“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'” —Matthew 19:23
A CAMEL THROUGH… WHAT?
If you’ve read this passage before, you have probably pictured something like this:
But the Archaeological Study Bible notes have information on this passage that you have probably NEVER heard. At least, I hadn’t!
THE LEGEND OF THE NEEDLE’S EYE GATE
“Since the Middle Ages commentators have considered the possibility that Jesus’ statement concerning the ‘eye of a needle’ (Mt 19:24) may have been a reference to certain doors or gates that actually existed in his day. Some homes did in fact have large doors that would allow a fully loaded camel to enter into the courtyard. Since such doors were cumbersome and required great effort to open, there were often smaller doors cut within them, permitting easy passage of people and smaller animals into the house.
Some interpreters have argued that this smaller door was the ‘needle’s eye gate,’ while others have suggested that the needle’s eye referred to smaller doors within larger city gates, such as those at Jaffa and Hebron. Passage through the smaller gate, it was said, would have forced a camel to its knees. Thus, the point of Jesus’ teaching in verse 24 is supposedly that a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven only if he falls down to his knees.” — Archaeological Study Bible notes
IS THE LEGEND TRUE?
“As illustrative as these theories are, they in fact diminish the force of Jesus’ words. The point is not that salvation is difficult without God but that it is impossible without him.
Jesus’ contrast of the largest animal known in Palestine with the smallest of holes created a vivid and memorable illustration. The fact that modern-day gates have been so named can most likely be attributed to the influence of this and similar statements within the Talmud and the Koran. In other words, the term “needle’s eye gate” most likely did not precede the teaching; rather, the popularity of the term evidently came about because of the teaching.
But in Jesus’ original setting, it is very likely that a needle’s eye was simply a needle’s eye and not a gate at all.” — Archaeological Study Bible notes
Lastly, the Archaeological Study Bible warns Bible readers to beware of legendary, pseudo-archaeological interpretations. Why? Because they can be misleading and undermine the true meaning of a Biblical text.
We should always be careful about what we believe! Refer to reliable resources (like this one!), ask lots of questions, and seek input.
Interested in more of what the Archaeological Study Bible has to offer? Great! Here are two ways to learn more: