Talk:Eye of a needle

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I've added a paragraph explaining a possible solution for the broken context of this parable, as explained by a Greek lecturer at my university. Unfortunately I do not know Greek myself so if somebody who does could verify it and maybe add the relevant Greek samples, that'd be much appreciated.

--Taramul July 7, 2005 17:58 (UTC)

Tents and camels[edit]

A quotation in article:

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?]

IMO there is something screwed up with translation. There is an old Arabic say along the lines that if you let a camel's nose into a tent, then you will get the whole camel inside. Where can one find the original text? It is quite possible that the original author made a witty allusion on both says: the needle/camel and the tent/camel ones, which was not understood by the translator (or translators, if the translation with thru a chain of languages )mikka (t) 00:05, 3 September 2005 (UTC)

Camel or Rope[edit]

The reading refers to rope most probably made of camel's hair. The two words (καμιλος (rope) and καμηλος (camel) were pronounced the same way at the time. Moreover, critiques of christianity like the camel reference more as it plays up the absurdity angle and the so-called hypocrisy of affluent christians. But, it is simply not true. The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.52.166.132 (talk • contribs) 02:22, January 25, 2006.

Rather than it simply be "not true" by your account, how about we keep it as a discrepancy? I believe the latter, however, because it simply makes more sense. Plus, take it a step further - shed all but one thread of the rope and it may pass through the eye of a needle. Now use that with a rich man, shedding his belongings. I could think of one just as good for a camel, give me time. Zchris87v 20:53, 28 June 2007 (UTC)
The usual translation is "camel" not "rope", i.e. the opposite of claimed above. My understanding is that the earliest manuscripts all have "camel" not "rope". Also, one of the non-canonical gospels refers to a miracle in which Jesus literally causes a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Finally, as discussed in the article the Talmud uses an analogous expression with "elephant" which would correspond better to "camel" than "rope" or "cable". Crust (talk) 19:32, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
The original most widely used translation of the Bible in the English world is the King Jame's version. The "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible" was published in 1890 and written by Dr. James Strong. He 'exhaustively' went back and cross-indexed every word in the Kings Jame's bible to original Hebrew. To this day it is just about the best reference you can find in the English world for a lay person. According to Dr. Strong the word is "strong's number" 2574, which is "2574 kamelos kam'-ay-los of Hebrew origin (1581); a "camel":--camel. see HEBREW for 01581". All three instances of the recorded story have the same strong's number.
The Strong's Concordance is in the public domain and has been turned into Web-based index on numerous websites. I am using 'BibleTime' which is a Sword-based software for Linux. A example of the Concordance can be found at http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2574&t=KJV
I also found other Bible translations that use the camel in the same place. So if it's a mistranslation then it's repeated in every language in the world, apparently.
Geek version of the bible can be found at http://www.greekbible.com/index.php Unfortunately I cannot give a direct link to the text, but you'll have to input the bible passages yourself. The one for Matthew is: πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. The word κάμηλον is 'camel' in Greek.
So if a mistranslation happened it before it made it into English since I doubt the Greek text is a translation of the KJV.
From the Vulgate texts: et iterum dico vobis facilius est camelum per foramen acus transire quam divitem intrare in regnum caelorum http://www.latinvulgate.com/verse.aspx?t=1&b=1&c=19 This is just about the earliest copy of the Bible I can find and it's pretty obvious it's talking about Camels, not rope.
Also there remains the fact that in the Quran references a 'camel' and the 'eye of the needle', which indicates that this is a common idiom and not something that is created through a word being mistranslated 3 times in 3 different parts of the bible by different ancient scholars AND also being mistranslated by ancient Quran folks in a different context altogether.
So just about in every significant way it's something that is, indeed, part of _modern_ Christianity. Certainly, absolutely, Christianity from 400 CE to this modern day. The idea of 'Aramaic primacy' is certainly interesting footnote, but it's certainly a controversial minority viewpoint according in academia and is probably not appropriate to have inserted into a very short article with already numerous errors. It already has it's own wikipedia entry that is pretty nice. The fact that it may be a mistranslation is a possibility, but right now is completely unsubstantiated and is speculation. Certainly appropriate for a person interested in a deep academic discussion on the pre-Vulgate documents, but probably not appropriate for a wikipedia article.
Also the wikipedia article for Peshitta states that it was translated from Hebrew....
Probably from a academic point of view the most accurate translation would be indicated by comparing old testament versions of the Vulgate vs Peshitta against the versions found as part of the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' that pre-date Jesus.


