One of Peter Ruckman’s many unusual teachings that seem to have originated with him is what he terms “spiritual circumcision.” Even though he does not dedicate an entire book or pamphlet to it, he mentions it relatively often. Ruckmanites are known to promote it and defend it vigorously. It essentially consists of teaching that at the moment a person is converted to the Gospel, his soul is literally cut loose of his body. Before explaining any further, we will allow Ruckman to explain his views in his own words:
In a saved man, the Holy Spirit has cut the flesh away from the soul and spirit (see Col. 2:11-13). That body has a spirit connected with it that is different from the new spirit that lives inside of you. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, p. 265)
A sinner dies “in Christ” because he could not possibly “live in sin” (Rom. 6:2) one second after his spiritual circumcision: he was cut loose by a two-edged “LASER” going inside the body and circumcising the flesh from the soul. (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Sep. 2006, p. 15)
The spiritual circumcision of the believer’s SOUL, literally cut loose from the inside of his fleshly body at the time of his new birth. (Ruckman, Peter. The Unknown Bible. Pensacola, FL: Bible Believers Press, 1984, 1996 reprint, p. 132)
So before you were saved your soul was married to your flesh: they were connected. But when you received Christ as Saviour, the Holy Spirit entered your body and cut your dying flesh away from your living soul. Now the body is counted as dead with Christ on the cross. So your soul is no longer married to the flesh; it is no longer under the control of the flesh. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, p. 255)
In Ruckman’s big imagination, the soul was connected to the body before salvation, therefore they were “married!” To consider two things to be married to each other simply because they are regarded as connected is absurd, but Ruckman does this so he can justify applying verses about marriage in vain attempts to bolster his theory. Notice:
When SPIRITUAL CIRCUMCISION showed up in Colossians 2:11, all of them made Christ the object of the circumcision and spiritualized the passage. He was the subject of Colossians. HE CIRCUMCISED YOU WITH A KNIFE (Heb. 4:12) when you were born of “incorruptible seed” (1 Pet. 1:23). YOUR SOUL WAS CUT LOOSE FROM THE INSIDE OF YOUR BODY AT EVERY POINT WHERE IT FORMERLY HAD TOUCHED IT (Col. 2:11–12). To drive this basic, essential “FUNDAMENTAL OF THE FAITH” home (it is the ground for believing in the two natures and the “victorious life,” Rom. 6–8), Paul likens your soul to a married woman whose husband died (Rom. 7:1–4). You are free to remarry. You got “hitched” according to Ephesians 5:30–33. … A saved soul will not lose its bodily shape; it will remain the same while the physical body is conformed to the image of Christ (Phil. 3:20–21 and Rom. 8:29). The unsaved man will lose his bodily shape and, for all practical purposes, cease to be a “man” (Psa. 22; John 3:14; Isa. 34:14; Mark 9:46, 48). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Nov. 2005, p. 9, 12)
In the previous two quotes, Ruckman attempts to apply verses on marriage to his view on spiritual circumcision. However—is it true that “Paul likens your soul to a married woman whose husband died” in Romans 7:1-4? Absolutely not, as the word “soul” does not even show up in the entire chapter in Romans 7!
You will notice in these quotes that the primary passage Ruckman uses (or rather “abuses”) to pretend there is a Biblical basis for his spiritual circumcision teaching is Colossians 2:11 & 13. Ruckman does not exegete the passage, which would refer to “drawing out or extracting” the meaning. As we will demonstrate, he instead imposes his own meaning on the passage, using concepts and terminology that is not included in the proof text, and includes unrelated passages that do not add missing elements to his theory. Some of Ruckman’s failures to properly exegete a passage are so egregious that they could well serve as textbook examples on how not to interpret the Bible.
