritually.

  • As I commented above, though I have answered my own question, I have not dwelt into points used by @Caleb to defend this in his chat. It would be great to have those points as an answer here, so that misunderstanding which are present on this issue could be cleared. Mar 14, 2013 at 15:48
  • The Law is not the same as the Prophets which you seem to be quoting from. Other than that, the Prophets are unanimous on both circumcision of flesh and "heart" to be important. Not one or the other. However, the requirement of circumcision goes back to the household of Abraham. It has got nothing to do with Gentiles. God never, neither in the Tanakh nor in the New Testament, required circumcision from Gentiles. Read for example Jonah where the Ninevites were only asked to repent and nothing else. I would venture on and say that circumcision is as applicable to Jews today as it was in the past
    – user1160
    Mar 14, 2013 at 17:26
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    @nickecarlo His statement of "not an iota" is saying that the requirement still stands, and the level of holiness necessary to see God is the same as it ever was. However, the Gospel is this: in his life, he met the requirements of the law; in his death, he paid the penalty for us who didn't; in his resurrection, his sacrifice is validated. Circumcision still applies, but those who live by it must also follow the entirety of the law, which is impossible. Therefore Christ's imputed righteousness, including his circumcision, is given instead. See Galatians 5 for more. Mar 15, 2013 at 19:22
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    Then I will pose this question to you? Have you followed the entirety of the law? Do you know anybody who has, other than Christ? I would also disagree that that is the gist of the passage from Deuteronomy. Yes, it can be obeyed, but we're not talking about simply obeying from time to time. We're talking about perfection. Mar 16, 2013 at 19:51
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    As a side note, Christ himself also said that no one was good except God: Luke 18:19 and Mark 10:18 both attest to this. If that's the case, then either Deuteronomy or Jesus is lying, delusional, or simply mistaken in what they say. Or there's a third option: The scripture (in it's entirety) is right, and parts of our interpretation is wrong. I tend to assume the latter. Also, it's important to remember that much of what Jesus said was said before his death and resurrection, and that may have had some effect on his choice of words, and on the approach he took. Mar 17, 2013 at 19:23

I'm assuming that by the word "requirement" you're speaking of the requirements for salvation specifically, and not for being a member of a church, or staying in good standing at work or with friends.

Short version: Circumcision is no longer required because Christ has already fulfilled the requirement.

Longer version: To be sure, the entirety of the law no longer applies to the Christian, on account of the fact that every requirement of the law has already been met within Christ. That means that the penalty that a Christian might owe for failing to be circumcised has already been paid for by Christ, who I would have to insist, though it doesn't directly say in Scripture, was circumcised.

That also means that it's not a requirement for Christians to "not murder", "not steal", "not lie", "not commit adultery", etc. etc. etc. While it's still a heinous thing to murder, steal, lie or commit adultery, it is no longer a requirement for a Christian's salvation to be free of these things. The penalty for all of them is paid for by Christ. Thus, for my salvation, I am no longer required to have avoided murder, adultery, stealing for my entire life in order for me to be righteous in God's eyes, because my righteousness no longer comes from myself, but from Christ's sacrifice instead.

So in other words, while circumcision is still "required" so to speak, if you were to try to attain salvation by your works, since we no longer seek to be justified by works, circumcision is no longer required.

In other words, through God's grace in giving us Christ, we are now freed from the requirements of the law. All of them.

It's also important to keep in mind what Paul says about living by circumcision in Galatians 5:1-6:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

We have been freed from the law by Christ. If we accept circumcision as a requirement for salvation, then we are no longer living by the grace of Christ, but we are living by the law. And if we're living by the law, then we are required to live by the WHOLE weight of the law, not just circumcision.

Therefore, since the penalty has been paid, and the judgement has been rendered, we are free, and no longer required to be circumcised.

  • Sorry saw your answer after I replied to your comment below. You can reply to my comment below here so we don't hog the other answer. By the way, if Christ fulfilled the requirements of the LAW then why does "not murder" not apply seeing that that was a commandment given to Noah (even Cain was punished for murder way before Noah) before the Law. Or do you consider Genesis part of the Law?
    – user1160
    Mar 15, 2013 at 20:23
  • Exactly David. In Matt. 5:17-19 Jesus talks of His being here not to abolish the law. But He also says immediately in Matt 5:20 that unless our righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Meaning that it is impossible to be right with God, by trying to follow the law. John in 1:17 also says that the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. Mar 16, 2013 at 4:54
  • @nickecarlo I just saw this comment after responding to the one above. God's commandments aren't simply the ones he gave through Moses, they're every word and every commandment that he has ever given. Christ fulfills the law by doing all that God requires, Mosaic or otherwise. I consider the law to be a "rule" that God has given regarding his desire for what man should do. With Cain, Paul argues in Romans 2 that even those who do not have the law are a law for themselves in that the law is written on their heart. (Romans 2:12-16) Mar 16, 2013 at 19:56
  • When Paul is talking about the requirements of the law, I don't believe he's saying that Christ fulfilled the requirements of the mosaic law, but failed to fulfill any other requirement he has set forth toward mankind. I believe he's saying that Christ fulfilled perfectly ALL that God has required of people, thus being the only person who, in himself and his own following of the law, is able to please God. Mar 16, 2013 at 19:57
  • @DavidMorton Christ said to his Jewish audience that anyone who teaches anyone to not follow the least of these commandments will be the least in the kingdom of God. I tend to follow Jesus rather than Paul unless they're both in agreement. Secondly, and this is to jayyeshu's point above too. Jesus saying that righteousness should surpass that of the Pharisees does not indicate that we can't follow the law. It just means that merely appearing to follow the law (checking off a list) is not enough. You actually have to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might.
    – user1160
    Mar 17, 2013 at 2:20

Romans 4:9-11a NIV:
"Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.

