My understanding is that many ancient cities were enclosed by walls with gates that were closed at night. And narrow passageways were placed in the walls to allow entry into the city after gates were locked.
These passageways were wide enough to allow a person to enter the city but they were not wide enough to accommodate an animal as large as a camel.
I believe these passageways were called Eye of the Needle because they were so narrow.
So I think the phrase you are referring to makes more sense when you consider that Christ's quotation is suggesting it is easier for a camel to pass through one of these narrow passageways than for a materially-minded person to enter heaven.
As for the validity of the phrase, I wouldn't like to disappoint you by agreeing with the popular viewpoint on it. :)
To me, the opposite is probably more true.
A rich man, to me, implies a person of prosperity and perhaps one more in alignment with what they want than a poorer person. (I know this is a sweeping generalization).
But I would say that someone aligned with prosperity is probably closer to heaven than someone living in poverty.
answered 30 Dec '09, 23:03
Stingray's explanation about the expression of a camel going through a needle's eye is correct. I had come across a picture of one of these small doors. This is one explanation of the saying.
When reading the biblical text in context in Mark 10:17-30 you will understand what was being said and what was the main trust of the message was.
In a nutshell: The passage is talking about 'what may be done to inherit eternal life' and the answer is basically 'in what a person is trusting to get him there.'
I have reproduced the passage so you may read it for yourself and get a better understanding.
17 ¶ And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 ¶ And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 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. 26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. 28 ¶ Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
The question of eternal life is asked in verse 17 and Jesus answers in verse 19.
Notice what Jesus answers. He is asking him if he knows the 10 commandments. If you notice there are only 6 of the 10 commandments stated in the text. The commandments are broken in 2 parts. The first 4 commandments have to do with your relationship with God and the second part has to do with how to treat your fellow man.
In verse 19, Jesus tells the man, "You know the commandments" but only gives him the second part.
In verse 20, the man acknowledges him doing it.
In verse 21, Jesus said you're lacking one thing. Which was to fulfill the first part of the 10 commandments i.e. Trusting-Loving God with all your heart,soul, mind and strength. Basically, with all your being. Jesus chose to word it the way he did so the man would know exactly what he was saying. Jesus got to the heart of the matter in a few words.
In verse 23, Jesus knowing all rich men makes this remark, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! The general consensus is that on the average, many who have riches trust in them.
In verse 24, Jesus explains that it is the trusting in riches that condemns a man to not having eternal life in this particular context.
In verse 25, Jesus quotes the saying. I believe that he was using this as a metaphor. We know that a camel cannot go through an eye of a needle. The reason I think this is a metaphor is because of the preceding verse. Notice he says, 'Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!' If a camel cannot go through a needle's eye, even less a man who trusts in his riches.
In verse 26, the question is asked, 'Who then can be saved?'
In verse 27, Jesus answers, 'With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.'
QUESTION: Now what happens when you forsake your earthly riches and trust God?
In verse 28-30 God gives you 100 fold in this life time and in the world to come eternal life.
Just a note: There is nothing wrong in riches themselves. It is just a tool. It has to do with how inter-twined your heart is with riches. the apostle Paul said in his first letter to Timothy,
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
If I use the illustration of a camel going through a needle's eye, as stingray explained, one thing I draw from that is the fact that a camel has to go through this opening on his knees which also a picture of humility. Or like someone once said, you always kneel before a king when asking a petition.
In this case, eternal life.
Hope this answer helps you understand a little more.
answered 05 Mar '10, 00:27
I think this saying refers to the fact that wealth can become all-important to some people, more important than learning about God's Will.
Many times in the New Testament, Christ talks about the fact that it is hard for people with a lot of wealth to "get into the Kingdom of Heaven." He was asked by a wealthy young man what he had to do to (rephrased) "find God", and Jesus told him to sell all his stuff and then follow Him (Jesus). The young man could not do it.
Money is nice, but it is not supposed to be the focus of one's life- especially if your possessions are more important than doing God's Will. I believe that this is what that saying means.
Stingray has nicely covered the history behind the saying- I just thought I would add what I have always felt about this quote from the Bible.
Many Blessings, and Happy (almost) New Year, Jai
answered 31 Dec '09, 00:33
This question came at very good time for me. It has helped me really look deeply inside myself and also answer my own question about surrendering.To Let go of things or events that have happened is this life and very possibly past Lives is difficult to say the least.
This is the Camels burden and what he needs to do first is lighten his load and relax into a state of belief of what his master said he must do, is the Truth.
The second thing the Camel had to do was Surrender,and what he did here was he dropped to his knees and humbly followed his master without question, through what appeared to be too small of an opening.And then when he was on his knees he saw the opening from a whole new perspective,it was not as small as he first thought and it was a simple task to follow his master through the eye of the needle to safety.
I've been making things in my life more difficult than they needed to be and I need to be a lot more like the Camel who doesn't question Faith.
And from the rich man's point of view, well it kind of goes full circle, doesnt it? He has to become more like the Camel as well.
