In the first full-length study of the circumcision of Jesus,
Andrew S. Jacobs turns to an unexpected symbol-the stereotypical
mark of the Jewish covenant on the body of the Christian savior-to
explore how and why we think about difference and identity in early
Jacobs explores the subject of Christ's circumcision in texts
dating from the first through seventh centuries of the Common Era.
Using a diverse toolkit of approaches, including the
psychoanalytic, postcolonial, and poststructuralist, he posits that
while seeming to desire fixed borders and a clear distinction
between self (Christian) and other (Jew, pagan, and heretic), early
Christians consistently blurred and destabilized their own
religious boundaries. He further argues that in this doubled
approach to others, Christians mimicked the imperial discourse of
the Roman Empire, which exerted its power through the management,
not the erasure, of difference.
For Jacobs, the circumcision of Christ vividly illustrates a
deep-seated Christian duality: the fear of and longing for an
other, at once reviled and internalized. From his earliest
appearance in the Gospel of Luke to the full-blown Feast of the
Divine Circumcision in the medieval period, Christ circumcised
represents a new way of imagining Christians and their creation of
a new religious culture.
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