Let’s look at these two verses:
Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Here is the analogy of physical circumcision, which does literally involve cutting, but it is an analogy or word picture only. In the analogy, one circumcision is literal, physical, and would involve cutting, in the other, it is spiritual, described in Col. 2:11 as “made without hands” therefore not physical, no cutting necessary. In physical circumcision, a work is performed “with hands” by others that one is unable to do for himself soon after birth. This results in a physical change. In spiritual circumcision, a spiritual work of regeneration is performed “without hands” by the Holy Spirit that one could not do for himself. This results in a changed heart, also known as circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:29).
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
This verse brings up circumcision again as an analogy. Here it is linked with death, because under the law, the uncircumcised were dead in their sin. They were guilty of breaking God’s covenant (Gen. 17:14). Likewise, one who is living in unbelief and sin is under condemnation. In this verse the analogy is not so much in the physical aspect involved in circumcision, but rather the guilty condition they had been under the law before the act, compared to forgiveness thereafter.
There is absolutely nothing in the passage (including verse 12 not covered here) about Christ or the Holy Spirit literally cutting the soul loose from the body. In Col. 2:11-13 you will not find the word “soul,” nor will you find “cut” in any of its various forms. It is a false teaching not found in the Bible.
The Bible makes it plain that circumcision in the spiritual sense applies to the heart (although “uncircumcised” ears and lips are mentioned once and twice respectively). Circumcision of the heart is brought up in some way at least nine times in the Scriptures (Deut. 10:16; Deut. 30:6; Lev. 26:41; Jer. 4:4; Jer. 9:26; Eze. 44:7; Eze. 44:9; Acts 7:51; Rom. 2:29).
We looked to see what Ruckman has to say about the nine verses that have to do with circumcision of the heart. That he seemed evasive is evident by noting that of the nine, we only found him dealing with one between his own reference Bible and his commentaries. His reference Bible did not elaborate at all on circumcision of the heart. His Old Testament commentaries did not cover the books the references involved, and for the New Testament, he only dealt with circumcision of the heart in Rom. 2:29. For the passage in Romans, Ruckman was all focused on trying to convince his readers that circumcision of the heart in the Old Testament is different than in the New, because otherwise it would ruin his unbiblical view that Old Testament saints were saved by works. His main arguments:
Back in Romans 2:29, Paul speaks of the “circumcision … of the heart.” What is not made clear in Romans, but is in Colossians 2, is that, in the New Testament, the inner circumcision is the result of your position in Christ, and that can never be changed. Romans 2 from verse 17 to verse 29, though it can be applied in the New Testament doctrinal sense, is technically describing an Old Testament situation. The “circumcision … of the heart” in Romans 2:29 is like that of Deuteronomy 10:16; it is an act of the will. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, pp. 97-98)
The difference between the “circumcision … of the heart” in the Old Testament (Deut. 10:16, Rom. 2:29) and “the circumcision of Christ” is a result of the New Birth and is therefore not an act of the will (John 1:13). Since it is dependent upon your position in Christ, a position which cannot be changed (Rom. 8:38-39), and not upon keeping the Law, “the circumcision of Christ” is permanent. Your standing in the New Testament may be different from your state. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Romans: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003, p. 99)
In the following quotations, you can observe how Ruckman uses his spiritual circumcision to give a unique explanation for the doctrine of sin involving the believer:
Every Christian was “cut loose” from his sins by spiritual circumcision (Col. 2:11) when the Holy Spirit cut his soul loose from his body inside. So even though in the flesh of a Christian there “dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18), yet inside that same body of flesh is “the new man” (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24) who is sinless (Rom. 7:17; 1 John 3:9). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. June 2009, p. 12)
If you are saved in this age, the Holy Spirit does not come in contact with your flesh (Rom. 7:17–18; Col. 2:11–13), you have been cut loose (Col. 2:11) … Fortunately, the New Birth produces a spiritual circumcision which cuts off your soul from your flesh. Thus, the real “YOU” is not responsible for fleshy sins (Rom. 7:15–18), although since YOU (the fleshy you) commit them as “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19–21), you will certainly reap them—IN THE FLESH. (Ruckman, Peter. The Death of Biblical Doctrine. 2007, p. 71)
As can be discerned from the last two quotes, Ruckman seems to have come up with his spiritual circumcision teaching as a way to provide his own interpretation for passages such as 1 John 3:6, 9 that appear to teach that a Christian cannot sin. As to these passages, we believe the answer is rather simple. A believer has two natures. Even Ruckman recognizes this, although he apparently does not apply this Biblical concept consistently because of his spiritual circumcision heresy. The Bible sometimes refers to the old nature as the “old man” (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22 and Col. 3:9), and the new or spiritual nature as the “new man” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Many references to the flesh versus the spirit in the Scriptures involve the same Biblical concept. Our old nature is what is responsible for sin in the believer. The new nature does not sin. When the Bible says in certain terms in 1 Jn. 3 that believers do not sin, it is meant to refer to the new nature, not the old nature, which we are still cursed with until we enter God’s presence.
