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When they banned circumcision in Jerusalem


A German court in Cologne has outlawed circumcision of baby boys. To practicing Jews, this is a critical event. Circumcision is part of God's covenant with Israel through Abraham. It is also important in Islam. The same idea was put forward in other places, including San Francisco, but have not yet passed into law, as in Germany.

Professor Robert George posted a note on his legal blog about it along with the response of a friend, Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth of Great Britain.

The first time I heard of this push, my mind immediately went back to the history of Israel.

Antiochus IV (he called himself "Epiphanes" -- a claim to divinity) was working very hard for an "enlightened" cultural transition in once-again conquered Jerusalem. He and a group of Greek-minded Jews (called "Hellenizers") were trying desperately to change the worldview of a population they considered religiously backward and blighted by an ignorance of classical Greek culture. They pushed hard to get Greek language, Greek gymnasiums (where nudity was the norm), Greek religion (including fertility-worship), and Greek morals (or lack thereof) into full public acceptance. The Jews were being prudes, they thought, and too slow at accepting the new norms.

Here is a good quote from Bible-history.com:

...The hellenizers had full control of the government in Jerusalem and they began to build gymnasiums within the city and encouraged the young to spend all their time there. The young priests engaged in sports, Jerusalem was filled with Greek styles, Greek clothes, Greek names, Greek language and worst of all, Greek religion and Greek morals. The most radical hellenizers felt that things were not moving fast enough so they convinced Antiochus to remove Jason and replace him with Menelaus who was not even a member of the priestly family. . . .

The Syrian army marched into Jerusalem and many of the people were killed and others escaped to the hills. Only the known Hellenists were allowed to remain. Orders were given: NO Sabbath, NO Holy Days, and NO Circumcision. A Statue of Zeus/Antiochus was placed in the Temple above the altar. The most detestable animals (the pig) were brought and sacrificed on the altar. (Bible-History.com)

We have to remember that this generation of Jews was not that far removed from the return of the remnant from Babylonian captivity, only a couple of hundred years before. The remnant had learned some powerful lessons from God. Chief among those lessons were: Do not fall into idolatry again and keep the holy things of God holy. Even when conquered, these post-exilic Jews retained an incredible strength. That strength was a threat to Antiochus. So he forbade things that were commanded of the Jews by God (circumcision and Sabbath observances) and he sacrificed pigs at the temple. Then he put up an idol on the temple grounds. This later came to be known as the "Abomination of Desolation," something the prophet Daniel had spoken of.

The history after that is very interesting reading. In short, the Jews revolted under the Maccabees, gaining more independence; Antiochus died suddenly of an illness in 164 BC; the temple was "cleansed" by people zealous for the God of Israel; and the people became more passionate than ever for the coming of the Messiah. The "abomination" forced upon these people trying to keep God's commands was a portent of a coming judgement on the nation, the Hellenizers, and Antiochus himself. Jesus Himself later used the words "the abomination of desolation" as a warning -- a portent -- to be watched for by His own disciples regarding a later coming judgment. The details of the interpretation of that prophecy (and Daniel's) are much debated, but one thing is clear: Creating an abomination to God is pretty serious business. It is worth our notice that Antiochus and the hellenizing Jews started first by trying to change the cultural worldview of Israel, the peculiar people of God. Outlawing circumcision was just one step in their agenda.

Robert George also blogged at "First Things" on the circumcision issue. George is one of the world's most recognized champions of religious freedom, as well as a highly recognized constitutional scholar. He has also become one of the most outspoken critics of the HHS mandate on health coverage and other issues that are progressively eating away at what used to be known as "Freedom of Conscience." These were allowances and exceptions traditionally made in American history for religious practices of conscience not necessarily shared by the majority. This action taken by the city of Cologne is one more troubling step in this erosion, if for no other reason that it is in Germany. Be sure to read this post, as well as the excellent post he links by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Comments:

Good news
Good to hear that, Kevin. Thanks for the update! Good for Deutschland, too.
Good news update
The Wall Street Journal reported on 7/14/12 that the German government has announced it will pass a law as "a matter of urgency" to overturn this shameful court decision. According to Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief spokesman, "Circumcisions carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this country without punishment." Given the parliamentary system, generally what the chancellor says happens, so presumably we'll see a satisfactory conclusion in the near future. Nonetheless, it's a cautionary example of the intolerance of rabid secularists.
The viability of democracy rests on the assumption that all factions can trust that they won't be proscribed.