The Problem of Circumcision

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 11, 2010 - Pages 1-38; Revised September 2019

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus. (Luke 2:21)

The methodology Unification theology leads to critiques of all religious practices that do not support God’s ultimate purpose of creation, as defined by the Three Great Blessings: “Be fruitful, and multiply… and have dominion.” (Gen. 1:28; cf. EDP, 32-36).[1] They mean that God intends that every person fully realize their potential as a child of God, experience the fullness of God’s love in their marriage and family, and be good stewards of the planet Earth. Nevertheless, it recognizes that the religions which developed during the long course of history established numerous practices that do not fit with this ideal. God approved of them and even ordained them at various times, because they were needed as indemnity conditions to deal with sin and the challenges of restoration. Yet today when the Kingdom is drawing nigh, they may create obstacles to faith.

For example, the Roman Catholic and Buddhist traditions of clerical and monastic celibacy had value for indemnifying the sin of the human Fall, which involved the misuse of sexual love. Rev. Sun Myung Moon often affirmed the past value of celibacy for the higher religions, stating that God found it preferable to marriages that perpetuate Satan’s lineage on earth.[2] But today, when God is opening the way to fulfilling the Second Blessing of marriage and family free from Satan’s interference, the era of finding God through celibacy should come to an end. Rev. Moon thus called on Buddhists and Catholics to bring their religious out of celibacy and embrace the greater holiness of marriage, for the sake of the continuing vitality of their religions.[3]

This paper asks the same question about circumcision. Already Saint Paul recognized the provisional nature of the law of circumcision. He taught that it was “added because of our transgressions, till the Offspring should come to whom the promise had been made.” (Gal. 3:19) He termed the law “our custodian until Christ came” (Gal. 3:24), and boldly stated that in the age of faith its time had ended: “If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision... you are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal. 5:2-4) He understood that the salvation offered by the crucified Jesus had brought an end to the era of circumcision for anyone who receives him with faith.

Thus, there is no religious reason for Christians to circumcise their sons. The widespread practice of circumcision among Christians is for purported medical reasons, an issue that will be discussed below. Those that assent to it do so because they don’t see it as a serious matter. Yet we hold that it is.

Divine Principle honors the Jewish rite of circumcision as an effective indemnity condition that was established to cope with the results of the human Fall. (EDP, 240) Circumcision established God’s ownership over the male sexual organ and thus gave the realm of sexuality some protection from Satan’s invasion. Due to the Fall God could not fully sanctify marriages, but at least through circumcision God denied this satanic dominion and retained a law-based level of ownership over the conjugal realm of life.

While this rationale for circumcision may have been valid in the past, it does not apply to Blessed Children,[4] who are born into God’s lineage. Rev. Kwak writes in The Tradition, “There is no spiritual reason for circumcision.”[5] Circumcision, which like celibacy once had value in coping with the results of the Fall, can today be discarded as a relic of old fallen history.

Nevertheless, some Blessed Children continue to be circumcised. This is in part because the guidance in The Tradition, which is the only official church teaching on the matter, is presented in a halfhearted manner, stating that the decision whether or not to circumcise “should be made by the parents themselves.”[6] But is the matter so light that it ought to be left to the parents’ choice? What if circumcision is not merely a relic, but a serious impediment to the realization of God’s purpose of creation? If that is true, then any parent who circumcises their child is doing him a grave disservice.

This paper will attempt to demonstrate that circumcision is ultimately incompatible with the complete fulfillment of God’s Three Blessings to humanity. Like celibacy, circumcision had a valid purpose in restoration history, but now it stands as an impediment to the realization of the ideal of creation, and should be discarded.


Circumcision and the Jewish People

I come to this topic as a circumcised Jewish man and a Unificationist who is ardent for the welfare of his Jewish brethren. I believe that in the world that God is guiding humanity to realize,[7] Jews will still live with integrity as Jews, and therefore I reject the notion that the Jewish people should be required to leave the faith of their fathers and convert to Christianity. I am aware that in the Jews’ long-running conflict with Christianity, circumcision has served as a badge of honor and symbol of fidelity to the Torah. Nevertheless, as the Jewish people enter the Kingdom era along with all humanity, they also may be asked to reassess the tradition of circumcision.

This will be a hard sell, given the divine commandment to Abraham to keep the law of circumcision in perpetuity, an “everlasting covenant” of the flesh (Gen. 17:13). Still, it is possible to be a Jew and not be circumcised.[8] Already the value of circumcision as a badge of Jewish identity has been compromised by the widespread practice of medical circumcision in the Gentile world. In recent years, voices from within Judaism have been raised against what they regard as a barbaric practice, and today there is a small but active Jewish movement against circumcision.[9]

It is not just Jews—the First Israel—who are facing this problem. Particularly in America—the Second Israel, and South Korea—the Third Israel,[10] medical circumcision has become a conventional procedure for newborn boys. Nevertheless, circumcision is from the Jews.

To come to a deeper understanding of the reasons for circumcision, and to know God’s heart towards circumcision, we need to study the providence of circumcision as it developed in the history of the Jewish people. The key to understanding this providence begins with a consideration of Jesus, who came as the fulfillment of Judaism. Jesus, as the Bible makes clear, was circumcised. (Luke 2:21) Our understanding of Jesus, in turn, begins with his mission according to Divine Principle as the Second Adam, who came to take a bride and fulfill God’s ideal for Adam and Eve. Therefore, before examining the particulars of Jesus’ circumcision, we will begin by investigating how circumcision relates to God’s ideal of creation.


God’s Ideal of Love and the Sexual Organs

Unification theology teaches that God’s purpose of creation is to find joy through love in relating to human beings as His object partners. Love, which the Creator designed us to experience, comes vertically—in our relationship with God—and horizontally—in relating with other people. The human body is exquisitely designed for love, from an infant’s suck on its mother’s breast to the way a man and woman’s bodies fit together in sexual intercourse. Clearly, a crucial dimension of love is conjugal, and the image of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden points to its fulfillment as God’s ideal. In the words of the Divine Principle: when “Adam and Eve become perfectly one in heart and body as husband and wife... where God can be stimulated with joy for eternity.” (EDP, 30)

Rev. Moon developed various expressions for this concept, such as “Absolute Sex.” It is encapsulated in the phrase 신인애 일체 이상 [shin-in-e il-che i-sang], “the ideal of God and human beings united in love,” recited in the eighth pledge of the Family Pledge.[11] Unlike religions that distinguish the spiritual love of God from the carnal love of the flesh, Unification theology, with its thoroughgoing teaching about the goodness of God’s creation, affirms that these two dimensions of love were originally united. The perfection of God’s love is found when an original man and woman love each other with their whole being—with their minds and their bodies.

The concept that God finds fulfillment in love when Adam and Eve consummate their love on earth is expressed in Rev. Moon’s teaching that Adam and Eve’s marriage, had they not fallen, was also to be God’s marriage. Eve is not only Adam’s wife; she is also God’s wife. Adam and Eve’s love-making would be the occasion for God to experience love’s delights from a woman as He participates in Adam’s body. The same would apply to the fulfillment of love in God’s feminine aspect, because God would be incarnate in original Eve as well, loving Adam as Her husband.

Originally, had they not fallen, Eve would have become God’s wife and Adam His body. Through the lovemaking of Adam as God’s body and Eve as God’s body, the union of God and humankind, of heaven and earth, should have taken place.[12]

When Adam and Eve made love on earth, God in His masculine aspect would find fulfillment through Adam in loving Eve, and God in Her feminine aspect would find fulfillment through Eve in loving Adam. God thus intended to experience love’s delights in unity with human beings who completely resonated with God’s dual characteristics of masculinity and femininity.

At the marriage of Adam and Eve, God would enter into their hearts and experience with them the love of their conjugal union… As man and woman, each being a half of the whole, we would come together to form one body; and as God’s partners we would perfect the ideal of divine love.[13]

God’s love is to become one with them at the time and place of their first lovemaking on their wedding night... God would already be feeling the joy of the ideal of creation through the connection of love, life and lineage. In response to God’s joy, man and woman feel pleasure in making love. I am referring to the marriage and union of Adam and Eve.[14]

In this context, Rev. Moon taught the paramount role of the sexual organs. They are the place of God’s greatest investment, the ultimate holy place, and the “palace of love.” [15] God took great care in creating their physiology, to make the experience of love-making complete and spiritually connected to God.

What perfects man and woman? Married life: where the concave and convex of man and woman are unified, focused on love... Looking from a structural point of view at the entire human body, there is nothing like the sexual organs. They were created to be the nucleus of the whole. In the process of creation, God invested the greatest effort into them.[16]

All physiological senses are concentrated at the sexual organs. God exercised utmost diligence in creating them.[17]

The male and female organs are the poles, plus and minus, that can possess God’s love. They are the charging plates of a battery. Without them, we could not be charged up with God’s love.[18]

This last statement again speaks to the resonance between God’s love and human love that is flows through their sexual organs. Using another analogy from electricity, we can say that these parts function like an antenna, where the action of the male and female parts connects with the spiritual action of God’s masculine and feminine characteristics. As the man and woman make oneness through the action of their sexual organs, they link with the oneness of God. Hence, the miracle of creation can take place—the conception of a child who is also God’s child.

Suppose Adam’s sexual part was not intact because of circumcision. Would God incarnate in Adam then own a complete human body that is fully able to experience the ideal of love with His spouse? Would God incarnate in Eve be able to enjoy the complete experience of love through the circumcised organ of Her partner? God created Adam and Eve in His-Her perfect image. They were formed with sexual parts designed by the Creator to perfectly fulfill the ideal of love.

We will demonstrate below that a circumcised man’s experience of love is handicapped because his organ has diminished functionality. Any such handicap in the holy act of love also causes God to suffer, impeding God from fulfilling His ideal of love. Circumcision of the male organ also adversely affects the sensations of the woman who receives it, and this causes God in Her femininity to suffer as well.

However ever since the Fall, whenever men and women have intercourse, it is without God’s participation. God obtains no joy from it. “All marriages performed from ancient times to this day [among fallen people] are a source of sorrow to God. They have left conditions that sadden Him,” Rev. Moon has stated. [19] Without God, fallen man and woman’s lovemaking deviates from the Principle of Creation. Therefore, God could command circumcision in His providence—although it was not His first choice; God would have preferred “circumcision of the heart” or “circumcision of all things” (EDP, 240) to mutilating the bodies of His children, as will be demonstrated below. Yet given the circumstances, one can perhaps accept the diminishment of sexual pleasure resulting from circumcision as a sign of God’s own lack of fulfillment from fallen love.


