Thursday, March 26, 2009

The eye of a needle

From Gordon Fee in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible (p. 22):
[I]n Mark 10:23 (Matt. 19:23, Luke 18:24), at the conclusion of the story of the rich young man, Jesus says, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God." He then adds: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom." It is often said that there was a gate in Jerusalem known as the "Needle's Eye," which camels could go through only by kneeling, and with great difficulty. The point of this "interpretation" is that a camel could in fact go through the "Needle's Eye." The trouble with this "exegesis," however, is that it is simply not true. There never was such a gate in Jerusalem at any time in its history. The earliest known "evidence" for that idea is found in the eleventh century (!), in a commentary by a Greek churchman named Theophylact, who had the same difficulty with the text that we do. After all, it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, and that was precisely Jesus' point. It is impossible for one who trusts in riches to enter the Kingdom. It takes a miracle for a rich person to get saved, which is quite the point of what follows: "All things are possible with God."


  1. Wikipedia says there is a gate, but not constructed until the 11th century.

    Thanks for posting this. I have used the example of a gate. I hope I learn to check things out a bit more.

    It reminds me of the hitchhiker who was picked up and disappeared from the back seat after he preached the gospel.

    Is that called "clothesline preaching", when we simply repeat soemthing we hear without doing a bit of background check?

  2. I've always suspected that story to be a conveniently made up fallacy. My own little bit of insight on this is found at the end of this post: