The Camel and the Eye of the Needle — Mark 10:23-27

And having looked around, Jesus said to the disciples “How difficult for those with riches to enter the Kingdom of God.” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus again said “How difficult it is to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of of God.”

They were even more amazed, asking each other “Then who has the ability to save themselves?” Having watched this, Jesus said “Men lack the ability, but not God. For God has the ability to do all things.”

— tr. mine.

A Camel in the Eye of a Needle

Photo: A carving made by a femtosecond laser to promote the micro-component manufacturer Micreon. Also check out their website for a pair of glasses made for a fly.

One of the most inconvenient passages in the NT for Western Christians. The average US household income puts the average US householder in the top 10% of the richest people worldwide. Here in the UK we’re not far behind. If you are reading this on your own computer, in your own home, you’re one of the richest people in the world.

This passage follows the story of the rich young man, who comes to Jesus to ask what he might do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the law: the young man says he has; Jesus then tells him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor, then come and join him. The man goes away saddened, because he has many possessions.

There have been lots of attempts over the years to tone down this passage. Like most inconvenient passages in the bible it has been either ignored or neutered. In this case there are a bunch of approaches one can take to neutering it. Please suggest others.

1. The eye of the needle was a gate in Jerusalem. Camels that tried to enter that gate would have to have crawl through on their knees. Therefore it isn’t impossible for a rich person to enter the Kingdom, they just have to do so on their knees — This is a later invention with no historic or archaeological evidence. And makes no sense.

2. The ‘camel’ was a particular type of fisherman’s knot. Therefore it isn’t impossible for a rich person to enter, they just need to untangle their lives first — Again this just plain bad historical scholarship.

3. [See Edit message below] The camel is a mistranslation of the greek word for rope. The original story talked about a rope passing through the eye of the needle — This doesn’t change the meaning much, although it perhaps softens it a bit. But it does seem designed to make Jesus less zany and hyperbolic. Unfortunately it is also false, the only greek texts we have with ‘rope’ are a thousand years too late for it to be original.

4. Jesus is responding to the arrogance of the rich young man in the previous section. The rich young man claimed to keep the law, but clearly he must have been lying, because nobody can really keep the law. Therefore what Jesus is saying here is “rich people are often arrogant, and it is arrogant people who don’t get to enter the Kingdom”. Therefore if you’re rich, be humble and you can receive the Kingdom. — This is just completely made up. The rich young ruler comes and bows at Jesus’s feet, there’s no indication he is arrogant from the text: he is portrayed as being eager to learn. In fact if anyone can be said to have knocked at the door in this passage, it is him. Unfortunately it is shut in his face. — There are other interpretations of the story of the rich young man, but I don’t want to get caught up in the previous story though – this is about the camel and the needle. We can return to that story in another post.

5. Jesus is making the point that a rich person cannot enter the Kingdom in their own power, but must rely on God — This is perhaps the best approach I’ve heard, but I don’t find it particularly convincing. Most translations mush the two parts of the story together (I’ve separated them, above). Jesus’s response to the rich young man is to send him off depressed – Jesus makes no attempt to introduce him to God’s salvation. Then in the first bit of our passage, there are no verbs of agency. It doesn’t say it is more difficult for a camel to be threaded through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be able to enter. The verb “to be able” only comes in the disciples’ question: “who is able to save themselves?” – to which Jesus answers that only God has that ability. Jesus is here responding to the disciples’ question, not to the previous statement; and specifically he is responding to the introduction of the verb δύναμαι – this verb of ability, of possibility, and of action, from which we get our word ‘dynamic’. I’ve translated the passage with ‘ability’ to show how this verb comes in, and it is this verb that Jesus then uses back in his response, twice. It is normally translated ‘possible’ in this passage, which is fine, but the verb carries the meaning of action. We might say “it is possible that the stock market will fall this year”, but that wouldn’t be δύναμαι. So I translate “who is able to save themselves” rather that the more traditional “who can be saved”, to reflect this active sense in the greek.

6. [See Edit message below] The hyperbole has a traditional answer. The camel goes through the eye if you first ground it up into powder. The difficulty (again note, it is not impossible) is to get the camel ground up. And doing so will obviously destroy it. Thus Jesus is making the point that you have to lose your life to gain it: only that which is willing to be destroyed can be used by God. I can’t find a pedigree for this interpretation, but again (as in the gate example) it has the effect of softening the starkness of the statement, and providing a recipe for making progress.

So I think this passage isn’t simply ignorable. Jesus doesn’t appear to be saying that rich folks who trust God are okay, because God is able to save them. If so, why send the rich young man away depressed? Why does he only talk about God’s ability to save after overhearing the disciples discussing ability among themselves? Why not make that comment earlier, when it could have been solace to the rich young man? For this passage and others, it seems fairly clear to me that Jesus taught a theology of poverty: a kingdom of God among the poor, in which the rich were not present.

How do you understand this passage? If you are a Christian who thinks that this is an authentic teaching of Jesus, how do you reconcile this with your myriad possessions? If you are not a Christian, do you think that this passage shows that Jesus was fundamentally anti-rich, or was it just a joke?

On a completely separate note, there are a couple of interesting little features in this passage that normally slip by unnoticed. First notice that Jesus looks around at the start – he’s just sent the rich young ruler away, and now seems to look around to check he’s not being overheard. Second notice the join between the two parts – the disciples ask each other about salvation, and Jesus watches this for a while before interjecting. Two little character notes that give glimpses into how Mark sees the dynamics of the group.

Edit 2010-11-10: Added number 3 above after Shane, in the comments, pointed it out. I had been improperly mushing this and number 2 in my mind, but they are separate things, and the linguistic argument at least has some textual basis.

Edit 2010-12-15: Added number 6 above after Ed, in the comments, suggested it. I haven’t been able to find other evidence on this score, but it is an interesting interpretation.


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72 responses to “The Camel and the Eye of the Needle — Mark 10:23-27

  1. It ain’t worth a damn, but here’s how I read it.

    The Kingdom of God is immanent; in the here-and-now if only you can see it. What’s preventing you from seeing it is the Kingdom of Man, i.e., all the entanglement, possessions, lusts, wants, aversions, and so on, that makes up our daily life.

    A poor man has fewer things to weigh him down than a rich man. If a rich man is to enter the Kingdom of God, he must somehow shed everything that binds him to his riches: the fear of losing them, the hunger for more, and so on and so forth.

    A rich man who has entered the Kingdom of God will no longer be rich in the worldly sense, since he will no longer see his riches as ‘his.’ He might concretely give them away, or he might not, but he will no longer be bound to or by them. The very act of ceasing to think of those riches as ‘mine’ is entering the Kingdom of God.