Medical Evidence for Circumcision’s Interference in Sexual Function

The great Jewish sage Maimonides was also a physician. He wrote of circumcision:

One of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ… the use of the foreskin to that organ is evident… there is no doubt that circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes lessens the natural enjoyment; the organ necessarily becomes weak when it loses blood and is deprived of its covering from the beginning.[20]

Maimonides was writing in defense of circumcision, believing that the operation enhanced godly living (as he understood it) by reducing the power and pleasure of sex. Being a physician, he knew this from clinical experience.

Numerous scientific studies confirm that circumcision damages human sexual function and reduces sexual pleasure.[21] The intact penis is about four times more sensitive than the circumcised penis.[22] Studies of men in the U.S., South Korea and China confirm loss of sexual pleasure and reduced quality of sexual life among men who are circumcised and also their female partners.[23]

The Foreskin: Anatomy and Function

The foreskin, also called the prepuce, is sensitive tissue, containing as much as 30 percent of the penis’s nerve endings. These nerve endings are arranged in ridges near the surface of the prepuce in such a way as to have maximum stimulation during the movements of intercourse. In other words, the anatomy of the foreskin attests to its erogenous function. Numerous medical studies have demonstrated the sensory pleasure that the foreskin affords, and that circumcision, by cutting off the foreskin, diminishes sexual sensation.[24] In fact, the foreskin is required for proper operation of the male organ in coitus.[25] It functions in several ways:

Protection of the Glans

The foreskin protects the glans (the tip of the penis) from dryness and friction. It provides the glans with a moist environment that protects the thin membranes of its moist skin, for optimum sensitivity. In a circumcised penis, the skin of the glans thickens and becomes dry and rough, and its sensitivity is thus reduced.


The foreskin unfolds during penetration and eases the way of the penis into the vagina, and provides a gliding action that greatly reduces friction. A circumcised penis requires ten times more force at penetration. This can be uncomfortable for the woman if she has vaginal dryness.

Erogenous Tissue

The foreskin itself is a specific erogenous zone that that affords sensory pleasure in two ways: First, it is full of nerve endings. Therefore, circumcision reduces sexual sensation by reducing the number of nerves, up to one-third of the total. Second, the foreskin contains muscle fibers which stretch and contract as the foreskin glides over the penis during coitus. This stretching and contracting further stimulates the nerve endings of the foreskin. The circumcised penis cannot experience this pleasurable action.

Male Impotence

The nerves of the foreskin provide impulses that aid in attaining an erection. Circumcision, therefore, can degrade sexual function and increase male impotence. A survey carried out in South Korea found that circumcised men reported painful erections, and diminished sexual pleasure, and a few reported curvature of the penis upon erection. [26]

Premature Ejaculation

Premature ejaculation can occur when the corona glandis, the most sensitive part of the penis, is overstimulated by vaginal contact. The foreskin protects the corona glandis from this overstimulation, reducing the likelihood of premature ejaculation.

Difficulty to Ejaculate

Circumcised males may have greater difficulty in ejaculating because they lack the stimulation from the stretch receptors in the foreskin. When men require aggressive thrusting or prolonged intercourse to ejaculate, they may have a more uncomfortable experience, and their partners may as well.

Value to Female Partner

The presence of the foreskin is stimulating to the female. Women having sex with a circumcised partner are more likely to experience vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can make intercourse painful and can result in abrasions. It has been reported that female partners of circumcised men are less likely to come to orgasm, while women of intact men are more likely to experience multiple orgasms.[27]

This is some of the overwhelming evidence that the foreskin is integral to the Creator’s design of the sexual parts. It was created to enable men and women to fulfill the ideal of sexual love, which also brings joy to the Creator. God created the human body with all its working parts complete, in order to fulfill each human function according to the ideal of creation: the legs to walk and run, the brain to think, the mouth and vocal cords to speak, and the sexual organs to make love. Evidently, a circumcised man who lacks his foreskin cannot, and neither can his partner, experience in their conjugal love the ideal that God created them for.


The Commandment to Regulate Love, and Circumcision

God created Adam as an intact male; there was no circumcision in the Garden of Eden. This is emblematic of God’s ideal of life in the Garden, where man and woman are supposed to attain maturity/perfection and where they would fulfill the Second Blessing “when Adam and Eve entered God’s direct dominion of love by joining as true husband and wife.” (EDP, 67) In short, Adam and Eve were to join with each other and with God in Absolute Sex and true intimacy, a place unencumbered by the restrictions of any laws and commandments.

Before their maturity, Adam and Eve were to preserve the purity of their sexual parts by following the commandment which God provided, “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:17) Divine Principle understands those words as standing for a commandment that explicitly prohibited premarital sex. The commandment in the Garden was thus a temporary measure, designed to maintain God’s ownership of the sexual parts during a man and woman’s immaturity, before they are ready to use them in the sanctified state of Blessed marriage. To this day, the Mosaic Law and the commandments of most religions contain ordinances prohibiting premarital and extramarital sex.

Circumcision is also a condition that restricts the operation of the sexual parts. But circumcision is not a temporary condition. Once the foreskin is cut, it never grows back. Therefore, circumcision represents the Law’s dominion over the sexual realm both before marriage and also in marriage. For those who understand God as governing human beings through His law—as in the Jewish tradition—this can be regarded as a good thing.

However, it is a problem from the viewpoint of the Divine Principle, which holds that God set up the law to govern human beings only during their immaturity, and that once a couple enters the state of holy matrimony, the law should take a back seat to the true love of God’s direct dominion. (EDP, 44-45) God desires to govern human beings through love, dwelling amongst families of true love that live beyond any need for external laws.[28] For a circumcised male who cannot experience full human sexual response, his marriage is destined to subsist under the restriction of the law. It is a condition that prevents him and his partner from attaining the ideal.


Jesus’ Circumcision

Scripture records that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day, in the tradition of his people. (Luke 2:21) He was subjected to the standard Jewish rite, the brit millah, which is also the occasion when the child receives his name, as Jesus did in this verse. Christians may view this as Jesus’ first act of taking on the sins of humankind, a shedding of blood as an infant that prefigured shedding his blood on the cross. Yet from the viewpoint of Unification theology, Jesus was the Second Adam, born without sin; therefore, he should have had nothing to do with the conditions of the Fall: “Jesus, who came as God’s only begotten Son and the Lord of Glory, was not meant to walk a path of suffering.” (EDP, 271) Jesus originally came to take a Bride and establish the ideal of creation as it was meant to be in the Garden of Eden. (EDP, 172, 245) Yet we have just elucidated that circumcision, by diminishing conjugal love, prevents a husband and wife from attaining the ideal of creation. As a circumcised man, even if Jesus had married, he would not have been able to experience the amazing love that God had intended for unfallen, original Adam and Eve. If so, then his circumcision was consequential.

The logic is inescapable: Jesus, who came as the Second Adam, should have been intact and whole like the first Adam. Christians don’t think about it, mainly because Jesus went to the cross and was unable to take a wife and establish a true family. Hence, circumcision became a moot point. Yet it must have been on God’s mind when envisioning the likelihood that Jesus and his future Bride would become the True Parents of humankind.

Thus it was, that from the eighth day of his life, when he was circumcised, Jesus’ mission began to suffer damage. That circumcision was tantamount to the mutilation of the divine image in Jesus’ body. That cut of the knife on the infant Jesus foreshadowed the spear that would one day pierce his chest as he hung on the cross.

When we realize that Jesus was disadvantaged by circumcision, it leads us to re-evaluate the place of circumcision in God’s providence. Jesus was a Jew. He grew up in a Jewish culture where circumcision was the traditional practice. Why would God place Jesus in a culture that would require him to be circumcised? How could Jesus be raised a Jew and not be? If God never intended that the Second Adam should be circumcised, then we have to conclude that Judaism, which was set up to prepare for Jesus, should not have been practicing circumcision in Jesus’ day.

This requires an extensive review of the providence of circumcision recorded in the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham. We will explore this question utilizing the hermeneutic of the Divine Principle. It leads us along interesting paths. Some of the points of this discussion are well known to readers of Divine Principle, while others are new issues that we will explore for the first time.


Abraham’s Circumcision

Circumcision has come to be known as the covenant with Abraham. But we may be permitted to ask the question: Was God’s original intention for Abraham that he be circumcised? The Divine Principle hints that it was not. We need look no farther than Abraham’s symbolic offering, the offering of animals recorded in Gen. 15:7-14 by which Abraham was to lay the Foundation of Faith. This incident is so central to the Divine Principle’s understanding of Abraham’s mission that it is worth quoting:

[The Lord] said to [Abram], “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years (Gen. 15:9-13)

God may have instituted the commandment of circumcision to cope with the failure of that offering, the consequence of not cutting the birds.

Draining the Blood of Death

In the discussion of the conditions to be fulfilled by Abraham’s symbolic offering, the Divine Principle states, “The sacrifices were to be divided… to make the condition to sanctify the offering by draining out the blood of death, which had entered fallen humanity when they were bound in blood-ties to Satan.” (EDP, 211) That is precisely the same purpose as circumcision: “Circumcision means removing the blood of death.” (EDP, 240) We can consider that the symbolic offering, had it been successful, could have sufficed to fulfill the condition of removing the blood of death without requiring circumcision of the flesh. This is the “circumcision of all things” alluded to in the Divine Principle.

Symbolic offerings fulfill “an indemnity condition for the symbolic restoration of human beings.” (EDP, 195) For Abraham, this offering was to establish Abraham as the “father of faith.” When Abraham failed to make the offering correctly, all the conditions which were meant to be fulfilled by that offering were lost (EDP, 212). That means the blood of death was not removed and the circumcision of all things was not fulfilled. A few chapters later, we read that Abraham was circumcised. (Gen. 17:26).

Interestingly, this line of argument was anticipated by St. Paul, who wrote in Romans that Abraham was first justified by the faith he showed in Genesis 15 while he was yet uncircumcised, and only later in Genesis 17 was he given the commandment to circumcise. (Rom. 4:3-11) Paul was trying to prove, based on the chronology of the Bible, that Abraham’s true significance is as the father of faith, more than as the originator of the law (epitomized by circumcision).

