Christian Questions, Christian Responses

Shaye J. D. Cohen

in Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780520212503
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520920491 | DOI:
Christian Questions, Christian Responses

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This chapter surveys the Christian arguments based on the non-circumcision of women, explaining how the conflict between Christian and Jews on the issue developed. Beginning in the second century ce, Christians used the non-circumcision of Jewish women as an anti-Jewish argument. The question of how Jewish girls become Jews became a standard argument in the anti-Jewish tracts written in the Latin West from Late Antiquity through the high Middle Ages. The fact that Jews circumcised only men was, from the Christian perspective, a problem which Jews needed to explain; the fact God asked Abraham to circumcise only men was, from the Christian perspective, a problem that Christians needed to explain. Furthermore, the chapter analyses Christian works, most of them written in Latin, which use the non-circumcision of women as an anti-Jewish argument, and also discusses the Christian responses to their own question, for even Christians had to explain why God in Genesis 17 gave the sign of the old covenant only to men.

Keywords: Genesis 17; non-circumcision; anti-Jewish argument; Abraham; old covenant

Chapter.  10940 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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