    I have no idea if this is an authentic teaching of a historical Christ, but it could be. I don’t think it’s anti-rich in a social/political sense; however, it might well be anti-rich in an internal, ‘spiritual’ sense. It’s a call to turn away from the worldly to embrace spirituality, which is a strain that’s present in most religions.

    (Yeah, I know, this take is heavily influenced by Buddhism… but I think it’s possible that a Gnostic Christ would have hit on something rather similar; I think the mystical view of this shit is remarkably similar, whichever tradition you’re coming from.)

    (Oh, and, not a Christian here. I practice Zen, but don’t consider myself ‘a Buddhist’ either. If you have to find a pigeonhole, that’s probably the one that fits best.)

  2. Ian

    Thanks for your input Petteri.

    “I don’t think it’s anti-rich in a social/political sense; however, it might well be anti-rich in an internal, ’spiritual’ sense”

    Can you say why? Is this just because you don’t want it to be in a “social/political” sense, or do you have some reason for thinking this isn’t how it was intended to be read?

  3. The weaseling out I have heard is that anything that holds a place on our hearts which prevent us from following Jesus needs to go. For the rich young ruler it was his money. It *might* be money for other rich people, or it could be something else, whatever claims primacy in one’s heart. Or so it goes.

    I think there is latitude for that interpretation, except for two things. First, money and possessions are such a draw on people’s lives. And second, Jesus does not say anything to that effect in this story. He didn’t say, “How difficult it is for that man who happens to be wealthy.”

    There also is the claim, which I heard a lot as a Christian, that we are to follow the intent of the commandments, not the letter, and that if we try to walk a fine line with obeying we are playing with fire. If our very eternal souls are at stake, wouldn’t it be best to flee immorality, or riches, or worldly movies, rather than seeing how close we can come to the fire without being burned? Thus if we are not certain about what precisely Jesus meant, we would do well to take the most conservative approach to obeying.

    From my secular perspective, it sure sounds like the author expected followers to divest themselves of their riches. Or maybe that the followers in that community were not wealthy to begin with? Is that what you mean by “in which the rich were not present”?

    Also curious about ““Men lack the ability, but not God.”. Because the evangelical (calvinist) doctrine I was taught said that it was very important to realize we are helpless to help (“save”) ourselves, and verses like that would be used to support the theory. I don’t think that meaning can be implied here though, because the passage obviously is focused on poverty. I think that would be proof texting, though I don’t know if I have seen that specific verse used to make the calvinist case for utter depravity.

    Sorry to ramble!

  4. Ian

    For the rich young ruler it was his money. It *might* be money for other rich people, or it could be something else, whatever claims primacy in one’s heart. Or so it goes.

    Yes. But as you say. That is nothing like what Jesus says. There is no sense at all of this generalization. And the people making those claims, I would suggest, probably are just as attached to their possessions as anyone.

    that we are to follow the intent of the commandments, not the letter,

    Which usually means, for teachings like this, to generalise until it doesn’t apply to you. Then treat that as the intent 🙂

    Or maybe that the followers in that community were not wealthy to begin with? Is that what you mean by “in which the rich were not present”?

    Yes that’s what I meant.

    Sorry to ramble!

    Not at all, interesting perspectives, all! Thanks.

  5. I had heard that the original was komelos, which supposedly means rope, and it got corrupted to kamelos? Or that there was some Aramaic confusion or something. I agree that the “narrow gate in Jerusalem” story is Sunday school bunkum.

  6. Ian

    Shane, no unfortunately not. καμηλoν (Camel) is the version in the vast, vast majority of manuscripts, including all early manuscripts. There is one family of late miniscules (called the Farrer group, or f13) which has καμιλον, plus two other late miniscules in greek. The only other ancient witnesses to “Rope” are a few georgian manuscripts, again much much later.

    This myth is part of what I was thinking about in my number 2, and is a systematic attempt to dilute the story. Albeit a very old attempt.

    The camel metaphor is attested in other contexts, in Jewish writing, and in the Quran. It often appears as an elephant rather than a camel. So the story should be taken as the hyperbole it is.

  7. @ Ian

    (1) Nicely done ! Wow, I had often heard that “The Camel” gate was a real gate. I guess I will have to take your word that it is not real? I don’t know if I have enough faith. 😉 Where did you hear the fisherman knot story? I am ashamed, Shane knows it too! I was obviously such an ignorant Christian — damn, that is my MO in everything, it seems. These are great, where did you get your list?

    (2) A list of anti-Rich Jesus passages would be nice to build a “Theology of Poverty”, for one verse does not make a theology —> well, except for the most charismatic, of course.
    I have always though of Jesus as saying, look the Kingdom and Son of Man will be here any day, sell everything, stop marrying, leave your parents and follow me. But I never started thinking that one of the invented Jesus’ (or perhaps the real one) actually said “Only mendicants will abide in the New Kingdom”.

    (3) People label any movement that makes such demands a “cult”. Whether it is true or not, I think lots of more radical Christians would agree agree with me that common day Christianity is namby-pamby theology and that Jesus would have been viewed as a cultist today. It was the radical view that most attracted me in my Christian days and the namby-pamby theology that fueled my rejection. But like Marxism, and other idealism, I later left the cultish view too.

    (4) I like Ian’s question for Petteri. Petteri, like Armstrong in this post of yours, seems to have a “mystical” agenda for all true religion (in a sense). I don’t think he is too committed to that view, but only embraces it in so far as it helps him in some way. But your objections to Armstrong would hold against Petteri too, wouldn’t they?

    Another point is the importance of the “level of dialogue” or the “level of truth” [which a Buddhist would understand]: When having a discussion, we need to be clear about the purpose of the discussion. It seems Ian is trying to understand what a “Real Jesus” may have said, or even more, “How Christians avoid an inconvenient idea in their own scriptures.”

    But Petteri is entertaining something different when he says:

    “I have no idea if this is an authentic teaching of a historical Christ, but it could be.”

    Ian then asks Petteri the equivalent of , “Why could it be?” What is the evidence? (If I understand Ian correctly) Because Ian appears to be doing evidence research (as best is possible with an ancient text) but Petteri is doing personal exegesis and using a confessional hermeneutic of sorts, where if one can imagine a theology (in spite of the evidence), then it “could be” a non-dismissable candidate among others. Both Ian’s and Petteri’s methods have their purposes, but the purposes are different and can lead to miscommunication — this is a constant challenge on these sort of blogs. I have heard Petteri’s mystical theological interpretation many times in the past also. I think Armstrong would like it.

  8. @ATimetoRend and Ian

    I just read ATR’s comment and it stirred a question or two. ATR says:

    Or maybe that the followers in that community were not wealthy to begin with?

