Tuesday, November 19, 2019


I used to joke that I spent my life learning things I didn't want to know. Epispasm may just be one of those things. I learned of it while reading "Unlocking the Scriptures" [1] by Julia Blum . The book is filled with tidbits of information about the Bible that are not apparent in most translations. But I was surprised when she mentioned 'epispasm— a surgical procedure that "reversed" circumcision'. What??? I had never considered that circumcision might be reversed. How can this be?

When I read how it was done, I realized I was thinking too literally. I pictured trying to sew flesh back on. That's not how it's done. Epispasm gives the appearance that circumcision has been reversed. You can read lots more detail for yourself at BIBLE REVIEW [2] and at Wikipedia [3].

After getting over the what and the how, one wonders why. A little history lesson is in order.

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

A Brief History Of Hellenism

During the Hellenistic Period of ancient Greece, Greek culture reached its peak influence. This was the time beginning with Alexander the Great and ending with the rise of the Roman Empire, 323 BC to 31 BC. 
Territory of Alexander the Great 
That Greek culture gave the world many things, including Democracy and the Olympics. Sports were popular then as now. They built gymnasiums in every city they conquered - Judaism vs Hellenism - [4]. Ancient Greek Gymnasiums were more than places to get physical exercise, they were places for education, social gathering, and making business connections. "Participation in athletics was often a prerequisite for social advancement." - [2].

The Bath-Gymnasium Complex at Sardis
The gymnasium in Ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public game(s). It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning "naked". Only adult males were allowed to use the gymnasia.

Athletes competed nude, a practice which was said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body, and to be a tribute to the gods.
In our culture, athletes may be naked in the locker room, but I suspect most athletes would be uncomfortable with the idea of competing in the nude. "Aesthetic appreciation of the male body" did not include circumcision however, so Jewish men missed out on the socializing, intellectual pursuits, and business opportunities of the gymnasiums. So, some Jews sought to undo circumcision through epispasm. Around 168BC, Antiochus Epiphanes, whose name means God Manifest, passed a law against circumcision, making it punishable by death. Then it became a life or death decision.

Understanding the meaning of epispasm makes this verse make a lot more sense.

1 Cor 7:18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised.

I always thought that Paul was writing an absurdity here to make a point. But apparently not. Epispasm "reached its peak of popularity in the first century C.E."  [2]. The word used in this verse is epispastho - Biblehub [5], so  Paul was familiar with epispasm, and here he is referring to the surgery by name.

But this isn't the earliest reference to epispasm. It can be found in the book of Maccabees, which many don't consider part of the Bible - GotQuestions [6], but is valuable history nonetheless. Consider this.
1 Mac1:11 In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” 12 This proposal pleased them, 13 and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. 14 So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, 15 and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.

More History

Antiochus did more than just make circumcision illegal, he enforced the death penalty on mothers who circumcised their babies, and killed the babies too. He also made the Jews follow Greek law, he desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, he forbade burnt offerings, sacrifices, and the Sabbath. This sparked a revolt by a priest named Matthias who refused to let a Hellenized Jew offer an unclean sacrifice on the altar. He killed that Jew, and a Greek official as well. Matthias and his five sons hid in the hills, the oldest son Judah organized a guerrilla army. Judah was nicknamed Maccabee, which means hammer. The revolt was successful, defeating the Greek army which was larger and well trained and even had elephants. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple which Antiochus had defiled. This the origin of Hanukkah, a remembrance of the time when the Temple was dedicated by the Maccabees. Hanukkah means dedication. And we find Jesus apparently keeping Hanukkah in the New Testament, though scholars disagree on whether He kept it or not - Did Jesus Keep Hanukkah? [7], Jesus and Hanukkah [8].

