Archive for August, 2017

Gentile Circumcision: Critical Remarks on the Position of Tim Hegg

 

 

Circumcision - The First Controversy

Circumcision – The First Controversy

In his well-known work, Fellow Heirs, Tim Hegg tries to solve the problem circumcision poses to his One Law position by teaching that it was the viewpoint of the Apostles that “Gentiles were to be received as though they were circumcised even before they underwent the physical cutting of the flesh. Before they could receive physical circumcision, they had to be well grounded in the truth that their covenant status was based upon their faith, not the declaration of Jewishness offered by the rabbinic ritual of proselytism.” [1]

What Hegg says here seems to be pure speculation, not backed by any apostolic or NT text. First, it is a huge assumption to say that “before they could receive physical circumcision, &c”, since the real question to be answered first is whether the Gentiles were to be circumcized at all. And second, where is it said that Gentiles had to postpone circumcision until after they were “well grounded in the truth &c”? This concept of a postponement leads to a complete subjectivistic approach of the timing and thus of the performance of the commandment, and I cannot find the faintest trace of such a suggestion in the NT texts.

More particularly on Paul, Hegg goes on to comment on Timothy’s circumcision, and here his argument for Gentile circumcision is based on the disputable and speculative opinion that Timothy was considered a Gentile, while remaining entire silent about the question of the specific reasons for his circumcision. His conclusion is: “We may therefore presume that Paul’s perspective on Gentile circumcision was that until the Gentile believer was sufficiently mature in his faith, he should not receive circumcision. Once he was well grounded in the fact that his faith in the Messiah was the means of his covenant inclusion, he would be circumcised, a process that gained him no new pedigree, nor awarded him any more covenant status than what he already had. In this way, circumcision would be a seal of the covenant without any connection to the rabbinic ritual of proselytism.” [2]

Again, the idea that Gentile circumcision was to follow upon maturation in faith is completely speculative and without any textual support. This idea also presupposes that Paul distinguished between two types of circumcision for Gentiles: the pharisaic-rabbinic one which was part of the conversion procedure, which he presumably rejeced, and the scriptural one, which he presumably taught and which according to his teaching was to be administered without any connection to conversion. But where in Paul’s writings do we have an indication of this distinction? Where is this essential distinction made explicit? To my knowledge, Paul’s texts are silent on this. Here the mountain of the One-Law doctrine is hanging on the hair of an unproven and probably unprovable assumption.

Last but not least, in Fellow Heirs Hegg is entirely silent on Titus, whose Gentile status is undisputed. In The Letter Writer he assumes that Titus was circumcised at some moment, but he doesn’t bring forth a shred of evidence for it. [3] His assumption is completely self-serving and the only purpose of it seems to be to prevent the invalidation of the One-Law perspective he wants to maintain. But my point is that this assumption as well as the other ones mentioned should be accurately demonstrated before taking this perspective as the theologically correct one.

 

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[1] Fellow Heirs p. 82 [Tim Hegg, Fellow Heirs: Jews & Gentiles Together in the Family of God, First Fruits of Zion — Littleton, Colorado 2003]

[2] Fellow Heirs pp. 83-84

[3] The Letter Writer pp. 285-286 [Tim Hegg, The Letter Writer: Paul’s Background and Torah Perspective, First Fruits of Zion — Israel/US 2002]

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