In Search of Real Circumcision: Ritual Failure and Circumcision in Paul

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This article applies the theoretical framework of ‘ritual failure’, a sub-discipline of ritual criticism, to Paul’s discussion of circumcision in his letter to the Galatians, Philippians and Romans. It is argued that the application of this theoretical perspective clarifies the dynamics at stake and provides a new way of understanding the development in Paul’s position regarding circumcision. There is movement from an attitude of strong propagation, by way of indifference and a subsequent attitude of rejection, to one of modified reintegration into Paul’s thinking. At every turn of this development, ritual failure plays a pivotal role and functions as a catalyst for the development of Paul’s theology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalJournal for the Study of the New Testament
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Circumcision
  • New Testament
  • Paul
  • Ritual
  • Ritual failure
  • Theology


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