This verse has presented a troubling problem for Bible interpreters over the years. Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man (Matt. 27:57). So was Abraham (Gen. 13:2). Maybe Jesus didn’t really mean it. Perhaps He wanted us to look for a different interpretation. So, theologians worked diligently to find one.
In the 5th century, people had to copy the manuscripts by hand. One day a copyist came to the word "camel", which is kamelon in Greek, and changed it to kamilon, meaning "a rope" or "a cable." This, of course, was an attempt to make the unbelievable more believable. Only problem is, it's pretty darn hard to get a cable through the eye of a needle, too. I have a hard time getting a thread through one.
In the 15th century someone presented the notion that the "eye of the needle" wasn't really a needle after all, but was actually a small gate entrance to a city. According to this theory, people had to unload their possessions off the camel so it could crawl on its knees to get through the gate. A rich man, therefore, had to rid himself of all his possessions and get on his knees to enter heaven. Apparently when the architect was designing the gates, he forgot about all the camels needing to get inside the city!
But that theory isn’t correct either. Luke, who was a physician (see Col. 4:14), carefully chose to use the Greek word for a surgeon's needle in Luke 18:25, proving it was not a small gate. Jesus was literally talking about that big, lumpy animal going through a tiny, little hole. And this is why Matt. 19:25 says, “And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’"
Jesus chose a camel for his illustration because it was the largest animal in Israel. He selected the eye of the needle because it was the smallest opening. And he used a rich man as an example because people in that day thought wealthy people were the most likely ones to make it to heaven. By combining these three elements, He created a totally impossible situation.
So what was the point of Jesus' teaching? Simply this. No one, rich or poor, is going to enter the kingdom of heaven without God doing a miracle to get him or her there. A camel can go through the eye of a needle if it is disassembled, passed molecule by molecule through the eye, and reassembled on the other side. Impossible with men, but possible with God.
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