(KJV)Ephesians 2:11

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

Uncircumsion was a term used by Jews in reference to non-Jews so in the above text was the apostle referring to being non-jewish (by birth) or to be unregenerated,under dominion of the flesh & carnal

3 Answers 3


"That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." (John 3:6, KJV)

Ephesians 2:11 is a reference to Gentiles without faith in Christ ("of the flesh"), as opposed to those with faith ("of the spirit"). A person baptized by the holy spirit is "of the spirit."

Example: John 3:8

"Wherefore remember that ye being in times past Gentiles of the flesh"

In other words: Keep in mind that there was a time in your past when you did not yet receive the holy spirit -which made you "of the spirit"- so at that time, you were still "of the flesh."

Examples: Romans 8:5, Galatians 4:13, Ephesians 2:3

"who are called uncircumcision" by that which is called the Circumcision.

In other words: Gentiles aren't circumcised so they are noted as being uncircumcised by Jewish people that are circumcised.

Examples: Romans 2:26/28/29, Romans 3:30, Romans 4:11

"in the flesh made by hands."

In other words: Jewish people that are circumcised through ceremonies and a physical cutting of the flesh are circumcised "of the flesh," not "of the spirit," because their is no circumcision in their hearts. Their spiritual connection to YHWH is lost.

Example: Romans 2:29


How shall he call them?

'In the above text was the apostle referring to being non-jewish (by birth) or to be unregenerate, under dominion of the flesh & carnal?'

Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember - Such a remembrance strengthens faith, and increases gratitude. That ye being formerly gentiles in the flesh - Neither circumcised in body nor in spirit. Who were accordingly called the uncircumcision - By way of reproach. By that which is called the circumcision - By those who call themselves the circumcised, and think this a proof that they are the people of God; and who indeed have that outward circumcision which is performed by hands in the flesh (John Wesley's Notes on the Bible, Pub. (1755-1766); public domain. vs. this.

"...and this was the reason why he had Timothy circumcised (Clement of Alexandria [AD 150-215], Stromata, Book VII:ANF-02-35. public domain. index Eph 2:11)."

He is speaking of them '...in time past...' before the revelation, of the righteousness of God by faith, and before they had been included with that number, that are not after the flesh, but after the spirit, where

Rom 10:12...there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon His name."

And, a place where...

1Co 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

"To illustrate: the noble apostle circumcised Timothy, though loudly declaring and writing that circumcision made with hands profits nothing (Clement of Alexandria ibid., 69)."

Also, by the circumcision they were referred to as the uncircumcision, which was an outward sign given to the Jews. And by which Paul also refers to the Jews, being his near kinsmen, and in the same manner.

Rom 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

In this manner Paul is referring to those gentiles. The distinction being, the abrogation of, and the nullifying of these terms; both circumcision, and after the flesh, which now only apply to those who are not counted in Isaac, after the promise, which is obtained by faith.

He speaks to those gentiles in past tense, in their former state, as opposed to here.

Rom 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
Rom 9:7) Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Rom 9:8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

(Gal 3:7)  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

"For if "faith" is the source whence we are reckoned to Abraham as his "sons" (as the apostle teaches, saying to the Galatians, "You know, consequently, that (they) who are of faith, these are sons of Abraham (Tertullian On Monogamy, Fathers. Vol 2: ch. 04-17. public domain."

However, Paul, in that verse you are referring to, is reminding them of that time, before they had believed; being shut up to the promises of God, and being in the world, and without God, not having heard of the promise of God, by faith.

"...them to remember, that at the time when they were Gentiles they were without Christ, aliens from (the commonwealth of) Israel, without intercourse, without the covenants and any hope of promise, nay, without God, even in his own world (Tertullian[AD 160-220], Tertullian Against Marcion, Book V: ANF-03-35. public domain)," index Eph2:12


Quoting only part of Paul's argument out of context presents a false question. With false premises, answers can only be able to address part of the hermeneutic, or make false conclusions such as "Uncircumsion was a term used by Jews in reference to non-Jews" This assumption is false - so lets read the whole phrase to get a more perfect picture and accurate question.