That suffices for Christians, who accept justification by faith and do not give much credit to works of law. But pardon a Jew for asking: Why, if Abraham had already been justified by faith (Gen. 15:6), which Paul claims sufficed fully for his justification, would God then require of him to obey the law of circumcision? Paul does not need to address this question, because his audience in Romans is the Christian church. When we raise the question, we can find an answer in the Divine Principle: Abraham in Genesis 15 may have declared his faith, but he also had the responsibility to fulfill the Foundation of Faith. When he made a misstep in that effort, God took a different route to achieve that goal by a multi-generational effort involving Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham’s portion of that effort was the covenant of circumcision.

Abraham’s Covenant of Circumcision in the Context of Restoring the Failed Offering of Genesis 15

The strategy of restoring a failed condition by dividing it into several parts and restoring each part separately is explained in the Divine Principle as “horizontal restoration through indemnity carried out vertically.” (EDP, 294) The concept that Abraham had attempted to fulfill many accumulated indemnity conditions with one symbolic offering—“horizontal restoration”—is represented by the several animals on one altar. (EDP, 210) Abraham as one central figure had attempted to restore the conditions of the three central families led by Abel, Noah and himself, as represented by the three classes of animals: dove/pigeon, goat/ram, and heifer. When the offering failed, God “carried it out vertically” by dividing it into several indemnity conditions to be restored through three generations of his family, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,[29] over periods of 120 years, 40 years, 21 years and 40 years.

Similarly, the fourth characteristic of the offering, dividing the animals to symbolically drain out the blood of death, was separated out as the covenant of circumcision, given to Abraham in Genesis 17. Hence, when Isaac offered the ram to restore the foundation of faith (Gen. 22:13), the Bible says nothing of dividing the ram in pieces to drain out the blood of death. Evidently Isaac didn’t need to, because the condition of draining the blood of death was already fulfilled in his circumcision (Gen. 21:4).

Abraham’s circumcision as recorded Genesis 17 has become known as the “Abrahamic covenant.” It was the occasion for God to affirm His blessing on future generations (Gen. 17:6-8). It firmly established Abraham as the founder this essential Jewish tradition, whose importance is second only to the Mosaic covenant. In light of our understanding of the providence that followed the failure of the symbolic offering this is justifiable and appropriate, because circumcision was the one piece of the symbolic offering that Abraham himself restored. Thus, circumcision vindicated Abraham. His victory in fulfilling this condition for the foundation of faith was commemorated by giving him a new name (Gen. 17:5), just as Jacob was given a new name on the eve of fulfilling the foundation of substance. (Gen. 32:28)

Thus, circumcision became God’s covenant with Abraham par excellence and the foundational rite for the Jewish people. Nevertheless, from the viewpoint of the Principle it was a secondary course, necessitated by Abraham’s failure to properly make the symbolic offering. We can see a parallel with the situation 2,000 years later, when Jesus’ shedding of blood on the cross became the foundational event for Christianity, even though it too was a secondary course made necessary by the people’s unbelief. God never desires the shedding of human blood. While circumcision testifies to the fact that blood must be shed in a condition to drain the satanic blood from humanity, it could have been the blood of a few animals—the circumcision of all things—shed in the course of a successful symbolic offering. In that case the human body, purified through that offering and the right faith of Abraham who was to make it, could have remained intact.

Sarah’s Difficulties and Circumcision as a Patriarchal Measure

Divine Principle states that another significance of circumcision was “as a sign of the restoration of man’s right of dominion” (EDP, 240). This means man’s dominion over woman. Without seeking to understand this issue, our discussion of Abraham’s circumcision remains incomplete. Why, we may ask, did God require Abraham to perform circumcision to restore male dominion over woman?

The Bible’s narrative contains a clue, in the one chapter intervening between Abraham’s offering in Genesis 15 and his circumcision in Genesis 17, namely, Genesis 16. There we read that Sarah, who was barren, gave her maidservant Hagar to Abraham as a surrogate wife. Hagar conceived and “looked with contempt” on the barren Sarah, creating a rivalry between the two wives of Abraham. (Gen. 16:3-4) Hagar became pregnant with Ishmael, but her attitude offended Sarah, who treated her harshly so that she fled. (16:5-6) Later, after Isaac was born, Sarah expelled Hagar and Ishmael, probably because she saw them as a threat to herself and Isaac. (Gen. 21:8-14)

It is completely understandable that Sarah, who was 90 years old (Gen. 17:17) and well beyond menopause, would employ the option of surrogacy to give Abraham a son. Today, older women and women who cannot conceive utilize in vitro fertilization and surrogate mothers to produce children, so they can have a lineage. Sarah was in a difficult situation, knowing that God wanted Abraham to have descendants with her, and surrogacy seemed to be the only option. She employed Hagar for this purpose, hoping that she could have a lineage through her service as a surrogate. Yet things went terribly wrong. The child Ishmael never became Sarah’s; instead he was cast out along with Hagar. (Gen. 21:10-14)

The Bible’s statement that Hagar “looked with contempt on her mistress” points to the problem in this arrangement: Hagar was a slave. She did not participate as a surrogate mother by her own will but on the orders of Sarah her mistress. She resented being given the task of going through nine months of pregnancy and then the pain of labor to bear a child for someone else. Hence, when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, she took him as hers and refused to yield him to Sarah.

Slavery was the custom of the day; and by that primitive standard Sarah had the right to order Hagar to receive Abraham’s seed. However, from God’s standpoint Hagar was as much a daughter of God as Sarah was, and God expects all Her daughters to be treated with respect. Sarah actually should have elicited Hagar’s willing agreement to be her surrogate. Then, matters might have gone harmoniously between the two women. Instead, because Sarah showed Hagar no respect but simply treated her as a slave, their relationship became one of bitter rivalry.

Sarah was barren and understandably insecure about her womanhood. She used her power as a mistress to command Hagar to take the role of a surrogate mother. But Sarah did not have the power to command Hagar’s mind and feelings. Once Hagar demonstrated her fertility, she held herself to be superior to Sarah in the essential matter that makes for womanhood, and looked upon her “with contempt.” (Gen. 16:4) That stung Sarah, and being her master, she acted out of her insecurity and treated her harshly. (16:5-6)

God had chosen Abraham and Sarah to become a model family, setting the example of righteousness and justice for all families to come. (Gen. 18:19) For this, Sarah had to demonstrate righteousness as much as Abraham. She did so earlier on a journey to Egypt, when to preserve Abraham’s life she posed as his sister. She was taken into Pharaoh’s harem, but then she was released and they departed as husband and wife. (Gen. 12:10-20) Divine Principle interprets this as a reversal of the Human Fall, whereby Satan (represented by Pharaoh) after taking Eve (Sarah) who was at the time the brother of Adam (Abraham), releases her back to Adam so that Adam and Eve can rightfully be husband and wife. [30] Thus, Abraham and Sarah together “restored the position of Adam’s family.” (EDP, 209)

However, Sarah did not set such a good example in the matter of Hagar. The strife between them opened yet another path for Satan to attack Abraham’s seed. Specifically, their discord would bear fruit in the enduring conflict between the sons Isaac and Ishmael. (Gen. 16:12) Amid the discord among the women that caused this conflict, Abraham alone stood as the male patriarch who could uphold God’s blessing. Therefore, Divine Principle states that God instituted circumcision as a way “to restore man’s right of dominion” over women.

As a mark of patriarchy, circumcising the male organ established the man as superior in holiness. This rite, passed on from father to son, imprints a special relationship to God’s law within a man, on his very flesh. It signifies that men are the more dependable partners with God than women, who do not need to keep this law. It gives central place in the clan to men, who carry this sign of clan identity. Also, it distances sons from their mothers, who are not able to protect them from the painful trauma of the knife. [31]

God took this patriarchal measure, not because patriarchy is the ideal of God’s Kingdom by any means, but because during the course of restoration God found it expedient to work with patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, who could be dependable partners for advancing His providence. Even so, ultimately all such patriarchal measures need to be put away if humankind is to establish God’s ideal, a world of balanced genders.

Despite Abraham’s mistake in making the offering to secure his lineage in Genesis 15, and Sarah’s shortcomings that brought strife to their lineage in Genesis 16, God was still committed to work with Abraham and Sarah. At all costs God would establish the blessing that He had promised to Abraham, when at God’s behest he and Sarah had left their home and family and journeyed to an unknown land: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:1-3) For the sake of this blessing and for their lineage, God instituted circumcision. Even though Abraham and Sarah on their own could not establish the righteousness to secure their lineage, God could establish the righteousness of their lineage by circumcision. It was not at all ideal, but at that stage in the providence God needed to take this measure to protect the family He had chosen and that responded to His call.

Accordingly, the first person in Abraham’s family to be circumcised was Ishmael, (Gen. 17:23) to establish a lineage of filial respect of son to father that could tame the Satan-inspired conflict between brothers. From that point onward, circumcision would be carried on in Jewish lineages and Arab lineages, from fathers to sons.


The Rape of Dinah and the Persistence of Circumcision

Given the importance of circumcision, both as God’s covenant and as the means to separate Abraham’s sexual life from Satan, it would be important for God to maintain ownership over circumcision among Abraham’s descendants. This would later give God the freedom to end the providence of circumcision at a time of His choosing. For God to remain the owner of circumcision, it should always be respected as a sacred act and performed with proper reverence. However, when Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi avenged the rape of Dinah, they misused circumcision as a means to murder and plunder. (Gen. 34:13-28)

Hamor, the mayor of the town, agreed to have his son and kinsmen circumcised because he wanted his son Shechem to have a legal marriage with Dinah. They were following the custom, later established in Jewish law, which requires a man who seduces or rapes a virgin who is not betrothed to marry her and give a suitable marriage present to her family. (Deut. 22:28-29, Exod. 22:16) Hamor’s proposal that Dinah and Shechem marry was therefore proper, and it should have mollified Jacob’s sons. Most likely they took offense because Hamor’s clan were Canaanites. But Hamor’s generous offer to circumcise his entire clan showed his good faith to go the extra mile to resolve even that issue. It was also in line with God’s will that the people of Shechem should be incorporated into the ranks of the chosen people, something that became a reality in the days of Joshua. (Josh. 24:19-27)

Simeon and Levi clearly corrupted the circumcision through their devious scheme to slaughter and plunder the clan of Hamor. Furthermore, when Jacob rebuked them, he only gave a pragmatic reason: “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land.” (Gen. 24:30) He did not rebuke them for defiling the sacred rite. Apparently neither Jacob nor his sons respected circumcision as a sacred covenant with God; they saw it merely as a cultural requirement of clan identity.

