Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Eye of the Needle

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. (Mark 10:25, Matthew 19:24, Luke 18:25)

When I first heard this phrase in Sunday school, I thought it was nothing more than a bit of hyperbole illustrating how difficult it is for a rich person to get into heaven. However, when I got to seminary, I was taught that this phrase actually referred to an anti-smuggling gate in the city wall of Jerusalem called "The Eye of the Needle" which was so narrow, a camel couldn't pass through unless you removed its packs. Victorian tourists to the Holy Land even claimed to have seen this gate.

The phrase suddenly made more sense. A rich man can enter heaven, he just has to leave all his possessions behind to do so. A variation of this explanation states that the camel can only pass through the gate on its knees like a repentant sinner. Some have said the phrase refers to a small gate for pedestrians on the side of the larger gate through which camels would pass. Some say the gate was only used at night. In another version, "eye of the needle" refers to a mountain pass so narrow that merchants had to dismount from their camels to get through. Another explanation is that it referred to ancient inns having small entrances to thwart thieves.

The problem with this explanation and all its variations, however, is that there's no evidence that such a gate ever existed. A gate to Jerusalem being called "the eye of the needle" is an urban legend which began in the Middle Ages.

So what does this phrase really mean? An explanation that's been put forth is that the Greek word for camel (kamilos) is a misprint of the Greek word for a ship's cable (kamêlos), which some late New Testament manuscripts actually use. Since dialects change over time, the two words probably would have been pronounced the same way at some point. A camel passing through the eye of a needle is pure nonsense, but someone trying to thread a needle with a large rope, while still nonsensical, at least makes more sense. A rope at least belongs to the same class of objects as a thread. This explanation is certainly possible, but is it the most probable?

Another possible explanation relies on the theory that the Gospels were originally Aramaic, not the Greek of all our surviving manuscripts. In Aramaic, the word for camel and rope are both spelled the same (גמלא). Since ropes were sometimes made of camel's hair, the Aramaic word "gamla" can mean either "camel" or "rope" depending on the context. Again, this is possible, but since the evidence for the Gospels originally being written in Aramaic or based on an Aramaic oral tradition is quite weak, this explanation is unlikely.

Some say that the needle spoken of in the phrase is a six inch carpet needle and "camel" refers to a rope made of camel hair. "A rich man getting into heaven is as easy as passing a rope through a big needle" doesn't sound so difficult.

All these explanation are interesting, but ultimately unnecessary. They're all based on the assumption that the phrase as it is can't be right. Is it really so hard to believe that there would be an ancient saying discussing a camel going through a needle's eye? We use sayings today that would seem quite nonsensical to people living a thousand years in the future. If we put this phrase in the context of other sayings of the time, it suddenly doesn't seem so out of place:

They [dreams] do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle. - Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth, 55b (i.e. Men only dream of things which are possible, not things which are impossible such as an elephant going through the eye of a needle.)

Rabbi Sheshith answered Rabbi Amram, "Maybe you are from the school at Pumbeditha, where they can make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle." - Baba Metzia 38b (i.e. Rabbi Amram is making an argument so convoluted that he's able to convince himself of the impossible.)

A needle's eye is not too narrow for two lovers, but the whole world is not wide enough for two enemies. - Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Mibhar HaPeninim, c.1050, #281

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?] - Midrash Rabbah, The Song of Songs, 5.3

The largest animal in the regions where the Babylonian Talmud were written was the elephant. The elephant was virtually unknown in Israel, so the largest animal they would be familiar with is the camel. Basically what the phrase is saying is that it's impossible for the largest known animal to pass through the smallest known opening. Today, we'd say something like a rich man getting into heaven is like a whale slipping through a water purifier.

While the other explanations offered are possible, they are unnecessarily complicated. If the simplest explanation is most likely to be the correct one, then my initial Sunday school interpretation which took the phrase at face value is correct and we've come full circle.

"Slipping the rich through the eye of a needle is easy as getting a camel to heaven." - Meat Puppets


Michael Idarecis said...

Hi had read the different assertions as to the meaning of the “eye of the needle” below is an excerpt from my website that might be helpful to you. On the website there are drawings that will help illustrate the meaning.

