The Abrogation of Circumcision

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Puritan Board Freshman
About last week, I finished listening to this wonderful Covenant Theology Overview series by Dr. McMahon (Note: I did not listen to the sermon by the Rev. Greg Price).

In part 3 of Dr. McMahon's overview of Covenant Theology, circumcision is discoursed on in some detail. I am somewhat murky (and I feel somewhat confused) in my understanding of the abrogation of circumcision (this is not attributable to Dr. McMahon).

Could someone please provide a concise explanation of the abrogation of circumcision (with scripture references)? The following is the extent of my understanding (it is very broad and vague):

At first, the covenant sign of circumcision was in place for Jewish Christians as well as baptism. Circumcision was not in place for Gentile Christians, but only baptism was. With the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70, circumcision was discontinued and baptism became the sole covenant sign for both Jews and Gentiles.

Thank you in advance.


Puritanboard Amanuensis
Answering the question in itself without reference to the original material, -- circumcision was not only a sign of covenant inclusion but was also a redemptive-historical type which (1) separated the people of the promise until the Seed should come, Romans 4, Galatians 3; and (2) looked forward to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as necessary to the accomplishment of redemption, Colossians 2. As a type it was abolished, and in its place came baptism as a sign and seal of the benefits of Christ.

Circumcision was fundamentally abolished by the death and resurrection of Christ. It took a little time and a major controversy for the church to declare with the Holy Spirit that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. The events of AD 70 have no real bearing on this, although it providentially meant that the church could go about its mission to the world without glancing over its shoulder at Jerusalem.


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Circumcision was an outward-and-inward designation, an identifier for the OT people of God. It was given to Abraham, and was continued under Moses and the generations of the covenant nation that came after.

In the NT, the apostles generally (see Act.15) and Apostle Paul in particular (see Galatians) are abundantly clear in teaching that circumcision is no more a requirement for such outward-and-inward designation for the people of God. A transition has occurred between the ages at the cross.

Ephesians 2:11-18 make it clear that there is one people of God, made up of Jews and Gentiles; so that those distinctions are nothing more in the church but a matter of historic backdrop in the plan of worldwide redemption.

Eph.2:11 uses the phrase "circumcision by hands;" Col.2:11 uses the phrase "circumcision made without hands," (which thing is not a NT-inaugurated concept, but begins in the OT: Lev.26:41; Dt.10:16). Col.2:12 continues the reasoning of v11, by connecting the spiritual (inward) intent of biblical (OT) circumcision with the outward/inward act of biblical (NT) baptism.

The teaching purposes in both signs significantly overlap. Both testaments use similar ideas to explain and employ both sacraments. There are dispensation-specific aspects to each, so they are not simply one replacing the other; but in primary respects it is so. Finally, circumcision is fundamentally proleptic in orientation; baptism is retrospective; both are oriented to Christ.
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