    (1) Wasn’t Jesus surrounded by rich women who supported him? That would counter Ian’s poverty theology.

    (2) If the camel story is in Jewish writing and Quran, why would they try to distort his true “Poverty Theology”?

  9. I’m just assuming that whoever said it was speaking as a spiritual teacher rather than a social or political activist or revolutionary. The former would be looking at it from the POV of an individual’s spiritual well-being; the latter would be looking at it from the POV of a society’s well-being. From where I’m at, the character featured in the Bible and the Gnostic gospels (which are the only sources I’m familiar with) seems more like a spiritual than a political animal.

    Unlike, say, the Qur’an, there isn’t a coherent social/political message that I can find in any of these texts. Or rather, there are lots and lots of messages that could be read socially or politically, but they all point in different directions. “Render unto Caesar,” kicking over the moneylenders’ tables, parables about capital appreciation (the guys with talents), and so on and so forth.

    Also, the statement just makes more sense to me read this way.

  10. Ian

    @sabio – right, one passage doesn’t a theology make. Though I’m going to cry off making a list right now, because I’m working on a list-like post for tomorrow on Paul.

    I think there are various strands in the Jesus movement. So the kingdom-for-the-poor strand is not exclusive to the stop-what-you’re-doing-and-follow-me strand. And again as in all these things we have to nuance by who’s writing. Luke, for example, has a much more poor-focussed Jesus than John does.

    I’m not sure I recognize the reworking of my question to Petteri. I was picking on his explicit denial of a prima facia reading. I don’t have a problem with the statement you quoted about it possibly being authentic. I wouldn’t feel the need to have that justified. I agree that there is a difference between hermenutic and historical criticism though. And part of my MO is to try and ask historical critical questions of hermeneutic processes. Partly because that’s how I lost my faith, and I think that is a good service to offer to the world 🙂

  11. Ian

    @petteri – Thanks. Good answer.

  12. Ian

    @shane – I separated your point out from the fisherman’s knot in an edit above. Thanks.

  13. Ian


    1) I’ve heard that too, on blogs. But I’ve not been able to find the scholarship that people are referring too. I suspect it is an argument based on the presence of women among the disciples, and via the social position of women in those times, an argument that they must have had independent means. If so, I default to being skeptical, and would want to read the work. [Edit: It is Luke 8, see my comment below].

    2) I don’t understand this.

  14. @sabio, point number 1, the relevant issue would be the economic condition of the audience. We can assume here, if Ian’s proposition is correct and they were poor, they would have taken the lesson to mean they were living the core principal of Jesus’ teaching. And if they were being informed about the life of Jesus from the John’s stories, which don’t include the theory about wealthy patrons, that would not have been an issue.

  15. @ ATR
    I am not sure I understand your point. Do you believe Jesus had important women followers who were not poor? I look forward to Ian’s more exhaustive scripture quotings to bolster up his “Poverty-Salvation Theology”.

  16. tedkeys

    As I see it –
    The rich guy has a worldview of dependence on his own actions to obtain eternal life. He’s done pretty well keeping the law, but maybe he’s afraid he’s messed up somewhere and he wants to ‘tip the balance’ back in his favor.(Here I’m not claiming a specific thought process, but rather trying to illustrate an attitude) So the guy comes up asking “What good thing can I do to inherit eternal life?” (wording in Matthew) Jesus immediately tries to correct the dependence-on-self worldview in favor of a dependence-on-God – “There is none good but God.” He points toward the law as a starting point to gaining this worldview. The man’s response indicates to Jesus that the dependence-on-self worldview is deeply entrenched in the man’s mind. He then recommends that the person divest himself of the riches he depends on and come follow Jesus (who has nowhere to lay his head) in order to learn what it is like to be dependent on God. The man’s worldview is indeed so entrenched and Jesus’ worldview so foreign that the man cannot comprehend the invitation. Jesus statement about the camel laments the difficulty of changing a person’s worldview when it is so deeply entrenched. The parable that follows (of workers working different amounts being paid the same) reinforces the dependence-on-God vs dependence-on-works perspective.

  17. Ian

    Thanks for the comment Ted, and welcome to the blog!

    I’m not sure about the whole ‘worldview’ thing – it seems to me that is an excuse to read the passage and squirm out of its message. Jesus goes on to say that salvation is impossible without God. But he doesn’t say that to the rich man. You and I are privvy to Jesus’s denoument, so we can trust God to save us and not worry to much about our inability to let go of our possessions. But it could just as easily mean that because we are unable to let go of our possessions, God will no more give us the “don’t worry, its all possible for me” get-out that he didn’t give the rich young man. Remember “blessed are you who are poor, yours is the kingdom of God … but woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your consolation.”

    There is none good but God

    Jesus isn’t trying to say that the rich young ruler isn’t good here though, is he? He is referring to himself. And either making it clear that he is neither God nor good, or else making a wry and ironic claim to be God, depending on your Christology.

  18. Ian

    @In reply to me! (And Sabio and ATTR):

    “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God; the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna, and many others who were helping to support them out of their own means” Luke 8:1-3.

    So other than Mary, at least, Luke seems to be indicating that the Jesus movement was bankrolled by relatively wealth women. Mark and Matthew are more circumspect just describing the women as having served Jesus or tended to his needs.

  19. yeah, heard all of these. crazy, we have people arguing over whether a donkey talked in the bible, whether the resurrection is metaphorical or literal, yet everyone seems to ignore the whole “sell all your possessions and follow me.”

    even me.

    hard stuff.

  20. @ Zero1ghost:

    But seriously, if there was a Jesus who said, “sell all your possessions and follow me” then he was probably worth ignoring. Especially if he felt the end of the world was coming and money wouldn’t be needed because God would take care of everything. For such a belief not only was blatantly false, but still is false.

    Besides, someone has to make money to take care of all the people who think they know what God REALLY wants.

  21. @ Ian
    So you agree, if Jesus was condemning the Wealthy to certain hell, he was condemning those closest to him and fed him. Seems unlikely.

  22. Ian

    Well I think it is probably more complex than that. And these kinds of blanket condemnation I’ve seen before, they don’t necessarily mean to include the in-group.

    “God, all n***ers need to be shot.” “ahem”, “Oh, except you Nelson, you’re cool.”

    But I’m not sure how far this is Jesus, vs Luke. For example, Luke adds the bit I quoted above to the beatitudes. Matt just has ‘blessed are the poor’. Luke adds ‘woe to the rich!’. Matthew has magi visit Jesus, Luke has shepherds, and so on. Its an interesting tack I’m only really farting around with.

  23. Ian

    @Besides, someone has to make money to take care of all the people who think they know what God REALLY wants.

