Bede’s Theology of Circumcision, its Sources and Significance
Journal of Theological Studies
Oxford University Press
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O'Brien, C. (2015). Bede’s Theology of Circumcision, its Sources and Significance. Journal of Theological Studies https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/252980
The Anglo-Saxon theologian Bede (d.735) declared in no uncertain terms that what baptism was for Christians under the new dispensation, circumcision had been for Jews under the old – a genuine sacramental means to remove original sin. In arguing this he drew upon previous comments by Augustine and Gregory the Great, but went beyond them in the clarity and extent of his argument. While Augustine had been the first Latin Father to suggest that circumcision had removed original sin for the children of Israel in the context of his writings against Pelagianism, Bede developed his ideas in ways which seem to reflect the ecclesiastical disputes of early medieval Britain more than of late antique North Africa. The focus upon correct cultic action, rather than mere creedal orthodoxy, in the Easter Controversy of the seventh century may explain why Bede downplayed the importance of faith alone in Augustine’s writings and chose to highlight the sacramental power of circumcision and sacrifice before Christ’s coming. Bede’s use of the patristic writings on circumcision’s sacramental status would prove influential in determining how later theologians read the Fathers.
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