Experts have been unable to understand the origin of the practice of routine male circumcision. Most of the literature shows no awareness of phimosis - its frequency - or the sexual and erectile problems which can be cured by circumcision. If routine circumcision had been introduced for this most obvious reason of eliminating difficult foreskins; then the importance of an alternative modern method, suitable to our culture's attitudes in this day and age, would be clear.

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German Original Text
Discussion and Explanation of Text

"Das Kind" by Ploss was first published in 1876, it was reissued in 1882-84 and Ploss died in 1885. In 1912, Renz revised his work. Since then the updated version from Renz has been frequently reissued, - meanwhile the original version from Ploss went out of print. Bryk, Jensen (43), Weiss (95), and apparently every modern researcher who refers to Ploss have used only Renz`s revised version with Renz`s interpretation for their research. (Please, never do with my work what Renz did to Ploss!)

After a year long wait, a rare 1884 edition of the original Ploss, (pages crisp with age, held in form with elastic bands), eventually arrived from Göttingen.

Introduction to Translation
Ploss's German is that of a rather boring repetative rambling 19th. century anthropologist, I have split his very long paragraphs into intelligable parts. Otherwise I have kept to the exact original meaning - in preference to good English - and the text has been rigorously checked by native German speakers. Paragraphs 3 and 4 are the center piece ... in the rest he refers to the Jews or Muslims.

Dr. med. Heinrich Ploss
In the Customs and Traditions of Ethnic Peoples

XIV Chapter: Traditional Childhood Operations
Part 17: The Circumcision of Boys; Page: 342-372
Translation by Robin Stuart
2.Auflage 1. Band, Th. Grieben's Verlag (L. Fernau) 1884

P. 345-346
An hygienic intention is never clearly expressed in the Jewish religious texts; and if one wishes to see the procedure as a hygienic measure, then such an understanding lay far from that of Abraham, Moses, Joshua or any of the other Prophets. When "purification" is spoken about in this context, one wishes merely to indicate an aspect of worship and cleaning from sins. Trusen said quite correctly: "To consider circumcision as a prevention against illness is contrary to the Bible texts, wherein such a reason is not mentioned." (J.P. Trusen, die Sitten, Gebräuche und Krankh. der Alten Hebräer Breslau 1853). Circumcision was however conducted as an act of purification among the Jews, as it was as well by other oriental peoples. e.g. the Egyptians; (1. B. Moses 12. Cap. 12. 14. 15.) in addition circumcision among the Arabs is called tuhûr, tahir, i.e. Purification.

Nevertheless, in disagreement with this, as I believe, were those who introduced circumcision among the Hebrew people (should this have been Abraham, as in the legend, or whoever else it may have been); they held the idea that during coitus the circumcised condition made fertilisation more successful, then it is written in the Bible: "through circumcision God gave him the prospect of plentiful descendants."

P. 367-370
Paragraph 1
There has been a great deal of argument concerning the origin and purpose of circumcision among boys. In the great majority of cases circumcision has been understood as a sanitary measure. In this respect, one cannot contradict that the lack of the foreskin; (if this is the result of either a congenital malformation, a chance injury, or if it has been purposefully removed); has far more advantages than disadvantages (Prof. Pitha in Virchow's Handb. der speciellen Pathol. und Therapie. VI. 2. Ab Erlangen 1856-1865 S.4) in that on the one hand the high sensitivity of the glans, on the other the susceptibility to injuries and infections would be removed.

The cleaning of the surface of the glans becomes easier, the collection and decomposition of fungal mould (Smegma) is hindered, gonorrhoea is avoided and sores (namely Syphilis) are less likely to find footing. For this reason some doctors are of the opinion "that the weighing up of all these advantages and disadvantages in those times could have been the sole reason for introducing circumcision, and that therefore the practice was justified in the orient and in all hot lands where the men really have an extended foreskin" (Prof. Podrazki in Billroth's und Pitha's Handb. der Chirurgie. Krankh. d. Penis S.6.). (For these reasons, a variety of people have requested the general introduction of circumcision from the National Health: (Dr. Claparède, La circoncision et son importance dans la famille et dans l'état. Paris 1861 - Dr. Rosenzwieg, Zur Beschneidungsfrage. Schweidnitz 1878),)

Paragraph 2
Against this view, (as I have already mentioned), I must again raise the point, that only in few cases were precautionary health measures openly expressed, or otherwise came to light as the definite and true intention behind the introduction and practice of circumcision; in that only among individual peoples e.g. the Samoaner, sanitary considerations, encouragement of cleanliness etc., were expressly emphasised (Pritchard, Mem. read before the Anthrop. Soc. I S. 326)

An extraordinary large number of peoples who practice circumcision, show in fact little passion for cleanliness and it is therefore hardly likely that as an exception, they wished specifically the man's penis to be particularly clean. There must be another psychological motive which moved them to adopt the operation.