Link to the study:

The verses dealing with the “eye of the needle” have been looked at for centuries and yet the clarity has been lacking. We can infer as a parable that it is impossible for the rich man to enter by his will. However that is not the same understanding as the “I” understanding we will explore now. Immediately in verse 23 it is evident that the “reign of the heavens” is “reign of God” which is the focus of verse 23 & 24. Therefore this is about the “reign of God” where there is no inflated ego of the “I” of man’s will. Reign of God means God is controlling and not man.

Matthew 19:23 “23 and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Verily I say to you, that hardly shall a rich man enter into the reign of the heavens;”

Now we read the verse and look at “eye” as it being “I”. The image below will make this clearer. It is not that the camel has to go through the center of the opening of the needle that is called an eye. Rather it is giving us proportional size difference of the “i” of camel compared to the Inflated ego “I” of the rich man. It is easier for the “i” (camel) to be reigned over by God than the enormous inflated ego “I” of the rich man. The eye of the needle which is the “i” of the camel is representation of a simple man that can have God ringing over them. In the preceding verses the rich young ruler wanted to justify his own will and use have “life age-during” (we omitted those verses to keep this simpler).

Matthew 19:24 “24 and again I say to you, it is easier for a camel through the eye of a needle to go, than for a rich man to enter into the reign of God.’”

Praise I AM,
Michael Idarecis

Amandarrell said...

I read the post that you linked to. So your theory is that the only way to understand the true meaning of scriptures mentioning "eyes" is to see them through the lens of the English eye/I pun. You also make a distinction between capital I (which itself is symbolic of an inflated ego) and lower case i (a humble person) and state that some of the meaning is based on how the letters look (upper case I looks like a beam, lower case i contains a dot). As far as I know, the eye/I pun only works in English translation, reminiscent of the Son of God/Sun of God pun I've also heard about.

Why did God keep the true meaning of the scriptures secret for over a thousand years until they were translated into English? Couldn't earlier Christians have benefited from this knowledge? Why is the true meaning revealed in English and not some other language? For all we know, there could be an even deeper meaning that only becomes apparent in Icelandic or Mandarin puns. Why would the message that humans need to humble themselves be written in code? Why not just plainly state it?

Michael Idarecis said...

Hi Amandarrell,

Had also read your well constructed article about the eye of the needle. Also see that you grasped the essence of the understanding in your first paragraph response. God is magnificent as He can only reveal through The Spirit within the man. Therefore whatever you receive it is only because The Spirit within you allowed you to comprehend. Had searched the internet regarding the Eye and I, nothing even remotely turns the parables into a matter of fact statement. Your questions are excellent and had done the best we can to answer them here.

Here is the short answer:

The Bible states a time of revelation in the distant future as you have read in Daniel and Revelation. God used the English language because He made the language have key words like “eye” and “I” that have different meanings yet are phonetically identical. Also note “ai” which is artificial intelligence is also the phonetically identical to “eye”. Also ai equals the inflated ego of man’s “I” which is artificial intelligence. This knowledge is only for the time of the end. This is similar to Noah’s Ark whereas people think God brought animals on the ark and today’s ark is filled with those that are not conscious of their salvation as the animals on Noah’s Ark. Until now this information was not necessary therefore those that are saved before this time can be like Noah’s Animals that are on the ark. Chillingly the rest of the world knew the ark existed when the flood had come upon them. Similarly that is going to happen today. Also remember this parallels harvest time in the future as The Bible states. Eye = I gives consciousness to just about everything when you fully understand it. Other languages must have the same phonetic words as Eye = I or something that ties into seeing and identity. Once Adam & Eve had their eyes opened to sin by their will, God will not allow the will of man to have glory to the tree of life. This is very evident in Genesis 3:22-24 (compare YLT over KJV and you will see YLT is correct) where both Adam and Eve were kicked out of The Garden of Eden before they could access The Tree of Life. Note they can’t even see The Tree of Life because of the flaming sword. To plainly state things in The Bible will allow man to boast of his achievements therefore it makes God passive or feminine instead of the masculine.

This is the long answer:

Now regarding your questions God Willing can express as we comprehend. God let them both grow the darnel and the wheat. For them to grow it had to have been a secret.

Matthew 13:30 “30 suffer both to grow together till the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the darnel, and bind it in bundles, to burn it, and the wheat gather up into my storehouse.’”

Michael Idarecis said...

