Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Circumcision rewritten

Josephus also rewrote the traditional view of circumcision. In Judaism the rite of circumcision is the sign of covenant between God and Abraham.[i] In Book One, God charged Abram “that they should be circumcised in the flesh of their foreskin.” However according to Josephus the purpose is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”[ii]

Josephus lived the later portion of his life in Rome, in the Diaspora. In Rome, Josephus was permitted to obtain a divorce from his Jewish wife and to marry a Roman. Knowing that Josephus had been permitted to obtain a divorce and marry a non-Jew, which of course violated the priestly marriage rules in Leviticus 21, I was puzzled when I read in Antiquities that the purpose of circumcision is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”

As I see it, Josephus sought to reduce the role of God throughout his narrative. I am undecided whether Josephus also sought to reduce the centrality of the land of Israel. I plan to read Betsy H. Amaru, “Land Theology in Josephus” Jewish Antiquities.[iii]

On March 5, 2005 in Rewriting Joshua 22, I noted that for Josephus, Abrahamic descent carries with it the responsibility to fulfill Mosaic religious duties,[iv] and that this responsibility is not negated by one’s place of residence.[v] Yet as noted above, Josephus apparently does not believe the Mosaic religious duties apply to him.

I guess the debate I postulated was occurring in the Jewish community was occurring between Josephus the Jewish priest who is required to marry a daughter of Aaron and Josephus, the historian residing in Rome.

[i] Genesis 17:10-11.
[ii] Ant. 1.192.
[iii] JQR 71 (1980-1981), 201-229.
[iv] Ant. 5.97.
[v] See also Ant. 5.109.

copyrighted 2005


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