Sunday, August 05, 2007

Circumcision and Keeping the Law

I've been working through 1 Corinthians in four different settings this year, and here is another comment related to chapter 7, having looked at it again recently. But this post is about 7:19. I think the verse has significant relevance to distinguishing between ceremonial and other aspects of the "Law" (e.g. threefold or tripartite division of the Law), and reminds me of of Romans 2:26-27. Here are the two references in full:
Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. (1 Corinthians 7:19; NKJV)
Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? (Romans 2:26-27; NKJV)

What is significant is that Paul distinguishes between being circumcised and keeping the commandments of God, or fulfilling the requirements of the law. Someone can be said to keep God's commandments and law, without having to be circumcised. Yet, in other places, such as Galatians 5:3, circumcision seems to be identified as a part of the law. Hence Paul can sometimes speak of "the law", not including particularly Jewish markers like circumcision. Sounds a bit like distinguishing between "ceremonial" and "moral" aspects, doesn't it? There are those those who don't like dividing up or distinguishing between different aspects of the law, treating it as all or nothing, saying that is more "Biblical". But in doing so they are not actually being true to Paul's own non-simplistic references to the law (Torah)...

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