    It is interesting you say that. A friend of mine who’s a religion prof has a hypothesis that the reason we read so much in the NT about Paul collecting money for the Jerusalem church is that they had a doctrine of communism (we read that in, e.g. the Ananias and Sapphira / Barnabas story in acts). And if you have all your people sell their capital and give away the proceeds, pretty soon you have no mechanism to make money, and so you starve and have to rely on outside charity. As in lots of economics, what seems to be a logical step has counter-intuitive and dramatic negative effects. Protectionist tariffs, I’m looking at you.

  24. if you read Jesus as a eschatalogical prophet then you’d be disappointed. at least IMHO. i think there is merit to the teachings of not being attached to your wealth so much that you dehumanize others. rich people who hold things over people are setting themselves up in ways that aren’t good. my wife’s uncle is a good example of that, he’s alienated himself from the family and childhood friends by his pursuit of wealth. he’s only now coming to realize what he’s missed at the late stage in the game.

    i wonder about being attached to my possessions and being rich in the international sense. am i doing enough to help my neighbors? is there something i can do without that would totally establish another. if i took a literal and rigid interp of that passage i’d be remiss. yet if i see a metaphorical and come with it and “play around with it” i may find truths where i can orient myself with. cause Jesus was ‘bankrolled’ in many respects and the early church had a lot of high profile people that supported it. gotta look at socio-historical and “fart around with it” as Ian stated.

    but that’s just my nature and i find value in doing these type things. others may find that this is chasing the wind and vanity. either way, good stuff chaps!

  25. Is it worth pointing out that it is almost certain that Jesus was not meaning “get into heaven when you die” – when Jesus refers to the “Kingdom” or the “Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Kingdom of God”, he’s generally talking about some sort of future earthly state of affairs, not some posthumous party zone?

    OK, we have the rich man & Lazarus, but if you strip away centuries of Christian tradition and read the stories in their own context, it’s pretty clear that most Christians would regard Jesus as a horrid heretic…

  26. Shane, i think you’re right on the money on both accounts: 1. Jesus was talking about the here and now and 2. most Christians would regard him has a heretic. good call.

  27. Ian

    Shane, Zero, I agree.

    There’s an interesting question in historical Jesus scholarship here.

    Was Jesus apocalyptic? Did he

    a) believe in a coming reversal of the order of the world, where God’s kingdom would be established on the earth.

    b) believe that the Kingdom of God was there and then, an opt-in club for those who are willing to enter it.

    Either way, it is pretty unlikely that Jesus was talking about the afterlife.

    The logic goes that, if b) was true, then this was migrated into a) after his death by his disciples, and finally from there as the new kingdom continuously didn’t appear, Christians smoothed out the teaching to be about an afterlife.

  28. The mad thing is that I kinda think that if Jesus was alive today, he’d probably be an atheist. Hence the Church of Jesus Christ Atheist, of course… When I was in Nazareth (a critical waypoint in my own journey to atheism) I had a fair bit of time to think about Jesus in his physical context, and that certainly blew away any remaining shreds of theism.

  29. Ian, yep. Actually I’m sure someone must have written a huge tome on the many and varied conceptions of the “Kingdom” that have existed over the years. Maybe we should launch a revolution and declare the Republic of Heaven?

  30. Ian

    Shane, I was going to point out that this is a whole comment thread where you hadn’t had a text link to your site. And congratulate you on your restraint. But then…


    (I really don’t mind, fwiw – just a joke)

  31. Ian

    “Maybe we should launch a revolution and declare the Republic of Heaven?”

    I certainly know some Christians who think that was exactly what Jesus was doing. Which always baffles me a little, because if so then I can’t help but conclude he was a failure.

  32. Hey – I need the traffic 😉 And where else to find high quality commenters than on a *very* high quality blog?

  33. Just to pick up on the tangent,

    “Republic of Heaven” was used by Phil Pullman, if that’s the kind of narrative yer going for. Some Christians have read the “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth” phrases as deliberate use of irony, or at least intentionally subversive metaphor. Crossan for one, I think?

    Rome was going through a growth spurt at the time, sort of. With the Caesars in charge, things were vibrant in terms of power and politics, but basic health, infrastructure and social services were pretty much non-existent for the common person. So possibly Jesus was saying, “What would this very world be like if God reigned, instead of Caesar?”

    In such a world, the little guy is taken care of and maybe even given some comfort or service or power, the wealthy is taken down a peg, etc etc. I don’t know if Jesus was anti-rich, but he might have realized how little he had to offer the rich, in terms of his message, ministry, etc. They already had power, hope, comfort. What could he give them besides some sort of spiritual satisfaction and a poorer lifestyle?

    Jesus likely knew how difficult it is to change the minds of the wealthy and powerful, and so challenged them but saved his energy for better audiences. But still, a motivational speaker using exaggeration and subversive literary devices to wake people up and win them over – not too surprising?

  34. Ian

    Thanks for that angle Andrew. I appreciate it.

  35. Great Blog Ian!!! I really enjoyed reading through it and agree with you on so many points!

    Unlike you and many of those whom I read comments from here, I am a Christian. Actually, I came across this blog while searching for a paper I have to write on “The Eye of The Needle” for my theology course I am working on.

    I could not agree with you more on your opening statement regarding this passage.

    “One of the most inconvenient passages in the NT for Western Christians.”

    Having just returned from a trip to Kenya (though my trip was cut short and therefore not very long), I seen poverty on a new level compared to what I had previously seen it. In my life, I have seen poverty on many levels, even having been homeless before having become a Christian, but now days, even homeless people here in America are rich in comparison to those in nations like Kenya. Here in the town I live in, there are even homeless people I know who have their own laptop computers and cell phones.

    Okay, let me get back to the subject. Yes, this is one of the most inconvenient passages that Christians in the western world face, people just do NOT want to give up their riches. Most every sermon I have ever heard on this , or similar passages, the preacher tries to explain away the requirements or something. The common phrase spoken by many western preachers is, “He became poor so we could be made rich.” Five years ago, me, my wife and our children gave up our 3 bedroom house and spent 3 1/2 years living in a converted school bus. After giving away the vast majority of our possessions, so often people would give us things, like they could not understand why we would make a choice to live without all the worldly possessions. Which takes us back to that inconvenient statement of Jesus, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle”, the man from the story loved his riches more than he loved God, and therefore went away sad. One thing I would like to point out though is that it wasn’t so much his wealth that caused him to go away sad, but his love that he had for his wealth. Elsewhere, in 1 Tim. 6:10, it says the love of money is a root to all evil. There are many who are just like the rich man who went away sorrowful, unable to give up his riches, who are in a similar place, though they have not the riches he had. Their lack of wealth may give them a sense of security when they read a passage like this, but in reality, their covetous desire for riches places them on the same level, because if they had riches, it would be just as sorrowful for them if they were expected to give them up to inherit the Kingdom of God.