By their action, we surmise that Satan gained a basis to invade circumcision. It is paradoxical to suppose that Satan would want to invade circum¬cision, whose very purpose was to separate Satan from the sexual realm where he had made his first conquest of humanity. However, the idea becomes plausible when we recall that Satan’s primary purpose was to destroy the Messiah, believing that doing so would defeat the entire providence of God. Satan knew that circumci¬sion was not part of God’s original ideal and not something that God would want Jesus to suffer. Yet here was a means readily at hand by which to attack Jesus even as an infant child. Hence, he understood that God would seek opportunities to end circumcision within the chosen people prior to the birth of Jesus. Therefore, he had reason to grab hold of circumcision and strive to make it a permanent fixture in Jewish culture.


Missed Opportunities to End Circumcision: Judah and Tamar

Circumcision, as we have seen, supports patriarchy. Therefore, it stands to reason that if God wanted to end circumcision, He would seek out a righteous woman. That woman would have to overcome the conventions of patriarchy for the sake of a higher righteousness.

Such a righteous woman was Tamar, whose life-risking exploit to preserve her husband’s lineage (Gen. 38) is honored by Unificationists.[32] Living only four generations removed from Abraham, she might have been able to end the practice of circumcision, which was not yet deeply rooted, in her children Perez and Zerah, the fifth generation.

As is well known, Tamar offered herself as a prostitute to Judah, risking her life in order to carry on the chosen lineage. Her twin sons, Perez and Zerah, reversed the position of elder and younger in the womb, thus making a condition to separate Satan from Judah’s lineage. Both in her conception and in giving birth, Tamar laid a solid foundation for the Messiah to be born free from sin, from a mother with a purified womb.[33] Could she also have ended circumcision?

Tamar is widely understood to have been a Canaanite,[34] and as such would have not had a family tradition of circumcising sons. However, even if she wanted to not circumcise Perez and Zerah, because her overriding purpose was to bear sons in the lineage of the chosen people, she would have had little room to press her case. Her only route would have been to convince Judah. But the Bible indicates that Judah kept his distance from her. (Gen. 38:26) There is no record that Judah ever honored Tamar by making her his wife. Instead, Tamar was shut away among the members of Jacob’s clan as a mere concubine, where she would have to mind her Ps and Qs. There was no possibility for her to advocate anything regarding her sons that was contrary to the customs of the clan, for which she would have needed above all Judah’s support. Consequently, the descendants of Jacob entered Egypt and multiplied into twelve tribes while practicing circumcision as a pillar of their faith. (Josh. 5:5, EDP, 315)


Moses and Zipporah

The conclusion of the 400 years of slavery in Egypt should have been the time when all that was lost at the failure of Abraham’s symbolic offering of Genesis 15 was recovered. (see Gen. 15:13) Since the providence of circumcision ensued due to the failure of the symbolic offering, it would have been an opportune time to end circumcision as well. Moses lived at a pivotal moment in Israel’s history, when old institutions had been dissolved in the wilderness and a new society, with a new covenant, was being born. Moses was about to give Israel a new set of laws. It would have been within the scope of his authority to declare an end to the law of circumcision.

It is a little-known fact that Moses did not enforce circumcision during the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings. The Israelites in Egypt had kept circumcision, and the practice was resumed by Joshua after they entered the Promised Land, yet the males born during the forty years in the wilderness were not circumcised. (Josh. 5:2-7) That the Israelites did not practice circumcision during the forty years in the wilderness under Moses’ leadership indicates that Moses may have been ambivalent about the practice.

Because Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s palace, it is likely that he knew of circumcision, which according to Herodotus was practiced by the Egyptians as a rite of passage into adulthood. It has been found depicted on several extant tomb carvings.[35] Yet perhaps because male circumcision was an Egyptian tradition, Moses was apparently ambivalent about the practice. He did not enforce circumcision, yet neither did he remove it from the books, because the ordinance is found in Leviticus 12:3. Moses’ words indicate that he was more interested in promoting the inward circumcision, the circumcision of the heart. (Deut. 10:16) Yet because he did not take active steps to remove circumcision from the law, this deeply ingrained ritual revived soon after his death.

When God Tried to Kill Moses

Moses’ ambivalence about circumcision is evident in the mysterious incident when God tried to kill Moses and Zipporah stepped in and saved him by circumcising their son. This incident has to be germane to the issue, because in the Divine Principle’s discourse on providential history, it is the only place where circumcision is discussed. (EDP, 240)

And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!” because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26, NKJV)

Divine Principle states that the reason God tried to kill Moses was as a test; it was to help him overcome Satan’s accusation that would beset him along the course of restoration. Other central figures like Jacob and Jesus likewise went through such life-threatening tests. (EDP, 227) But unlike the tests that Jacob or Jesus faced, here it was Zipporah, Moses’ wife, who took the central responsibility to avert disaster. The centrality of the woman in this event is noteworthy, and marks it as different from the trial of Jacob wrestling with the angel or of Jesus’ fast and temptation in the wilderness.

Difficulties with This Passage

This is by all accounts a mysterious passage, with many puzzles that defy answering. Why did the Lord want to kill Moses? No reason is given. How did Zipporah know what to do? What is the meaning of her enigmatic statement, “You are a husband of blood”? As Brevard Childs put it, “Few texts contain more problems for the interpreter than these few verses which have continued to baffle through the centuries.”[36]

The trial came at a time when Moses was still uncertain about his role and lacked the confidence to succeed—he had not yet met Aaron whom God had promised would help him. In contrast to the cowering Moses stood Zipporah, who acted decisively to circumcise her son and avert God’s wrath. Thus, some commentators portray Zipporah as a strong and confident Midianite priestess.[37] She wielded the flint knife, a ritual implement usually handled by a priest.[38] She took charge, knowing that by circumcising her son she would rescue her husband.

But on closer inspection, this simplistic portrayal raises more questions than it answers. Where did Zipporah get her knowledge of circumcision? It would have been from her father Jethro, who was a priest of Midian.[39] But if Jethro knew the value and necessity of circumcision, why didn’t he have her son circumcised on the eighth day while they resided in Midian, in Jethro’s tent? One could possibly excuse Moses for his ignorance about circumcision because he had been raised in Pharaoh’s palace. But if Jethro was observant of the covenant of circumcision, he surely would have had his grandsons circumcised already, when they were infants.

On the contrary, there is no evidence that the Midianites practiced circumcision, and the very fact that Zipporah’s sons were not circumcised argues against it. Some speculate that perhaps the Midianites practiced circumcision not for infants, as in Judaism, but as a puberty rite in the manner of some Arabs—Ishmael was circumcised at 13 years of age (Gen. 17:25). Yet it is unlikely that the two children had reached puberty yet, because they were small enough to ride with their mother on a single ass. (Exod. 4:20) If that were the case, then since the children had not reached the age to be circumcised, Zipporah would have had no reason to think that circumcising her sons would suffice as the measure to avert God’s threat to her husband. Moreover, it is hard to conceive that the God of Israel would display His wrath over non-performance of a Midianite custom.

Another view is that Moses’ “feet” where Zipporah placed her son’s foreskin is a euphemism for his penis,[40] making it symbolically Moses’ own circumcision. They speculate that the circumcision was a marriage rite, as Shechem was circumcised before he was to marry Dinah (Gen. 34:15), based on the words, “You are a husband of blood.” But again, if it was for Moses’ marriage, the circumcision would properly have been done in Midian.

This theory turns on the assumption that Moses was not circumcised. [41] But this can hardly be sustained. Moses was raised for three months by his mother before she put him in the basket and sent him down the river to Pharaoh’s palace. (Exod. 2:2) Three months of care in a Jewish household includes circumcision, which takes place on the eighth day. It is possible that Moses’ mother didn’t circumcise him because she planned from the start to send him to Pharaoh’s palace. But this idea is hardly tenable given that circumcision was widely practiced in Egypt.

We are left with the other alternative: Zipporah’s family did not practice circumcision. Zipporah didn’t initiate the circumcision of her son. Rather, it was Moses who knew the Hebrew tradition. Even if he wasn’t circumcised himself, he would have learned of it when he began to investigate his roots among the Hebrew slaves. He knew enough to be able to tell Zipporah what to do.

Scholars also have difficulty making sense of the strange phrase “You are a husband of blood” or “You are a bloody bridegroom to me.” Some speculate that it was a liturgical phrase pronounced at circumcision, yet circumcision in Israel has nothing to do with marriage. Others have attempted to read the word “bridegroom” (ḥătan) as “son-in-law” (ḥōtēn).[42] “Son-in-law of blood” could conceivably be about the boy’s circumcision. Yet why would Zipporah call her son a son-in-law? The only son-in-law relationship here is between Moses and Jethro. In my view, interpretations of the phrase as a liturgy for circumcision are unconvincing. These views are influenced by the repetition in verse 26, “Then she said, ‘You are a husband of blood!’ because of the circumcision.” However, we recognize that verse 26 is redactional, an attempt by a later writer to make sense of a phrase from this ancient story that he did not understand.[43]

Putting aside any liturgical meaning, matters become clearer when we recognize the phrase “You are a husband of blood to me” as the language of insult.[44] The British slang “bloody” comes to mind, as in “You bloody bastard!” The phrase “man of blood” can be used to curse, as when Shimei cursed King David, “Begone, you man of blood, you worthless fellow!” (2 Sam. 16:7) It is used derogatorily in the Psalms to mean murderers, bloodthirsty men: “Men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days.” (Ps 55:23)[45] I hold that Zipporah was vehemently cursing her husband for the blood-letting of circumcision, which she found highly objectionable.

A Missed Opportunity to End Circumcision

In seeking for the providential meaning of this incident, our guiding star is that God’s Will was to restore the ideal of creation through Jesus. Moreover, because circumcision is so bound up with patriarchy, the path to end circumcision would most likely require the decisive action of a righteous woman. From that point of view, first Tamar and then Zipporah presented the best opportunities to end the providence of circumcision before the Jews were set up to receive Jesus. The opportunity with Tamar was for naught. Let us consider Zipporah’s situation from this standpoint.

