The other day I was reading this poem by Karsten Piper (read it, the title of this post will then make sense) and started to think about the story of the Rich Young Ruler, particularly the ending. You know, the whole camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle thing.
I haven’t studied it a great deal, but in the past I’ve been taken in by a couple of rumors. First, the one about the gate outside of Jerusalem that was so small that a camel would have to crawl through unladen. Back in high school that seemed like the answer. No such place. The second was that the word for “camel” is the same as the word for “rope”. In Aramaic the jury is still out (for me), and the Greek words may be close but a mix-up is just speculation.
After looking into it for a while I read something that made me want to slap myself because the thought had never occurred to me, and I just can’t figure out why not:
Just as the apocryphal Acts of Peter and Andrew refers the saying to a literal camel and needle, so we are not meant to reason away the apparent difficulty of getting a camel through a needle’s eye. For the difficulty is not apparent it is real, and not be solved by textual trickery but by taking the ludicrous language at face value.
What we have instead then, I believe, is a beautiful Hebrew hyperbole, as in the tree sticking out of one’s eye whilst one is removing a speck in another’s eye!
Why didn’t I realize that on my own? Why did I, and so many of my fellow Bible and ministry majors spend so much time trying to figure a way out of this statement? He wasn’t condemning rich people…he was saying that even those who appear to have God’s favor have no hope of entering the kingdom without his help. Man I’m slow sometimes…