1 Corinthians 7:18
Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Is any man called being circumcised?—Better, Was any one called having been circumcised? The previous general rule is now illustrated by, and applied to, two conditions of life—CIRCUMCISION (1Corinthians 7:18-20) and SLAVERY (1Corinthians 7:20-24). If any man was converted after having been circumcised, he was not, as some over-zealous Christians might have been anxious to do, to remove every trace of his external connection with Judaism (Galatians 5:2).

1 Corinthians 7:18-19. Is any man called — Brought to the saving knowledge of Christ, and to a participation of his grace; being circumcised — Having been born of Jewish parents, and therefore circumcised in his childhood, or being a proselyte of righteousness, and therefore circumcised; let him not become uncircumcised — Not act as if he were desirous, as far as possible, to undo what was done for him by his Jewish parents, or others. Is any called in uncircumcision — Having been a Gentile by birth; let him not be circumcised — The Judaizing teachers urged the Gentile converts to receive circumcision as necessary to salvation. This the apostle declared to be a renouncing of the gospel, Galatians 5:2-3. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing — Will neither promote nor obstruct our salvation. The one point is, keeping the commandments of God — Namely, from a principle of faith and love, and with a single eye to the glory of God: for this, according to the same apostle, implies faith working by love, and a new creature, or a new creation, the necessity of which the apostle declares, in similar terms, Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15.

7:17-24 The rules of Christianity reach every condition; and in every state a man may live so as to be a credit to it. It is the duty of every Christian to be content with his lot, and to conduct himself in his rank and place as becomes a Christian. Our comfort and happiness depend on what we are to Christ, not what we are in the world. No man should think to make his faith or religion, an argument to break through any natural or civil obligations. He should quietly and contentedly abide in the condition in which he is placed by Divine Providence.Is any man called? - Does anyone become a Christian? See the note at 1 Corinthians 1:26.

Being circumcised - Being a native-born Jew, or having become a Jewish proselyte, and having submitted to the initiatory rite of the Jewish religion.

Let him not become uncircumcised - This could not be literally done. But the apostle refers here to certain efforts which were made to remove the marks of circumcision which were often attempted by those who were ashamed of having been circumcised. The practice is often alluded to by Jewish writers, and is described by them; compare 1 Mac. 1 Corinthians 1:15. It is not decorous or proper here to show how this was done. The process is described in Cels. de Med. 7:25; see Grotuns and Bloomfield.

Is any called in uncircumcision? - A Gentile, or one who had not been circumcised.

Let him not be circumcised - The Jewish rites are not binding, and are not to be enjoined on those who have been converted from the Gentiles; see the notes at Romans 2:27-30.

18. not become uncircumcised—by surgical operation (1 Maccabees 1:15; Josephus [Antiquities, 12.5.1]). Some Christians in excess of anti-Jewish feeling might be tempted to this.

let him not be circumcised—as the Judaizing Christians would have him (Ac 15:1, 5, 24; Ga 5:2).

Is any one who was a native Jew, and so circumcised according to the Jewish law, converted (while he is in that state) to the faith of Christ? Let him not affect the state of him that, having been formerly a Gentile, was never circumcised. On the other side, is any, being a native Gentile, and so not circumcised, converted to Christianity? Let not him affect the state of one converted from Judaism, who was circumcised. This is, doubtless, the sense of the verse, not, (as some would have it), let him not endeavour by art to make himself uncircumcised, which was the wicked practice of some, (for a better compliance with the Gentiles), of whom we read, /Apc 1Ma 1:15.

Is any man called being circumcised?.... That is, if any man that is a Jew, who has been circumcised in his infancy, is called by the grace of God, as there were many in those days, and many of them in the church at Corinth:

let him not become uncircumcised; or "draw on" the foreskin; as some did in the times of Antiochus, for fear of him, and to curry favour with him, who, it is said, 1 Maccab. 1:15, "made themselves uncircumcised", and forsook the holy covenant; and so did Menelaus, and the sons of Tobias, as Josephus reports (b); and there were many, in the days of Ben Cozba, who became uncircumcised by force, they had their foreskins drawn on by the Gentiles against their wills, and when he came to reign were circumcised again (c); for, according to the Jews, circumcision must be repeated, and not only four or five times (d), but a hundred times, if a man becomes so often uncircumcised (e) They make mention of several particular persons who voluntarily became uncircumcised, or, to use their phrase, and which exactly answers to the word used by the apostle, "that drew over his foreskin"; as Jehoiachin (f), Achan (g), yea even the first Adam (h); one guilty of this, they say, makes void the covenant (i); it was accounted a very great sin, so great that he that committed it was reckoned (k) among them that shall have no part in the world to come, but shall be cut off and perish; physicians say, this may be done by the use of an instrument they call spaster, which has its name from the word used in the text. The apostle's sense is, that such as had been circumcised, and had now embraced the faith of Christ, had no reason to be uneasy, or take any methods to remove this mark from their flesh, because it was abolished by Christ, and now of no significance; since as it did them no good, it did them no hurt:

is any called in uncircumcision? let him not become circumcised?; that is, if a Gentile who was never circumcised is called by grace, let him not submit to circumcision, which is now abrogated, and is altogether unnecessary and unprofitable in the business of salvation; yea, hurtful and pernicious if done on that account, since it makes men debtors to do the whole law, and Christ of none effect unto them.

(b) Antiqu. l. 12. c. 5. sect. 1.((c) Hieros. Yebamot, fol. 9. 1. & Sabbat, fol. 17. 1. T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 72. 1. & Gloss. in ib. (d) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 46. fol. 41. 4. (e) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 72. 1.((f) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 161. 1.((g) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 44. 1.((h) Ib. fol. 38. 2. Zohar in Gen. fol. 27. 1. & 40. 4. (i) Hieros, Peah, fol. 16. 2. & Sanhedrin, fol. 27. 3. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 41. 4. (k) Maimon. Hilch. Teshuba, c. 3. sect. 6. & Milah, c. 3. sect. 8.

{13} Is any man called being circumcised? let him not {o} become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

(13) Nonetheless he shows us that in these examples all are not of the same type: because circumcision is not simply of itself to be desired, but such as are bound may desire to be free. Therefore herein only they are equal that the kingdom of God consists not in them, and therefore these are no hindrance to obey God.

(o) He is said to become uncircumcised, who by the help of a surgeon, recovers an upper skin. And this is done by drawing the skin with an instrument, to make it to cover the head. Celsus in book 7, chapter 25.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 7:18 ff. Further explanation of this injunction by way of example, and not bearing simply on the case of Christians living in mixed marriage.[1160]

The protases do not convey a question either here or in 1 Corinthians 7:27, being in the rhetorically emphatic form of the hypothetic indicative. See Bernhardy, p. 385. Comp Kühner, II. p. 561.

ΜῊ ἘΠΙΣΠΆΣΘΩ] ne sibi attrahat, sc[1162] praeputium. A surgical operation frequent among the later Jews (1Ma 1:15, and Grimm in lo[1163]; Josephus, Antt. xii. 5. 1), described in detail by Celsus, vii. 25. 5, or otherwise performed, by which a sort of foreskin was again drawn over the glans—resorted to not only in cases of perversion to heathenism, but also from shame or fear of heathen eyes, before which men sought to avoid appearing (in baths, for example, or otherwise) as circumcised. With Christians this might especially be occasioned by a shrinking from the eyes of Gentile converts. See, besides Wetstein, Groddeck in schoettgen’s Horae, p. 1159 f.; Lightfoot, p. 194; Lübkert in the Stud. u. Krit. 1835, p. 657. Such persons were styled מַשׁוּכִים. See Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 1274.

ἐν ἀκροβ.] Comp Romans 4:10.

[1160] Theodoret says well: εἶτα συνήθως ἀπὸ τοῦ προκειμένου εἰς ἕτερα μεταβαίνει, πᾶσε νομοθετῶν τὰ κατάλληλα.

[1161] omp. compare. “comp. on Matt. iii. 5” refers to Dr. Meyer’s own commentary on the passage. So also “See on Matth. iii. 5.”

[1162] c. scilicet.

[1163] n loc refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 7:18-19. The rule of 1 Corinthians 7:17 applied to the most prominent and critical distinction in the Church, that between Jew and Gentile: περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη κ.τ.λ.; “Was any one called (as) a circumcised man? let him not have the mark effaced”.—ἐπισπάσθω alludes to a surgical operation (ἐπισπάω, to draw ever) by which renegade Jews effaced the Covenant sign: see 1Ma 1:11 ff., Joseph., Ant., xii., 5, 1; Celsus, vii., 25. 5; also Schürer, Hist. of Jewish People, I., i., p. 203, and Wetstein ad loc[1078] Such apostates were called m’shûkím, recutiti (Buxtorf’s Lexic., p. 1274).—On the opp[1079] direction to the Gentile, μὴ περιτεμνέσθω, the Ep. to the Gal. is a powerful commentary; here the negative reasons against the change suffice (1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:19).—The variation in tense and order of words in the two questions is noticeable: “Was any one a circumcised man at the time of his call (ἐκλήθη)?… Has any one been called (κέκληται) though in uncircumcision?”—To clinch the matter (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:31, 1 Corinthians 3:7) P. applies one of his great axioms: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but keeping of God’s commands”—that is everything.

[1078] ad locum, on this passage.

[1079] opposite, opposition.

In Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15 this maxim reappears, with πίστις διʼ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη and καινὴ κτίσις respectively in the antithesis: this text puts the condition of acceptance objectively, as it lies in a right attitude toward God (cf. Romans 2:25 ff.); those other texts supply the subjective criterion, lying in a right disposition of the man. In Galatians 5, οὐκ ἰσχύει—opposed to ἐνεργουμένη—signalises the impotence of external states, the other two passages their nothingness as religious qualifications.—“Those who would contrast the teaching of St. Paul with that of St. James, or exaggerate his doctrine of justification by faith, should reflect on this τήρησις ἐντολῶν Θεοῦ” (Lt[1080]).

[1080] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

18. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised] Many Jews, we are assured, were ashamed of their Judaism, and were desirous to obliterate all the outward signs of it. (1Ma 1:15.) This feeling would receive an additional impulse from conversion to Christianity. But St Paul believed that, once a Jew, a man was ‘a debtor to do the whole law’ (Galatians 5:3). He acted upon this view of the case himself (Acts 18:21; Acts 21:26) in marked contrast to the Judaizing teachers (Galatians 6:13), but with one exception under special circumstances (Acts 16:3). Therefore he urged those who were called in Judaism not to abandon the customs of their nation.

Is any called in uncircumcision?] That the Gentiles were free from the obligation of the Jewish law was decided in the conference held at Jerusalem (Acts 15) and after some wavering (Galatians 2:11-21) it was set at rest, principally by the courage and clear-sightedness of the great Apostle of the Gentiles.

1 Corinthians 7:18. Μὴ ἐπισπάσθω, let him not draw) [become uncircumcised]. Many, who had apostatized from the Jews to the Gentiles, recovered their uncircumcision to some extent by surgical skill, 1Ma 1:15. See Reineccius on this passage. It may be gathered from the admonition of Paul, that they were imitated by some, who from Jews had become Christians.

Verse 18. - Being circumcised. The first instance he gives is that of Judaism and paganism. The circumcised Jew is to remain circumcised; the uncircumcised Gentile is not to undergo circumcision. Become uncircumcised. The Hellenising Jews in the days of the priest Menelaus (1 Macc. 1:15; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12:05, 1) had discovered a process for obliterating the appearance of circumcision; such persons were known as masochim. St. Paul does not permit the adoption of this course. In the rebellion of Barcocheba many obliterated the sign of circumcision, and were afterwards, at great danger to themselves, recircumcised. ('Yevamoth,' tel. 72, 1). Let him not be circumcised. This rule was of much more practical significance than the other. The early fortunes of Christianity had been almost shipwrecked by the attempt of Jewish rigorists to enforce this odious bondage on the Gentiles, and their deliverance flora it had been due almost solely to St. Paul. It was his inspired insight which had swayed the decision of the synod at Jerusalem (Acts 15.); and at a later period his Epistle to the Galatians was the manifesto of Gentile emancipation. He proved that after Christ's death "circumcision" (peritome) became to Gentiles a mere physical mutilation (katatome) (Philippians 3:2). 1 Corinthians 7:18Become uncircumcised (ἐπισπάσθω)

The reference is to the process of restoring a circumcised person to his natural condition by a surgical operation. See Josephus, "Antiquities," 12:5, 1; 1 Macc. 1:15; Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible," Article Circumcision; Celsus, "De Re Medica," cited in Wetstein with other passages. See, also, Edwards' note on this passage.

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