Contradiction Claim Busted: The Circumcision of Timothy

From an online anti-Christian blogger:

  • In Acts 16:1-3, Paul has a disciple named Timothy, who was born from a Greek father, be circumcised “because of the Jews who lived in that area.” However, this goes against Paul’s own deceleration (Gal. 2:7) “of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised.” Likewise, in Gal. 2:1-3, Paul brings another Gentile disciple, Titus, to the Jewish community in Jerusalem, but particularly insists that Titus not be circumcised [9]. Likewise, in 1 Cor. 7:20, Paul states regarding circumcision, “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”

To understand this situation, which at first may seem puzzling, we need to consider the context of Timothy’s circumcision, and whether it really contradicts anything Paul taught. The context of Timothy’s circumcision is this: Paul was taking Timothy to evangelize the Jews. He knew that the Jews would not even listen to a person who wasn’t circumcised. This fits perfectly in line with what Paul writes here:

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

(1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)

By contrast, what Paul wrote in Galatians was written to Gentile believers who were facing the threat of legalist heretics who were telling them they, as Gentiles, had to become as Jews under the ceremonial Law of Moses, including circumcision, in order to be saved. Paul wanted to make sure these believers understood how wrong that teaching was. Paul’s command that everyone should remain in the condition they were when they were called was in that context also: the context of salvation. Paul clearly taught that a Gentile has no need to get circumcised or put themselves under the Law of Moses in order to be saved; but that’s not what was going on in the case of Timothy. In Timothy’s case, it was a question of evangelism- and circumcising Timothy was done for that purpose only. This is not a contradiction.

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2 thoughts on “Contradiction Claim Busted: The Circumcision of Timothy”

  1. I was just reading this passage. Also, I found this blog from your profile on youtube, mine is “vessel4thelordjesus”. I have been trying to find if your have good theology and I think you do. I felt bad for you because I saw some people arguing with you online and one was a heretic and the other simple overly zealous for the Law.

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