Camels & Eyes of Needles

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For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:25

 

In medieval times, this Biblical quote was often interpreted as meaning "It is impossible for a rich person to go heaven" for average camels cannot possibly be threaded through any eyes in any average needles. So if a rich person wants to go heaven, he needed to release a lot of his wealth to one of God's intermediaries, who then talk to God to open the gates of heaven for the rich person when the rich person passes away. A good deal for both parties: the rich person goes to heaven, the priests get the money.

 

This interpretation also had an impact on the common people. For starters, it convinced the poor to be satisfied with their poor existence. If the poor got rich somehow, they would lose their place in heaven, so there wasn't much point in trying to become rich. And if a poor person was oppressed by a rich person, that poor person could take comfort knowing the injustice proves who is going to heaven and who is not. So this interpretation helped keep the poor person happily in a poor state of affairs, which is good for keeping social order.

 

Then comes the Industrial Revolution. More Christians were becoming rich. And they were not so easily seduced into giving up much of their wealth away. So the interpretation became watered down such that the rich remain faithful and continue to donate some money to the cause. But not as much as before.

 

Here is another interpretation.

 

Back in the times of Christ and throughout the Levant, Arabian Peninsula, and the Silk Road, much trade was done by camel train. Traders would load up their camels and plod through hundreds of kilometers through the desert with their goods for sale. When a camel train came to a city, the train would rent some space and time at a facility called a caravansarai.

 

The caravansarai occupied a few acres of prime real estate in the city. It was a two-floored building that encircled the perimeter, with a wide open space in the middle.  The ground floor would be lockers to store goods for each trader. The second floor would be a hostel for the trader and his staff. The camels roamed freely in the open area of the caravansarai.  The traders stayed about a week and paid a small fee to the owners of the caravansarai. In that week, the traders would bargain with local merchants to sell their goods that city needed. When the traders got their money, they would then bargain with local merchants to buy goods to sell at a profit in the next city. Such was the life on the camel train.

 

As mentioned earlier, the camels roamed freely within the confines of the caravansarai. And often there would be multiple camel trains occupying the facility. The camels roamed freely and were never tied up. But they never left the facility. For some strange reason, camels really didn't like going through the portal, which was just a little shorter than the height of the camel. To get a camel through that portal, the traders had unload each camel, one trader pulling on the halter, a couple traders beating from behind, maybe another trader forcing the camel's knees to collapse to make it shorter. The camel would balk and complain and spit and bray and dig hooves into the ground throughout this whole process, and the traders did a lot of yelling and cussing. But once inside the caravansarai, the camel would never willingly go through that portal again on its own volition. And if someone tried to steal a camel, it would cause a lot of ruckus to alert a camel theft was happening. In other words, the caravansarai was a good place to store camels with minimal supervision, leaving the traders to focus on their trading. Every major city or town had at least one of these caravansarais for that was how "international" commerce was conducted in that part of the world at that time.

 

To digress at bit, the portals were also tall and wide enough for people and donkeys with carts to pass through quite easily, yet camels always stayed inside. There were no gates to open or close or lock, creating a certain efficiency for commerce.

 

So putting camels through these portals was a common occurrence. So common that the Aramaic speakers of Jesus' time made an idiom of the portal, calling it "the eye of the needle". It's not hard to envision similarity between putting the thread through needle eye and driving a camel train to small hole in a long wall. 

 

So when Jesus talked about putting a camel through the eye of a needle, he was using an idiomatic expression that would have been easily understood by the people of his time and place. It is not impossible to force camels through the idiomatic eye, but it sure takes a lot of effort. In other words, Jesus was saying rich people have their own special challenge for seeking God's approval.

 

I would say that this challenge is two-fold. How did the rich person get his wealth? And what did the rich person do with his wealth?

 

I have gotten to know a few rich people in my life. While I don't want to stereotype them, a significant number of them got rich, in part, because they are not very generous. And successful rich people have a way of finding an edge with their employees, customers, and suppliers: they somehow know how far to push things, but back off at the right time. I'm not too sure God wants us to create all this stress in our own and other's lives. And I have known rich people who have worked hard at the expense of not nurturing their family and other relationships. And some rich people just don't like paying taxes. Is this what God wants?

 

And while it's easy for all of us to point those richer than we are and find fault with how they are putting their camel through the eye of their needle, my lower-middle Canadian income means I too am rich--relative many of the world citizens. I need to worry about my own garden before I criticize others. 

 

Jesus' use of a popular idiom begs another question. If Jesus uses idioms, then would the New Testament not be as literal as many interpreters have made it out to be? If it not as literal, then we need to acknowledge that multiple interpretations are possible--and no Christian should profess that his or her understanding is superior to other interpretations.