First, the fact that her son was not circumcised in Midian means that Zipporah’s clan did not practice circumcision. Nor had Moses insisted upon it. Having been raised as an Egyptian, he was ambivalent about it at best. In Midian he still thought of himself as an Egyptian, calling himself “a sojourner in a foreign land.” (Exod. 2:22) He was only just coming to terms with his mission to liberate the Hebrew slaves, whom he knew practiced circumcision.[46]

Here we have Moses’ dark night of the soul, like Jacob’s when he wrestled with the angel at the Ford of Jabbok. As Moses struggled with his new role, he realized that he would have to fully identify with the Hebrews, which would include circumcising his sons. Still he was beset by doubts and felt divine anger. Searching for what caused God to treat him with disfavor, Moses recalled the punishment for neglecting circumcision: the offender “shall be cut off from his people.” (Gen. 17:14) He reasoned that as he was now being called to lead the Hebrews, circumcising his son might just be the condition that would appease God’s wrath.

Just as Jacob’s night of wrestling occurred on the eve of meeting his brother Esau, Moses’ terrifying night occurred on the eve of meeting his brother Aaron. (Exod. 4:27) Esau and Aaron were in the Cain position to Jacob and Moses, respectively. Each represented worldly challenge that they would have to overcome: Esau with his 400 armed men stood in the way of Jacob recovering the leadership of his clan, and Aaron as a respected leader of the Hebrews was the person Moses would have to win over if he was to succeed in his mission to liberate the Hebrew slaves. Each could have potentially cut short the mission if they acted with disfavor. Therefore, just as Jacob had to overcome a spiritual struggle to gain confidence to confront Esau and his troops, Moses had to resolve his struggle to gain confidence to stand before Aaron and his entourage.

Moses needed Aaron to respect him as a man of God. He worried that Aaron would see his son’s uncircumcised condition as a mark of disbelief, and that it would lead him to doubt Moses.

Zipporah was thus faced with an anxious and fearful husband who believed that the only way to avert his own death—or if we demythologize it, to avert failure at his upcoming meeting with Aaron—was to circumcise their son. Moses was too sick or tormented to do it himself, so he implored her to pick up the stone knife and cut her son’s foreskin. She obeyed him and performed the bloody procedure, which undoubtedly caused her child to suffer great pain.

When the deed was done, Zipporah threw the foreskin at Moses’ feet and exclaimed, “You are a husband of blood to me!” Those indignant words convey how sickened and angry she was by what she had just done. Her husband was a “husband of blood,” an abuser of children for demanding the shedding of her child’s blood. She threw the foreskin at Moses’ feet in a gesture of disgust. She was also upset with herself for giving in and allowing her son to be hurt.

Still, the shock of her outburst must have cleared Moses’ head, and furthermore by having kept the law of circumcision he could feel confident about what he was to encounter at his rendezvous with Aaron and meeting with the leaders of the Hebrews.

The attack on Moses had ended. Yet Zipporah did not feel particularly victorious. Still furious at Moses, she took the children and departed. The Bible indicates that Moses sent her away, back to her father Jethro. (Exod. 18:2-3) But it seems implausible that Moses had planned to bring her to Egypt just to meet Aaron and then send her back. Did he send her back because he foresaw the danger that might befall her when he confronted Pharaoh? If so, he surely would have left her in Midian in the first place. More likely it was Zipporah who wanted to depart, because she no longer trusted her husband. Zipporah and the children did not return to Moses until after the Israelites had reached Sinai, when Jethro brought them. (Exod. 18:5) Possibly he helped patch up the rift between them.

Zipporah’s Other Choice

In the methodology of the Divine Principle, let us ask the question: What if Zipporah had refused to perform the circumcision? What if she had stood up to her husband and said, “No, this thing ought not to be done. I will pray to God that he will relent and heal you. I will intercede for you and fight this angelic requirement for bloodshed”?

Divine Principle parallels this trial to the trial of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Jacob refused to give in, but wrestled all night until the angel submitted. Zipporah likewise should have wrestled figuratively with God and with her husband in saying No to circumcision. Divine Principle also parallels this trial to Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Jesus refused to accept Satan’s way out of hunger, which was to turn the stone into bread. These central figures stood their ground and fought for the truth they owned. Could Zipporah have done that?

Zipporah was faced with a crisis of conscience in a life-and-death situation. Her truth as a mother was to protect her son from the circumcision knife. Yet, could she have confidence that by sparing her son she would not be putting Moses’ life in jeopardy? She loved her husband and did not want to see any harm come to him. Was her relationship with God so crystal-clear that she could feel in her gut the assurance that her husband’s fears were groundless?

The logic of Scripture (Mark 8:35) tells us that if Zipporah stood her ground in the face of death, like Jacob and Jesus, and remained firm despite her husband’s pleading, then God would have relented and spared her husband’s life. Abraham stood firm in his determination to sacrifice Isaac, and the boy’s life was spared. Tamar had put her life on the line for God’s will, and her life was spared. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fear harm; Abraham was shaking so much that it took him three days to go up Mount Moriah with Isaac. (Gen. 22:4) Tamar also must have trembled like a leaf as she stood by the roadside dressed in a harlot’s garb waiting for Judah. Yet by remaining firm in faith no harm came to them, only vindication.[47] Moses, in pushing for circumcision out of fear, did not know this principle.

What would have happened if Zipporah had refused to circumcise the boy and convinced Moses to stand up to his fears and live? It would have dissolved Moses’ fears that circumcision would be an issue with Aaron. It would have given Moses assurance that circumcision was not, or was no longer, a binding requirement of the covenant. Then Moses could have confidently removed circumcision from the Sinai covenant, knowing that its laws would achieve a better circumcision—circumcision of the heart. (Deut. 10:16)

The Providence Moves On

Regardless, Moses survived the trial. He still had an errand in Egypt, and this could not be delayed. As with many other trials given by God to central figures in the providence, the person who was tested could move on to the next providential event, regardless of whether or not he succeeded. He could continue because God had been investing in his chosen champion and was not prepared to abandon him because of one disappointing result.

God’s investment in His central figures is the reason we often are unaware of trials that have negative outcomes. For example, God continued to work with Abraham despite his failure to offer the animals properly in Genesis 15, yet scripture largely conceals that it was a failure by speaking of the covenant God made with him that day. (Gen. 15:17-21) Therefore, most Jews and Christians do not see any failure, only success. Only with the revelation of the Divine Principle do we learn that it was a setback with negative consequences. (EDP, 211-213)

Likewise, God continued to support Moses despite his breaking the tablets at the incident of the Golden Calf, without leaving any indication in the Bible that this sin had negative consequences for God’s providence. Only with the Divine Principle do we learn that breaking the tablets foreshadowed the possibility that Jesus might have to die on the cross. (EDP, 249)

Furthermore, the Bible portrays Jesus’ crucifixion as the preordained will of God. (Matt. 16:21) Making the cross glorious preserved God’s investment in Jesus, which He needed to continue in the Christian church under the leadership of the Risen Christ. Only with the Divine Principle do we learn how deeply God regretted the crucifixion and how much effort He had made to prevent it.

In the same manner, the providence around circumcision has remained largely hidden from the records of history. But in this case not even the Divine Principle addresses the issue. Like the Bible, it praises Zipporah for saving Moses’ life. (EDP, 240) Still, it has signposts of this hidden providence. There is the curious fact that it omits any mention of circumcision in its treatment of Abraham’s course, where one might expect it, but mentions it only in connection with this incident in Moses’ life. This can be taken as a hint about the centrality of this episode for dealing with circumcision.[48]

A Missed Opportunity to Protect Jesus

This incident was God’s last opportunity to end circumcision among the Jewish people, to prepare a foundation for the Messiah that would spare him from the cultural requirement of going under the knife. Had Zipporah stood her ground, Moses would have emerged from the trial having the conviction that circumcision was not a life-and-death matter for the chosen people. With his wife’s encouragement, he could have made a clear end of the practice by promulgating a Law of Moses that did not include circumcision among its statutes. He could have clarified that with the new covenant at Sinai, the old covenant of circumcision had come to an end.

History presented Moses with the opportunity to do so, for three reasons: First, Moses began his mission 400 years after Abraham’s symbolic offering, when the time period required to restore Abraham’s failure in that offering was completed. It was the failure to cut the birds and properly make that offering that had required the 400 years in Egypt. Likewise, it was the failure to “drain the blood of death” in that offering that had led to circumcision being instituted as an alternate condition for draining the blood of death. Now, with the 400 years occasioned by the failure of Abraham’s offering completed, all conditions stemming from it should also have been completed, including circumcision.

Second, according to Divine Principle, with Moses the providence to lay foundations of faith by making symbolic offerings, sacrificing animals, came to an end. From then on, keeping God’s word would suffice as the condition for the foundation of faith: “By Moses’ time… humanity had entered a new era… when they could once again receive God’s word directly. Thus, there was no longer any need of a symbolic offering in laying the foundation of faith.” (EDP, 232) Symbolic offerings required cutting an animal and draining its blood. Circumcision likewise involves cutting a part of the human body and draining its blood. Hence, the end of symbolic offerings should also have been the end of circumcision.

Third, Moses came at the turn of the age, when new truths are given and outmoded truths are supposed to fade away. (EDP, 107-08) Moses stood as the proclaimer of new truth at the moment when history was leaving the pre-Old Testament Age (the age from Adam to Abraham) and entering the Old Testament Age. (EDP, 232) Moses was thus in a position parallel to Jesus, who also came at the turn of the age, when history was leaving the Old Testament Age and entering the New Testament Age. Jesus brought a new message that was in conflict with the letter of the Old Testament law, annulling some of its commandments as outdated and inhumane. In particular, Jesus spoke out against the laws prohibiting unclean foods (Mark 7:19), healing on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:9-13), and permitting divorce. (Matt. 5:31-32) Moses, as the Lawgiver of the Sinai covenant, had the historic opportunity to do the same with the outdated commandment of circumcision. When he did not, the opportunity to end circumcision was lost for subsequent generations of Jews.


