Eye of a needle

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Eye of a needle
A dromedary camel passing through the eye of a needle, as a symbol of the improbable Peace of Westphalia. Engraving, Johann Vogel: Meditationes emblematicae de restaurata pace Germaniae, 1649.

The term "eye of a needle" is used as a metaphor for a very narrow opening. It occurs several times throughout the Talmud. The New Testament quotes Jesus as saying that "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".

The eye of a sewing needle is the part formed into a loop for pulling thread, located at the end opposite from the point.

Aphorisms[edit]

Judaism[edit]

The Babylonian Talmud applies the aphorism to unthinkable thoughts. To explain that dreams reveal the thoughts of a man's heart, the product of reason rather than the absence of it, some rabbis say:

They do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle.[1]

A Midrash on the Song of Songs uses the phrase to speak of God's willingness and ability beyond comparison, to accomplish the salvation of a sinner:

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?].[2]

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).

Christianity[edit]

A church portal relief in Dortmund referencing Jesus's use of "camel through the eye of a needle" aphorism.

"The eye of a needle" is scripture quoting Jesus recorded in the synoptic gospels:

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

Parallel versions appear in Mark 10:24-27, and Luke 18:24-27.

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.

Cyril of Alexandria (fragment 219) claimed that "camel" is a Greek misspelling; that kamêlos (camel) was written in place of kamilos, meaning "rope" or "cable".[2][3][4] More recently, George Lamsa, in his 1933 translation of the Bible into English from the Syriac, claimed this as well.

Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Representation, Volume 1, § 68, quoted Matthew 19:24. "Es ist leichter, daß ein Ankertau durch ein Nadelöhr gehe, denn daß ein Reicher ins Reich Gottes komme." This is translated into English as "It is easier for an anchor cable to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to come to God’s kingdom."

In modern times, the scripture has been used as a counterargument to the prosperity gospel, the belief that accruing wealth is a virtue favored by God.[5][6]

Gate[edit]

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 widely accepted evidence for the existence of such a gate.[7][8]

Islam[edit]

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.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ B.T. Berakhot 55b
  2. ^ a b "'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. 
  3. ^ Reuss, Joseph (1957). Matthäus-Kommentare aus der griechischen Kirche (in German). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. p. 226. 
  4. ^ Simonetti, Manlio (2002). Matthew 14-28. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0-8308-1469-5. OCLC 47443858. By “camel” here he means not the living thing, the beast of burden, but the thick rope to which sailors tie their anchors. He shows this comparison to be not entirely pointless (as a camel would be), but he makes it an exceedingly difficult matter; in fact, next to impossible. 
  5. ^ Collins, Raymond F. (2017). Wealth, wages, and the wealthy: New testament insight for preachers and teachers. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-8146-8785-7. OCLC 983796136. 
  6. ^ Bowler, Kate (2013). Blessed: A history of the American prosperity gospel. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-19-087673-9. OCLC 1005124050. 
  7. ^ Егор Розенков, Верблюд и игольное ушко // Духовный вестник высшей школы, № 8 (24), 01.09.2007
  8. ^ Morris, Leon (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan Leicester, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Inter-Varsity Press. p. 493. ISBN 978-0-8511-1338-8. 
  9. ^ Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:40 , Quran Surah Al-A'raaf ( Verse 40 )

External links[edit]