Circumcision Among The Samaritans -- By: William E. Barton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 065:260 (Oct 1908)
Article: Circumcision Among The Samaritans
Author: William E. Barton


Circumcision Among The Samaritans

William E. Barton

Jacob, Son Of Aaron, High Priest Of The Samaritans At Shechem1

Introductory Note

The treatise which follows is the fourth chapter in a work on the Samaritan religion by Jacob, the present high priest. According to his account, it was written several years ago for an English scholar, who died before the book was completed.

The three previous chapters have been published, from time to time, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, and the remainder of the work is undergoing translation at the hands of Professor Ben Kori.

The present chapter treats of the interesting and delicate subject of “Circumcision,” and is in the nature, first, of an exposition of the Samaritan practice, and, secondly, of a polemic against the Jew. In this chapter, more than in either of those previously presented, the Samaritans appear as sticklers for the very letter of the Law. No Pharisee could possibly contend more earnestly for every jot and tittle than do these Samaritan priests. When the priest assures us that a child not circumcised the eighth day ought to be killed, we are hardly to assume that this theory is carried into actual practice; yet such a statement carries with it his profound conviction that it were far better that such a man should never have been born. No exigency, whatever, justifies the neglect of this rite, or its postponement by even a day.

The origin of circumcision is a matter of dispute. Several ancient nations are known to have practised it. The conjecture that it was once a mark of servitude finds some support in the High Priest’s treatise, where he says, “He becomes a slave to this high God (may he be praised), owned by him whose mark is that of the master’s slave, forever indelible.”

The proof of the slaughter of an enemy described in 1 Samuel 18:25–27, and 2 Samuel 3:14, appears not to have been uncommon in

old-time warfare; and it is conjectured that mutilation was not always confined to the dead, and that the excision which at the outset insured complete eunuchry was modified in the case of slaves as time went on.

In Egypt, and other countries of the Old World, rites similar to those of the Jews were practised by way of initiation into the congregation. It is well known that the practice finds increasing favor among medical men of the present day.

The High Priest’s curious little polemic has, therefore, a ...

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