JEWISH AND AFRICAN PRACTICES OF CIRCUMCISION
- Importance of Circumcision to Abraham and His Descendants (Gen. 17: 1 – 16)
The rite of circumcision was started by Abraham and has been practiced by the Jews up to the present times.
In the Old Testament, it was important because:
(i) Through circumcision: God assured Abraham that he would fulfill His promises to him.
(ii) Circumcision was a sign that Abraham and his descendants had entered into a covenant with God. It was an outward sign of inner faith.
(iii) Circumcision was a mark of identity for the Jews.
(iv) It was a sign of obedience to God.
(v) It was an acceptance of God as the only true God and their willingness to remain faithful to him In the New Testament.
(vi) Circumcision doesn’t qualify one to be a child of God. One is accepted as a Christian without circumcision as long as they have faith in God.
(vii) A true descendant of Abraham is the Christian who truly believes in God and lives according to His will regardless of colour, race or creed.
- Circumcision in African Communities
Circumcision is one of the rites of passage among the African people.
It marks the transition from one stage to another.
Many ethnic communities in Kenya still practice the rite of circumcision.
During circumcision ceremonies, prayers are offered to God for the well being of the initiates (those who are being circumcised) and the prosperity of the whole community.
Initiates learn secrets of their community and society.
They are taught myths, origin, religious beliefs, and sex education.
In some communities, initiates are given new names or ornaments to signify their new status.
- Jewish and African Practices of Circumcision
Similarities In both Jewish and African communities, circumcision:
(a) Is a mark of identity
(b) Provided a sense of belonging
(c) Was observed as a religious experience
(d) Was compulsory
(e) Was a tradition passed from one generation to another
(f) Is a time for shedding blood
(g) was a time for offering prayers to God for the well being of the initiates
(h) was a time for giving gifts
(i) was a ceremony for initiation
(j) was a time for giving the initiates names
(k) took place in sacred places.
Differences In Jewish community,
- Circumcision was a rite for boys while in African society it was for both boys and girls. But it was for boys in a few communities.
- Boys were circumcised when aged 8 days while in the African society; it was between 15 to 25 years old.
iii. Circumcision was for boy’s organ while in African societies several forms of initiation were done, for example, removal of teeth, and body piercing among others.
- Circumcision was a command from God while for the African communities it was in obedience to customary law where ancestors were invoked to protect the initiates.
Among the African societies
- Circumcision was a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood while for the Jews it was not.
- The initiates were given specialized education while the Jews were not.
vii. The initiates were grouped into age groups, and were secluded from the community while among the Jews it was not so.
viii. The rite of circumcision according to seasons while the Jews once a child is born, they are circumcised on the 8th day.
- After circumcision, the initiates were allowed to marry, enter a warrior group, own property but for the Jews the initiate was still a child.