Although Moses apparently prohibited circumcision during the 40 years in the wilderness,15,18 (Joshua 5:5) Joshua reinstituted circumcision at Gilgal after the death of Moses.15,18 (Joshua 5:2-10) It is interesting to note that after the Israelites were circumcised, they immediately became soldiers in Joshua's army for the conquest of Palestine. (Joshua 6:1-3)
In contrast to the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans placed a high value on the prepuce.31 The Romans passed several laws to protect the prepuce by prohibiting circumcision.31
Much later in the Hellenic period, about 140 C.E., the circumcision procedure was modified to make it impossible for a Jew to appear to be an uncircumcised Greek.8,18,25 A radical new procedure called peri'ah was introduced by the priests and rabbis. In this procedure the foreskin was stripped away from the glans, with which it is fused in the infant (See Normal.) In a painful procedure known today as a synechotomy, more foreskin was removed than before and the injury was correspondingly greater. With the introduction of peri'ah, the glans could not easily be recovered, and so no Jewish male would easily be able to appear as an uncircumcised Greek.8,18,25
It may have been at this time that the Pondus Judaeus (also known as Judaeum Pondum), a bronze weight worn by Jews on the residual foreskin to stretch it back into a foreskin,8,18,23 gained popularity amongst Jewish males. This lessened the ugly appearance of the bare exposed circumcised penis.18 This restorative procedure was known by the Greek word epispasm,8 or "rolling inward."
The third stage of ritual circumcision, the Messisa or Metzitzah, was not introduced until the Talmudic period (500-625 C.E).8,17,23 In Metzitzah, the mohel (ritual circumciser) sucks blood from the penis of the circumcised infant with his mouth.31 This procedure has been responsible for the death of many Jewish babies due to infection.13 In modern times, a glass tube is sometimes used instead.
The Reform movement within Judaism considered circumcision to be a cruel practice.17 The Reform movement at Frankfort declared in 1843 that circumcision was not necessary.17,21
The Christians took a strong stand against circumcision in the first century. Christians rejected circumcision at the Council at Jerusalem.17 (Acts 15) St. Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, taught parents that they should not circumcise their children. (Acts 21:25) In a reference to the old practices of genital mutilation, St. Paul warned Titus to beware of the "circumcision group." (Titus 1:10-16)
The modern use of Hebrew circumcision as a medicalized practice dates from about 1865 in England and about 1870 in the US.10 The procedure accepted for medical use essentially was the Jewish peri'ah. Moscucci reports that circumcision was imposed in an attempt to prevent self-gratification.15 Gollaher further describes the history of medicalized circumcision.10 No scientific studies were carried out to determine the efficacy and safety of circumcision prior to its introduction into medical practice,10 nor were any studies conducted to determine the social effects of imposing genital alteration surgery on a large portion of the population.