It is admitted that Ruckman at times makes valid observations when dealing with the false teachings of others. Observe the following, which we will then use to put his spiritual circumcision to the test:
What does Galatians 3:27 say about water baptism? Nothing. What does Romans 6:3-4 say about water baptism? Nothing. In those two instances, the Campbellite had to read the word water where there wasn’t a drop around. “Where the scriptures are silent, we add words to get our own private interpretation.” (Ruckman, Peter. Soulwinning. Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 2018, p. 98)
Now let’s apply Ruckman’s excellent observation above to this concise sentence of his:
YOUR SOUL WAS CUT LOOSE FROM THE INSIDE OF YOUR BODY AT EVERY POINT WHERE IT FORMERLY HAD TOUCHED IT (Col. 2:11–12). (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Nov. 2005, p. 9)
Notice how Ruckman’s own teachings directed at others totally undermine his own, when we apply it to his false teaching:
What does Colossians 2:11 say about cutting the soul from the body? Nothing. What does Col. 2:12 say about the soul touching the body previous to salvation? Nothing. In those two instances, the Ruckmanite had to read the words soul, cut and touch where it wasn’t around. “Where the scriptures are silent, we add words to get our own private interpretation.”
Ruckman’s own teaching when applied to himself at times rules out his own heresies! Ruckman is quick to pull out accepted hermeneutical principles to use against cults and others he disagrees with, but refuses to apply those same principles to his own teachings. And he has plenty of followers who are willing to look the other way or quickly seek to change the subject when confronted. Christian, beware!
Very good article!
I would also like to add Ruckman’s opinion as to what he thinks of anyone who would publish a commentary with any view that differs from how he interprets the passage in Colossians chapter 2.
Here is a quote from page 596 of his commentary on Colossians:
“Comments to the contrary or comments which slight this truth of comments which ignore this truth or comments which avoid this truth are the comments of Satan.”
That comment above follows these words from Ruckman on the same page:
“…Jesus Christ himself picking up a knife and cutting you loose from your body-inside!-and immersing your spirit in himself by the Holy Spirit.”
So anyone that would disagree that Jesus Christ did not pick up a knife and cut you loose from your body on the inside and would dare to interpret that passage any differently are demonic and from Satan!
Again more comments on page 597:
“The Christian is rattling loose on the inside of a physical body with which his soul has NO contact…Any commentary that fails to state that, and any bible that fails to reproduce the AV 1611 text, as it stands here, is the work of a Bible denying, light rejecting, truth distorting “Christian.”
The KJV doesn’t even state what Ruckman alledges is found in the text and no one else that I am aware of has ever come up with this kind of interpretation from Colossians chapter 2. So it appears to me that Ruckman is attempting to set himself apart from (and above) every other commentator as intellectually and spiritually superior to gain a following and sell books. He extracts a meaning from the text which is not there and then states it as an infallible “truth” that cannot be denied. He then condemns and belittles anyone who would think otherwise and calls them out as Satanic. That’s brainwashing.
Ruckmanism is a false cult that teaches false doctrine!