[Eph 2:11-13] - Therefore remember that formerly you nations in the flesh, called the "uncircumcision" by the so-called circumcision, made in the flesh, made by hands, that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, become strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you, the ones who once were far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

These clues are pretty specific. From [Eph 2:12] we see that as a consequence of being estranged (or removed) from the commonwealth of Israel, people who were formerly circumcised had become called uncircumcised to those who had remained. (See also [Jer 30:10] and [Jer 31:10])

The Greek clearly says:

ἔθνη ἐν σαρκί οἱ λεγόμενοι ἀκροβυστία so 'nations of the flesh who are called uncircumcision (by the circumcision)'

This idea would have been obvious to those familiar with old covenant scripture, including Paul.

Which nations were repeatedly called uncircumcision and prophesied against for having left rejecting YHWH, and being adulterous (spiritually)? Which prophecy was Paul pointing to here? Notice from Greek old covenant scripture:

[LXX Jer 9:24] - ἰδοὺ ἡμέραι ἔρχονται λέγει κύριος καὶ ἐπισκέψομαι ἐπὶ πάντας περιτετμημένους ἀκροβυστίας αὐτῶν

([Jer 9:25] - “Behold, the days are coming declares YHWH, when I will punish all those who are circumcised in their uncircumcision)


[Jer 9:26] - On Egypt, and on Judah, and on Edom, And on the sons of Ammon, and on Moab, And on all cutting the corner of the beard, Who are dwelling in the wilderness, For all the nations are uncircumcised, And all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart!

In fact, historically all of these nations practised bodily circumcision (since these nations had descended from Abraham or Lot). Jeremiah's list were 'circumcised nations' yet Jeremiah clearly calls them uncircumcised because of the hardness of their hearts (compare this to [Acts 7:51])

So, the House of Judah (the stay at home son in the prodigal son parable) had never become uncircumcised by flesh but had become uncircumcised by hearts. Whereas, the House of Israel, such as those in Ephesus (the prodigal son in the same parable) had become uncircumcised by the flesh yet circumcised by heart. These heathenish Israelites were seeking God, accepting Christ.

So though they were uncircumcised by flesh, they were not uncircumcised by heart since they re-sought and accepted God.

"Uncircumsion" was a term used by the House of Judah (stay at home son) in reference to the absent House of Israel (prodigal son).

  • "...false conclusions such as "Uncircumsion was a term used by Jews in reference to non-Jews" This assumption is false I am curious how you arrived at this false, rebounding assertion. If you got this idea from para. 1, Smith on 2:11, para. 2 explains his view, and is called 'frequent' use. The biblical notice of the rite describes it as distinctively Jewish; so that, in the New Testament, "the circumcision," and "the uncircumcision," are frequently used as synonyms for the Jews and the Gentiles. hist. see also. (1Sa 17:26) "who is this uncircumcised Philistine?" Dec 31, 2016 at 2:18
  • 1
    conclusion "uncircumcision was term used by House of Judah for House of Israel" insinuating that Gentile world is prodigal son Israel-- is blatantly antisemitic. Also it is baseless assertion to simply claim that all nations are circumcised by default, and bible referred to them circumcised.
    – Michael16
    Apr 4, 2017 at 16:10
  • As explained, I arrived at this conclusion by reading the Bible plainly describing nations (largely descended from Lot or Abraham, but not all) that practiced bodily circumcision but were described biblically as uncircumcised (in precisely the same way Paul does in the new Covenant). Clearly Paul is not inventing something new but repeating what already appears in old Covenant text.
    – user34445
    Apr 4, 2017 at 17:32
  • Also, claiming that this response is anti-Semitic is only TRUE to those who are ignorant of Israelite history. The Hebrew nation had a civil war after Solomon's death which split Israelites into the House of Judah (Judah, Benjamin, and some Levites) and the House of Israel (all the other tribes with some Levites). Just as not all Americans are Texans, not all Israelites were of the House of Judah.
    – user34445
    Apr 4, 2017 at 17:39
  • Why do you translate ἔθνη ἐν σαρκί as "nations of the flesh" rather than "nations in the flesh", aka "gentiles in the flesh"?
    – Jay
    Dec 28, 2017 at 1:19

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