 

If we insist that there is only one interpretation of any Biblical verse, then we need to take the camel going through the eye of the needle quite literally. If one is rich, one should give all their money away to secure a spot in heaven. I'm not there: that rich, that generous, or in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 3, 2018 - 2:04pm
You forgot Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the first mention of 'trickle down' economics.
 
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: (trickle down) moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Luke 16
 
Imagine if everyone on this Planet lived as as Christ taught? Call NO MAN on earth your Father, for we have One Father in heaven.?
 
There would no longer be the growing imbalance in this world of starving masses, and riches for the few beyond any human need, other than Power, Control and Vanity.
Dino Manalis Added Jan 3, 2018 - 2:25pm
That's why the wealthy are quite generous and should be encouraged to invest in the poor, including public housing; infrastructure; schools; and R&D of new products and services that would only be made domestically.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 3, 2018 - 3:15pm
I met some very wealthy people at Expo 67 in Montreal. The next year, I was invited to the 45th Wedding anniversary of Hope and Edgar Scott, descendants of a rich 19th Century US Railway Baron, part of Old Mainline Philadelphia money.
 
Helen Hope Montgomery Scott (1904 – January 9, 1995) was a target="_blank">socialite and target="_blank">philanthropist whom target="_blank">Vanity Fair once called "the unofficial queen of target="_blank">Philadelphia 's target="_blank">WASP target="_blank">oligarchy." She is most famous as the inspiration for Tracy Lord, the main character in the target="_blank">Philip Barry target="_blank">play target="_blank">The Philadelphia Story, which was made into the target="_blank">film of the same name as well as the musical-film target="_blank">High Society.


I stayed in the main big Mansion and the children had their separate mansions on the Family compound in Villa Nova.
 
After dinner in Edgar Scott's Mansion, he took great Pride and Pleasure in showing me his Art Collection. He had a roomful of Augustus John paintings and another room for Grandma Moses paintings.
He was proud of his original Renoir and Degas paintings. We then arrived at what he called his Piece De Resistance, his $1,000,000 Monet.
 
With no judgmental or disparaging tone in my voice, but only innocent naivete, scratching my head, said, I don't understand how anyone can have $1,000,000 just hanging on the wall?
 
Not being offended, he told me the painting hangs on his wall until he dies and then goes to an Art Gallery, but while he lives, if he owes $1,000,000 in income tax, the painting is a tax credit wiping out the income tax due.
 
He must be spinning in his grave. The last Monet sold for $81,400,000 at auction.
 
Ari Silverstein Added Jan 3, 2018 - 3:27pm
“I have gotten to know a few rich people in my life. While I don't want to stereotype them, a significant number of them got rich, in part, because they are not very generous. And successful rich people have a way of finding an edge with their employees, customers, and suppliers: they somehow know how far to push things, but back off at the right time.”
  
Utter rubbish.  Every rich person I know earned their wealth or had their wealth given to them from a rich relative who earned their wealth.  Generosity, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with it.  If anything an ungenerous rich person will have trouble with loyalty, employee morale and other problems, so generosity is likely part of what makes them successful.  Furthermore, what you call edge, I call superior business acumen.  You sound like the Church in making rich people out to be someone undeserving of an afterlife in heaven. 
Dave Volek Added Jan 3, 2018 - 4:17pm
Ari
 
I was quite clear that I didn't want to stereotype. Some successful people are very generous with their wealth; some are not.
 
I knew a rich person who often bragged about her $500 annual donation to the local church ($10 a week). This same person thought plumbers and other tradespeople coming to fix things in her big house were ripping her off with the $100 per hour bills.
 
I knew another rich person who could assess when a supplier was no longer able to afford legal fees for a law suit. She would milk that supplier for as much as possible, refuse to pay, and watch that supplier and her bills disappear. One could call that business acumen, but I wouldn't.
 
I knew another rich person who maintained market share with a substandard service by flying major customers to a week-long fishing retreat in the Northwest Territories. Business acumen or corruption?
 
My life experience is that rich people, as a group, don't have any higher standards for morality or ethics than the general population. For some, not being generous helps some of them become rich.
 
----------
 
My understanding of the Catholic Church is that it really discouraged its followers from entering the professions of commerce, often citing that one scripture to prove the point. This left a lot of commercial occupations unfilled in medieval Europe, and the Jews accepted  these roles.
 
-------
 
 
 
TexasLynn Added Jan 3, 2018 - 5:44pm
Dave, I really, really loved this post!  It was well thought out and well written.
 
