I called my dad the other day trying to track down a relic of my past that I thought might have some value to me in the near future—my foreskin. This bit of penis, removed under penalty of law on my eighth day of life, meant nothing to me for the past 57 years, but after reading an article in the current issue of Search magazine I changed my mind.
The article, written by Peter Manseau, opened with an overview of some of the more famous Christians who have claimed to be in possession of Jesus’ foreskin. I admit that despite my teaching a class on the Historical Jesus at Middle Tennessee State University, it never occurred to me to concern myself with the Historical Foreskin. But, once you think about it, the desire to possess the foreskin of God is obvious.
The first to claim possession of what is officially called the Divine Prepuce was the Emperor Charlemagne sometime around the year 800. When I read this I didn’t know what a prepuce was. It turns out that Charlemagne was French and that prepuce is French for foreskin. I looked it up. It’s too bad that God didn’t speak French in Bible times. If he had told Abraham to cut off his prepuce and the prepuces of his son and servants, the Hebrew speaking Abraham would have had no idea what a prepuce was, and, after nodding politely to God, would have gone about his business, leaving foreskins where they belong.
Anyway, not to be outdone by the French, Saint Birgitta of Sweden claimed that she was given the Divine Prepuce by the Virgin Mary. One can only assume that the Holy Foreskin didn’t rise to heaven with the rest of Jesus. Of course this leaves me wondering why Mary kept the foreskin of her Son while my mother didn’t keep mine. But then my mother didn’t bronze my baby shoes either, so I guess she didn’t love me all that much.
As for how it is that both Charlemagne and Birgitta both managed to secure the prepuce of God, I am at a loss. Some might argue that Jesus had two penises, one for meat and one for milk, in keeping with the Jewish law against mixing the two. Others might claim that God’s penis would probably be miraculous (true, almost every man says this, but this is God after all), and could be in two places at once. I find this explanation more plausible since many men, being made in the image and likeness of God, fantasize about their penises being in two places at once as well. So maybe Charlemagne and Birgitta were both right to claim possession of the Divine Prepuce.
Over the centuries the number of claims to possessing the Divine Prepuce increased to the point where John Calvin, no fan of circumcised penises and those who had them, marveled at how very large God’s penis must be to have had a foreskin that so many throughout Christendom could possess at the same time.
All this got me to thinking: What would you do with the Divine Prepuce if you had it? eBay comes to mind certainly. In Italy Saint Catherine fantasized about wearing the Divine Prepuce as an engagement ring. I suppose after remembering her vow of celibacy she decided not to risk it.
Why does all this matter? Mr. Manseau uses the history of God’s foreskin as a lengthy introduction to his real topic the current British craze of having the foreskins of American babies processed to produce a Botox-like liquid that is injected into the face to remove wrinkles. Given the topic, Mr. Manseau’s title for his essay, What is Skin For? is incredibly bland. I would have called it British Dick Heads or some such thing.
Anyway, the stuff sells for $1000 per bottle, and one bottle is only enough for one cheek’s worth of wrinkles. Now you see why I called my dad. A thousand dollars for my foreskin! Why I couldn’t get that for the whole penis here in the States.
Bottom line, however, my dad had no idea where my not-so-divine prepuce is. What a pity.
Well, it may be too late for me, but if you know anyone who is soon to sever the foreskin of a penis make sure to gain possession of it so that you can sell it to the Brits. Or, if that doesn't work, pretend it is the Divine Prepuce and find a rich French guy to sell it to. (Swedish saints are harder to come by.)