According to many Christian scholars (not going to source a reference for this right now, I have a headache and I need to go take a nap, but I will do more research later if anybody cares) the 'eye of the needle' is a idiom that is referencing the night time gate to cities. During the day the main gate will be open to allow travelers in, but at night it was too dangerous to allow the main gate to be opened. The 'eye of the needle' would be the fortified night time gate that would be used to allow travelers in after sunset, but it would be small enough to prevent bandits or invaders from being able to rush the gate and overwhelm the defenses. Since camels were used to carry baggage the only hope for a camel to get through such a restriction would be for it's unloaded first. So the moral of the story is that if you want to be part of the Kingdom of God after judgement day then you better be willing to make sacrifices. Especially ill-gotten wealth should be abandoned. The exact meaning is going to be a Theological discussion. Probably not appropriate for Wikipedia.
Probably would be most appropriate to simply say that this has caused confusion and consternation for people, then give a few possible meanings. References for all of this should be very easy to find. I'll do it if you ask me.
"""Also, one of the non-canonical gospels refers to a miracle in which Jesus literally causes a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. """ I would not dwell to deeply on any so-called 'non-canonical gospels'. There was a massive number of different books written about Jesus and his life Rome long after his death or the death of of any of the Gospel writers. They closest analogy we have today would be 'Fan Fiction' and were sold in various markets as entertainment as much as deception. The vast majority of these things can be too easily refuted as such. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.252.42.193 (talk) 11:43, 25 July 2010 (UTC)


As a reply to myself. I cannot find any ancient references to prove or disprove the theory that the needle reference is talking about a specific gate or any gate. However I have found evidence that this is a commonly used idiom and is almost certainly NOT a mistranslation. In Bullinger's "Figures of Speech Used in the Bible" (1898) http://www.scribd.com/doc/10488338/Figures-Of-Speech-Used-In-The-Bible-Bullinger talks about several references to large animals going through the 'eye of a needle'.
From the book: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Matt. 19:24 . Mark 10:25. Luke 18:25). This was a proverbial expression for a thing very unusual and very difficult. Lightfoot ( Horœ Hebraicae ) quotes several examples: from the Talmud, * where, concerning dreams, it says “They do not show a man a palm-tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle.” The gloss is, “A thing which he was not wont to see, nor concerning which he had ever thought.” Another example is given, † where Rabbi Sheshith answered R. Areram, disputing with him, and asserting something that was incongruous of him, and said, “Perhaps thou art one of these Pombeditha, who can make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle”: i.e. , as the Aruch interprets it, “Who speak things that are impossible.”
Talmud, according to the Wikipedia article is written from 200 CE to 500 CE.
So while it may or may not be talking about gates, it is certainly a common figure of speech from that era and referencing the difficulty of large animals passing through small openings, not ropes literally being threaded on needles. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.252.42.193 (talk) 12:20, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

The Aramaic_New_Testament article claims that "in Aramaic, the word for "camel" (גמלא) is spelled identically to the word for "rope" (גמלא)". However, this definition as "rope" doesn't seem to appear in any Aramaic dictionary, and it seems to be a re-telling of the Greek story.Jimhoward72 (talk) 00:06, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

Eye of Needle Gate[edit]

From this article.

"Meyers, who personally excavated the village of Nazareth where Jesus lived during a 19-year-period, says there is absolutely no evidence of an "eye of the needle" gate in Jerusalem." --A Non ymous

That's a very odd statement. Why would a guy excavated Nazareth know anything about Jerusalem? (not to mention that the reference may be generic idiom and not be referencing any specific gate) Jerusalem has been built over and over again so that it would be almost impossible to know about any specific tiny gate. Do not forget, also, that Nazereth is in a entirely different area of Isreal then Jerusalem. Two entirely different cities. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.252.42.193 (talk) 11:53, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

Reference in Neal Stephenson's "Baroque Cycle" series[edit]

Towards the end of the chapter titled "Off Malta" of book4 ("Bonanza") of The Baroque Cycle, there is a reference to a "needle's eye." This is on page 244 of the softcover "First Harper Perennial Edition" of "The Confusion, " which is volume 2 (books 4 and 5) of the 3-volume series.