Circumcision Grows Deep Roots within Judaism

In hindsight, these two missed opportunities to end Jewish circumcision might seem like long-shots at best. Perhaps they were. Both required that the women (Tamar, Zipporah) take a great degree of initiative, and also that their husbands (Judah, Moses) should acknowledge and support them in doing so. In the patriarchal culture of the day, it would have required exceptional courage and trust to pull it off.

After the missed opportunities described above, it seems that ending the Jewish practice of circumcision was no longer an option. During the following 1600 years circumcision put down deep roots and became the characteristic mark of Jewish identity. Particularly in the Hellenistic world that Jews found themselves in during the centuries leading up to the birth of Jesus, keeping circumcision became a matter of considerable importance for Jewish identity and Jewish survival.

In the Books of Maccabees, we read of the encroachment of Hellenistic culture upon the Jewish world. The instrument for Hellenizing the Jews was athletics, which had a definite allure for the upper classes. Jason, a thoroughly secular high priest, constructed a gymnasium, an outdoor stadium in the Greek style, in Jerusalem:

When Jason came to office, he at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life... For with alacrity he founded a gymnasium right under the citadel, and he induced the noblest of the young men to wear the Greek hat. There was such an extreme of Hellenization and increase in the adoption of foreign ways... that the priests were no longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling arena after the call to the discus, disdaining the honors prized by their fathers and putting the highest value upon Greek forms of prestige. (2 Macc. 4:9-15)

Greek athletic contests were performed in the nude. To join the games, these upper-class young men, many of them from priestly families, had operations to “remove the marks of circumcision,” so they would not be singled out. (1 Macc. 1:14) [49]

During the Maccabean Revolt that followed, Jewish rebels in their “zeal for the law” forcibly circumcised any uncircumcised male Jew they could find. (1 Macc. 2:46) The Greeks, in response, redoubled their oppression by killing Jewish mothers who circumcised their children. (1 Macc. 1:60, 2 Macc. 6:10, 4 Macc. 4:25) Circumcision became a cause for martyrdom.

Thus, circumcision came to have the highest prestige within Judaism. Throughout history persecutors of Judaism have tried to stamp it out, including Emperor Hadrian (135 a.d.), the Spanish Inquisition, the Soviets and the Nazis. It is no wonder that circumcision stands as an emblem of Jewish identity and a Jew’s covenant with God.

This background explains why, at the time of Jesus, circumcision more than any other commandment in the Mosaic Law was what distinguished Jews from Gentiles. The law is complex and encompasses all aspects of life: diet, Sabbath observance, dress, hair styles, purity laws and more. Yet circumcision epitomized the entire law. Thus, Paul described the division of labor between Peter’s mission to the Jews and his mission to the Gentiles in terms of circumcision: “I have been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised.” (Gal. 2:7)


Zechariah’s Family: One Last Opportunity to Shield Jesus from Circumcision

Jesus came as the new Adam. Hence, despite the prevalence of circumcision in Jewish culture, it was not God’s desire that Jesus be circumcised. Was Jesus totally exposed to the knife, or was there a last-ditch opportunity around Jesus’ birth that could perhaps have shielded him from circumcision? Unification theology suggests that there was.

Taking seriously the humanity of Jesus, Unification theology holds that his conception was according to the way of all human beings. Thus, it does not accept the literal Virgin Birth. Rather, it takes the Virgin Birth as a symbol, indicating that God set up an unusual path for Jesus to be conceived in Mary’s womb.

The Gospel of Luke hints that Jesus’ conception occurred in the house of the priest Zechariah. It was a path that could only succeed based on obedience to divine revelations: to Mary, that she should become the Lord’s “handmaid” and visit Zechariah’s house (Luke 1:38-39), to Zechariah, that he should do the part of providing the messianic seed, and to Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth, that she should honor and support the Lord who was growing in Mary’s womb. (Luke 1:41-45) Yet Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, left Zechariah’s house after about three months (Luke 1:56) and went to Joseph. According to Rev. Moon, this was not supposed to happen. Mary was supposed to remain with Zechariah and Elizabeth, and together the three of them were to form a wall of protection around the Christ child:

Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah had been spiritually moved. They followed the revelation that came from God and unconditionally believed that it was the will and desire of God.

Although the Son of God could be born on earth, he needed a wall of protection to grow up safely in the satanic world and fulfill the will of God. God had hoped that these three people in the family of Zechariah would establish that protective foundation. There are many points to consider with regard to how seriously the three had to dedicate themselves to protecting and serving the Son of God, and how long they should have been united with each other.

In the Bible it is recorded, “And Mary remained with her [Elizabeth] about three months, and returned to her home” (Luke 1:56). After that, there is no biblical record of any further communication between Mary and Elizabeth or Zechariah. From the time Mary left Zechariah's house, difficulties began for Mary and Jesus. The family of Zechariah should have been the wall of protection for Jesus until the very end.[50]

Within this wall of protection, Jesus could have been spared the knife of circumcision. God had already developed a strong relationship with Zechariah and had sent him many revelations (Luke 1:11-20, 67-79). According to Rev. Moon, God also revealed to Zechariah about Jesus, beginning with the command to assist in his conception. Considering God’s providential will to avert Jesus’ circumcision, we can surmise that if Jesus had remained within the “wall of protection” of Zechariah’s family, God would certainly have instructed Zechariah not to have the boy circumcised. This was to have been the very first act of protection that Zechariah should have provided.

Nevertheless, Mary left Zechariah’s house with the Christ child in her womb and went to the house of Joseph. This occurred because Zechariah and Elizabeth, despite the revelations they had received, did not fulfill their responsibility with absolute faith.

We have seen that each attempt to end circumcision could only be successful if there was exceptional unity between husband and wife: between Judah and Tamar, between Moses and Zipporah, and now between Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary. Zechariah and Elizabeth had both received revelations about the value of the Christ child in Mary’s womb. They should have treasured Mary and kept her safe, with Elizabeth caring for her as a younger sister.

Recall that one of the problems that led to the commandment of circumcision was the strife between Sarah and Hagar, her maidservant whom she employed as a surrogate. Here Elizabeth, in Sarah’s position, should have cared for Mary, who was playing the role of a surrogate in bearing God’s Son. She should have insisted that Mary stay with her, no matter how uncomfortable the feelings it engendered. Even if Elizabeth faltered, her husband Zechariah should have kept faith in the revelation and strongly held on to Mary despite Elizabeth’s protests, unlike Abraham who allowed Sarah to send Hagar away. (Gen. 16:6) When this did not happen and Mary departed, Jesus lost the protection of the two people who could have understood his special status and kept him in a place of honor. This put Jesus on a course to be born in a lowly manger, and then to be circumcised as would be expected of any ordinary Jewish boy.

The last chance to avert Jesus’ circumcision even after Mary went to live with Joseph, would have been for Zechariah and Elizabeth to visit them and support them in taking this unusual step. Thus Rev. Moon stated:

If Zechariah and Elizabeth… had fulfilled their responsibility, Mary would have been in contact with them continually, even after her three-month stay at their house. God chose Zechariah's family as the foremost representatives of the entire world, so that even after the birth of Jesus they would protect, serve, and witness to him as the Messiah.[51]

Certainly, given what they knew about the Messiah in Mary’s womb, and given the abundance of the spiritual revelations to them, if they had any sort of faith in what they had received, they would have tried to be present at his birth. They would have provided mother and child with a comfortable room and not leave the Son of God to be born in a miserable stable. There, they could have instructed Mary and Joseph not to circumcise Jesus.

There were, as Unificationists know, bigger issues than circumcision at stake in maintaining the relationship between Zechariah’s family and Joseph’s family. The first was Jesus’ marriage, which was supposed to have been arranged between Jesus and John the Baptist’s younger sister.[52] The second was Jesus’ relationship with John the Baptist as the forerunner, which should have been the tight bond between half-brothers. This would have insured John’s firm and active support for Jesus throughout his ministry. The third was Jesus’ standing in Jewish society, which would have been much higher than a mere carpenter from Nazareth had he been a member of Zechariah’s high priestly family.

Nevertheless, Zechariah was dissuaded by his wife from having anything more to do with Mary and Jesus. They did not attend his birth in Bethlehem. They did not seek them out in Nazareth. They did not provide Joseph and Mary with support and instruction. They did not introduce Jesus to his intended bride or to his half-brother John the Baptist. They did not take him in and raise him as a priest. Their lack of faith damaged the foundation for all these providential matters, which were crucial to the success of Jesus’ mission.

God’s efforts to prevent Jesus’ circumcision figured into this larger structure of support that God sought to set up for Jesus in Zechariah’s family. Within that setting Zechariah was himself a priest, so averting circumcision could have been accomplished as a private matter. Even after Mary left Zechariah’s home to live with Joseph, if Zechariah had visited Mary and Joseph at the time of Jesus’ birth, he could have instructed Joseph not to circumcise the child.

When all the providential efforts to involve Zechariah in Jesus’ life failed, the burden to prevent Jesus’ circumcision fell on Joseph. But he was ill-prepared to do anything out of the ordinary with a child about whom he had suspicions from the start. He took Mary to Bethlehem even though she was great with child, with the result that Jesus was born in a cold, dirty stable. Even the miracles reported at Jesus’ birth cannot hide the fact that Joseph treated the child with disdain, and the best Mary could do was to “ponder them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) So eight days later, at an undisclosed location, Joseph had Jesus circumcised according to Jewish law and custom.


Modern Developments

Prevalence of Medical Circumcision

Infant circumcision today extends well beyond the Jewish realm, as circumcision for medical reasons has become accepted practice in America and England. South Koreans started to circumcise children during the American trusteeship following World War II. The American cultural practice of circumcision became nearly universal in South Korea after the Korean War.

The original advocates for medical circumcision gave therapeutic rationales for the practice, for example that it reduced the incidence of epilepsy, nervous irritability, or urinary-tract infection. Some saw it in the context of Victorian-era morality, as a way to reduce masturbation. In time, scientific studies failed to find any of the aforementioned therapeutic benefits.[53] In 1971, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that there are no valid medical indications for circumcision in the neonatal period.[54] In 1999 the American Medical Association followed suit.[55]

More recently, studies have provided evidence that circumcision can be of value in reducing HIV transmission in Africa.[56] Even so, health experts do not believe that circumcision would be an effective anti-AIDS strategy in the developed world.[57] Consistent use of condoms and values education to promote purity and monogamy are far more effective in reducing the spread of HIV than the slight reduction in susceptibility gained from circumcision. [58]

In the United States, medical circumcision is widespread and entrenched. In the 1970s upwards of 80 percent of American newborns were circumcised. That percentage has declined to about 56 percent currently. There are also regional disparities, as circumcision rates in 2006 ranged from 34 percent in the West to 78 percent in the North Central states.


