A Camel Through… What?

Posted by on 11/21/2017 in: ,

“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

BE CAREFUL!

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.

LEARN MORE

Interested in more of what the Archaeological Study Bible has to offer? Great! Here are two ways to learn more:

  1. Visit our blog post What’s in the Archaeological Study Bible – simple enough!
  2. Visit our website to read the product description and watch a video on how study Bibles work in the app.

7 Comments

  • Rosemary New says:

    The Aramaic English New Testament suggests that the word ‘camel’ was a mis-translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic word sounding ‘gml’ Since Hebrew has no vowels, ‘gml’ could either be a thick rope, or a camel, depending on the pronunciation.

    A thick rope couldn’t go through the eye of a needle either… unless it is unravelled, until a single strand (or thread) is left.

    A rich man wouldn’t find it easy to unravel his attachment to his wealth. However, strand-by-strand, thread-by-thread, he could detach from his worldly goods and with a pure heart and a single thread of faith, he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    • Cmdr Zm says:

      The idea that the Gospel was originally recorded in Hebrew or Aramaic, then eventually translated into koine Greek is interesting. The idea suggests that the translation was done by someone other than the original hearer and author.

      The variations in ancient manuscripts seem to be pretty limited, which argues against casual translation. It seems to imply the original authors were involved in the translations; they would have recalled what they heard, thus the translation as “rope” is probably not well supported.

  • Salami Bolaji says:

    I believe the translation and interpretation are clear. Jesus meant Camel as in animal and needle (sewing needle). Why?
    The fact that it looks impossible and unexplainable by men is revealed in the following verses.

    Matthew 19:25: When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

    If they’d understood the saying to mean small gate that demands bending down of camels or thick rope, they wouldn’t have been astonished or asked the question “who then can be saved?”

    How possible could this then be?

    Jesus gave the right answer in verse 26,
    “… “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    This means that only Jesus understood how salvation works.

    #Thebibleisitsowninterpretation

    • Olusanya Balogun says:

      Your comments are realistic. Any thoughts in contrast to the original pronouncements of Jesus is tantamount to finding excuses to evade REAL salvation.

  • Michael Smith says:

    I’ve heard of the other explanations but I’ve always believed in the real camel and a sewing needle. The other ideas portray difficulty but the camel and the needle represent impossibility. God’s Grace alone provides the means of salvation.

  • Franklyn Bovell says:

    Weather it is sewing needle or something else it does not matter the fact remains as long as the rich put all his or her trust in earthly riches and
    Forsake God they would eventally be
    Doomed

  • Olusanya Balogun says:

    Any thoughts in contrast to the original pronouncements of Jesus regarding the connotation of Camel and needle in the referenced verse is tantamount to finding excuses to support “wicked capitalism and inhuman political games ” and therefore an attempt to evade REAL salvation.

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