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Book: The Hunt for Ancient Israel

Chapter: The Covenant of Circumcision (Genesis 17) as an Identity Marker of Nascent Judaism

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.41634


In the monarchic time, Israelites and Judahites practiced circumcision, as did their neighbors. They practiced circumcision on boys at puberty as a “rite de passages” into (nuptial) maturity. In the exilic period, in the context of the encounter with the Babylonian and Persian civilizations, which did not practice circumcision, the Priestly writers invented a new function of circumcision. It became a “rite de passage” into the world and a sign of the covenant between Yhwh and his people. The circumcision of the newborn male became an identity marker also with regards to people who practiced circumcision at the age of puberty. The circumcision on the eighth day is an invention of P.

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