I am grateful for the opportunity to add my two cents... from my particular Christian perspective.
 
First... I've heard both interpretations concerning the meaning of the camel going through the eye of the needle.  It is interesting to look at how Jesus meant this (and many other lessons); but we shouldn't allow the debate to detract from what I think is the obvious meaning, which I think you summarized perfectly... "Jesus was saying rich people have their own special challenge for seeking God's approval"... I would have said "seeking salvation".
 
Second... the Bible (Old and New Testament) should indeed be studied considering the time, and culture of when it was written.  There are indeed idioms used within the gospel (I think this is one) as well as parables and other literary devices.  As with any communications, one must use his best judgement as to how the message is being communicated (idiom, parable, literal, etc.). 
 
As with any communication (from conversation, to speech, writing, or spiritual texts), multiple interpretations will always be possible.  But that doesn't equate to multiple truths.  The communicator had one thing in mind.  If that Communicator is God and that thing is His message to mankind there is only one truth... His truth (regardless of the interpretations). 
 
Because of our nature, NO man, will get everything right.  That's OK... getting everything right is not a requirement of salvation (only a few basic truths, I believe, fall into what I would call salvation issues).  And other messages point the way as well, if you miss this or that one.  One of the great things about scripture, is that you can read something for the umpteenth time and get something new you missed before.
 
Third... You say, "So if a rich person wants to go heaven, he needed to release a lot of his wealth to one of God's intermediaries"... and while I'm sure there have and always will be "intermediaries" who agree with this interpretation; nowhere does it say that in Jesus' teachings.  Better to release that wealth directly to those who need it... being a good steward of the "talents" that are entrusted to you. (See Parable of the Talents) If you choose an intermediary, it is also your responsibility to be sure he/she/it is equally responsible; otherwise you are not being a good steward.
 
Dave >> I would say that this challenge is two-fold. How did the rich person get his wealth? And what did the rich person do with his wealth?
 
YES! PERFECT! Well said!
 
>> And while it's easy for all of us to point those richer than we are and find fault with how they are putting their camel through the eye of their needle, my lower-middle Canadian income means I too am rich--relative many of the world citizens. I need to worry about my own garden before I criticize others.
 
Another excellent point!  I have experienced many levels of the economic spectrum (minus the very top and very bottom).  Today, income wise, I'm probably in the middle; savings wise a little better.  But world citizen wise, I am rich; so, suddenly, I need to pay closer attention to a message I may have considered directed at someone else.
 
Again... great post!  Thank you!
Thomas Sutrina Added Jan 3, 2018 - 5:45pm
What you are talking about is indulgences that the rich mostly purchased but in the time of Martin Luther, 500 years ago, even the middle class bought indulgences.  This is what Wikipedia says, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes an indulgence as "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints".  The saints built of a store house of god's grace that was sold by the church.    
 
The funniest story in Eric Mataxas's book Martin Luther just published a few months ago is:  A noble man bought an indulgence from a monk selling them.  Then the noble man robbed the monk as he left the town and took back all of the money he paid.  He used the indulgence just purchased a few days earlier to be forgiven for the sin for robbing the monk.
 
The Protestant revolution ended the practice of indulgences and other medieval ideas.  He started the age of enlightenment that made possible I think the industrial revolution.  So your wacky connection of the Industrial Revolution and the rich to Christianity and sin was debunked a few centuries earlier.  Even the Roman Catholic Church figured out they lost and Luther's ideas won.  The printing press made in impossible to suppress them. 
 
Protestantism breaks the connection between good works and salvation.  Christ has already forgave our sins, we only need to fully recognize and accept this and act accordingly.  Good works is acting according to the bible examples of one that is saved but is not required since the poorest of us all are also saved, those that accept charity are saved. 
opher goodwin Added Jan 3, 2018 - 5:53pm
I didn't know that Dave. You live and learn Very interesting and well written.
TexasLynn Added Jan 3, 2018 - 5:56pm
Dave >> My life experience is that rich people, as a group, don't have any higher standards for morality or ethics than the general population. 
 
This has been my experience too.  I have known some very generous and kind; and some downright evil.  But proportionally?  No different than men at whatever economic class.  This causes me to believe that ethics and morality are not the favored domain of any group.
TexasLynn Added Jan 3, 2018 - 7:50pm
CC >> more sense than the conventional interpretation. 
 
In my study and discussion among fellow Christians, I have heard both scenarios discussed... with many agreeing Jesus' reference was the historical idiom mentioned.
 
So I guess I'm at a loss... what is the conventional interpretation?
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 3, 2018 - 8:48pm
As for the 'meek ' inheriting the earth, I read the word meek in Greek was a double entendre or double meaning word that also described a horse charged up, and ready to go into battle.
 
