The Halfcaste

When Paul and Company were on a preaching tour near the towns of Derbe and Lystra, they became acquainted with a young Christian of that region named Timothy (Acts 16:1). We suppose that he became a Christian, because the “faith” had first claimed the hearts of his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). This young man impressed Paul, and was invited to join the apostle’s evangelistic team.

There was one hindrance, however. Timothy was a Halfcaste, half Jew and half Greek. Those who were only part Jew, like the Samaritans, were held in contempt by Jews of direct descent (John 4:7-9). Paul, however, was the main apostle for the conversion of Gentiles (Galatians 2:7), and he knew that Timothy’s case was a minor problem. In his wisdom, an action needed to be taken to smooth Timothy’s selection to join Paul’s fellow-workers. The young man needed to be circumcised.

`The law of Moses required that Jewish male children were to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth, but, since Timothy’s father was a Gentile, the young man had grown up without this mark of descent. It is easy to imagine the stress within a mixed marriage, when it comes to a matter of religion. The Mother desires to see her son circumcised. The Pagan father asserts his authority to prevent it. Such a struggle is typical of stress found in many families, today. If this problem was settled, before marriage, there would be less clashing of wills in marriage, or, there would be no such marriage. Better yet, if both partners in a marriage are genuine children of God, occasions for strife would not intrude into its peace.

Happily, Timothy’s mother and grandmother had become Christians, and had been able to lead the son and grandson to be one, also. Still, there was this problem. It must be said here, however, that there is no requirement in the New Covenant for converts to be circumcised. Jewish Christians who tried to insist on compliance with this Old Testament statute were silenced by the Apostles (Acts 15:1-21).

Why, then, did Paul have this half-caste circumcised? It was done to help Timothy be accepted as a fellow Jew by other Jews in that area (Acts 16:3). As a mark of identity, a Jew, or half-Jew may want to be circumcised. However, Paul says that it is immaterial whether one is circumcised, or not. What is important, in contrast to it, is “the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19), or “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), or becoming “a new creature,” in Christ Jesus (Galatians 6:15, 2 Corinthians 5:17). 

This bit of Bible history may be interesting enough to excite a measure of speculation about problems in mixed-blood families, but it is much more important to emphasize that, as “new creatures” in Christ, we should let our “faith work through love” by “keeping the commandments of God.”