    Prior to beginning this research, I had always heard the gate theory, but had never heard the mangled Greek theory before I began this study. Thanks for your insight there.

  36. Ian

    Richard, thanks so much for commenting, and welcome to the blog! I’m sorry it took so long to approve your first comment – I was on the road.

    I appreciate your story deeply. One of the interesting facts about theism and atheism is that Christians, statistically and as a whole, are more generous, and more philanthropic than non-believers. That is an embarrassing fact for atheists like me. I used to know a Catholic priest who was moved between churches every 5-10 years or so. He had had a personal manifesto that, whenever he moved churches, he would move only with what he could wear or put in one suitcase. This, he found, gave his life a cyclic quality. He never wanted to acquire more stuff, because he knew it would be so transient. The illusion of permanent ownership was broken. That was deeply inspiring for me. But not so inspiring that I followed his lead! I am under no illusion – I would, like the rich young ruler, go back to my possessions.

  37. Hi Ian,

    One of the interesting facts about theism and atheism is that Christians, statistically and as a whole, are more generous, and more philanthropic than non-believers.

    I think that is a rather difficult one to unpick, and I don’t know that I necessarily agree. Surveys that have been done on this are often plagued with interpretative difficulties. An example might be that “charitable giving” often includes things like “mission” (converting the natives), whereas an atheist donating to, say, a Freethought organisation might not have his or her donation counted as charitable, despite the fact that being taught *how* to think is immensely more valuable than being taught *what* to think.

    That said, I do feel a twinge of sympathy for your point, in that I can think of many organisations that have ostensibly “religious” overtones (e.g. Christian Aid) who do fantastic work, and are probably largely funded by people who feel a religious imperative, as opposed to a simply humanistic imperative, to dig deep.

    And to heighten my feeling of hypocrisy in writing the above, last year I joined a cycle team travelling from Jordan to Israel – 250 miles through the Jordanian plateau to the Dead Sea, back up to the plateau, down to the Jordan Valley, across Lake Kinneret (by boat, not bike) and up to Nazareth. This was all to raise money for the Nazareth EMMS Hospital, essentially a Protestant mission hospital (probably the oldest hospital in Israel, incidentally), which serves Christian, Muslim and Jew alike. Most of the people on the ride were committed Christians, and were there because they felt it was their duty – something they were called to do. And they were all the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet.

    I guess there may be something there that makes me reluctant to drop the “Christian” qualification from my Atheism… 🙂

  38. Ian

    Yes, those surveys count giving to church. Which is discounted by many atheists I’ve seen write on this subject as not really charitable. But I disagree with that. And when you include church giving, the statistics aren’t close enough to make arguments of methodological bias hold much water, imho.

    There are lots of reasons why, I’m sure. But I for one am embarrassed by the fact.

    Sounds like a fun charitable bike ride!

  39. Hi Ian, Oh all right then – since you beg, a link to my blog: 😉

    Israel and Jordan are such fantastic countries – no wonder they have spawned so many myths!

  40. Ian

    Super cool! Yes. I’d love to travel more extensively, especially do more in the northern Levant and Turkey. Hmm… If only I had another life.

  41. Ed

    “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”

    In the west this makes us puzzled, but I have heard that for people in Palestine this makes them laugh. I do not know for sure the accuracy of this, but I have been told this is a very old camel joke, so old that Jesus could well have known it.

    The joke runs ‘Is it difficult to get a camel through the eye of a needle?’ with the punch line ‘No it is not difficult. The hard work comes in grinding it up small enough before you start!’.

    If Jesus did refer to this joke, then it does help us make sense of a key part of the passage. Getting the camel through the needle’s eye means the camel has to be totally destroyed. This is said in the context of the young man wanting to be dedicated to God, and therefore relates to the old testament passages about the total destruction of things or people as part of giving these items to the Lord.

    It is certainly likely that if the camel through the needle’s eye was a joke then the people hearing Jesus’s words would pick up on this connection, and interpret the words as meaning something like ‘It is easier to dedicate something to the Lord by its destruction than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ This then makes perfect sense of why the disciples were even more amazed and asked ‘who then can be saved’. If you cannot be saved by being totally destroyed, how then can you be saved?

    Jesus knows exactly how we can be saved, but for me Jesus only gives us part of the answer in this passage. ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God’. If we want to know the answer to this question, then we have to follow Jesus. If we follow Jesus all the way to John 3:3-5 the aqnswer is spelt out to us – we must be born again. This allows for our attachment to this world to be totally destroyed when we gain a new attachment to the spirit of God.

    I know this is an unusual reading of this passage, and I have not covered why the young man was sad (was Jesus asking the young man to give the one thing that could not be replaced – his time?). To discern if this reading is anywhere right I do think we need to look at what people at the time of Jesus and in that location would have understood by the camel and the needle’s eye, and not just on what we in the west in 2010 might understand by it.

  42. Ian

    Thanks for commenting Ed, and welcome to the blog!

    That’s a completely new one on me – thanks for sharing it. I also like the application. Your last sentence is of course true – but slightly difficult. There are early references to elephants passing through the eye of a needle, which seem to be basically absurd hyperbole, rather than a specific idea of grounding up the elephant. So that seems to be what is assumed. Yes, a joke, clearly, but maybe not with exactly the punchline you have found.

    I don’t think that is necessarily what makes a reading “right” though. Historic, but not necessarily “right”. I think you can have an entirely made up interpretation which is useful, and therefore right for the community that use it. We’ll never fully reconstruct the context of Jesus’s words, let alone work out what words are actually his. So if you are a person of faith, the challenge is surely to find ways to apply the text you have received. Given how unlikely it is that the gospels we have are ‘original’ either in the sense of faithful copies of the original manuscripts, or of faithful copies of the words and deeds of Yeshua, that’s all that can be done, I think.

  43. OK, let’s try this one – perhaps Jesus wasn’t always giving “teachings”, but was prone to the occasional verbal ejaculation. Shit – maybe the dude wasn’t beyond cracking a joke or two? Like the beam in the eye, hyperbole is not necessarily to be seen as underlining some profound point – it is often there to simply add humour to the situation. I think the old Palestinian joke is as good a candidate as any; Jesus was not unaware of the culture in which he lived, and it’s more than likely that many of his reported sayings represent local aphorisms; “render unto caesar” is perhaps a candidate. Treating the gospels as Gospel is the first mistake a lot of people make. It’s more profitable to bang yourself repeatedly over the head with a succession of wet haddocks than to try to conduct a rational discussion with a creationist, for example.

