Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised?


#1

In Acts 16, Paul has Timothy circumcised. "There they met Timothy, a young disciple whose mother was a Jewish believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, 3 so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek."

However. the preceding chapter in Acts 15, is all about the leaders of the Church, James, Peter and Paul agreeing that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised:

13..."James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles agrees with what the prophets predicted. For instance, it is written: 16 'Afterward I will return, and I will restore the fallen kingdom of David. From the ruins I will rebuild it, and I will restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity might find the Lord, including the Gentiles -- all those I have called to be mine. This is what the Lord says, 18 he who made these things known long ago.' 19 And so my judgment is that we should stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 except that we should write to them and tell them to abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, and from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals."

It doesn't make sense, that after all of them agreeing in no circumcising necessary for Gentiles, that suddenly Timothy needs to be circumcised.

Any insights?


#2

I heard somewhere that it was because Timothy would have a hard time getting Jews to listen to him otherwise. That's why the emphasis on that verse is that it's because his father was a known Greek. He didn't have to walk around with his pants down for people to know he wasn't circumcised.

It goes along with Paul speaking about stumbling blocks. Him not being circumcised would have been a stumbling block for some people. Best to get circumcised so they can stop worrying about it and instead talk about the gospel.


#3

[quote="CHRISTINE77, post:1, topic:315126"]
In Acts 16, Paul has Timothy circumcised. "There they met Timothy, a young disciple whose mother was a Jewish believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, 3 so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek."

However. the preceding chapter in Acts 15, is all about the leaders of the Church, James, Peter and Paul agreeing that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised:

13..."James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles agrees with what the prophets predicted. For instance, it is written: 16 'Afterward I will return, and I will restore the fallen kingdom of David. From the ruins I will rebuild it, and I will restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity might find the Lord, including the Gentiles -- all those I have called to be mine. This is what the Lord says, 18 he who made these things known long ago.' 19 And so my judgment is that we should stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 except that we should write to them and tell them to abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, and from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals."

It doesn't make sense, that after all of them agreeing in no circumcising necessary for Gentiles, that suddenly Timothy needs to be circumcised.

Any insights?

[/quote]

It was just a cultural thing. People were more likely to listen to a person who had become a "Jew" than to listen to a Gentile.


#4

[quote="dshix, post:3, topic:315126"]
It was just a cultural thing. People were more likely to listen to a person who had become a "Jew" than to listen to a Gentile.

[/quote]

How would they know someone was circumcised unless they had the person strip and they looked? Sort of kinky to me!:eek:


#5

[quote="LegoGE1947, post:4, topic:315126"]
How would they know someone was circumcised unless they had the person strip and they looked? Sort of kinky to me!:eek:

[/quote]

It's a reputational thing. Once the person is circumcised, it's a big enough event that people know about it.


#6

I happen to be studying the Acts of the Apostles in a Bible study group. Timothy's circumcision was 2 lessons ago.

Timothy's mother was a Jew, and his father was a Greek. Through his mother, Timothy was considered a Jew. He was uncircumcised, my study never said why. Paul was afraid for Timothy. He feared Timothy wouldn't be taken seriously, or the Jews would make trouble for him. So to avoid trouble, Timothy was circumcised.


#7

[quote="CHRISTINE77, post:1, topic:315126"]
In Acts 16, Paul has Timothy circumcised. "There they met Timothy, a young disciple whose mother was a Jewish believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, 3 so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek."

However. the preceding chapter in Acts 15, is all about the leaders of the Church, James, Peter and Paul agreeing that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised:

13..."James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles agrees with what the prophets predicted. For instance, it is written: 16 'Afterward I will return, and I will restore the fallen kingdom of David. From the ruins I will rebuild it, and I will restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity might find the Lord, including the Gentiles -- all those I have called to be mine. This is what the Lord says, 18 he who made these things known long ago.' 19 And so my judgment is that we should stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 except that we should write to them and tell them to abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, and from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals."

It doesn't make sense, that after all of them agreeing in no circumcising necessary for Gentiles, that suddenly Timothy needs to be circumcised.

Any insights?

[/quote]

Paul wanted Timothy to be politically corrrect. Other than that it was one such action that did not make sense by the apostle.


#8

[quote="asia53, post:6, topic:315126"]
I happen to be studying the Acts of the Apostles in a Bible study group. Timothy's circumcision was 2 lessons ago.

Timothy's mother was a Jew, and his father was a Greek. Through his mother, Timothy was considered a Jew. He was uncircumcised, my study never said why. Paul was afraid for Timothy. He feared Timothy wouldn't be taken seriously, or the Jews would make trouble for him. So to avoid trouble, Timothy was circumcised.

[/quote]

And where there was Paul, there was always trouble! :)

He was seeking to avoid the very kind of thing that happened when he travelled to Jerusalem (Acts 21).

Acts 21:21-22
21 They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.

It was an effort to prevent this vicious rumor.

The Apostles were taught that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and that He was the fulfillment of the whole Jewish expectation. They saw no conflict between being Jewish and Christian.


#9

[quote="LegoGE1947, post:4, topic:315126"]
How would they know someone was circumcised unless they had the person strip and they looked? Sort of kinky to me!:eek:

[/quote]

There were public toilets, baths, gyms and the like across most of the places Paul and Timothy went. Not to mention ritual baths used in various Jewish rites.

So plenty of casual nudity among men, and plenty of situations where Timothy's circumcision or lack thereof would have been evident. It's the equivalent of our sporting changerooms today - and no-one considers those kinky. :shrug:

In Maccabees (I think) there are references to Jewish men attempting to do the opposite, hide the evidence of their circumcision (it boggles the mind of this female as to how this might have been done) for the same reason - it would have been evident to their non-Jewish conquerors with whom they doubtless shared facilities.


#10

I don't know, but I bet Timothy remembered that day very well. :eek:


#11

Thanks for all you answers, but that still doesn't answer my question. Why did he do this immediately after the chapter where James (who was a conservative Jew) had agreed that non-Jews did not need to be circumcised? It seems to be an odd segue way.


#12

Dear Christine,

I, and several others answered your question.

St Paul had Timothy circumcised to avoid trouble with the Jews. He was worried the Jews wouldn’t take Timothy seriously, or make trouble for Timothy. Especially since, Timothy was considered a Jew by birth, through his Jewish mother. Everything I’ve read about Timothy, indicates Timothy was a timid man.


#13

[quote="asia53, post:12, topic:315126"]
Dear Christine,

I, and several others answered your question.

St Paul had Timothy circumcised to avoid trouble with the Jews. He was worried the Jews wouldn't take Timothy seriously, or make trouble for Timothy. Especially since, Timothy was considered a Jew by birth, through his Jewish mother. Everything I've read about Timothy, indicates Timothy was a timid man.

[/quote]

Well he certainly set a poor example for the new Gentile Christians. The whole point of Acts is that it is not necessary for salvation to obey the Jewish laws. Peter proved that when he saw the sheet full of forbidden animals, and Paul said repeatedly that Gentiles did NOT need to be circumcised. To believe in Jesus Christ as Lord is all that is necessary.


#14

[quote="asia53, post:12, topic:315126"]
Dear Christine,

I, and several others answered your question.

St Paul had Timothy circumcised to avoid trouble with the Jews. He was worried the Jews wouldn't take Timothy seriously, or make trouble for Timothy. Especially since, Timothy was considered a Jew by birth, through his Jewish mother. Everything I've read about Timothy, indicates Timothy was a timid man.

[/quote]

St Timothy was also looked down upon for being a young bishop as is evidenced here:

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise your youth: but be an example of the faithful, in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity.


#15

[quote="CHRISTINE77, post:13, topic:315126"]
Well he certainly set a poor example for the new Gentile Christians. The whole point of Acts is that it is not necessary for salvation to obey the Jewish laws. Peter proved that when he saw the sheet full of forbidden animals, and Paul said repeatedly that Gentiles did NOT need to be circumcised. To believe in Jesus Christ as Lord is all that is necessary.

[/quote]

I found this Bible commentary, which explains a lot better than I:

And took and circumcised him - This was evidently done to avoid the opposition and reproaches of the Jews. It was a measure not binding in itself (compare Acts 15:1, Acts 15:28-29), but the neglect of which would expose to contention and opposition among the Jews, and greatly retard or destroy his usefulness. It was an act of expediency for the sake of peace, and was in accordance with Paul's uniform and avowed principle of conduct, 1 Corinthians 9:20, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews." Compare Acts 21:23-26.


#16

[quote="CHRISTINE77, post:13, topic:315126"]
Well he certainly set a poor example for the new Gentile Christians. The whole point of Acts is that it is not necessary for salvation to obey the Jewish laws. Peter proved that when he saw the sheet full of forbidden animals, and Paul said repeatedly that Gentiles did NOT need to be circumcised. To believe in Jesus Christ as Lord is all that is necessary.

[/quote]

Christine77, be careful not to view Paul's actions through 21st Century eyes which tend to view circumcision as a negative practice that we thankfully have grown too enlightened to inflict on our boys. I don't think that is how Paul saw it. Paul would have had great respect for the tradition of circumcision.

Being circumcised gave Timothy a tremendous advantage in carrying out his ministry to the Jewish people and it did not hinder his ministry to Gentiles nor did it set any precedent suggesting circumcision should be required for Gentiles.

Paul used his Roman citizenship to great advantage in his dealings with Gentiles, whether they were Christians or not. Paul believed in making use of one's strengths and depending on God to deal with our weaknesses. Circumcision gave Timothy that "access advantage" with Jews, whether Christian or not. It was kind of like Timothy was finally claiming his birthright so it could be used for the good of the Church.

Circumcision was of no great benefit to Gentiles who wanted to become Christians. It would not have made them all that much more respectable to Jews and it certainly wouldn't have done much for them with other Gentiles. You can be sure that if Paul thought it would aid the Church to circumcise Gentiles he would have encouraged it.


#17

[quote="CHRISTINE77, post:13, topic:315126"]
Well he certainly set a poor example for the new Gentile Christians. The whole point of Acts is that it is not necessary for salvation to obey the Jewish laws. Peter proved that when he saw the sheet full of forbidden animals, and Paul said repeatedly that Gentiles did NOT need to be circumcised. To believe in Jesus Christ as Lord is all that is necessary.

[/quote]

Timothy's circumcision was not necessary for his salvation but it would have been beneficial to the Church. Paul believed that following or not following Jewish law should be a matter of what is good for the Church rather than what was necessary for the salvation of the individual.


#18

[quote="SMHW, post:17, topic:315126"]
Timothy's circumcision was not necessary for his salvation but it would have been beneficial to the Church. Paul believed that following or not following Jewish law should be a matter of what is good for the Church rather than what was necessary for the salvation of the individual.

[/quote]

Certainly. :thumbsup: It is actually St Paul's Epistle to the Galatians that causes some of the controversy about St Paul circumcising St Timothy. Galatians is all about how circumcision does not save. :)


#19

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