During Paul's second missionary journey, he meets Timothy and wants to take him along on the rest of his journey. The Bible makes a special point about Timothy being circumcised to avoid offending the Jews:

Acts 16:1-3 (NASB)
1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

I understand that the Jews who knew Timothy would assume that he wasn't circumcised because his father wasn't Jewish. How would they know that he had been circumcised? Would Paul and Timothy just announce it? Would the Jews insist on verifying it?

  • 3
    This is a shot in the dark, but didn't they have public baths back then?
    – Narnian
    Oct 21, 2011 at 15:35
  • 4
    I'd think the Jews would just believe if it was announced. But Paul and Timothy probably wouldn't want to lie. Oct 21, 2011 at 15:43
  • Also there's a good bet that at that time there was a ritual of sorts involved when someone got circumcised. I know there is one today when a baby gets circumcised (at least for Jewish babies) so it kind of makes sense that the there would be something similar back then. Either way the person who performed it was likely a respected Jewish man whom other Jews would believe.
    – Andrew
    Oct 21, 2011 at 16:30
  • All good answers, but the main question remains... How would they have known?
    – user1738
    Jun 7, 2012 at 11:20
  • 1
    Well... to put it simply... public baths.
    – Narnian
    Jun 7, 2012 at 12:01

2 Answers 2


The physical circumcision alone would not have been sufficient for the Jews. The Bris ceremony would have had to have been observed, so there would have been a Mohel to testify.

The same traditions are still carried out in Judaism today. Supporting references:


Item #1 covers the basics:

1.Mohel: Who Is A Qualified Mohel?

A mohel is an expert in the surgical aspects of circumcision as well as knowledgeable in the laws and customs pertaining to a traditional circumcision and ceremony. A mohel is a person who is certified to be capable and knowledgeable in both the surgical aspects of performing circumcision as well as the traditional aspects of performing a kosher circumcision and the traditional ceremony.

Item #10 covers an adult circumcision with a link:

10. Mohel: Can A Mohel Do Adult Circumcision?

There are experienced mohels who do perform adult circumcision. Aside from performing traditional circumcision on newborn children, Rabbi Mozes can also be a mohel for older children and adults. For more information on an adult Bris by Rabbi Mozes, please click here.

  • You know, once I realized the answer to this, I could have kicked myself for not figuring it out sooner. Oct 25, 2011 at 3:17
  • @ashansky The research and references for confirming the research make for a much higher quality answer. The formatting is nice, but anyone can edit that in.
    – jimreed
    Oct 25, 2011 at 14:58
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    I don't see these sources actually addressing the first century situation. Are there sources you could add that specifically demonstrate that that would have been true at that time? Aug 1, 2015 at 21:22

The answers are very vague. If a person was suspected to not be of circumcision, they were arrested . In Acts 21:26-36 shows the chaos that came when someone thought Paul took Trophimus the Ephesian to the temple complex. They did not check at the door, they took them on their word until a complaint was lodged. At that time, they would have been physically checked.

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