An interesting thing is I have the Aramaic translation from the original Eastern Peshitaa text and that is a mistranslation, it should have been Rope not Camel, however the meaning remains the same.
answered 31 Dec '09, 15:46
Wade has it correct. The translation is a corruption of the word rope or gamel, it was in a fishing village when this parable was written and they mended the nets with this rope. To thread the eye of the needle with the rope that they used to fix their fishing nets. BY the way, it can be done. and It doesn't make sense for a loving God to make it impossible for any of us to make it to heaven and close to him. A camel to fit through the eye of a needle (how ludicrious)
I think it is the biblical equivalent of the idea "When hell freezes over"
answered 31 Dec '09, 04:33
And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. – Mark 10: 17-31
Please access this link for a very relevent image re the spine, the camel and the eye of the needle.
answered 05 Mar '10, 02:16
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Obviously, I am not an expert and don't know the bible in and out, however, I am a very simple or others might call, naive. When I read or hear words, most I cannot comprehend but I try to interpret so as I can understand or at least get a grasp. I believe the camel can indeed go through the eye of the needle very easily. Why would the rich man want to go to the Kingdom of Heaven, when his riches are with him. He is not well to do but rich. My take on rich is that you have no worries, you can provide and that your cup runneth over. The rich need nothing else as they have it all. We came into this world with no material wealth, so it is fitting, we leave earth the same way. I do not know many words, as my vocabulary is limited. However, I make due what I have got right now. I could say it became possible for a 5'8", 162 lbs person such as little old me to pass through a tiny opening and to be born into this world, just by 2 single cells joining together to form as one organism. Now that I am fully grown, wouldn't you know that is is very difficult to enter into the Kingdom of God? I can't get there now, you do realize I am in the "instant gratification", "I want it now" generation? Am I willing to give up my life and all that I know what exists and what is reality, to go to heaven? Am I going to "fight-tooth and nail","Live like this is the last day of my life", before I leave this world? I better believe it is easy for a camel to pass through a needle's eye than for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. I can hold a modern day sewing needle in my hand, eye of the needle facing up, extending my hand all the way until my arm is straight, point that puny needle to a camel that is far away into the distance, just way over the horizon in front of me and with my own eye, I can see the camel pass through like a hot knife cuts through butter. You can put Prince Albert in a can and I can bet all my worldly possesions that I can put you in a 12 oz beer bottle and have plenty of room left over to fit other things as well. Words. Agree? Do the "I"s have it? "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder." I guess everyone is right, I am just a dumb blond who is not even blond; only Miss Clairol knows. Time for me to go back under my Rock of Ages. God Bless everyone, I L.O.V.E.(Lust Omitted,Visions Emerging!) you, in Jesus' name, Amen.
answered 10 Apr '11, 18:39
This is a tricky one for those of us who want to be wealthy and it is quite amusing how we try and make it fit our belief system. What if jesus meant this literally and if you are rich you won't make it into heaven. What then? I hear people say that God doesn't want us poor but what is Gods definition of poor.
I lived in the NOW for about three minutes and I had no attachment to the past or the future and rich or poor meant nothing to me. It was irrelevant and there was no such thing. So if you are trying to fit this into your belief system, or you believe that jesus will bring prosperity, or that jesus will bring you that big house, successful career etc etc you are most probably missing the point and no amount of words is going to get you there.
answered 27 Jan '12, 13:30
The Gates to Heaven and Hell are side-by-side and poorly marked, only the Light and Truth will allow you to know the difference.
Certainly anything that you love more than God will alienate you from Joy.
But with God, all things are possible.
answered 23 Nov '12, 08:42
In the Apocryphal New Testament, I found this story:
(Acts of Peter and Andrew vv.14-21, The Apocryphal New Testament, M R James, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924, p459).
answered 31 Dec '09, 16:30
Here is some more information on your question from http://www.bassfishing.org/thebiblespeaks/Articles/Donts/Materialism/eyeofneedle.htm.
Listen folks - the saying "it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God"
Should be interpreted as saying you have no chance in heaven or hell to enter the kingdom as a camel has a chance of passing through the eye of the needle.
Listen break things down to understand. Money is a creation of evil. Rich-man use evils currency to become rich. Simple. Don't complicate things. This world is not of the world of the Kingdom of Jesus' Fathers. What that means is that we live in a world or universe outside the kingdom of the True Creator...
answered 03 Jan '10, 19:05
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
follow my example do not have attachement with the material things. if your heart and mind are attached to this world. you cannot come to the kingdom.
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." http://bible.cc/john/3-3.htm
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. http://bible.cc/luke/13-24.htm
Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' http://bible.cc/luke/13-25.htm
"Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'
"But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'
"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. http://bible.cc/luke/13-28.htm
People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. http://bible.cc/luke/13-29.htm
Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last." http://bible.cc/luke/13-30.htm
if you focus only on money you cannot enter the narrow door. because you are control by your ego. to own things and material possesion. and you cannot help your brother and sister because you do not listen to your soul (your heart and your mind). then you are at the wide gate of destruction.
in truth i tell you that is why: Indeed, 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." http://bible.cc/luke/18-25.htm
experience and enjoy.
answered 17 Jan '12, 01:35
The eye of needle is mentioned in Jew, Christian as well as Islamic scriptures. Here is a Wikipedia article on the subject http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_of_a_needle
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands ...
Is this man who has received all this rich ? Is it good then to be rich if all this is a reward from god ?
The "rich man" who cannot enter the kingdom of god is the one who is attached to his riches, hordes his riches, believes that his treasure lies in his material riches. When the camel passes through the eye of the needle, then, the rich man lets go of his attachment, leaves all and places his trust in god alone. As a result he may become more rich but without the attachment.
With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
No man can make the camel pass through the eye of the needle. But God can. The camel is the big fat animal of the ego. Through the grace of god, the ego camel may become so tiny as to almost disappear, on the other side of the eye of the needle is the kingdom of god.
answered 30 Jan '12, 12:26