Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's in a phrase?

Jesus said: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25). Some scholars have claimed this memorable, even humorous, quotation is a translation that has been mistaken. Some Greek and Armenian versions of the Bible refer to a "rope" rather than a camel. However...proverbs taken from the Talmud and the Koran do allude to a large animal, perhaps even one so large as an elephant, passing through a needle's eye. Jesus may have chosen the word "camel" for emphasis so that no one would forget the illustration.

Or another possible explanation is that the ancient cities which had walls built around them for safety also provided an "after hours" entrance--a very small gate or gateway which would allow a camel to go through it only if it were made to crawl through the gate after it had been unloaded. This was called the "eye of the needle." It was made very small for security reasons. Only one person or animal at a time could enter. If the people entering were bent on mischief or making trouble, they could be dealt with by the guards one at a time.

But in any translation, explanation, or interpretation...let's not lose the meaning. It is difficult for people who have learned to trust in their riches to humble themselves so that they, too, can enter the kingdom of God.

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