Jamie Harrison Dunk: Cut

Jamie Harrison Dunk

  1. Abraham, father of nations, was faithful before he was cut, which shows that symbols are important but not absolute.
  1. Signs, like words, are echoes of distant footfalls.
  1. We all of us rely on sign language; it is a false phrase, as if there were such a thing as a pure tongue.
  1. The space between sign and thing allows that, on his eighth day in our world, Jesus was cut. Why?
  1. To signify that he was not quite of this world. Why?
  1. To show that he, too, would bleed, because he was as much of this world as the next man. Why?
  1. Because God requires this intimate signal of allegiance from his own. Men.
  1. It should be noted that the Christian sexual ethic (the body pure as the holiest of holies) also shocked the Romans. Some suggest that the West has not yet reached the heights of the Roman penchant for personal liberty.
  1. The sexual revolution was perhaps nothing to write home about.
  1. Christian sexuality, though: a marvel. That two might wrap their arms around each other and perform their union, which by promises before others God forges in spirit. In this they take upon themselves the patience and kindness, and creative beauty, of the one who said that penguins would mate for life, spiders eat their lovers, attraction slip into fidelity, and the world to writhe modestly in an ecstatic longue duree.
  1. Still it might be wondered why Jesus was circumcised. I suppose because he was Jewish.
  1. It is a painful thing, to be sure. The midwife who visited us after my son was born hardly disguised her revulsion at even the thought of wounding a week-old child.
  1. But the young forget quickly.
  1. Why, though. It is a promise, a mark of fidelity, and could either God or Joseph have doubted Jesus’ resolve?
  1. It may have been for the locker rooms, or bathing houses, the lydos, of AD Galilee.
  1. Later the private became public in a hateful way, because (see 11) it could be a marker too for gentiles. There were some who saw the salvation of their races in the extinction of others, and signs were then necessary.
  1. It is also possible that God always intended the penis to be circumcised. This raises important questions connecting hermeneutics, discomfort, public health, and the designs of the creator god.
  1. Still, circumcision, because it is precise, and relatable, is a sign of the incarnation that is vitally clear.
  1. Jesus became properly a Jewish man (of a woman, into flesh, circumcised and law abiding) to redeem all men from what they had become, and might become.
  1. And also women.
  1. It is biblical that a flood which covered the entire earth was not enough to warn the world from this path.
  1. This is because terror is weak.
  1. But love is not. It is, however, pure, which is why to signify their intentions, Jewish men (for it was all patrilineal then) carved from their own bodies a sign of their love for their god that bespoke purity.
  1. Does it still? From our vantage point circumcision seems to strike at the core (the head?) of a man. It is with him in his solitude; it defines his intimacies; it maketh the man.
  1. For what are we if not our bodies in patient bathroom mirrors?
  1. Many have tried to separate the self from body but this has proven quite difficult.
  1. I say from this vantage point (at 24) but has there ever been a man who felt differently? I admit that it is possible, but it does seem unlikely.
  1. In circumcision God signs to men, and women, that he will reorder human life. Pursuit of him displaces pleasure. Ask, seek, knock, but never mistake heaven’s door for another in the middle of the night.
  1. If, for reasons detailed at 4, 5, 9, 12, and also 13, as well as the strangely continuing arguments about the health benefits of circumcising skin from the head of the penis, it should be regarded as a probably Good Thing, why did Peter and Paul decide it was dispensable?
  1. It was even then contentious, and costly. Ask Timothy.
  1. This raises a final question about the cavalier way in which the wisdom written into the law and conclusions from creation theology can be placed to the side. Our hermeneutics have not always been correct.
  1. Which makes papism problematic, but this is old news.
  1. To return to Jesus, who did many signs, and refused to do more, and spoke many words, and refused to speak more. Jesus was Barth’s god-man, not Nietzsche’s, and if we do not quite know why he was circumcised (having made an attempt in 1-31), still it is clear that the word became flesh, but managed with a breathtaking majesty to remain unsullied by it.
  1. It is for this reason, shown by this sign of circumcision most strongly, most strangely, that he died without cause and rose without obstacle.
  1. But on this morning, perhaps, we join in sympathy with the historical pain of a bleeding boy child, cut for all the cruel mysteries of the human world.


One thought on “Jamie Harrison Dunk: Cut

  1. Thanks Jamie for these intriguing reflections that push us to contemplate more deeply the mystery of the incarnation. The reality of God become flesh is easily glossed, but you won’t let us do that in your poem. Thanks for pushing us.

    Another aspect which I’ll express in my own more prosaic contemplation anchors the meaning of the circumcision in the covenantal experience, more than the experience of all humanity. I think one key aspect is with the promise of descendants given to Abraham which would be remembered every time sexual union occurred via the sign of circumcision. Thus the sign signifies at a relevant time the great promise of blessing.

    I think this Abrahamic Covenant reality is why it can be dispensed with in the New Covenant and hence this explains the way Paul relates to it. He relegates it as a Jewish phenomenon which is to be rejected as a sign of the New Covenant but then also can and treat it as an optional/helpful event for the sake of mission in Acts. Hence his dealings with Timothy who was ‘half-Jewish’.

    Perhaps there’s scope in there for another poem. Though I’m not sure which day of the Christian calendar you could write it. Perhaps March 25th – Annunciation Day (9 months before Christmas, for the non-liturgical). But this must be by way of contrast to the usual human conceptions. Or perhaps St Timothy’s Day – Jan 22 (Eastern) or 26 (Western) may be a good follow up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s