The verse above God had set up to allow a certain time for his harvest and note the counterfeit “I” people are going to be bundled up first. It is spoken of that we are coming to the end of time. With world occurrences and other matters that are spoken of in The Bible.

The english language is the language at this time and the language that has the most translations of The Bible. English has recently become the universal language. God is in charge of His Word as you read below and God ordained “eye and I” to be phonetically similar. Note below the rod is also the word of God and Jesus says the word “seed" means Word of God. These are different words that have a Biblical meaning that God had arranged.

Jeremiah 1:11, 12 “11 And there is a word of Jehovah unto me, saying, ‘What art thou seeing, Jeremiah?’ And I say, ‘A rod of an almond tree I am seeing.’ 12 And Jehovah saith unto me, ‘Thou hast well seen: for I am watching over My word to do it.’”

The Christians at the time of the writing of The Bible did not have this information because it was for a future harvest time as we read in Daniel 12 or throughout the book of Revelation.

Revelation 22:10 “10 And he saith to me, ‘Thou mayest not seal the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is nigh;”

The Reign of God or the control by God is really what this is all about.

Luke 17:20, 21 “20 And having been questioned by the Pharisees, when the reign of God doth come, he answered them, and said, ‘The reign of God doth not come with observation; 21 nor shall they say, Lo, here; or lo, there; for lo, the reign of God is within you.’”

Now look how incredible this judgment is in that men did love darkness they could not perceive with their eyes The Identity of The Light. They go hand and hand.

John 3:19-21 “19 ‘And this is the judgment, that the light hath come to the world, and men did love the darkness rather than the light, for their works were evil; 20 for every one who is doing wicked things hateth the light, and doth not come unto the light, that his works may not be detected; 21 but he who is doing the truth doth come to the light, that his works may be manifested, that in God they are having been wrought.’”

Matthew 6:22, 23 “22 ‘The lamp of the body is the eye, if, therefore, thine eye may be perfect, all thy body shall be enlightened, 23 but if thine eye may be evil, all thy body shall be dark; if, therefore, the light that is in thee is darkness--the darkness, how great!”

Luke 11:34-36 “34 ‘The lamp of the body is the eye, when then thine eye may be simple, thy whole body also is lightened; and when it may be evil, thy body also is darkened; 35 take heed, then, lest the light that is in thee be darkness; 36 if then thy whole body is lightened, not having any part darkened, the whole shall be lightened, as when the lamp by the brightness may give thee light.’”

Michael Idarecis said...

The reason man can’t humble themselves is rooted in the fact that to humble yourself is really an act of will. This is about revelation or a consciousness of God that occurs outside of the will of man. You read how we must believe upon the name of Jesus. Well if man choose to believe then that makes the will of man god. That would be believing upon Jesus by your own name since the name is the masculine and the deciding factor. We are the bride of Christ not the man of Christ unless we are cleansed with a New Spirit. The will worshipers takes the glory of God and parallels the rich man of the eye of the needle with the inflated “I” or identity and a name that reaches to the heavens (Tower of Babel the pronunciation was changed). The reign of God is the control by God even unto salvation and belief or faith. How can a rich man with an identity or “I” in the heavens be controlled? Impossible only by the force of God is that possible. Again outside the will of man.

If someone can demonstrate this sort of powerful understanding in a different language then would love to hear it. The first sentence spoken by Adam had the word “I” 4 times and of those 2 of them were “I am”. Upon sinning Adam glorified himself and distanced himself with “I”. He became the counterfeit “I AM”. We know the true “I AM” was revealed at the burning bush to Moses. Jesus is The I AM. This can’t be ignored or explained away especially if you keep looking throughout The Bible it becomes impossible to overlook.

This is the first place where we read “eye” in The Bible. In this first occurrence it is evident that the eye is not used as a receptor of light but as a revelation of a secret identity. This is more than a play on words.

Genesis 44:21 “21 ‘And thou sayest unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, and I set mine eye upon him;”

This was the exchange of Joseph’s brothers who at the time did not know it was Joseph before them. His brothers said that Joseph wanted to set his “eye” upon Benjamin his brother from the same mother who had not put him into the pit. Joseph was not going to reveal himself to the other brothers, his intention was to have Benjamin with him in Egypt. However the brothers revealed that by taking Benjamin from their father would cause his father’s death. Only then did Joseph reveal himself to his true identity to his brothers. He revealed the “eye” or “I” (identity) that was only to be revealed to Benjamin. Therefore we can see that the word “eye” is reserved for our time today.

