Ask the Rabbi: What’s With Cutting Men’s Penises?

Rabbi Joseph Edelheit

This is part of an occasional series in which I pose a question to my rabbi, Joseph Edelheit. I don’t set it up, and I don’t give him a warning. I just turn on the recorder and ask the question.

I asked him this question last night, as we drove home from co-teaching a class at St. Cloud State University on anti-Judaism in the New Testament, particularly in the book of Hebrews.

This has been a question that’s been haunting me about Judaism for a while now. We’ve all got wacky practices in our religions — heck, I drink blood and eat flesh each week. But the severing of the penile foreskin seems to me wackier than most. In fact, I find it shocking that it’s still so prevalent — almost unanimous — among Jews.

Joseph didn’t skirt my question at all. In fact, I found his answer fascinating:

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The Myth of Judeo-Christian Origins

Krista Dalton

Last week, I had several guests post whilst I was away. I had asked Krista Dalton to send me something, and she did — but it got lost in the emailosphere. So I’m happy to post it this week. Krista has become one of my favorite bloggers of late. She’s currently doing graduate work at Jewish Theological Seminary, and she’ll be starting her PhD studies at Columbia University in the fall.

Everyone is familiar with the Christian origin story. The Ancient Jewish religion births the fledgling Christian child, and the two diverge upon separate paths. Now, depending on your religious bias, this divergence can be perceived a few ways. To a Jewish audience, the Christian child goes rogue, abandoning its cultural traditions and embracing a wholly other religious form. To a Christian audience, the Christian child surpasses its flawed mother and fulfills divine will in the glorious establishment of the Church.

However, Daniel Boyarin, esteemed scholar of Early Jewish and Christian origins, insists this is an artificially constructed myth. At the time of Jesus, “normative” rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity were hundreds of years in the coming. He explains, “In other words, in order to imagine a single mother religion that could give birth to a daughter religion, we have to find some way of reducing the diversity of Jewish religious life in the pre-Christian era to a single object that we can then designate as Judaism.”

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To Love God Is To Love Flesh and Blood [Questions That Haunt]


I’m away from the blog this week, so I have the great honor of introducing one of my favorite theobloggers and authors, Richard Beck, to answer this week’s Question That Haunts:

Many thanks to Tony for hosting this great series, a series I follow every week. Many of the questions that haunt Tony’s readers haunt me as well. So it’s a great honor to get a chance to participate in this way. And blessings on Tony during his time away from his blog as he focuses on other writing projects.

Our question this week: What does it mean to love God more than anyone else and is this even a possibility?

Many of you follow Experimental Theology so you know I’ve been thinking about this question for a very long time. I’ve been mainly preoccupied with how love of God can become tragically dislocated and decoupled from loving others. My book Unclean is one attempt at unpacking the psychology driving that sad outcome, how it so often happens that Christians end up loving God against their neighbors.

To start, let’s tackle a bit of the question: “What does it mean to love God?”

Actually, I don’t think most people are talking about love when it comes to God. They are talking about obedience. The basic frame is this: If I love God I will obey and keep God’s commandments. To be sure, people do have affective experiences related to God, feelings we’d label as love or affection, but for the most part when people are talking about “loving God” they are talking about “obeying God.”

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Am I a “Liberal Christian” (According to Roger Olson)?

Roger Olson

Roger Olson recently posted a piece on why he’s not a “liberal Christian.” He said that he came to this conclusion after reading a bunch of liberal/progressive Christian blogs. Roger’s a great blogger, but one of his failings is that he never provides hyperlinks. This post is no exception. He doesn’t name the blogs or tell us who is a liberal blogger, in his opinion, and who is just getting over their fundamentalism (like he is).

Probably some readers think I’m hanging out on the far left, but you only need to read the comments to find a bunch of liberals who think I’m a raving conservative (on some issues). That’s why I’ve fought repeatedly to be listed among both the progressive Christian bloggers and the evangelical bloggers here at Patheos.

(Excursus: It bugs me that in the Patheos channel listings, “Evangelical” is its own category, but “Progressive Christian” is the name of the other channel. Why not “Evangelical Christian” or “Progressive.” This isn’t just a grammatical plea for parallel construction — I think it says something.

A lot of us know that neither “progressive” nor “liberal” is quite right. That’s why I waged a campaign to be called “Incarnational Christians.” Let the conservatives have “evangelical,” but let’s use a similarly theological signifier for ourselves.)

Since Roger doesn’t tell us who is who in his list, I’m left to guess about myself. I was never a fundamentalist, and I was only vaguely evangelical — anyone who attended Fuller Seminary when I was a student will tell you that my relationship with evangelicalism was an uneasy one. So I’m left to go through Roger’s rubric to see if I am, indeed, a “liberal.” Here’s his list, and my responses:

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