  44. Ian

    Shane, yes. I’m not convinced that Ed’s joke is 2000 years old, but even if not, the hyperbole seems to me to be clearly humorous. The plank in your eye being another.

    The last sentence clearly shows you’re having issues 🙂

  45. Hi Ian; Well spotted 🙂
    I’m a geneticist – I have to deal with this nonsense from time to time, including in medical students, which if that doesn’t make you just a wee bit scared, it probably should…

  46. Maureen

    Christ spoke very plainly to people using basic knowledge and relating it to deeper meanings–which made common sense. He spoke of sowing seeds, lambs, sheep and shepherds and about fishing. His reference to how difficult it is to get a camel through the eye of a needle, refers to a fisherman’s knot that is still called a camel that is wrapped around something to tie up the boat. It cannot be threaded through the eye of a needle until it lets go of the post to which it is tied–the man was tied to his riches–earthly possessions.

  47. Maureen

    Sailing knots–The camel hitch (No. 215 in “Ashley Book of Knots”). According to Ashley, the camel hitch was used to secure camels to a picket line (the camel-hitching type, not the labor-strike type). It was designed to be an easy knot that is easy to untie and would not slide, even when covered with camel spit.

  48. Ian

    Maureen, thanks for the comment.

    “His reference to how difficult it is to get a camel through the eye of a needle, refers to a fisherman’s knot that is still called a camel”

    That story is told by many preachers. But unfortunately it simply isn’t true. There is absolutely zero evidence for it, except claims of a bad pun or a spelling error in Greek, which wasn’t even the language that Jesus spoke. There is a modern knot called a “Camel hitch”, but that got its name in the 1800s in English, nothing at all to do with the Greek or Aramaic of Jesus’s time.

    Perhaps you might try to find, next time someone tells you it was a knot, for some evidence. Some text of the period that mentions it, for example. They will not. Because it is a lie.

    It is a good example of when people think they know something that isn’t in the bible, isn’t historical, and was made up, specifically to change the meaning of the bible story.

    If Jesus was talking plainly, how about taking his words literally. Can a camel go through the eye of a needle? No. Can a rich person enter the Kingdom of heaven? No. Pretty simple.

    The only reason anyone would want to make up a story like the ‘Camel’ pun is that they don’t want to believe Jesus said that. Particularly in our culture where Jesus and capitalism are so tightly linked politically.

  49. Ian

    So which is it? The camel hitch or the fishing knot? And do either of these have any evidence from before 1800? No. Both are modern *English* names, not found anywhere in Koine Greek. Not to mention the fact that it is a *rope* knots, and wouldn’t go through a needle, even a net makers needle (even though the original words in the next actually refer to sewing needles).

    Why are you trying to avoid the obvious meaning of the passage?

    As you can see above, preachers have a range of different things they can make up to get out of this one, but they are all equally made up.

  50. Maureen

    “It is easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of of God.”

    Just look at the language–it’s a comparison. A comparison has to be parallel. No one threads camels. Rope is threaded and knotted to make nets. Men enter the kingdom. Threading an animal through the eye of a needle makes no sense linguistically and Christ was a master of language and matter and everything else. That’s my point. He’s talking about knots to fishermen and people whop would understand his reference.

  51. Ian

    Maureen – simply repeating the same thing without listening to my reply doesn’t help your case – it just makes you look unstable. As I said before the ‘camel hitch’ knot is a modern *english* name for a knot. It doesn’t work in Koine greek. Unless you can provide evidence. You do know the bible wasn’t written in English, right?

    There is no evidence at all he was talking about knots. There is plenty of ancient writing by many church figures on Mark’s gospel and *none* of it interprets this passage as being about knots or rope. You’d think that odd – surely. Tens of thousands of Christians over more than a thousand years and none of them saw it was obviously about knots or rope. As I said originally it is just plain bad historical scholarship.

    But as I said before, if you disagree, please provide links to works IN GREEK supporting the idea that the camel was the term for a fisherman’s knot TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO.

    Linking to something written IN ENGLISH, FIFTY YEARS AGO, doesn’t help. You do know Jesus didn’t speak english and didn’t live fifty years ago, right?

    I *know* there is a knot called a camel hitch in English nowadays. But, once again, this knot wasn’t called that IN GREEK, TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO. Unless you can point out a text from TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO to show that it was.

    I think that is about as simple and clear as I can express the problem with your claims. Please don’t repeat the same thing and link me to another modern list of knots in reply.

  52. Jesus’ words refer to a literal camel and a literal sewing needle. We are not meant to reason away the apparent difficulty of getting an actual camel through a small sewing needle’s hole. It is hyperbole, a figure of speech implying something that truly is impossible.

    Let us look at the parable in context: Matthew 19:16 – 26
    Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
    So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
    He said to Him, “Which ones?”
    Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
    The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
    Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
    But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
    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.”
    When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
    But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    Let’s think about the interaction Jesus just had. From the first response of our Lord Jesus — “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” — we get a hint of something this young man fails to appreciate. The Greek word rendered “good” implies perfection. Jesus is saying that only God is perfect. In order to “inherit eternal life”, the Bible requires a perfect keeping of the law.[1] Jesus is about to reveal to the rich young ruler that only GOD is perfect,[2] and this is a problem for ANY MORTAL MAN who desires to inherit eternal life by means of keeping the law.

    The rich young man asks Him what He must DO to inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t let the word DO be lost on you. He didn’t ask how He could enter the kingdom of heaven, but rather, what he must DO. Jesus went along with his selection of words. “Keep the commandments”, He said. Which is true. If we can keep the commandments perfectly, we can inherit the kingdom of God. But here there is a catch 22.[1]

    One of the commandments Jesus listed for this man was to “love your neighbor as yourself”. When the man declared that he had kept all of these commandments from his youth, Jesus told him that if he wanted “to be perfect” he should go and sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Why did Jesus tell him to do that?

    Jesus could have just said, “Look, get real. Nobody’s kept all the commandments perfectly.” But instead He let the young man have a moment of self-discovery. The young man had said that he had already kept all the commandments, including the one to “love your neighbor as yourself”. So . . . if he truly was all about keeping all those commandments, selling all that he had and giving it to the poor should have been no problem. After all, he claimed to love his neighbor as himself. He loved himself enough to spend his wealth on himself, so why not spend it on the poor that he claimed to love just as much?

    The truth was, he didn’t. And he just found out that he didn’t. He found out that he could not be “perfect”, and so now he was pretty bummed out that he couldn’t DO enough to inherit the kingdom of heaven. So he went away very sad. Here is the crux of the issue — it appears that the young man thought that perfect goodness could be achieved by a man by virtue of his own actions, in a sense, to do something to qualify oneself for eternal life, even as all the Pharisees wrongly believed and taught.