Thank you for sharing the quotes from Ruckman’s commentary on Colossians which I had missed. I may add a portion of his Colossians commentary to a future revision of this article. Since I believe you mentioned in a previous comment that you are a former Ruckmanite, I respect your special insight. If from your perspective you believe I am misunderstanding Ruckman in some area or totally missing something, your insight will be greatly appreciated.
I appreciate the work and information that has been put into this website as it is has opened my eyes to so many inconsistencies and false hoods that I had believed over the years.
I came across this website about three years ago when I was just starting to come out of Ruckmanism and it has been extremely helpful to me. I don’t believe you have misrepresented Ruckman in any way and have been more than fair in your assessment of his teachings and doctrines which is far more than you can say for Ruckman and how he dealt with his opponents. Thanks again for the information here!
How much more Gnostic can one get?!
After careful consideration, I’ve changed my mind on this interpretation of “spiritual circumcision”. While interesting, I really don’t think Pete Ruckman’s view holds any merit. There simply isn’t any scripture to cross reference with Colossians 2:11 to reinforce the idea that God cuts a person’s soul from their flesh. If there was another verse that pushed that kind of idea, maybe it would have merit, but there isn’t another verse. And if Hebrews 4:12 were to be taken as literal as that, then that means the Bible can be used to cut physical joints and marrow, which is obviously absurd.
Realizing the Bible uses symbolic language to express literal spiritual realities in no way diminishes the authority of the Bible. Viewing Hebrews 4:12, Colossians 2:11, etc. as symbolic is NOT the same as viewing Adam and Eve, or the Crucifixion as symbolic! If we took everything extremely literal, the Bible would never be properly understood!
If you read the Old testiment, any time a person touched something unclean, their soul became unclean. In the new Testament, our soul has been cut away from the body, now whatever I do cannot touch the soul.
Notice Lev. 11:31. These are unclean to you among all that creep: whosoever doth touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even.
There is not mention of soul in the context, nor in the chapter. The nearest chapter in either direction that mentions soul is four chapters previous.
Ruckman simply stating something doesn't cut it (no pun intended).
Don't forget the teaching from Leviticus 5:2, 7:18 and especially 22:6. Two of these references are found in the Colossians commentary (p. 594). In the Old Testament the soul and body are spoken of as both "touch"ing the same thing. In the New Testament "soul and spirt" are divided asunder from the "joints and marrow," (not joints from the marrow, or soul from the spirit). You may still disagree, but those thoughts should be included/explained for others to consider.
I will quote the three verses you referenced for all the world to see that it teaches nothing remotely close to a “spiritual circumcision”:
Lev. 5:2 Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
Lev. 7:18 And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.
Lev. 22:6 The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.
At long last the Webmaster shows his gross stupidity of being unable to grasp the fact that the above verses from Leviticus show that the soul was stuck to the flesh before Christ instituted spiritual circumcision. That's why the verses speak of the soul touching things which defile! Do you ever get tired of being a dunce Webmaster?
There are references to touching unclean things in the OT in which the soul is not mentioned in the context. See Lev. 11:31.
The context of the previous verses in Leviticus are ceremonial laws. They mention the soul in a generic manner (in the sense of body or life) which occurs quite frequently in the Old Testament. Soul in Hebrew is nephesh, Strongs # H5315, defined as: From H5314; properly a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental).
After the Strongs, definition, there is a listing of various ways it has been translated in the KJV: any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortality, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.
Soul is used in a very general way at times to refer to the life or body of man. At times, the Hebrew term for soul is used even for the life of animals. Gen. 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life [H5315], I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. This takes place more often in the OT.
