Monday, February 25, 2013

Discussion Question: Why Did Peter Hasten to Baptize Cornelius but Held Off From Circumcising Him?

This is just something to discuss and consider:

We're supposed to obey each mitzvah as soon as possible because it says "I hurried and did not delay to fulfill Your commandments" (Psalm 119:60).  Yet, while Peter immersed Cornelius immediately and without delay, Peter refrained from circumcising Cornelius.  Why?  We know that Paul expressed reservations (to put it mildly) about Gentiles going through ritual conversion and placing themselves under non-Messianic Rabbinic authority...but we have no indication that Peter shared this reservation, do we?  Would anyone care to venture a guess?  (don't be shy, I'll stay out of the discussion unless someone asks)

1 comment:

  1. Well there is a lot of speculation concerning this, I think from their perspective, circumcision was not as distinguishable as it is for us today, conversion and circumcision in the first century were completely two different concepts, one simply represented a commandment, and the other, represented a whole assortment of identity, political affiliation, promises concerning the world to come(being part of Israel), etc. Yet in the most simple understanding of circumcision in the scriptures, conversion is never established or stated, there is no plan on how one converts, at least, circumcision in the simple reading of the scriptures is in no way the same thing as conversion described in the first century and beyond. Trying to read conversion back into Exodus, is equivalent to doing gymnastics with broken legs, it does not work.

    Yet you have some who make the assumption, FFOZ for example, that because the Apostles did not uphold conversion for gentiles as we see in Acts 15:1, then clearly gentiles were not responsible to be circumcised or keep the Torah. But as stated above, they are simply not the same thing.

    Conversion was more than the commandment of circumcision, and involved full on identity change. This new identity, promised a place in the world to come, thus, the Apostles viewed this as contrary to the Gospel and rightly so, which also means, the Apostles did not conclude "gentiles are not responsible to keep the Torah...", which is the thinking of FFOZ. Unless this distinction and clarity is made, then it seems very confusing.

    Some read "circumcision" in the Apostolic Writings and assume it was simply the command, but in regards to the 1st Century, circumcision in regard to gentiles was a short hand for a conversion ritual, that consisted of more than circumcision.

    With that said, I think the argument is not so much that gentiles should not be circumcised, but that they should not go through a conversion ritual that in essence devalues the Gospel message.

    Now on to the question on why Cornelius was not circumcised, multiple reasons come to my mind.

    1) What time frame do people have to be circumcised... technically none from the standpoint of a new gentile believer(convert), a gentile simply could not take part in certain commandments without being circumcised, such as eating the Passover. An Israelite had to be circumcised the 8th day, but even that was not always the case, and God allowed this.

    2) What purpose would it serve when the gentiles would not be living in the Land to fulfill those commands. Israel itself, went a good 40+ years in the wilderness without being circumcised, it was not until coming into the land, that it would be required.

    3) Even Judaism does not require a gentile to become immediately circumcised, so why would the Apostles require such... The gentiles were already accepted by God, so the idea that circumcision was the acceptance point is invalid, it was invalid for Israel and it is invalid for gentiles.

    4)I think it is plausible that the Apostles thought the Messiah was coming very soon, even in their life time or at the end, as we can see in their writings, so from the immediate perspective, the goal was to reach as many Jews and Gentiles with this message, as fast as possible. So the idea of gentiles fulfilling all the commandments which would include circumcision was more of a side issue or a secondary, which makes sense, the issue was not as weighty as the Gospel message. I think this is why we do not see very clear directives concerning Gentiles in the Apostolic Writings... I think the clearest statement concerning Gentiles comes from Yeshua Himself, in Matthew 28 concerning Gentiles, thus they would have known this and maybe were hoping for direction no how exactly they were going to do this... Which might have been exactly what was stated in Acts 15 about learning Moses in the Synagogues, maybe that was the best way to start.

    These are a few of my opinions on the matter.