Camel, Eye Of Needle.

There’s probably already a thread on this. But I didn’t see one.
The original discussion: The Eye Of The Needle was the nickname of a small gate-within-the-main-gate on the entrance to walled cities. The assertion was made that that “a rich man getting to heaven == camel through eye of needle” equated therefore to just A Difficult Thing. This was dismisssed as optimistic.
However, I heard an expanded version where the “needle” gate was so small that the camel’s back had to be stripped of its cargo before it could pass through. This would be analogous to a rich man casting-off his Earthly goods before he entered heaven.
This then supports the assertion that Jesus was making the point that the “rich young man” of the story had to sell all of his cool stuff before he was perfect. Is that sufficiently pessimistic?

Seems your assertion that the “eye of the needle” is a gate is unfounded, steve_jonesuk.

I’d go with the mistranslation of camel for rope, myself.

What part of “the rich will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven” are you having trouble with?

  1. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  2. “Sell all you have & give the money to the poor.”
  3. “Blessed are the poor… the meek… those who mourn…”
  4. In the story of Zaccheus’s repentance, Zaccheus said he would pay back double all those he had cheated, which would bankrupt him.

Jesus held the wealthy in contempt; it appears over & over again. He explicitly said that they should completely dispossess themselves. And trying a less explicit, more wishy-washy simile would only weaken that argument. (“Well, I guess you could get a rope through a big needle…”)

Yes. Camel. Eye of needle. An impossibility. If you have capital, you have no part in the resurrection. That’s the message, deal with it. Oy!

Actually, the use of a camel through an eye of a needle is not a case of simile but hyberbole.

It’s the same hyberbole that can be found when Jesus says if your right hand sins, cut it off (or your right eye sins, pluck it out). Jesus is very obviously using hyberbole here (hyberbole is the use of exaggeration to make a point) and is not being literal. After all, in all the cases in which Jesus confronts a sinner, he never recommends dismemberment so that they would not sin again (if he did, imagine what he would have recommended to the woman caught in adultery :eek: ).

Since the passage in question concludes with “with God, all things are possible,” Jesus is not automatically discounting salvation for the rich. But make no mistake, the point he is making is that the rich are held to a much higher accountability since they have the means to help others, and the rich are in perpetual danger of being tempted by their belongings to be selfish and lulled into a false sense of security in this world while neglecting the more important values of the next. The best way for the rich to avoid the tempation of riches is to divest themselves of it and give to the poor.

And this is how the whole passage in scripture starts. The rich young man asks how to attain salvation, and he and Jesus come to the conclusion that following the Law faithfully is sufficient. It is only when the rich young man asks if there’s anything more to do, does Jesus hit him with giving all to the poor and following him. The rich man turns away, thus showing what a hinderance material possessions can be to completely giving oneself over to self-sacrifice and discipleship.

The rich are dancing on the edge. And the lesson is not to be self-satisfied (and self-righteous) with what you give because you can always give more. Rely instead on the mercy of God and do the best you truly can.


Please open your hymnal to number 54 and join in singing Amazing Grace.

May I point out, as a onetime student of Attic and Koine Greek, that this is a straightforward instance of mistranslation - the word translated as ‘camel’ actually means ‘hairy rope’. Maybe not as serious a mistranslation as ‘witch’ for ‘poisoner’ in ‘Thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live’, but still. You have to admit though that it has a certain poetry, which I guess is why it has become such a common expression.

Please note that there are two Staff Reports on this:

What’s the meaning of Jesus’ teaching about the camel going through the eye of a needle?
More on camels passing through the eyes of needles

The first report debunks (as do many other sources) the notion that there was some bizarre gate in old Jerusalem. The text has a plain meaning, and it’s just off the wall to try to create other meanings (even if those off-the-wall efforts date back to the ninth century.)

Although of course Jesus etc didn’t speak Greek. Maybe he did say ‘camel’ in Aramaic. Will we ever know?Will we ever care?

So, you’re saying that ‘kamelos’ (kappa alpha mu eta lambda omicron sigma) doesn’t mean ‘camel’? (Info from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible)

It’s used by Mt, Mk, and Lk in the same story. It’s also used by Mt in 23:24 “Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!” (Gnats and camel are both unclean to eat). It wouldn’t make any sense for them to be swallowing ‘hairy ropes’ as you suppose.

You’ll need to come up with a citation if you want anyone here to put any credence in your rather fantastic claim that is not shared by thousands of biblical scholars.


The “poisoner” bit is a little iffy, too. The etymology of the Hebrew word clearly indicates “poisoner” as the root meaning, but there’s a strong tradition that that isn’t what the word means. (Unfortunately, the Bible is nearly all there is of Classical Hebrew literature, so sometimes tradition is all we have to go on.)

Then there’s the bit in Galatians and Revelations where “pharmakeia,” the word from which we derive words like pharmacies, is generally translated as “sorcery” as typically the word was associated with potions and poisons. This word is often used to criticize Christian use of contraceptive drugs, as contraceptives and abortifacents were what the words was commonly used to refer to and because it’s always used in the Bible in association with sexual sins and frequently some form of murder.

Well done moriah

So it’s actually, “do not allow a drugger to live.”

Ha! I love that!