Toward the end of the nineteenth century, E. S. Talbot claimed in Medicine that aposthia among Jews was evidence for the now-discredited Lamarckian theory of evolution. In his work, "The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication", Charles Darwin also mentioned cases of "born circumcised" babies as "conclusive evidence" for the now-discredited blending inheritance.
It is likely that the cases he described were actually hypospadias, a condition in which the urinary meatus is on the underside of the penis. Neither condition has been shown to have a higher frequency in Jews or Muslims.
Aposthia in Judaism
The Midrash of Ki-Tetze [כי תצא] notes that Moses was born aposthic. Other sources tell us that Jacob, his son Gad and King David were also born aposthic. Jewish law requires males born without a foreskin or who lost their foreskin through means other than a formal circumcision ceremony (brit milah ברית מילה) to have a drop of blood (hatafat-dam, הטפת דם) let from the penis at the point where the foreskin would have been (or was) attached. The Talmud (Shabbat 135A) records a discussion of whether the importance of this letting of blood supersedes Shabbat, on which only a boy who was born the previous Shabbat can be circumcised. If a regular circumcision is delayed, there is no disagreement that this may not be performed on Shabbat. However, in the case of aposthia, there are two schools of thought.
- R. Elazar Hakappar said that the school of Shamai and Hillel do not differ as to a boy that is born without a foreskin. Both agree that the blood of the covenant must be drawn from the glans. The school of Shamai, however, contends that this may be done on the Sabbath, while the other holds that the Sabbath must not be desecrated on that account.
- "When David Levy was born [...] his mother Sima noticed at once that he was different from other baby boys. He had been born already circumcised, for the foreskin was entirely missing."
The rabbis in Rabat proclaimed that this foretold that Levy would grow up to be a "leader of Israel", even though the State was not founded until Levy was 11, in 1948. This proclamation was not necessarily prophetic of the founding of Israel, for "Israel" is a term that is universally used to refer to "the Jewish people."
Aposthia in Islam
Some traditions in Islam say Muhammed was born without a foreskin.
Aposthis in Literature
- E. S. Talbot, "Inheritance of circumcision effects", Medicine 1898.
- Darwin, Charles (1868), "Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication", Volume 1, Chapter XIV.
- Meri, Josef W.; Bacharach, Jere L. Medieval Islamic civilization. Psychology Press. pp. 157–. ISBN 9780415966900. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Heinlein, Robert A. (1987-08-01). Time enough for love: the lives of Lazarus Long. Penguin. pp. 322–. ISBN 978-0-441-81076-5. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Aposthia in Dorland's Medical Dictionary
- Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah § 263 Law 4 (ש"ע י"ד ס' רס"ג הל' ד).
- Amin-Ud-Din, M; Salam, A; Rafiq, MA; Khaliq, I; Ansar, M; Ahmad, W (Mar–Apr 2007). "Aposthia: a birth defect or normal quantitative recessive human genetic trait?". Eastern Mediterranean health journal = La revue de sante de la Mediterranee orientale = al-Majallah al-sihhiyah li-sharq al-mutawassit 13 (2): 280–6. PMID 17684849.