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
 
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
 
And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.[...] And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, (1%, Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs and other Idols of the People) and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
Revelation 19
 
This says once you get to heaven, you might be conscripted in Christ's Army, having to return to Earth, to engage in the War against the kings of the Earth.
TexasLynn Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:51pm
>> This says once you get to heaven, you might be conscripted in Christ's Army, having to return to Earth, to engage in the War against the kings of the Earth.
 
Ray, I would have to respectfully disagree... (see, different interpretations among Christians) :)
 
For the following reasons...
1) The verses are from Revelation; apocalyptic literature being very symbolic (not literal)
 
2) Even if literal, most verses refer to angels (not men) accompanying Christ upon his return (Matthew 24:31, Matthew 25:31 for example)
 
3) I think logically even the angels would be window dressing.  What does the God who spoke the universe into existence need with an army? :)
TexasLynn Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:57pm
>> As for the 'meek ' inheriting the earth, I read the word meek in Greek was a double entendre or double meaning word that also described a horse charged up, and ready to go into battle.
 
Ray, I do appreciate this little nugget of scriptural research...
 
I have learned something valuable today!  I am grateful!
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 3, 2018 - 11:22pm
Lynn, as to your 1st comment, this is in the Gospels , not the Revelation
 
Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
 
But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying,
 
I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Matthew 22:29-32; Mark 12:24-27
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 3, 2018 - 11:41pm
What does the God who spoke the universe into existence need with an army? :)
 
God invites humans TO BECOME God with God. It's like the Olympics, everyone can try out, and after that it's what you put into it.
God who is Love, responds to freely given Love.
 
These things say the Amen, the Faithful and True witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God;
 
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.
So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. (No more Silent Majority or Sitting on the Fence)
 
Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and don't know you art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
 
I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
 
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
 
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3:14-22
 
That's Power Sharing on a level playing field.
Tubularsock Added Jan 4, 2018 - 2:30am
Well Dave, and interesting tale.
 
But Tubularsock just wondered, just how large of a needle are we talking about here?
 
And then Tubularsock would have to take into account the size of the camel.
 
And then a two humped camel or one?
 
There are many details lacking here to make a good evaluation if rich people and poor people have any differences at all.
TexasLynn Added Jan 4, 2018 - 9:46am
Ray >> Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
 
I'm sorry if you feel I am ignorant of the scriptures... I'll try to do better.
 
Ray >> Lynn, as to your 1st comment, this is in the Gospels , not the Revelation
 
??? Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're trying to tell me.  Your original quote was from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 19 describing the fall of the Beast and False Prophet.  Yes, the Book of Revelation is part of the gospel (good news); written by John using an apocalyptic literature commonly used at the time.  Apocalyptic literature uses symbolism borrowing heavily from the Hebrew culture and the Old Testament.
 
If you take the Book of Revelation as strictly literal, just let me know and that will explain what I'm asking... with no hard feelings.
 
Ray >> God invites humans TO BECOME God with God.
 
Speaking of doing better, THIS I'm interested in!  What is the scriptural basis for this statement?  I have yet to see anything in the gospel inviting me to "BECOME God".  I see invitations to be adopted as sons and daughters, to become priests, to share in the Son's inheritance... but not become God.  Your assistance would be greatly appreciated. :)
 
I'll probably drop the inquiry after your answer... I don't want to hijack Dave's forum on a tangent.
 
I appreciate the other quotes from the Book of Revelation (part of the gospel) as well... :)
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 4, 2018 - 10:21am
Lynn, this says to me God invites humans to become God with God.
If you read it in a different way, as you acknowledge humans tend to do, and I agree with you, let's discuss.
 
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3:14-22
 
'To him that overcomes' tells us we have our parts to play on the world stage. What you or anyone else has to do may not be what I have to do. We all have different functions in the Body of Christ.  It's not a matter of anyone being more import, or less important, in the perfect functioning of the Mystical Body of Christ.
 
'sit with me in my throne' tells us exactly what the words say. Christ invites us humans, to sit with him in his throne, sharing the power of Christ.

(Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.) target="_blank">-John 14
 
'as I also overcame,' tells us this is not something unreachable, as Jesus in his fully human body, does not ask anyone to go through something he himself didn't go through first.
 
'am set down with my Father in his throne.' Humans that overcome sitting with Christ in his throne, and Christ sitting with God in God's throne. That's a direction connection between the human as co-Creators on Earth, with God in heaven.
 