John 10:22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah) took place at Jerusalem;  23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

Even More History

The  revolt of the Maccabees was the beginning of the Hasmonean dynasty. So for a time, the Jews had peace and could practice their religion, including circumcision. Kind of. The Hasmonean dynasty started off well, but the descendants of the original Maccabees were not as noble, many of them were Hellenized (embraced the Greek culture). The Hasmoneans set themselves up as kings, though they called themselves princes instead of kings because a king had to come from the line of King David, and Matthias was a  priest. Priests were of the tribe of Levi, whereas King David was of the tribe of Judah. They were corrupted by power, and the dynasty suffered a moral decline. Matthias' grandson Yochanan conquered more lands and forced the conquered people to leave or convert. Forced conversion is a very anti-Jewish thing to do. One of the lands conquered was Idumea (Edom), and one of the descendants of forced conversion was King Herod, who was both good and bad for the Jewish people. Eventually the dynasty collapsed when the last two Hasmonean rulers, brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobolus, were vying for the throne and asked Rome to intercede - Revolt Of the Maccabees [9].

Modern History

Epispasm became practiced again during Nazi persecution of the Jews. Just being circumcised could be life threatening, as in the day of Antiochus Epiphanes. Jewish men had to either hide their genitals or seek epispasm. "Aryan doctors" charged a lot of money for epispasm surgery - Uncircumcision [10].

Circumcision of newborns used to be very common in the United States, but has been steadily declining, to the point it has gone from 60% of boys in the 1990's to 32% in 2009 - United States Circumcision Incidence [11]. One of the big reasons for the decline is a change in guidelines from the medical community, reclassifying circumcision from routine to elective - History of Circumcision [12]. Today there is a growing movement of men who wish to be restored from circumcision. Tens of thousands of men have undertaken it - CIRP [13]. The National Organization of Restoring Men (NORM) [14] is dedicated to that purpose.

The Swedish Center Party has proposed a ban on infant circumcision. This has caused anger in the Jewish and Muslim communities of Sweden. Some Jews see it as a request for Jews to leave Sweden, because it would be impossible to live as a Jew (or Muslim) in Sweden. The proposal would be a violation of religious freedoms and civil rights - Breaking Israel News [15]. It is a proposal, not a law, but if it were to pass, maybe some will be tempted to undergo epispasm.

The things one can learn even if they don't want to...

1. https://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Scriptures-Julia-Blum/dp/1798290928
2. http://www.cirp.org/library/restoration/hall1/
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreskin_restoration
4. https://njop.org/resources/holidays/complete-guide-to-holidays/chanukah/judaism-vs-hellenism
5. https://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/7-18.htm
6. https://www.gotquestions.org/first-second-Maccabees.html
7. https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/60986/did-jesus-celebrate-hanukkah
8. https://thinkhebrew.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/jesus-and-hanukkah
9. https://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/the_revolt_of_the_maccabees/
10. http://www.cirp.org/library/restoration/schultheiss/
11. http://www.cirp.org/library/statistics/USA/
12. http://www.cirp.org/library/history/
13. http://www.cirp.org/pages/restore.html
14. http://www.norm.org/

15. https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/138099/major-swedish-party-calls-for-banning-world-saving-biblical-circumcision-covenant/

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Cover It With Covering

When you think of the Day of Atonement, you don't normally think of Noah’s ark. It doesn’t seem like the ceremonial sacrifice involving two goats has anything to do with Noah’s ark. But there is symbolism in Noah’s ark that has parallels with Atonement, so let’s explore what Noah’s ark has to do with The Day of Atonement. And while we're at it, why it's important for Christians.

Gen 6:14 "Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.”

There are variations in different translations that say “cover/coat it with pitch/tar inside and out” - BibleHub(Gen 6:14) [1]. The King James Version and a few other translations say “pitch it with pitch”

But isn't the wording in Gen 6:14 unusual? The Pulpit Commentary [1] explains that the Hebrew says “literally, shalt cover it with a covering.” Cover it with a covering? Pitch it with pitch?

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

The word translated as cover is the word kaphar, and some sources say that it is the origin of the English word cover - Edenics [2],  Karaite Insights [3], meaning Hebrew kaphar became English cover. However, in 71 out of 102 occurrences, kaphar is translated as Atonement, It is also translated as reconcile, forgive, purge, pacify, cleanse, appease, or pardon - Hebrew Dictionary [4]. The word translated as pitch or tar is kopher, which is from the same root word kaphar. In English we would say like the Pulpit Commentary “cover it with covering”. Gen 6:14 is the only place kopher is translated as pitch  [4].


