On the Circumcision of Jesus

On the Circumcision of Jesus January 19, 2019
V0017407 The circumcision of Christ. Oil painting after Hendrik Goltz
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
The circumcision of Christ. Oil painting after Hendrik Goltzius.
By: Hendrik GoltziusPublished: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

(Painting by Goltz, in the public domain)

Here’s another helpful post from my friend Larry Hurtado. See what you think, BW3


From about the 6th century or so in the Western churches, 1 January was designated as the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus (eight days after 25 Dec). Luke 2:21 mentions Jesus’ circumcision and formal naming. In the medieval period, however, the date was treated as another feast dedicated to Jesus’ mother, Mary. This is indicative of the growing centrality of Mary-devotion in the medieval period (in practical terms, overshadowing Jesus in popular piety), and it may also reflect a certain lack of concern or even an uneasiness about Jesus’ Jewishness.

The readiness to acknowledge Jesus the Jew has varied, with much of church history appearing to ignore or have little to say about the topic. This is even evident in church art. If you go through the many paintings of the infant Jesus (often pictured with the infant John the Baptist), typically a nude Jesus with his genitals showing, it’s interesting to note how many appear to show an uncircumcised Jesus.

So, I think that it’s important in historical terms to have in the church calendar a reminder that Jesus was not some generic human, but a quite specific person: male and most definitely Jewish. Perhaps especially in light of the sad history of Christian treatment of Jews, it’s particularly appropriate. It at least does justice to history.

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