Many theological camps assume that baptism in the New Covenant takes the place of circumcision in the Old Covenant. Both baptism and circumcision provide plenty of descriptive and prescriptive texts to be able to assess their relationship. This paper will argue that circumcision and baptism, although sharing some initial similarities, differ in significant ways and should not be viewed as performing essentially the same function.
To prove this thesis, the paper will present a background of OT circumcision, comparing it with Egyptian circumcision. Then, the paper will present seven key differences between circumcision as practiced in the OT and baptism as practiced in the NT. These differences include: (1) Circumcision was a Male-only Rite, (2) Circumcision was Observed on the Eighth Day After Birth, (3) Circumcision was a Physical Sign, (4) Circumcision Marked a National Identity, (5) Circumcision was Knowingly Practiced on Unbelieving Adults, (6) Circumcision was a Sign of National Promises, and (7) Circumcision was Unrelated to the Exercise of Faith.
As a final argument, this paper will address Colossians 2:11–12 where Paul equates baptism with a “circumcision made without hands.” This paper will contend that Paul’s argument has less to do with physical circumcision and more to do with understanding one’s new life in Christ. Paul therefore uses spiritual circumcision as a metaphor or illustration.
In sum, this paper will argue that, although many theological camps have often equated circumcision and baptism, each rite is unique to the purpose and plan of God, having a function that is foundationally different from the other.