Eye of a needle
The eye of a needle is the section of a sewing needle formed into a loop for pulling thread, located at the end opposite the point. These loops are often shaped like an oval or an "eye", hence the metaphor.
- They do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle.
- The Holy One said, open for me a door as big as a needle's eye and I will open for you a door through which may enter tents and [camels?].
Rav Sheishet of Nehardea applies the same aphorism to the convoluted reasoning for which the sages of Pumbedita were evidently famous: "Are you from Pumbedita, where they push an elephant through the eye of a needle?" (Baba Metzia, 38b).
- I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell 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 the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:23-26
The saying was a response to a young rich man who had asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he should keep the commandments, to which the man stated he had done. Jesus responded, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The young man became sad and was unwilling to do this. Jesus then spoke this response, leaving his disciples astonished.
The "eye of the needle" has been claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. This story has been put forth since at least the 15th century, and possibly as far back as the 9th century. However, there is no evidence for the existence of such a gate.
Variations on this story include that of ancient inns having small entrances to thwart thieves, or a story of an old mountain pass known as the "eye of the needle", so narrow that merchants would have to dismount from their camels and were thus more vulnerable to waiting brigands. There is no historical evidence for any of these, either. This also ignores the explanation given in Matthew 19:27:“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Cyril of Alexandria claimed that "camel" is a Greek misprint; that kamêlos (camel) was a misprint of kamilos, meaning "rope" or "cable". However evidence for such a Greek term is weak, there is little or no Greek manuscript support, and it goes against the standard principle of textual criticism that errors tend to happen towards the easier reading, not against it.
According to the English interpretation of the Quran:
- To those who reject Our signs and treat them with arrogance, no opening will there be of the gates of heaven, nor will they enter the garden, until the camel can pass through the eye of the needle: Such is Our reward for those in sin.
- B.T. Berakhot 55b
- "'The camel and the eye of the needle', Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25". Hebrew New Testament Studies. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
- Егор Розенков, Верблюд и игольное ушко // Духовный вестник высшей школы, № 8 (24), 01.09.2007
- Morris, Leon (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 493. ISBN 978-0-8511-1338-8.
- Manlio Simonetti - 2002 -"Cyril of Alexandria: By "camel" here he means not the living thing, the beast of burden, but the thick rope33 to which ... "This interpretation — "rope" (kamilos) and not "camel" (kamelos) — rests on the homonymic character of the two .."
- Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:40
- "What's the meaning of Jesus' teaching about the camel going through the eye of a needle?" from The Straight Dope
- Tampa Christian Singles quotes this scripture on their website.