Stephenson uses the phrase "needle's eye" as a general term for a doorway in a camel-stable that is designed to allow people free passage while preventing camels from escaping. The scene takes place in late 17th-century Cairo. Does anyone know whether this is, or has become, a standard usage of the term? And if so, is this usage known to derive from, predate, or to be otherwise genetically related to the earlier, more well-known usages mentioned by the article? Or is it one of Stephenson's many creative historical fabrications?

Contextual Meaning of Eye of a Needle[edit]

It is also important to note, that in Hebrew culture of the time of Christ, the "Eye of a Needle" also refers to doors that lay beside the main Gates in the city wall. At night main gates were closed to stop people from rampaging in and out of a city, but you did not wish to keep travelers completely barred from the city, thus when looking at most gates of the period you will see two smaller doors to either side of the main gate, these were left open and guarded at night. When a traveler needed in or out of the city, his camel would actually drop down on its knees and crawl through the smaller doors called "eyes of needles".

So you say. But there is apparently no credible evidence for this, or any evidence that the term 'eye of a needle' might have been used for such a thing. Jooler 02:43, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

prove a negative?[edit]

Neither does there seem to be any evidence that such gates did not exist. - Nor any evidence that talking dragons didn't exist either. Honestly who put this in here? Jooler 02:43, 10 November 2007 (UTC)


The stupid gate theory[edit]

Why is this even added in here? That little theory was conjured up by people who felt uncomfortable with being wealthy and Christian or who wanted to attain wealth and remain a Christian. Point is, there is no evidence for this strange gate BECAUSE the Isrealites were not stupid enough to build a tiny gate where they had to shove their giant camels through. Inf fact if their little gate explanation is true then it wouldn't fit into the remaining verse about how with God all things are possible. The point of the parrable is that it is supposed to be impossible not improbable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.239.201.69 (talk) 05:09, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

The fact is that this story is so widespread that I was taught it as fact in my Religious Education lessons. It is important to tell people that this theory has no historical backing (as the wikipedia article here does), but one could hardly make such a claim on a wikipedia article without explaining the theory itself first. Oddly enough I came to this article especially to see whether the wiki article mentioned it and whether it noted its lack of historical backing, and I've been very pleased to see that it met my high expectations on both counts. :) 26 April 2008

The authorities and the Gate.[edit]

The so called "historical evidence" given in the article is in reference to the "needle's eye" of the Jaffa gate in the wall of Jerusalem, found in the zondervan Pictoral Bible Dictionary under needle's eye, with a picture of a small door in the gate. The size of the door is about 4x6 foot and the bottom of the door appears to be about 3feet off the ground. We can can discern this by the reference of the man standing directly in front of the gate.Due to the size of this door in the gate it must be a modern one for use of convience and not for security in times of danger.With these dimentions a camel would not have to crawl through it. It would only have to step over the bottom of the door while walking upright,and throuth the door as there is ample room due to the height and width of the overall door.The Zondervan Pictoral Bible Dic.states that this gate was in common usage in ancient cities.This is stated without any historical evidence being cited . W. E Vine in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words notes: "The idea of appling the 'needle's eye' to small gates seems to be a modern one; there is no ancient trace of it. The Lord's object in the statement is to express human impossibility and there is no need to endeavor to soften the difficulty by taking the needle to mean anything more than the ordinary instrument. Mackie points out(Hasting's Bible Dic.) that "an attempt is sometimes made to explain the words as a reference to the small door, a little over 2 feet square, in the large heavy gate of a walled city. This mars the figure without materially altering the meaning, and receives no justifaction from the language and traditions of Palestine" 29January 2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tedbuck (talkcontribs) 05:24, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

