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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Circumcision by the Jews on the eighth day of life = Proof of God ?

Updated thru 1/27/2015

Some Rabbis argue how did the Torah know that the 8th day is the best day to circumcise? 

The Rabbi then provides the following response: 

 [Holt and McIntosh, in Holt Pediatrics, observed that a newborn infant has peculiar  susceptibility to bleeding between the second and fifth days of life. …  Hemorrhages at this time, though often inconsequential, are sometimes extensive; they may produce serious damage to internal organs, especially to  the brain, and cause death from shock and exsanguination (1953, pp.   125-126). It has been shown that it is on the fifth through the seventh days of  the newborn male’s life that vitamin K is present in adequate quantities for blood clotting. On the eighth day, the amount of prothrombin present is above one-hundred percent of normal (the only day in the male’s life in which this will be normally be the case). Therefore, the 8th day is the perfect day to do the circumcision … when the Vitamin K and prothrombin levels are at their peak.

The Rabbi then asserts the Torah had secret medical knowledge, and therefore it is god given.]

We must reject such a conclusion.

Other cultures did circumcise infants, some even on day 8. 

The Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th edition 1910-1911: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences ..., Volumes 5-6  Under Circumcision: "Some tribes in South America and elsewhere are said to perform the rite on the eighth day, like the Jews." ;  "Circumcision was known to the Aztecs (Bancroft, Native Races, vol. iii.), and is still practiced by the Caribs of the Orinoco and the Tacunas of the Amazon". "The Caribs of the Orinoco and the Tacunas of the Amazon practise the rite, as well as the Automecos, the Salivas, and the Guemos, who perform it on the eighth day, the earliest time recorded among savage tribes".

From Medical Record, Volume 93 January 5,1918 - June 29, 1918  edited by George Frederick Shrady, Thomas Lathrop Stedman "The Susus near Timbuctoo and the Guemos of South America are also said to perform the rite [circumcision] on the eighth day." 

 Should we assert these tribes had secret divine knowledge as well ?

{ETA 12/31/2014 Although some cultures circumcised on day 8, most did it closer to puberty. In other words, most cultures were not intending circumcision to be done as soon as possible. Maybe if that was one of their goals, day 8 would be more prevalent.}

Lets assume that for Vit K and prothrombin reasons day eight is best (I did not check Holt Pediatrics or later medical texts. I doubt that on day 9 or 10 the levels drop, or if they do it is probably  by an insignificant amount.).  But what about other medical complications. If those are considered day 8 may not be the best day. It is more likely no day ever is best because of pain and potential medical complications, especially in ancient times.

But that is not all. Lets assume that day 8 is the best from a clotting perspective. That would be an average best.. There is significant variability around that average, for even on the eighth day many infants will have low clotting factors making circumcision an even more dangerous procedure. What kind of a god would want you to subject an infant to such a dangerous procedure. I shudder to think of all the infants that died a slow horrible death from circumcision.

But even if we assume day 8 is the best overall date from a medical viewpoint, it still does not imply secret knowledge. Could not the ancient jews find by trial and error that day eight was one of the better days. 
Moreover, ancient jews may have found within 6 days is too early (from experiments) and also the first six days may be off limits because the six days of creation. 

Circumcision is found to relate to creation myths and fertility cults in some cultures.  For example "The general trend of the evidence suggests that circumcision was practiced in the Sudan, as well as in Egypt, from time immemorial, that it had nothing to do with considerations of health, that it had a religious significance, and that it was originally connected with some kind of phallic worship." per the book OSIRIS AND THE EGYPTIAN RESURRECTION VOLUME II SIRIS AND THE EGYPTIAN RESURRECTION BYE.A.WALLIS BUDGE.

And "According to Egyptologist, E. A. Budge ('The Gods of the Egyptians': Dover Publications), there was a very early God of Circumcision whose job was to maintain the fertility of the Nile banks. Another early Egyptian myth contended that God circumcised himself and the blood from his penis fell and created the universe. This myth is thought by some to be the progenitor of the blood cults in which animals were sacrificed, as seen in the blood covenants of some modern Semitic religions. ("

Interestingly the Falashas perform circumcision on day 7 as seen in the circumcision article from the Jewish Encyclopedia . Was seven one of the original days of Jewish circumcision ?.   So we are left with day 7 and later. Day 7 was the Sabbath of creation, so that day could have become questionable, plus further trial error may have shown day 8 or later is better.

Perhaps certain morphological changes in the genital region take place around day 8, but I plead ignorance on this issue.

It is certainly plausible a combination of experiment and or  superstition or even pure chance coincidently landed on one of the better days for circumcision, just like it did for some other cultures. Saying day 8 somehow implies secret knowledge and therefore a god is not compelling at all. 

Males are born with foreskin for likely good biological reasons, therefore it should not be cut off without good reason, not to mention the medical dangers. So why would the Torah say Yahweh wants Jews to perform a dangerous operation ? It truly makes no sense from a humanitarian viewpoint. Arguably, Yahweh requiring jews to undergo a dangerous operation seems to be an argument against Orthodox Judaism. One defense to circumcision maybe it provided some medical benefit in ancient times in the middle eastern climate. But no where in the Torah is that justification provided.

Circumcision is a very ancient practice and considering the body organ and the early Egyptian myths it suggests something related to creation, procreation and thus fertility cults and their sacrifices. The number 7 is ubiquitous in the Torah. Future posts will suggest that 7 was related to the moon cycle of 28 days and likely the sun or moon cult or fertility cults  from which Judaism evolved from. 

{ETA 1/21/2014 The Golden Bough by James Frazer , abridged edition 1979, page 75 "The Dieri also imagine that  the foreskins taken from the lads at circumcision have great power of producing rains". [Dieri of Central Australia]. }

{ETA 7/13/2014  Theodor Reik's  book  Mystery on the Mountain 1959. Page 90  "G. A. Barton assumes that circumcision was, in the beginning among the Semites, probably 'a sacrifice to, or a mark of consecration to the goddess of fertility, and was designed to secure her favor in the production of  offspring.' Semitic and Hamitic Origins (London, 1934), pp. 98 ff.}

{ETA 1/27/2015 We find God telling Abraham in  Genesis 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee...11 And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you.who will make Abraham fruitful.

The promises of fecundity in Genesis is reminiscent of fertility  cults.}

See The dangers of circumcision as found in the talmud, Circumcision and Maimonides

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