The Eye of a Needle

The Eye of a Needle August 5, 2016

The page The Christian Left shared this image on Facebook, and a couple of comments that were made on it there deserve responses. First, you will sometimes hear that the Eye of the Needle was an actual gate in Jerusalem which a camel could indeed pass through, on its knees and leaving any goods it was carrying behind. This is simply not true. There is no evidence for there ever having been such a gate, no evidence whatsoever, and so it appears to be something that was made up to change the meaning of Jesus’ saying.

Second, you will sometimes hear (often connected with the name of George Lamsa) that Jesus’ saying was mistranslated from Aramaic, and that he probably spoke of a rope passing through the eye of a needle, and this was mistaken for the similar Aramaic word for camel. This is not impossible, but it is unlikely that such a translation error would be spotted by a modern person and yet not occur to anyone in the ancient church. More likely, therefore, is that Jesus spoke of a camel passing through they eye of a needle precisely because it made a pun on the word for rope. I am trying to think of analogies that would work in English to illustrate the point. Something about it being easier to add an antelope to your fruit salad than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God? Or it being easier to pass Fred through the eye of a needle…?

At any rate, there have been a lot of attempts to avoid having Jesus say something that meant it is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. It is perfectly understandable why we, who historically and globally speaking are rich, would try to do so. But it is better to be honest about what Jesus said and wrestle with the consequences, than to try to make him say something more palatable.

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