    Jesus then makes His camel comment to the disciples. Wealth was still seen as proof of God’s approval in Jesus’ day. It was commonly taught by the rabbis that rich people were obviously blessed by God and were, therefore, the most likely candidates for heaven. The proof that Jesus meant an actual eye of a sewing needle is found in the response of the disciples to what Jesus said. When they asked in amazement, “Who then can be saved?”, their incredulity is along the lines that, “If the rich, who are seen as righteous by God as evidenced by their blessing can’t be saved, then who can be?” “If the wealthy are unworthy of heaven, then what hope is there for the poor?” (If they had been thinking of a small gate, they would not have been so shocked . . . concluding that surely there was a way.)

    Some have turned this around to portray wealth as a hindrance to salvation, (which it can be – but no more so than many other things), when the real message here is that salvation is impossible for ALL men to achieve, for it comes from God alone. Jesus reflects on how hard it often is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. The riches are a hindrance if one is too attached to them. But the verdict is that even the rich, and not only the rich, will find it impossible to SAVE THEMSELVES because no man can be PERFECT. Jesus said this is impossible, IMPOSSIBLE with men, ALL MEN, but all things are possible with God, EVEN SALVATION.

    The needle gate idea, while engaging, misses the point of the parable. That interpretation implies that we can get through the eye of the needle (gate) by our own volition. All we have to do is become less worldly and more humble.

    However, the aim is not to explain away the paradox and make the needle’s hole as large as a small gate. Jesus’ message is clear—it is impossible for anyone to be saved on his or her own merits. Entry into Heaven is through faith in Christ, relying on HIS atoning work on the cross. (Romans 4:5, Galatians 3:13 – 14)

    Jesus’ answer is the basis of the gospel: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Matthew 19:26) So, the rich can make it into heaven, but it won’t be based on their own efforts any more than it would be for the poor. Nothing any of us do can earn salvation for us. (Ephesians 2:8 – 9) Jesus is saying that we might enter the kingdom of heaven, not by our own deeds or efforts, but by the power of God. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (See also Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Peter 1:3)

    The scriptures make it clear that salvation is not by works, but by grace. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) One cannot earn a gift (eternal life), but we do deserve our wages (death) which are just recompense for what we are, (sinners) and what we do, (sin). This is a difficult lesson to learn and it was one that completely astonished the disciples.

    It is the poor in spirit who inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3), those who recognize their sinfulness and their utter inability to do anything to save themselves, and come to rely instead on God alone for their salvation. Jesus also said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32), for with Him the impossible becomes possible.

    [1] The law that God gave to the Israelites through Moses demanded perfect obedience of the Pentateuch’s more than 600 commandments in order for the Israelites to receive eternal life. (see Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 32:45 – 46). The realization of this truth would cause humbled Israelites to seek comfort in turning to the sacrificial system which pointed to a coming Deliverer, The Messiah. This same doctrine is also taught in the New Testament. (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:10 – 12; Galatians 2:16, 21; Romans 3:19 – 20; James 2:10).

    [2] The scriptures teach that only God is perfect, and therefore Jesus Christ, (who is God incarnate), was also perfect, which enabled Him to keep the whole law and thereby He was qualified to die for the forgiveness of sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 8:3 – 4; Galatians 3:13)

    Postscript: I would hope that this rich young man mulled it over for a while, and that one day later on, (perhaps even after Jesus had died and risen again), he made a choice to trust in His atoning work unto salvation. The scriptures don’t tell us the rest of the story, but Jesus certainly provided him with plenty of food for thought to get him moving in the right direction that day.

  53. I have heard so many preachers say that the eye of the needle is a pass into Jerusalem, or some say it is a pass into some Asian city somewhere else, but the fact is, I researched it, hundreds of people have researched, it just is not the case. It is the animal and it is the eye of a sowing needle. Sorry. It’s a shame that some athiest professional preacher made up the story and it is a shame the preachers that do believe have jumped on that answer so that they can justify their lavish lifesyles. No, it’s not just for preachers to live moderatly, but it also applies to CEOs and rock stars and pro athelets. We are all in the same boat, we can not sit in our castles and watch people starve and do without medicine and shelter even though they have done their best. We are not to “cast our pearls before swine,” but we are to use wisdom, save for our children of course, but give to those that need if we intend to spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  54. Hi had read the different assertions as to the meaning of the “eye of the needle” below is an excerpt from my website that might be helpful to you. On the website there are drawings that will help illustrate the meaning.

    Link to the study:

    The verses dealing with the “eye of the needle” have been looked at for centuries and yet the clarity has been lacking. We can infer as a parable that it is impossible for the rich man to enter by his will. However that is not the same understanding as the “I” understanding we will explore now. Immediately in verse 23 it is evident that the “reign of the heavens” is “reign of God” which is the focus of verse 23 & 24. Therefore this is about the “reign of God” where there is no inflated ego of the “I” of man’s will. Reign of God means God is controlling and not man.

    Matthew 19:23 “23 and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Verily I say to you, that hardly shall a rich man enter into the reign of the heavens;”

    Now we read the verse and look at “eye” as it being “I”. The image below will make this clearer. It is not that the camel has to go through the center of the opening of the needle that is called an eye. Rather it is giving us proportional size difference of the “i” of camel compared to the Inflated ego “I” of the rich man. It is easier for the “i” (camel) to be reigned over by God than the enormous inflated ego “I” of the rich man. The eye of the needle which is the “i” of the camel is representation of a simple man that can have God ringing over them. In the preceding verses the rich young ruler wanted to justify his own will and use have “life age-during” (we omitted those verses to keep this simpler).

    Matthew 19:24 “24 and again I say to you, it is easier for a camel through the eye of a needle to go, than for a rich man to enter into the reign of God.’”

    Praise I AM,
    Michael Idarecis

  55. Ian

    That is a new one on me, thanks Michael. So Jesus is using the homophones ‘eye’ and ‘I’ in English? Because that trick doesn’t work in Aramaic, or Greek.

  56. Julie

    You are clay trying to explain how the Potter thinks. Isaiah 58:8-9 My thoughts are higher than your thoughts and my ways are higher than your ways. I don’t believe Yahushua was against being wealthy, Lazarus was a wealthy man and he was his friend. Mary Magdalene was wealthy and she was part of Yahushua’s inner circle. The three wise men were wealthy and yet the humbled themselves to follow YHWH on a long arduous journey to bring precious gifts and pay homage to an infant in very humble circumstances. Luke 21:4 and Mark 12:41-44 recant Yahushua telling that the woman who gave out of her poverty meant more than the people who give out of wealth. She withheld nothing from God and trusted him to take care of her. Timothy 6:10 says THE LOVE of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. The rich man walked away depressed because he loved his possessions MORE than GOD/ YHWH. This wealthy man would have understood perfectly what Yahushua told him about the EYE OF THE NEEDLE. It was the gate to the city that was purposely made small and low to prevent invaders from rushing in and seizing the city. This man understood that all men, wealthy and poor had to enter through the gate the same way, he wasn’t willing to put YHWH first and humble himself.

