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Contesting ConversionGenealogy, Circumcision, and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Christianity$
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Matthew Thiessen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199793563

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199793563.001.0001

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Uncircumcised and Circumcised Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible

Uncircumcised and Circumcised Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible

(p.43) 2 Uncircumcised and Circumcised Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible
Contesting Conversion

Matthew Thiessen

Oxford University Press

Chapter Two builds upon the conclusions of Chapter One, arguing that no passage in the Hebrew Bible suggests that non-Israelites can become Israelites through circumcision. While the Hebrew Bible portrays some ethnic groups as uncircumcised, it acknowledges the existence of other ethnic groups that, like Israel, practiced circumcision. Thus the binary thinking that most passages deal with is not circumcision versus uncircumcision, but Israelite circumcision versus non-Israelite circumcision. For instance, Genesis 34, which envisages the circumcision of the Shechemites, demonstrates that undergoing circumcision does not overcome the genealogical distance between Israel and the nations. Even passages that require the circumcision of non-Israelites, such as Genesis 17 and Exodus 12, do not break down this barrier between Israelites and non-Israelites.

Keywords:   circumcision, uncircumcision, binary, Hebrew Bible, Genesis 34

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