Paragraph 3
The purpose and intention of this operation lies, in my opinion, in the endeavour to correct nature. To help her with her supposed "mistakes" and to bring about a state on the sexual organ which one considers to be normal in adults. Such a state clearly never occurs of its own accord when left to nature among small children, and still does not develop spontaneously very often during puberty. On the other hand, it is not at all uncommon for such states to continue until adulthood causing difficulties during sexual activity. They wanted to eliminate phimosis, because they considered a man with such a defect was less able to have children.

In order to understand this it must be pointed out which process of change usually, if not always, occurs in the penis up until the time when procreation is possible. Among new born children, the foreskin covering the glans is always so formed that it is only with difficulty or force that it can be retracted over the glans. After a period of time in relationship to the development of the entire member, (the penis), the foreskin becomes a lot more elastic around its opening, so that later, in fact when the penis is in the erect state, in the majority of cases the foreskin folds back automatically.

It is thus quite normal for a new born child to possess a phimosis i.e. an elongation of the foreskin combined with a narrowness of the opening, such that the retraction of this behind the corona of the glans (which is profitable for a man in order to ejaculate when performing coitus); is not possible.

If everywhere and without any question (even among the insufficiently and inadequately observant natural peoples); the fact had been noticed that not uncommonly youths, as they develop to adulthood, may begin to carry the glans naked (because the prepuce retracts automatically and remains behind the corona); and in addition among men, the glans is still only abnormally covered by the foreskin during an erection; therefore the foreskin covering the glans appears to be an abnormal state of affairs, which one must quite routinely take counter measures against and correct in good time.

Paragraph 4
With this, I conclude that the original predisposition towards circumcision was the operational preparation for the sexual function of the man. One considers the child's foreskin, which has to some extent remained covering the glans, since earliest childhood regardless of everything, the persisting narrow condition of the phimosis; as being more or less an obstacle to coitus, which one must correct with a surgical operation.

It is for this reason, that most primitive peoples incise or ablate the foreskin, once the age of puberty, (when the maturity for the enjoyment of sex) has been reached: with this one decisive act they wanted to make the boy completely mature and normal in the sexual sense.

It is thus, an act which is conducted, whereby one takes the young person in as an equal among the group of mature, marryable men; and at the same time one combines this act with certain ceremonies, symbolic of this initiation; by which, with respect to the pain (that this forthcoming operation causes to the very sensitive male sexual organ), one wishes to develop a form of test on the masculine fortitude.

This singular operation which prepares for sexual adulthood, is practised by the Jews and Muslims among others, at quite an early age; here one believes it is necessary to fight against this natural state of incompleteness as soon as the child is born.

They want even the child to be assured the possibility of numerous offspring and not leave it to chance, if the phimosis which had been noticed on him, (which could perhaps hinder procreation); will resolve naturally by itself or if it will remain in the future. Thus it becomes regarded as a work which is pleasing to God: then it was held in itself by the Jews for highly worthwhile to have numerous offspring.

Paragraph 5
So we can assume then with great possibility, that the religious lawgiver among the Jews; (whether he introduced the practice from outside or found it already in existence); held the practice for useful and worthwhile and sought to anchor it for political-religious reasons, by consecrating it as a religious ritual commanded by God.

We will however not deny, that the practice in addition was also perhaps considered as hygienically useful. The first priority for the lawgiver was certainly the sexual potency of the nation, and (looking at it from) a religious perspective they honoured this act, (which guaranteed this potency already among the youth population for the years of adulthood), as a measure which led to the well being of the people, by pronouncing it a holy act. Among some peoples e.g. in America, the measure gained in addition the meaning of a blood sacrifice. Among others e.g. the Egyptians the Jews, the Monbuttu, many Melanesier etc. the meaning of a symbol of personal dignity, worth value, and "uncircumcised" for the Muslim, as also in South Australia, is regarded as a swear word.

P. 371-372
In Gen. 17 God commanded Abraham to introduce circumcision, and promised in return plentiful offspring ... when it says "God commanded Abraham" I find in this simply, that Abraham considered the introduction as a work which would please God ... Obviously he was of the opinion that circumcision was a means to producing a great number of offspring i.e. that it encouraged fertility.