Paul here is saying that salvation happens before being circumcised. Circumcision is a sign of salvation (v11). Paul finishes verse 11 with

Romans 4:11b "he [Abraham] is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised in order that righteousness might be credited to them"

My understanding of this is that Paul is abolishing circumcision as a means of salvation. Paul talks about his own life in Philippians 3:

Philippians 3:4-7
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Paul here mentions that he was circumcised as per the OT law, however he counts it as worthless to his salvation (he goes on to call it garbage in verse 8).

Paul never says don't get circumcised, and you could argue that if it was causing someone to stumble or not hear the gospel then you should get circumcised (I think Timothy was circumcised as an adult (Acts 16:3)).

What he is quite clear on is that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation and that non-circumcised Christians are equal to circumcised Christians.


Circumcision is the sign of the Old Covenant.

Christians generally believe that Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant (as quoted from Matthew 5), and established a New Covenant as foretold in Jeremiah 31, confirmed by Jesus in Luke 22, and referred to elsewhere in the New Testament (especially Hebrews 8 - 12). The issue is specifically addressed in Acts 15 that physical circumcision need not be a condition of the New Covenant.

As members of the New Covenant, we are instead "circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith." (Colossians 2:11-12).

Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant.

While this view is not universal, many Christians interpret the passage quoted from Colossions (in conjunction with other New Testament references to circumcision and baptism) to mean that just like circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant, Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant. Depending on which group this could be infant baptism, adult immersion, or even simply baptism of the Holy Spirit. Most Christians will fall into one of these camps.*

Even if you don't subscribe to baptism at all (or do believe in baptism but not as a covenant sign) it's still clear from the quoted text that circumcision happens in a different way under the New Covenant than under the Old.

* For disclosure, my personal belief is in adult immersion for the forgiveness of sins.


Galatians 5:6 clearly excludes circumcision as an act of faith in the church. What is circumcision? A God ordained Jewish distinctive for Jewish MALES. AND it is unnecessary for salvation. A Jewish christian may choose to circumcise his son, yet it will not save his son. The issue in the early church was this: "did adult gentile males and their sons all have to be circumcised to be saved? No they did and do not. We gentiles are grafted into the cultivated olive tree by faith in the Messiah, who is a Jew! But circumcision is powerless to save.

Galatians 5:6 American Standard Version (ASV)

6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.

Galatians 5:1-6 The Message (MSG)

The Life of Freedom

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

2-3 I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.

4-6 I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

  • This is better than your other answers. The questions asks "What is the Biblical basis for not making it a requirement for Christians?" If you stressed how Bible is used to defend this position, as you mostly did in the first half, then the answer would be great. The last half is a bit preachy. This site is for academic study, which allows you to keep your beliefs in whatever way you want, but no proselytizing is allowed.
    – user3961
    May 26, 2015 at 20:49
  • The last half is the Bible, translated by Eugene Peterson, called: The Message. May 26, 2015 at 21:52
  • I see now, thank you. That does explain why I thought it was your own words. The Message, by the way, is more of a paraphrase and less of a translation. Reference. Not that it's bad, it's just highly influenced by Peterson's personal interpretations. Bruce edited your answer for formatting. Click edit below your post to see how he did that.
    – user3961
    May 26, 2015 at 22:07

Thank you for asking this question. You do see that Jesus said "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them." (Matt. 5:17).

What is missed is the "fulfill them" part. Holy God made it pure righteousness to perfectly execute the law. Therefore in his spirit he continually fulfills the laws that we transgress of to the perfection that he himself requires. People error in the thinking that by his death only, that this one act was all that was necessary to complete the law. What I tell you is that he magnifies in his ultimate glory everyday as he works to complete the law for the ones that have the faith that he will.

This also points out peoples misunderstanding of faith. The perfect law says eye for eye. Now if an aggressor takes out my eye, and I believe that God will remove the eye of the aggressor. I become Justified in my action because my trust in him. For my actions become circumcised, yet the law becomes complete because of "his righteous judgement".

Now in the Old Testament it states: "Any uncircumcised male who has not been circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin will be cut off from his people – he has failed to carry out my requirement." (Gen. 17:14). This is symbolic to what Paul is preached by saying "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people" (1 Corinthians 5:9 NIV). The actual circumcision of the flesh was meant as a permanent physical reminder that sexually immorality was to be rid of. No longer the flesh of all women, the flesh of the wife instead. A minimization, a separating, a cause to create specialization for the temple of the body, for Love.

No instead Paul preached a harder teaching. He said that the spirit was against the flesh (Galatians 5:17), and to crucify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:24). Since indeed the heart of this teaching being so much more severe. Satisfies the need for symbolization. So the symbol is no longer needed.

It is argued that even though Jesus was circumcised, it is not a requirement now for Christians because Paul preached so. Jesus I'm sure was circumcised for he was to be the expression to the meaning behind the law. So hear this now, the circumcision of the flesh is indeed necessary. So important that the penalty is that of death (Romans 8:6). Only now the circumcision exists inwardly instead of symbolically and outwardly.

What is the Biblical basis for not making it a requirement for Christians? A counsel was formed to determine what laws should continue now that the perfection offered by the works of God. In this counsel the outcome "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell." (Acts 15:29 NIV). Notice that abstaining from sexual immorality continued on from the base of the law. For adding on sexual immorality into ones life they indeed are not slicing away that part of their flesh. But the separation of the flesh from the Spirit is relayed often.

Notice also "Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer." (Deuteronomy 10:16) and "No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person's praise is not from other people, but from God." (Rom 2:29)

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