With God all things are possible. The point of the parable is in perfect harmony, it is difficult to get a rich man on his knees, and equally difficult to unload his burdens, but he can enter in. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 209.136.71.193 (talk) 10:04, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

Secular interpretation[edit]

Um... how is the so-called secular interpretation secular? I think maybe you need to either include it in the 'alternative interpretations' rather than giving it a section to itself, or you need to change its name. There's nothing secular about it. 26th April 2008 —Preceding unsigned comment added by 79.68.193.6 (talk) 15:53, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

I agree it should be labeled alternate interpretation 2 Jasoninkid (talk) 02:34, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

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The gate controversy[edit]

Perhaps we should have something on it in the main article, if only presented as a controversy. Seriously, I thought there would be information on it in here. ZtObOr 18:02, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

- Hi... I think you guys should add a small point on this. I visited this page precisely to find out about the "eye of the needle" (whether the gate story was true or not), I assume the intention is not to have users visit the "discussion" part to find that out. 82.28.168.34 (talk) 00:07, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Sourcing and "Diffusion"[edit]

A paragraph in the Christianity section now reads:

Some commentators[who?] have found it incredible to speak of a rich man's chance of being saved as being harder than threading a camel through a literal sewing implement. Consequently the phrase has inspired various interpretations.

As noted, a citation is clearly needed. But as an expositor of scripture who woke up this Sunday morning and decided to look up where the camel gate was in ancient Jerusalem, and found out to his surprise that the gate's existence is a legend -- I discovered that something I was holding stock in as true was untrue. I remember where I heard the gate's existence presented as fact; it was in a sermon years ago.

I think the process by which this kind of thing spreads among all kinds of groups is akin to Lexical diffusion and Trans-cultural diffusion. Which makes sourcing some widely-held ideas up to Wikipedia standards problematic.

One thing that can be easily sourced are examples of the "various interpretations" of Jesus's statement. Most commentaries deal with it as it sits, without the legendary gate. --ô¿ô 14:02, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

Gate as eye of needle[edit]

Although there is no historical reference to the small gates (as argued in prior comments), it is common use as an urban myth? shouldn't the belief be stated in the main article as false. i.e. the good research about how it came about and that it is a modern belief (with reference to paintings etc) be included.

I came to this article looking for information on how this belief (the small gate) came about and others will also. Having a clear section that details the falsehood or truth of the belief would be valuable.

Removed Sections[edit]

These sections were removed in June 2009 due to lack of references. I think some of the information- particlyarly the gate stuff- is relevant and perhaps with some references it should be restored. I thought I'd put them in the talk page to save people the bother of looking for them. These were under the Christianity section,

General interpretation[edit]

The most common Christian interpretation is that Jesus uses the physical impossibility of a camel passing through a needle (compare the similar Talmudic expression involving an elephant) to hyperbolically express the difficulty of entering heaven. A rich man would not ordinarily be able to enter the kingdom of heaven (and the disciples interpreted this to mean that no one can be saved, since wealth was considered a sign of God's favor); but God can achieve what would be impossible without his help. Jesus spoke in response to the rich man's unwillingness to give up his worldly possessions; through the grace of God, he might be able to give up his attachment to them. Christians also typically use the account of the rich young ruler, including this phrase, to teach about the deceitfulness of wealth and worldly prestige.

Some scholars have suggested that the word camel (κάμηλον) is in fact a mis-reading of the Greek original, and should instead read rope (κάμιλον). On the weight of this, some English versions read "cable" instead of "camel".[1] This explanation is also based on the notion of physical impossibility: neither a camel nor a rope can pass through the eye of a needle.

In any event, it should be pointed out that in Luke 3:2-11, John the Baptist in seeming accordance with this more literal view made the renunciation of wealth for the sake of the needy not only a primary condition of avoiding being "cast into the fire," but a clear condition of preparation for the coming of Christ (Luke 3:4). In addition, it is not frequently mentioned by religious authorities that what Christ demanded of the rich, young ruler, he demanded of all his disciples (Luke 12:33; Luke 14:33). So Christ was not unfairly singling out the rich so much as he was stressing another famous teaching of his: that one cannot serve both God and mammon.