U.S. Male Neonatal Circumcision Rate [59]

The decline in circumcision rates after 1980 was most likely sparked by debate within the medical profession. As more physicians began to give parents the option of genital integrity for their newborns, the percentage of boys circumcised declined. It has also been fueled by parents and activists working at the grass roots, as organizations sprouted up to fight circumcision of both males and females.[60]

Jewish Stirrings

Today most Jews still proudly keep circumcision. It is so deeply rooted in Jewish tradition that even the least observant Jews, Reform Jews who ignore the Sabbath and do not keep a Kosher diet, nevertheless have their children circumcised. Nevertheless, when Reformed Judaism arose in Germany in the 1840s, it questioned the value of circumcision. A foundation-stone of Reform Judaism is rejection of the belief that the literal commandments of the law are binding on one’s life. As theologian Eugene Borowitz stated when speaking about circumcision, “We believe that we serve God best by being true to our minds and consciences even where, in significant matters, they clash with our heritage.”[62] Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, was a prominent Jew who refused to circumcise his son. In Israel also, groups have formed to support Jews living without circumcision.[61]

Jews who are opposed to circumcision make several arguments:[63]

  1. Circumcision is not required for Jewish identity, since the Torah considers any child of a Jewish mother a Jew whether he is circumcised or not.[64]
  2. The 80 percent of American Jewish circumcisions that are done in hospitals lack any religious element, and therefore fall short of the ritual standards of the Torah.
  3. Since infants do not submit to circumcision as an act of faith, a circumcised Jew is no more likely to live according to Jewish values than an uncircumcised Jew.
  4. Circumcision causes physical and psychological harm to the child. The procedure is painful to the infant and can create lasting memories of trauma.
  5. Circumcisions carry risks of infections and complications, especially when performed by a traditional mohel in a non-medical setting.
  6. Circumcision interferes with the bonding between a child and his mother. It shatters the child’s inborn trust in its mother to protect him from harm. Ever since Abraham, fathers have circumcised their sons. Jewish feminists point out that it is a rite of male bonding designed, as are all such rites worldwide, to separate the baby boy from his mother and to claim him as “one of the men” of the tribe.[65] Infants are persons; therefore circumcision violates the law prohibiting assaulting or causing harm to another person. (Exod. 21:18-27) It violates the Golden Rule as stated by Hillel, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow-creature.” [66] Moreover, Jews have a moral obligation to help and protect the helpless. Infants are too young to give consent to the operation, and their screams and cries of pain indicate that they are withholding consent.
  7. It violates the Jewish law against mutilating the body: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh.” (Lev. 19:28) Since a human being is made in the image of God, mutilating God’s perfect creation is tantamount to blasphemy.
  8. Concerning the impact on sexuality, already Maimonides wrote, “Circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement.”[67] While Maimonides considered this a great benefit for living according to God’s law, many modern Jews do not agree.
  9. Even if one accepts that circumcision was given as a divine commandment, Judaism gives one the right to question and argue with God.

Today many Jewish parents agonize over the decision to circumcise their child. While some view it as a positive experience, others, especially mothers, find it shocking and abhorrent. Many feel torn between their tradition and their responsibility to protect their child. Usually the circumcision goes ahead, and the mother ends up feeling impotent, guilty, and full of regret. Many mothers say they only consented because they had been told it was a painless, minor procedure. Had they realized the degree of blood and trauma involved, they would never have agreed to it.

Some rabbis are listening. For those Jews who chose not to circumcise but still want a ritual to mark their son’s inclusion into the Jewish people, there is an alternative ritual, the bris shalom.[68] This can include a symbolic pricking of the foreskin to remove a drop of blood.[69] Reform Jews accept that each generation needs to create contemporary forms of worship to express its connection to the tradition. It is quite likely that this movement will gain traction, as more Jews are spiritually led to recognize that circumcision is an impediment to the fulfillment of the Three Great Blessings that are available to all humanity in this age.



Circumcision, whatever its past value in establishing God’s symbolic ownership over the sexual realm and its prestige as an act of dedication to God, has no place in the world of God’s ideal. Circumcision is a mutilation of what Rev. Moon calls called the most central and precious organ of the human body, the “palace of love.” Couples should not have to bear with the encumbrance that circumcision places on their sexual life. Above all, parents should protect the integrity of their children’s sexual organs, to ensure them a future where they can find complete fulfillment in love.

The centrality of the sexual organs for our life with God can never be overstated. They bring together man and woman to complete the divine image, to resemble the Godhead which is “the harmonious union of masculinity and femininity.” (EDP, 19) They express the passionate love between man and woman, which also enables God to experience the utmost joy by feeling His own masculinity and femininity join in their love-making. Thus, the sexual organs are “the center of goodness... where God can be stimulated with joy for eternity.” (EDP, 30) They are the center of co-creativity, where God and human beings together conceive children. They are the center of truth, expressing the truth of human life, the truth of the conscience, and the truth of our purpose.

Circumcision never should have existed. Had there been no fall, Adam and Eve would have enjoyed their conjugal life with Adam’s organ intact. Yet we saw how circumcision came into existence after mistakes in the providence required that God protect Abraham’s family and descendants from the devil’s depredations. Circumcision may have preserved God’s indirect dominion over the sexual realm of life, but even so there were better ways, ways that did not require the mutilation of human flesh.

It is logical to conclude that God would have wished to make sure that Jesus was not circumcised, so that he could fulfill his original mission as the Second Adam to establish God’s ideal family and Kingdom. Hence I have argued that God only intended circumcision as a temporary measure which, like slavery in Egypt, was to be finished within 400 years after Abraham’s failed offering. There were opportunities to end it with Judah and Tamar and more substantially with Moses and Zipporah. Even at the last minute, God sought to set up circumstances around Jesus’ conception and birth that could have protected him from the circumcision knife.

Jesus’ circumcision was an affront to the heart of God, and the first of the many cuts he would suffer during his short life. God had to endure seeing Jesus, His only Son, go under the knife, knowing that his circumcision would forever encumber the ideal family that God longed to establish through the Messiah in those days.

Yet even today in hospitals throughout the world, medical circumcision of infants is presented as a health-enhancing procedure. From a tradition originally meant only for the First Israel, circumcision in the last 100 years has come to be pervasively practiced in America—the Second Israel—and in Korea—the Third Israel.[70]
Why has circumcision become a worldwide problem? Externally we can look at the impact of modern medicine, but religiously speaking it is a sign of the Last Days, when the entire world is implicated in the course to restore the will of God. For example, the three World Wars entangled all humankind in Jesus’ three temptations (EDP, 367) and the sexual revolution of the 1960s entangled all humankind in the sexual misconduct of the Human Fall. In the same way, all humankind has become implicated in Jesus’ circumcision.

Some doctors encourage the parents of newborn boys to have them circumcised. Even the only official Unificationist text to discuss circumcision, The Tradition, despite stating that “there is no spiritual reason for circumcision,” ultimately leaves the decision of whether to circumcise up to the parents.[71] This means that many Unificationist parents, thinking that they are doing what is medically best for their child, are choosing circumcision. How many thousands of next generation boys are already thus condemned to a handicapped love life, unable to achieve the fullness of the love that God intended? Surely, God continues to be grieved over this situation.[72]

By clarifying the damage that circumcision does to God’s ideal and elucidating the painful providence around circumcision over the course of history, I hope that all parents will gain conviction to firmly reject circumcision for their children.

Ultimately, I believe, male circumcision will be recognized as an act of violence perpetrated on defenseless infants who have no choice in the matter. It will be seen as child abuse, as a violation of human rights, every bit as odious as the female circumcision practiced among certain peoples of Africa. There will, of course, be an exception for observant Jews who defend circumcision as a necessary expression of their faith. But like celibacy for Roman Catholic priests and nuns, circumcision is a tradition that should not continue in the Kingdom of God.



[1] All EDP references are to Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1996).

[2] Sun Myung Moon 158-276 (December 29, 1967): “Marriage became an important means and source of expanding the satanic world. On account of this, ascetics placed much emphasis on celibacy. All marriages performed from ancient times to this day are a source of sorrow to God.” Cheon Seong Gyeong (Seoul: Sunghwa Publishing, 2006), 1415.

[3] Sun Myung Moon 246-24 (March 23, 1993), in World Scripture and the Teachings of Sun Myung Moon (New York: Universal Peace Foundation, 2007), 920-21. The Unification Church also published a spiritual message from the ascended Buddha in which he exhorts his followers to leave celibacy and establish true families: [Sang Hun Lee,] Messages from the Spirit World (New York: FFWPU, 2001), 148-150.

[4] “Blessed Children” refers to children born to parents who have received the Marriage Blessing, as well as subsequent generations. They are said to be born without original sin.

[5] Chung Hwan Kwak, The Tradition, Book One (New York: HSA-UWC, 1985), 162.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Called Cheon Il Guk in Unification terminology.

[8] According to Talmudic law, the child of a Jewish mother is a Jew, regardless of whether he is circumcised.

[9] Ronald Goldman, Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective (Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1998),

[10] On assigning to America as the representative Christian nation the role of the “Second Israel” and Korea as the “Third Israel,” see EDP, 282, 399; Sun Myung Moon, “God Is Our King and True Parent,” New York, Canaan Baptist Church, May 8, 2001.

[11] Joong Hyun Pak and Andrew Wilson, True Family Values, 2nd edition (New York: FFWPU, 2003), 338-41, 355-62.

[12] Sun Myung Moon 196-233 (January 1, 1990), Cheong Seong Gyeong (2006), 1740.

[13] Sun Myung Moon 254-106 (February 1, 1994), World Scripture, 956.

[14] Sun Myung Moon 253-211 (January 23, 1994), Cheon Seong Gyong (2006), 1740.

[15] Sun Myung Moon 302-220 (June 14, 1999) and 197-24 (January 7, 1990), Cheon Seong Gyong (2006), 1707-08.

[16] Sun Myung Moon 263-261 (October 15, 1994), Cheon Seong Gyong (2006), 1745.

