Thursday, 2 April 2009

What goes through the needle's eye?

There's an old debate amongst Christians on should the camel or the cable1 force itself to go through the needle's eye in order to be able to enter rich men into Paradise. But let's see what says the Qur'an about it.

Jesus is considered to have said that „For it is easier for a camel to go through the needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Luke, 18:25). However the camel in no way wants to go through the needle's eye. Hence some church fathers – who had more property than to be called poor men – must have felt inconvenience about it. Examining the Greek manuscripts one can see that they sometimes even tried to soften the edge of this phrase. Although the word camelos means camel in Greek, with an elegant maneuvre it can be easily tamed to mean cable, when man writes it with iota instead of eta. This way will turn camelon into camilon (καμηλον -> καμιλον), and likewise will be easier to enter rich men into Paradise. Providing that cable fits into the needle's eye.
Or you think it's impossible?
Well, the author of the text must have ment the same. Considering that the phrase even traced back to ancient times of Semitic languages, and means something like „when hell freezes over”.

While the Syriac Church (who claims that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic) also stick to the meaning '(thick) rope', the condition of the rich didn't really become less desperate. [Gamlo (ܓܡܠܐ) means in Aramaic tow-rope that used to tow ships as well as camel.]

White hope... (Illustration by Édua

A solution will appear while reading the Quran. While christians argue whether cable or camel should go through the needle's eye, the Quran reveals that doesn't matter which of them. Our key of salvation is not our material essentials, but something completely different.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا وَاسْتَكْبَرُوا عَنْهَا لَا تُفَتَّحُ لَهُمْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ وَلَا يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ حَتَّى يَلِجَ الْجَمَلُ فِي سَمِّ الْخِيَاطِ وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُجْرِمِينَ

„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. ” [Quran 7:40]

The original text has „جمل” which can be read as jamal or jummal as well, meaning camel or thick rope respectively.
But it is camel or rope then?
The Quran generously lets the reader decide.

1 In the sense of thick rope.


  1. 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

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