  57. Tryon

    Rope and camel (and beam!) were all spelled the same in Aramaic. Hence, a Greek translator not completely versed in the original tongue might stumble on the metaphor. Rope goes with needle as a matter of scale and proportion, which Jesus was inclined toward in many of his tropes.(seed and tree, house and mansion, vine and branch etc.The camel idea sounds preposterous rather than merely disproportionate. The rope MIGHT go through, but only in our dreams, just like a rich man’s presumption of salvation.

  58. Luke 10:25 “Do this and you will live”. Eternal life not physical. This is in response to the law and who our neighbor is. However Jesus say if you keep these two commandments you will have eternal life. Love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength and all your soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. “Do this and you will live” Gathering wealth around yourself means you have not does one or both of these. Christ never said we must become homeless. He shed His blood, the blood of the unblemished lamb of God to pay for our sin. He paid the wage of sin with His death and with His blood sacrifice He washed away ours. His resurrection is proof that His Word was true. We will arise and have life. So if we keep those 2 commandment (the greatest of all commandments} then we will live. Not as easy as it sounds but there it is!

  59. Ian good point. Something to consider it is greater than just homophones. You had stated two languages however what about Latin? When Jesus was crucified above His head the “inri” inscription was in 3 languages. Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The Latin language is clearly used today as “English” since the English language is built upon the Latin alphabet. Now consider for a second if we have the Latin alphabet used by The United States we in a sense have the ROMAN empire… Something to consider…. Also the latin word for “I” is “ego” which is clearly not in compatible and if you look at the language of The Bible. The word “I” and “eye” can be used together. If you also consider that the Eye is part of the brain therefore part of the “I”. How did they know that back then? They didn’t… Hand of God!

    Praise I AM,
    Michael Idarecis

  60. Ian

    > if you look at the language of The Bible. The word “I” and “eye” can be used together

    They are unrelated in Greek, Hebrew or Latin, in fact the ‘I’ in INRI isn’t even ‘I’. In english transliteration it would be JRNJ. Your analysis makes no sense.

    > the latin word for “I” is “ego”

    So τρύπημα (gk) …translated… eye (en) …sounds like… I (en) …translated… ego (latin) …transliterated… ego (en): so from greek to modern English then into latin, then modern english via a transliteration, we find the real meaning of the story? I don’t fancy your chances of having your theory taken very seriously.

  61. Anthony Kamilovic

    perhaps. the Damascus gate was named the eye of the needle. shaped to acomodate camels heads , they were small gates so a traveler carting great riches could not pass trough. to pass you must let go of riches. to pass through. or unload the camel.. true riches are not physical. ETERNAL.

  62. Ian

    That is a variation of number one above. As I said in the post, there is no historic evidence for a gate having that name. The first time it is mentioned is in the 16th century, in a passage about this story in the bible. It is a nice moral interpretation, but unfortunately not true.

  63. Marvist

    Gateways to the dwellings were called “eye of needles” and were built low and narrow so the sand and wind was limited and to get a camel out of the elements the camel had to get on his knees and crawl so a rich man has to get on his knees a and ask for forgiveness and direction. Who needs to be rich our father has many mansions!

  64. Ian

    I have heard it said that it was the gateway to Jerusalem, but not that it was the gateway to a house or dwelling. That’s an interesting new variation, thank you! Of course, the key question now is, what evidence is there that’s what gateways to dwellings were called? What ancient writing or inscription calls them that? My guess is: you’ve heard that preached in a sermon, but neither you nor the person who preached it have any contemporary evidence. It sounds to me like it’s another similar “how to soften Jesus” claim. But my question is genuine. I’d love to know.

  65. The parable, to me, isn’t absolutely about possessions. It’s about the destiny of those possessions and their afterlife. The rich man/woman has ear-marked those things as gifts, inheritance, resale, etc. They cannot just let them go to random unknown entities/people because they do not see themselves on a par level with them and in his eyes/heart they are not as worthy to own what he/she has labored so hard to have. It’s a judgement call and they are still too busy playing their own game of God in judging others.

  66. It’s also much easier and more pleasurable for him to keep fucking with the people in his life than to actually come to a point (pun intended) of stopping that behavior and say he’s through (again, pun intended!)

  67. Sorry for the myriad ways of looking at this, but this interpretation is for my love of music. Even while looking through the tiny hole of a needle, the rich man cannot stand to see or hear what would be recorded if he gave up his possessions. (The thought stemmed out of the idea that you need a needle to play a record) For the record is the written form, but either with words or with music, the rich man does not want to face the music or hear that song or read that story that would be told. It lacks substance literally and figuratively speaking. He lacks imagination and only operates on his own definite outcomes no matter how unrefined they may be.

  68. I hate to be needling this one to death, but the eye of the needle could be referring to women and their ability to give birth vs. men’s so called ‘strength’ of wealth.
    It could also be demeaning of women in that women can be influenced easier than men through sweet words, music, and compliments whereas men are not very moved by words of romantic fluff & stuff. Even so, even as a woman is easily deceived, lied to, brushed off, dismissed, or betrayed, she learns over time to accept & forgive it because it only means more agony, work, & pain to fight it or rebel against it. Sometimes, it’s just bad for business & it’s better to allow the customer to take a little advantage. But not so much that it gets out of hand.
    Whether women are the weaker or stronger sex is still up for debate. It’s all in a matter of perception as to what traits are more valued to whoever is doing the judging.

  69. Ian

    There is a difference in interpretation between eisegesis and exegesis. Roughly speaking, it is a difference in trying to figure out what a text could mean for you, or what the text meant to the person who spoke or wrote it.

    It is rather easy, I think, to come up with some connection with a camel or a needle, and to weave that into a story. It could be the needle used to inoculate someone. Or the camel brand of cigarettes. The eye could be ‘aye’: what sailors say to their captains. I don’t think those flights of fancy help other people very much.

    Thank you for commenting. And thank you for wrestling with this passage. But I’m afraid I can’t find anything very constructive to respond to. Your ideas are not exegetical, I’m not even sure you’d claim they were. So beyond that, please don’t feel I’m being rude if I just let them stand without comment.

    Particularly in this post whose point is that the obvious meaning of this passage is often softened, to avoid dealing with its literal meaning. The passage may not be about money or possessions to you. It is not literally about money or possessions for most people. The interesting question is, was it for Mark, or (if authentic) Jesus?

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