Here is where Joseph finally reveals himself. Joseph reveals the “EYE” (I or Identity) that he wanted to put upon Benjamin.

Michael Idarecis said...

Genesis 45:1-5 “1 And Joseph hath not been able to refrain himself before all those standing by him, and he calleth, ‘Put out every man from me;’ and no man hath stood with him when Joseph maketh himself known unto his brethren, 2 and he giveth forth his voice in weeping, and the Egyptians hear, and the house of Pharaoh heareth. 3 And Joseph saith unto his brethren, ‘I am Joseph, is my father yet alive?’ and his brethren have not been able to answer him, for they have been troubled at his presence. 4 And Joseph saith unto his brethren, ‘Come nigh unto me, I pray you,’ and they come nigh; and he saith, ‘I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt; 5 and now, be not grieved, nor let it be displeasing in your eyes that ye sold me hither, for to preserve life hath God sent me before you.”

The verses about plucking out the right eye makes perfect sense now instead of someone with a spoon plucking out his eye. Same with the right hand even though the right hand is easier to comprehend as an act of doing of one’s will. Whereas an eyeball is in reality only a receptor. To look at the eye outside of a receptor means there is a deeper meaning to that word.

Matthew 5:29 “29 ‘But, if thy right eye doth cause thee to stumble, pluck it out and cast from thee, for it is good to thee that one of thy members may perish, and not thy whole body be cast to gehenna.”

Matthew 18:9 “9 ‘And if thine eye doth cause thee to stumble, pluck it out and cast from thee; it is good for thee one-eyed to enter into the life, rather than having two eyes to be cast to the gehenna of the fire.”

Look how “eye-service” is really “I-service” and how there is so much more power in this verse when you realize the “I-service” identifies with the will of man in opposition to God.

Ephesians 6:5, 6 “5 The servants! obey the masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in the simplicity of your heart, as to the Christ; 6 not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as servants of the Christ, doing the will of God out of soul,”

Colossians 3:22, 23 “22 The servants! obey in all things those who are masters according to the flesh, not in eye-service as men-pleasers, but in simplicity of heart, fearing God; 23 and all, whatever ye may do--out of soul work--as to the Lord, and not to men,”

How about this verse:

1 Corinthians 2:9, 10 “9 but, according as it hath been written, ‘What eye did not see, and ear did not hear, and upon the heart of man came not up, what God did prepare for those loving Him--‘ 10 but to us did God reveal them through His Spirit, for the Spirit all things doth search, even the depths of God,”

Now look at the greater context and see how this is by revelation through The Spirit of God. Not the eye or identity of I. Not of the ear. Not by the heart. This is only by The Spirit of God. Again this is a hidden wisdom of The Reign of God that is in contrast to the inflated ego of man’s I.

Michael Idarecis said...

1 Corinthians 2:6-14 “6 And wisdom we speak among the perfect, and wisdom not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age--of those becoming useless, 7 but we speak the hidden wisdom of God in a secret, that God foreordained before the ages to our glory, 8 which no one of the rulers of this age did know, for if they had known, the Lord of the glory they would not have crucified; 9 but, according as it hath been written, ‘What eye did not see, and ear did not hear, and upon the heart of man came not up, what God did prepare for those loving Him--‘ 10 but to us did God reveal them through His Spirit, for the Spirit all things doth search, even the depths of God, 11 for who of men hath known the things of the man, except the spirit of the man that is in him? so also the things of God no one hath known, except the Spirit of God. 12 And we the spirit of the world did not receive, but the Spirit that is of God, that we may know the things conferred by God on us, 13 which things also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Holy Spirit, with spiritual things spiritual things comparing, 14 and the natural man doth not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for to him they are foolishness, and he is not able to know them, because spiritually they are discerned;”

Some of the information here is going to be added to the website.

In closing we appreciate the time you had taken to answer our posting. We had not thought of those possible questions until you had brought them up. Let’s stay in touch.

The eyes of Adam and Eve were opened to SIN of their inflated ego “I”. Now with the fear of God before our “eyes” we can really reverence “I AM”.

Praise I AM,
Michael Idarecis