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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning the Circumcision.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXV.—Concerning the Circumcision.

The Circumcision 2694 was given to Abraham before the law, after the blessings, after the promise, as a sign separating him and his offspring and his household from the Gentiles with whom he lived 2695 . And this is evident 2696 , p. 98b for when the Israelites passed forty years alone by themselves in the desert, having no intercourse with any other race, all that were born in the desert were uncircumcised: but when Joshua 2697 led them across Jordan, they were circumcised, and a second law of circumcision was instituted. For in Abraham’s time the law of circumcision was given, and for the forty years in the desert it fell into abeyance. And again for the second time God gave the law of Circumcision to Joshua, after the crossing of Jordan, according as it is written in the book of Joshua, the son of Nun: At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee knives of stone from the sharp rock, and assemble and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time 2698 ; and a little later: For the children of Israel walked forty and two 2699 years in the wilderness of Battaris 2700 , till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were uncircumcised, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: unto whom the Lord sware that He would not shew them the good land, which the Lord swore unto their fathers that He would give them, a land that floweth with milk and honey. And their children, whom He raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way 2701 . So that the circumcision was a sign, dividing Israel from the Gentiles with whom they dwelt.

It was, moreover, a figure of baptism 2702 . For just as the circumcision does not cut off a useful member of the body but only a useless superfluity, so by the holy baptism we are circumcised from sin, and sin clearly is, so to speak, the superfluous part of desire and not useful desire. For it is quite impossible that any one should have no desire at all nor ever experience the taste of pleasure. But the useless part of pleasure, that is to say, useless desire and pleasure, it is this that is sin from which holy baptism circumcises us, giving us as a token the precious cross on the brow, not to divide us from the Gentiles (for all the nations received baptism and were sealed with the sign of the Cross), but to distinguish in each nation the faithful from the faithless. Wherefore, when the truth is revealed, circumcision is a senseless figure and shade. So circumcision is now superfluous and contrary to holy baptism. For he who is circumcised is a debtor to do the whole law 2703 . Further, the Lord was circumcised that He might fulfil the law: and He fulfilled the whole law and observed the Sabbath that He might fulfil and establish the law 2704 . Moreover after He was baptized and the Holy Spirit had appeared to men, descending on Him in the form of a dove, from that time the spiritual service and conduct of life and the Kingdom of Heaven was preached.



Just. Martyr., Dial. cum Tryph., p. 241.


Gen. xvii. 10.


Chrys., Hom. 39 in Gen.


Text, ᾽Ιησοῦς.


Josh. v. 2.


Josh. 5.6.


Text, Βατταριτίδι as in mss.; but in Bib. Sixt. μαδβαρείτιδι is to be read. The desert in which the Israelites dwelt is called “per antonomasiam” Madbara, from the Hebrew רבדמ, desert.


Josh. 5:6, 7.


Greg. Naz., Orat. 40. Athan., De Sab. et circ.


Gal. v. 3.


St. Matt. v. 17.

Next: Concerning the Antichrist.

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