Two other words are derived from kaphar: Kapporet and Kippur.  Kapporet is translated as mercy seat, which was the gold lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant, that is, kapporet is a noun form of cover. It is the cover of the Ark of the Covenant.

By the way, the Ark of the Covenant and Noah’s Ark are two different words. The word used for Noah’s ark is the same word used for the basket that the baby Moses was placed in to float down the Nile River. The ark of baby Moses was only covered outside with pitch (different word for pitch). These are the only two places that particular word for ark  (tevah) is used in the Bible. There are any fascinating parallels between the ark of Noah and this ark of Moses - The Ark Of Moses.

And kippur should be familiar as the Hebrew name of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. And kippur is always translated as Atonement.

The point to remember is that the root meaning of all these words (Pitch, Mercy seat, Atonement) is COVER. And we can use Noah’s ark as a memory aid “Cover it with covering”

The word Atonement is a made up English word - Ministry Magazine [5], Etymology Online [6], Theopedia [7].William Tyndale coined several new words for his translation of the Bible 1526-1536, which made their way into nearly all later translations - David Rolphh Seely [8].

Tyndale was the first to use the terms Jehovah, Passover, atonement, scapegoat, and mercy seat in his translation of the Old Testament. The King James Bible and the Restoration, David Rolph Seely  [8]

While we certainly owe a great debt to Tyndale for his pioneering effort in translating the scriptures into English, his choice of words has shaped theological thinking for 500 years. You can read scholarly articles about Atonement by men who have never actually kept Atonement.

Let’s explore the Atonement symbolism of Noah’s ark as simply the word cover. I’m not saying we don’t want to be “at one” with God, but maybe we lose sight of the symbolism involved in the simple word cover [5]. With the caution that like most things, kaphar is more complicated than I'm showing here -Abarim(k-p-r) [9]. Often the symbols in the Bible point to Jesus in some way. For example, both the High Priest and the sacrifices point to Jesus. Likewise, many elements of Noah’s ark can be viewed as symbols pointing to Jesus. Consider this picture – inside the ark, you are safe from the water, outside the ark, you perish. Inside Jesus you are safe, outside, you perish. Normally water is associated with life, but here water means death. Noah entered the ark from one world, and exited to a new world, much like ancient Israel left one world (Egypt), passed through the water and entered another world (eventually the Promised Land of Canaan). And like us, at baptism, we enter the water as slaves to sin, and exit as slaves to God, which is freedom. We all pass through the waters of death to a new life. The ultimate fulfillment of this will be in the resurrection, we will truly enter a new world. The ark then symbolizes the deliverance through Christ, and transport to a new world.

Let’s assume that the covering of the ark was actually pitch (pitch was made from wood until recent times - Creation.com [10]). Commentators say that the pitch represents the blood of Jesus - Good News Mission [11]. Our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. Note the similarity to the Passover Lamb's blood on the doorposts. Pitch was smeared on the ark, lamb's blood was smeared on the posts and lintel of the door frame, and Jesus' blood was smeared on the cross – ark, doorpost, cross, all three made of wood. The covering of the Ark (probably pitch) pictures Jesus’ blood, covering our sin.

Some commentators see this as God covering His eyes to our sin. When we ask God for forgiveness, in a sense we are asking Him to cover His eyes to our transgressions [3]. In our culture we would say, “look the other way”.

The ark was covered with pitch inside and out, that is, there are two coverings. The Day of Atonement in the Bible is actually plural. The phrase "Day of Atonement" occurs three times, and it is always plural, as in the Day of Atonements or the Day of the Coverings - Day of CoveringsWe also see multiple coverings or Atonements in Lev 16 where the High Priest carries out the sacrifices of the Day.

Lev 16:33 And he shall make an atonement (covering) for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement (covering) for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement (covering) for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.

There are different ways to look at that symbolism. One way is that no matter which direction you’re looking, you see the shed blood of Christ. That is, God the Father looks from the outside, He sees the outer covering, the blood of Jesus, instead of our sin. 'Hab 1:13 "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil” hence sin must be covered - covered by blood' - Gleanings In Genesis [12]. We look from the inside, and we also see the blood of Christ, protecting us.

