Jesus’ Circumcision and Strategic Self-Sacrifice
Discussing Christian applications of the Roman concept of self-sacrifice, Andrew Jacobs analyzes late ancient representations of Jesus’ circumcision, re-interpreted as a form of strategic sacrificial giving. Adapting the modern notion of racial “passing” to offer new insights into the complicated meanings of Jesus’ Jewishness, Jacobs argues that references to Jesus’ purportedly sacrificial circumcision were employed to reinscribe the categories of “Jew” and “Christian” in ways that connected the self-sacrifice of Christ’s foreskin to the salvific bloodshed of the crucifixion. Circumcision, Christians like Tertullian and Ambrose argued, enabled Jesus’ initially Jewish mission, but his submission to the practice was intended to fool Jews so that their future critique would have no merit. From the late ancient Christian point of view, Jesus “passed” as Jewish, but was not, in fact Jewish at all. The late antique discussion of Jesus’ circumcision therefore reified Judaism as a thing to be conquered and repudiated.
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