The argument is also asserted that just because someone or his ancestors has successfully violated the Ten Commandments by coveting and stealing property from another party does not entitle the thief and his descendants to keep what God intended for or what belonged to others and their descendants. This argument recalls the Mosaic Year of Jubilee wherein all debt was canceled and all property was returned every fifty years to the original owners and their descendants.

From these and other passages too numerous to mention here, it cannot be denied that a certain equality and avoidance of unchecked political power is espoused in the Bible from cover to cover. Therefore, this literal interpretation regarding the camel or rope and the "eye of the needle" seems to be in accordance with many if not most principles espoused by both the Old Testament and New Testament. Though this interpretation may appear to be a new religious ideal of the time, it is arguably not the case.

Alternative Interpretation 1[edit]

Another common explanation of the figure, is that Jesus was referring to a certain gate in Jerusalem called Needle's Eye. This entry-point was built like the eye of a needle and so low that a camel could pass only if it entered kneeling and unencumbered with baggage. The lesson would then be that an eternal inheritance awaits those who unburden themselves of sin, and in particular, the things of this world. Also, kneeling represents submission and humility, which are required to enter into heaven. Although there is no historical evidence that such a gate ever existed, through frequent repetition the idea has attained the status of virtual dogma in some circles.[2]

"Zondervan's Pictorial Bible Dictionary" has a picture of a large city gate with a small door in it about four feet high and makes the following claim in the caption: "The Jaffa Gate in the wall of Jerusalem, showing the 'Needle's Eye.' Small doors such as this were common features of the gates of ancient cities; humans could pass through fairly easily, but large animals, such as camels, had to be unloaded and then had to kneel to get through, even then with difficulty." [citation needed]

According to InterVarsity Press's Bible Background Commentary (Craig S. Keener ed., 1993), those who support this interpretation are mistaken because the gate in question was not constructed until the Middle Ages — well after the Gospels were written.[3]

Alternative Interpretation 2[edit]

It is easier for a camel/needle . . . than a rich man to enter heaven . . . but it is not Impossible (inferred). Setting all hypothetical word definitions aside, when Jesus is first questioned by the young rich man, his first response is only (paraphrased) "You know of the commandments, adhere to them and you will find heaven." If the rich man had left at this point, it could be inferred that wealth is not an obstacle to paradise. It is only when the rich man approaches Jesus a second time and asks again (paraphrased) "I have done these things since my youth, is there nothing more I can do to ensure my place in heaven?" that Jesus tells him to give up his wealth.

If the rich man was performing for his watching friends and trying to extend his contact with Jesus, then the additional requirements to dispose of wealth could be considered a punitive action directed more toward the rich man's insolence than to his wealthy status. Otherwise, giving up wealth would have been the first answer. Jesus did not say, "your wealth shows that you covet possessions, and you risk trespass of that commandment." At this point, one must consider that Jesus was teaching his followers at the expense of the rich man.

Along with the eye of the needle analogy, Jesus says "by man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." This statement, when considered along with the lesson "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God, what is God's", shows that Jesus believed a clear separation of secular honestly earned material wealth and non-secular Mosaic Law could co-exist. The focus of this parable may be that the more wealth you have, the more honest you must strive to be.

- - - "If the rich man was performing for his watching friends and trying to extend his contact with Jesus, then the additional requirements to dispose of wealth could be considered a punitive action directed more toward the rich man's insolence than to his wealthy status."

The rich man could have been trying to impress his friends and Jesus was making stuff up on the spot in that instance, but that would mean ANY previous statement he made could be interpreted as context based veracity, only referring to the individuals to whom he spoke. This provides an interesting take on the New Testament, but doesn't a religion make.

"the more wealth you have, the more honest you must strive to be." Perhaps the first step in being honest could be to avoid creating random hypothetical situations in a text and instead focus on the meaning of a statement in the context of the rest of the speaker's teachings. Remove all the thread of a rope but one, drop your burden of materials and kneel, either way, stop hording money. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 206.125.56.178 (talk) 09:47, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
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