One commentary said that the first covering is to make us right before the LORD, as it says in Lev 16:30. The second covering is to make us right with our fellow man - Day of Atonements[13].

MythBusters testing truck bed liner material
Another way we might look at “cover it with covering, inside and out” comes from an unlikely source, testing truck bed liner material [10]. The TV show MythBusters ran a segment in 2012 where they tested whether coating a wall inside and out made it blastproof. And contrary to their expectations, it did. An ordinary wood or concrete wall was badly damaged by a blast. But when the same wall was coated inside and out with bed liner, it withstood the blast. You can watch the video on Youtube yourself - MythBusters [14].  Another show called SmashLab showed that the coating has to be applied to both sides - SmashLab [15]. It suggests that the pitch made Noah’s ark not only waterproof, but impact resistant. When the fountains of the deep broke forth (Gen 7:11), or when the waters receded, the ark could have crashed on rocks, cliffs, or  even mountains. The ark had no propulsion and no rudder. It went wherever the water took it. Likewise, sometimes we can’t steer clear of trials. It is possible that the two coverings may have made the ark impact resistant. I realize that comparing truck bed liner with pitch is somewhat unfair.

What about the life of a Christian? The analogy is that being pitched inside and out makes us able to withstand crashing on the rocks of life. God doesn’t always spare us from the crashes, but makes us impact resistant.

How are we covered with covering inside and out? When the Old Covenant was ratified, Moses literally sprinkled the people with blood, that is, they were covered outside.

Ex 24:8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

When the New Covenant was ratified, the disciples took the wine, which represented taking Jesus’ blood inside.

Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

The pitch on the outside and the pitch on the inside are both parts of the same ark. Two covenants, same law, same blood. One interpretation is this: keep the letter AND the spirit of the law.

There maybe other interpretations of the two coverings, I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

1. https://biblehub.com/genesis/6-14.htm
2. https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/edenics/hebrew-words-found-in-english-words.htm
3. https://karaiteinsights.com/article/kippurim.html
4. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3722.html.
5. https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1962/03/atonement-kaphar
 Tyndale and those who followed him failed to see this symbolism clearly enough to translate kipper as "cover." Instead, they chose or made up a word that expressed the result of the process—at-one-ment with God.
6. https://www.etymonline.com/word/atonement
atonement (n.) - 1510s, "condition of being at one (with others)," a sense now obsolete, from atone + -ment. Theological meaning "reconciliation" (of man with God through the life, passion, and death of Christ) is from 1520s; that of "satisfaction or reparation for wrong or injury, propitiation of an offended party" is from 1610s.
7. https://www.theopedia.com/atonement
The word atonement, is almost the only theological term of English origin. It was likely first used in Tyndale's English translation as derived from the adv. phrase atonen, meaning "in accord," literally, at one. In the English Bible, it is mainly used to translate the Hebrew word kipur, although it is used once in the King James New Testament to translate the Greek word katallage (see Romans 5:11).
 In the process of translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English, Tyndale coined several new English words—transforming older English words or in some cases inventing unique and striking new English words—that have since become central terms in religious discourse
9. http://www.abarim-publications.com/Dictionary/k/k-p-r.html#.XVokkvk3nIU
There are four different roots that are all spelled כפר (kpr) There doesn't seem to be an etymological relationship between these four, but their similarities may have prompted the poetic writers of the Bible to engage in word play.
10. https://creation.com/noahs-ark-pitch
pitch can be extracted by distilling or heating wood. In fact, prior to the rise of the petroleum and coal industries, this was exactly how pitch was made.
11. http://goodnewsmission.net/12-pitch-it-within-and-without-with-pitch/
12. https://www.biblebelievers.com/Pink/Gleanings_Genesis/genesis_13.htm
13. http://www.betemunah.org/kippur.html
Yom HaKippurim is the actual scriptural name for this festival, which means the Day of the Atonements. The meaning has two connotations to it: One, that a person repents for his sins that he has committed against HaShem and asks HaShem for His forgiveness, and the other is to ask for repentance from your fellow man for the sins that you have committed against him.
14. youtube.com/watch?v=3JOXrpCLCJg
15. youtube.com/watch?v=VSvVy6oiMZI