At other times, especially in poetic books, the OT refers to the soul in the immortal, spiritual sense as it does often in the NT. It is life that does not depend on the body. It continues living after death of the body. Every soul will spend eternity in one of two places. Psa. 19:7 is an example:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The New Testament refers to the soul much more often in the immortal, spiritual sense. It offers more details about the soul than the Old Testament. However, there are still references in the NT to soul referring to life in a general manner. Notice Rev 16:3: And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words provides an outline of the many ways in which soul is used in the Bible:
(a) the natural life of the body, Matthew 2:20; Luke 12:22; Acts 20:10; Revelation 8:9; Revelation 12:11; cp. Leviticus 17:11; 2 Samuel 14:7; Esther 8:11;
(b) the immaterial, invisible part of man, Matthew 10:28; Acts 2:27; cp. 1 Kings 17:21;
(c) the disembodied (or "unclothed" or "naked," 2 Corinthians 5:3-4) man, Revelation 6:9;
(d) the seat of personality, Luke 9:24, explained as "own self," Luke 9:25; Hebrews 6:19; Hebrews 10:39; cp. Isaiah 53:10 with 1 Timothy 2:6;
(e) the seat of the sentient element in man, that by which he perceives, reflects, feels, desires, Matthew 11:29; Luke 1:46; Luke 2:35; Acts 14:2, Acts 14:22; cp. Psalms 84:2; Psalms 139:14; Isaiah 26:9;
(f) the seat of will and purpose, Matthew 22:37; Acts 4:32; Ephesians 6:6; Philippians 1:27; Hebrews 12:3; cp. Numbers 21:4; Deuteronomy 11:13;
(g) the seat of appetite, Revelation 18:14; cp. Psalms 107:9; Proverbs 6:30; Isaiah 5:14 ("desire"); Isaiah 29:8;
(h) persons, individuals, Acts 2:41, Acts 2:43; Romans 2:9; James 5:20; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:14; cp. Genesis 12:5; Genesis 14:21 ("persons"); Leviticus 4:2 ('any one'); Ezekiel 27:13; of dead bodies, Numbers 6:6, lit., "dead soul;" and of animals, Leviticus 24:18, lit., "soul for soul;"
(i) the equivalent of the personal pronoun, used for emphasis and effect:, 1st person, John 10:24 ("us"); Hebrews 10:38; cp. Genesis 12:13; Numbers 23:10; Judges 16:30; Psalms 120:2 ("me"); 2nd person, 2 Corinthians 12:15; Hebrews 13:17; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:9; 1 Peter 2:25; cp. Leviticus 17:11; Leviticus 26:15; 1 Samuel 1:26; 3rd person, 1 Peter 4:19; 2 Peter 2:8; cp. Exodus 30:12; Job 32:2, Heb. "soul," Sept. "self;"
(j) an animate creature, human or other, 1 Corinthians 15:45; Revelation 16:3; cp. Genesis 1:24; Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:19;
(k) "the inward man," the seat of the new life, Luke 21:19 (cp. Matthew 10:39); 1 Peter 2:11; 3 John 1:2.
For Ruckman and his followers to use passages from ceremonial laws with general reference to soul also used for life of animals, reveals a shaky foundation. Ruckman taking advantage of the term soul being used in many different ways in the Bible (with extra details simply being provided in the NT) to come up with a bizarre teaching that no one has thought of in approximately 2,000 years since the NT was completed should be a giant red flag. And as documented, for Ruckman to read "soul," "cut" and "touch" into a passage (Col. 2:11-12) that didn't have those terms nor equivalents, shows he does not have the Scriptural backing for his out-of-control imagination. But since for the most ardent Ruckmanites this is a personality cult, all that matters is that Ruckman taught it along with some references (that make it appear to have some Scriptural legitimacy) and that is all it takes for them to embrace it wholeheartedly.
I personally find validity in many things Ruckman has said. However, it does not take a mental giant to see that some of his claims are a bit…peculiar? I think both concepts about spiritual circumcision have their own merit. I think one of the mjaor blunders of Ruckman is he is DEFINITIVE on such things without any leeway admitted for the contrary. I respect any teacher who claims to have a different idea but also acknolwedges it as theory and not hard-nosed definitive fact. If that makes sense.