[17] Sun Myung Moon 255-306 (March 11, 1994), Cheon Seong Gyong (2006), 1750f.

[18] Sun Myung Moon 134-200 (July 20, 1985), Cheon Seong Gyong (2006), 1753.

[19] Sun Myung Moon 158-276 (December 29, 1967), Cheon Seong Gyeong (2006), 1415.

[20] Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, Translated by M. Friedlander (New York: Dover Publications, 1904, 1956), p. 378.

[21] This is a summary of the evidence collected in “Foreskin Sexual Function/ Circumcision Sexual Dysfunction,” Circumcision Information and Resource Pages, revised August 9, 2008. library/sex_function/.

[22] M.L. Sorrells, J.L. Snyder, M.D. Reiss, et al. “Fine-touch Pressure Thresholds in the Adult Penis,” British Journal of Urology International [BJU Int] 99 (2007): 864-69.

[23] See M.G. Pang and D.S. Kim, “Extraordinarily High Rates of Male Circumcision in South Korea: History and Underlying Causes,” BJU Int 89 (2002): 48-54.

[24] G.C. Denniston and G. Hill, “Circumcision in Adults: Effect on Sexual Function,” Urology 64/6 (2004): 1267.

[25] C.J. Cold and J.R. Taylor, “The prepuce,” BJU Int 83 Suppl. 1 (1999): 34-44.

[26] Pang and Kim, “Extraordinarily High Rates.”

[27] K. O'Hara and J. O'Hara, “The Effect of Male Circumcision on the Sexual Enjoyment of the Female Partner,” BJU Int 83 Suppl. 1 (1999): 79-84.

[28] E.g., “If the world were filled with such true families, that world would be one governed by the heavenly way and heavenly laws, with no need for lawyers, prosecutors or even judges.” Sun Myung Moon, “The True Owners in Establishing the Kingdom of Cosmic Peace and Unity in Heaven and on Earth,” October 14, 2006, Pyeonghwa Gyeong (Seoul: FFWPU, 2014), p. 1570.

[29] Although it is customary to view Jacob in terms of the Foundation of Substance, the most arduous part of Jacob’s course was to make the indemnity condition to restore the position of Abel, which means to attain the place where Abel stood “at the moment when God accepted Abel’s offering” for the Foundation of Faith. See EDP, 218-219.

[30] The Bible is not clear about whether Sarah actually slept with Pharaoh, or whether she was still in a course of beautification as was the custom for women of the harem (compare Esth. 2:12) when Abraham took her back.

[31] See “Circumcision vs. Child Health, Breastfeeding and Maternal Bonding,” library/birth/

[32] Sun Myung Moon, “View of the Principle of the Providential History of Salvation,” April 16, 1996, Pyeonghwa Gyeong, 112-13.

[33] Sun Myung Moon 277-205f. (April 16, 1996), World Scripture, 474.

[34] So is generally assumed in the Jewish and Christian tradition, although the Bible does not mention her ancestry.

[35] “Nip Tuck: Circumcision in Ancient Egypt.” /2014/10/31/nip-tuck-circumcision-in-ancient-egypt/.

[36] Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus, A Critical, Theological Commentary, Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974), 95. He reviews three proposals that modern critics have put forward to explain the passage.

[37] Susan Ackerman (“Why Is Miriam also among the Prophets? [and Is Zipporah among the Priests?]” Journal of Biblical Literature 121/1 (2002): 47-80) and Bernard P. Robinson (“Zipporah to the Rescue: a Contextual Study of Exodus IV 24-6,” Vetus Testamentum 36/4 [1986]: 447-61) lift up Zipporah as a spiritual leader in her own right, a Midianite and Jewish priestess, who knew the ritual and performed it with confidence.

[38] Ordinary knives in those days were made of bronze, as Moses and Zipporah lived in the Bronze Age. But ritual implements often preserve much older designs.

[39] Scholars who support the Midianite theory include H. Kosmala, “The Bloody Husband,” Vetus Testamentum 12 (1962): 14-28, who speculates that Zipporah performed the circumcision to appease a Midianite god who sought to claim the child. Yet there is no evidence to support a Midianite religion of this sort.

[40] So in Deut. 28:57, Judg. 3:24, 1 Sam. 24:3, 2 Kgs. 18:27, Isa. 7:20.

[41] This theory is widespread and goes back to Julius Wellhausen (Prolegomena to the History of Israel [Edinburgh, 1885], 340) who presumed that the reason God wanted to kill Moses in Exod. 4:24 was because he had not been circumcised, and reasoned that the circumcision of Gershom was substitutionary for Moses himself. To explain how Moses was not circumcised, he speculated, despite the absence of evidence that in early Israel circumcision was done at puberty.

[42] By changing the vowel points on the consonantal text ḥtn.

[43] Childs, The Book of Exodus, 100.

[44] Pamela T. Reis, “The Bridegroom of Blood: A New Reading,” Judaism 40/3 (1991): 329.

[45] Also Pss. 5:6, 26:9, 59:2 and 139:19.

[46] Reis, “Bridegroom of Blood,” 326-328, recognizes Zipporah’s indignation, but surmises that she was angry at Moses for posing all the while he was in Midian as an Egyptian nobleman and not disclosing that he was the kin of Hebrew slaves.

[47] Similarly, in the helicopter accident of 2008, when according to the pilot’s testimony the passengers responded by putting the welfare of True Parents and True Family ahead of their own lives; consequently all survived. See report of August 2, 2008, /Moon-Talks/HyungJinMoon/HyungJinMoon-080802.htm

[48] EDP contains many such “hints” to aspects of the providence that only come to light in Rev. Moon’s speeches. For example, in discussing the wife-sister story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt, it states, “This course which Abraham walked was the model course for Jesus to walk in his day” (EDP, 209), which can only refer to the providence for Jesus to marry his half-sister. Another example: in discussing mother-son cooperation in Jesus’ life, Exposition says, “Mary saved Jesus’ life by fleeing with him to Egypt,” (EDP, 229) even though it was Joseph, not Mary, who led them there (Matt. 2:13-15), because it is hinting at hidden providences where Mary did or was supposed to play that central role; for example in procuring a bride for Jesus.

[49] In response to the Hellenist Jews’ attempts to surgically conceal their circumcision, the rabbis after 140 A.D. changed the procedure from the millah, which involved cutting only the tip of the foreskin, to the periah, removal of the entire foreskin. This more debilitating procedure is standard Jewish practice today. See James E. Peron, “Circumcision: Then and Now,” Many Blessings 3 (Spring 2000): 41-42, library/history/peron2/.

[50] Sun Myung Moon, “View of the Principle of the Providential History of Salvation,” April 16, 1996, Pyeonghwa Gyeong, 114-15.

[51] Ibid., 116.

[52] Ibid., 115f

[53] David L. Gollaher, “From Ritual to Science: The Medical Transformation of Circumcision in America,” Journal of Social History 28/1 (Fall 1994): 5-36, /library/history/#n13

[54] American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Fetus and Newborn, Standards and Recommendations for Hospital Care of Newborn Infants, 5th ed. (Evanston, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1971), 110.

[55] In 1999 the American Medical Association declared that neonatal circumcision is a non-therapeutic procedure. Council on Scientific Affairs, Report 10: Neonatal circumcision (Chicago: American Medical Association, 1999).

[56] Helen A. Weiss, Maria A. Quigley and Richard J. Hayes, “Male Circumcision and Risk of HIV Infection in Sub-Saharan Africa: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” AIDS 14 (2000): 2361-2370. /data%20sources/RELATIVE%20RISK%20PAPER.pdf

[57] According to a report by the World Health Organization released in March 2007, “In settings with lower HIV prevalence in the general population, including where HIV infection is concentrated in specific populations at higher risk of HIV exposure, such as sex workers, injecting drug users or men who have sex with men, limited public health benefit would result from promoting male circumcision in the general population.” See “Circumcision and HIV,”, /circumcision-hiv.htm

[58] Any prophylactic value for reducing susceptibility to HIV/AIDS would not be a persuasive reason to circumcise a Blessed Child, who will be raised with the values of purity and monogamy.

[59] Table from Dan Bollinger, “Normal Versus Circumcised: U.S. Neonatal Male Genital Ratio.” White Paper, February 2004, /library/statistics/bollinger2004/.

[60] Among the first was the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), founded in 1986 by a group of healthcare professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area and which grew into an international network with more than 110 centers, The National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM), founded in 1992, is a direct-action men’s network, The National Organization of Restoring Men (NORM), founded in 1989, is a support group for circumcised men who are considering or are in the process of restoring their foreskins, Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) is a physicians group, Catholics against Circumcision encourages Catholic hospitals to stop performing non-therapeutic circumcisions and supports the right of health-care workers to refuse to participate in circumcisions on grounds of conscience, The International Coalition for Genital Integrity (ICGI) is an alliance of activist organizations, health care professionals, attorneys, academics and citizens, Intact America, founded in 2008, is currently the most active advocacy group, . 

[61] The Israeli Association against Genital Mutilation,; and Kahal,

[62] E. Borowitz, “The Concept of the Covenant in Reform Judaism,” in Berit Milah in the Reform Context, ed. L. Barth (Berit Milah Board of Reform Judaism, 1990), 155.

[63] Ronald Goldman, “Circumcision: A Source of Jewish Pain,” Jewish Spectator, Fall 1997. /spectator.htm#47. J. Goodman, “Jewish Circumcision: An Alternative Perspective,” BJU Int 83 Suppl. 1 (January 1999): 22-27. /library/cultural/goodman1999/.

[64] Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter, 1971), s.v. “Circumcision.”

[65] M. Pollack, “Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective,” in K. Weiner and A. Moon, eds., Jewish Women Speak Out (Seattle: Canopy Press, 1995), 185.

[66] Talmud, Shabbbat 31a.

[67] Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 378.


[69] I suggest this option because some observant Jews who do not regard medical circumcision as religiously valid perform this symbolic circumcision, called a hatafat dam brit, on those who were already circumcised in a hospital,

[70] See endnote 10.

[71] Kwak, The Tradition, 162.

[72] One reason for God’s grief: He might foresee the difficult course of returning resurrection required for circumcised men, once they have ascended, to learn the sensations of loving with an intact penis in order to recover the fullness of their Second Blessing in eternity.