As we know in our today's world, a sentence can be understood if the vocabulary of the words which are in that sentence is also already understood.

But if there is a vocabulary which is not already understood in a sentence, then the listener most likely beg a question about that vocabulary to understand the whole sentence. For example :

A parent say to their 6 years old son, "tomorrow we will bring you to a doctor to be circumcised". Assuming the son understand each vocabulary but the "circumcised", then most likely the son will ask "what is circumcised ?".

In the Christian Old Testament Genesis 17:10-11

(10) Every male among you shall be circumcised
(11) You are to undergo circumcision

To me, it seems that Abraham directly understood the word "circumcision" and I understand that God didn't utter "circumcision" but another vocabulary according to the language used in Abraham's time, but still it's a vocabulary (for example, God uttered "pyoquerxtiv" to Abraham).

I read somewhere in the internet that the first person on earth who has his penis circumcised was Abraham.

Assuming what internet say is agreed by Judaism, my question:
Is there any explanation according to the Jewish Tradition on how did Abraham understand that "pyoquerxtiv" uttered by God is to remove the retractable roll of skin covering the head of the penis ?

Please ignore my question if Judaism does not agree that Abraham was the first person on earth who has his penis circumcised.

  • 2
    The original Hebrew is ימול בשר ערלתו which is literally translated more like "cut the flesh of his covering" or so. Translation never quite captures the original.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 21:08
  • 2
    It's well within God's power to use a new word and impart in the listener's mind the intended meaning. Also it's quite plausible that Abraham asked for clarification and the text didn't bother to record that for posterity since it doesn't matter much. I don't know if that happened here.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 21:13
  • 1
    The first person to be circumcised was definitely NOT Abraham. Some Egyptians had been doing it since at least 2400-2300 BCE, a good 300 - 500 years before Abraham's time, as depicted in several hieroglyphic inscriptions.
    – Gary
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 1:50
  • @DoubleAA, thank you for your comment. I copied your Hebrew then paste it in the Google search box, the result show that Hebrew words appear in Leviticus 12:3. Since I can't find a result that Hebrew words appeared in Genesis 17:10, I would like to know whether that Hebrew words also appeared in Genesis 17:10 ? Thanks.
    – karma
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:13
  • 1
    In Genesis the conjugation is וּנְמַלְתֶּם אֵת בְּשַׂר עָרְלַתְכֶם same words conjugated in a slightly different way (second person plural past vs third person masculine singular future). Always be careful when using translations if you want to explore the particular semantics involved.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:17

1 Answer 1

  1. According to Judaism, the Torah tradition didn't start with Abraham - it started with Adam. There were 20 generations from Adam to Noah and to Abraham passing down the oral tradition. Some of them were born with foreskin and some not, but the idea of removing it existed since the creation of the world.

  2. Abraham received [somehow] the oral tradition and knew that he ought to circumcise himself and surely knew that it is, he only waited for the signal.

  3. When the written Torah was given to the Israelis on Mt Sinai it was written in such a form that omits many details on the transmission of the oral law from Adam through Abraham, including this, commencing the history of Judaism with Abraham.

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