These are literal words in the Revelation, easy to understand. Living them in Faith is another matter, and much more difficult for an individual Believer in an unbelieving world.
TexasLynn Added Jan 4, 2018 - 10:44am
Ray, thanks for the response.  I'll study on what you've shared.  I'm sure we'll discuss such things further but I'm going to turn the comments back over to Dave's original post.  :)
Shane Laing Added Jan 4, 2018 - 11:01am
If your rich give your money away to TV evangelists Bakker, Swaggart, Tilton. they seem like an honest bunch.
Genesis: Jesus he knows me.  
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 4, 2018 - 11:07am
Lynn, Selecting the Scriptures from Revelation upstream directly complements what Dave is writing about in this article.
 
God Bless you for your interest in replying to my comments, the only one to do so, as if I'm the Invisible Man.
 
I think the 1st comment posted on the article is worthy of a general discussion, but obviously I'm alone in my way of thinking. not a nibble!
 
If I had all the answers to the growing inequality and imbalance, I would have spelled them out, or snapped my fingers and it would be corrected.
 
God doesn't operate that way. If humans were punished in real Time  for every 'sin' they commit, there would be no humans left on Earth. We wouldn't need Police, Courts and Prisons.  
Dave Volek Added Jan 4, 2018 - 11:37am
Lynn
 
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I'm enjoying the discourse between you and Ray.
 
I read the Bible front to back in my early 20s. It took me about a year. One conclusion I came away with is that it is a mysterious book that allow for multiple interpretations to happen. But as you have alluded to, only one is correct and somehow we have to figure it out. Having respectful dialogue will be helpful. But in the end, we will never figure this book out completely.
 
Some time after I read the Bible, I came across a Christian philosopher who said reading the Bible is like driving a Japanese sports car. If we really want to understand the car, we should probably study mechanical engineering, then the Japanese language. Then we can get into the mindset of the Japanese engineers who designed the car.
 
Or we can just get into the car and drive it!
 
I never really understood it until I ended up with old battered Toyota Celica. Even though it was full of rust, it was the best car I have owned for handling and driving. I got another six years out of that rust bucket, and there are days I would trade in my family's two more modern Toyota Corolla's for that Celica.
 
I don't spend a lot of time contemplating the Bible these days, trying to split hairs of interpretation. But there are definitely some good basics lessons there. Life goes so much better the more we align with Christ's principles.
 
My wife and I like watching Andy Stanley videos. He has such an interesting take on Scriptures and how they can apply to real life situations.
 
Ray
I have an article in mind for "The meek shall inherit the earth" Stay tuned.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 4, 2018 - 3:21pm
Dave, a very interesting post providing a historical context that I was not aware of. There are many parables from the new testament that seem today to lack a common understanding in our culture. Your story changes my perspective from it being impossible (camel through a sewing needle) to being difficult. Since all of the camels did have to go through the needle to leave their haven, it just took a lot of work to get them to go, and that is what is referred to in the story. Thanks.
Thomas Sutrina Added Jan 4, 2018 - 3:45pm
We all need to at least open the hood of the car (Christianity) and understand the basic principles.  The Old testament can be set aside.  That is exactly why I read about Martin Luther.  His quest in life was to understand Christianity and he was a prolific writer and preacher that had a gift of bring it down to our level and cutting out the fluff.  The Catholic Church that tagged him as a heretic but due to wars with Islam never in his life time went after him. 
 
The printing press owners only printed what they could sell and Martin Luther let them print his words without royalties.  It spread like wild fire even though it was not cheep to purchase printed material.
 
Martin invented high German.  It is the language he wrote in his First New Testament and then Old Testament translations that still 500 years later is the leading translation.   
 
Jesus spoke to the people.  So the bible is his and his early followers speaking to the people.  That is why he translated a Greek compilation of the bible by is nemesis, Rasmussen, about a decade older then Luther, into the peoples' language. 
 
What is under the hood of Luther's Bible is that Jesus has already forgiven our sins, and we only need to accept his gift.   The old testament that contains the parable of the camel like a rich person not fitting through the door to God.  Would be to Luther the non-acceptance of the gift of Jesus.  But Luther would say that wealth and knowledge has nothing to do with having faith in the gift already given.   He associated with all levels of wealth and knowledge and was a geat observer.  So I think we would know if he thought wealth had anything to do with entering heaven.   He clearly know that entering heaven was not for sale by the church.  
Steve Bergeron Added Jan 5, 2018 - 8:58am
Interesting that no one got the "eye of the needle" properly interpreted here.  The "eye of the needle" was a particular passage (called the "eye of the needle") in the Middle East where camels had to pass through that was very narrow.  If the camel was carrying too many goods, the camel could not pass through this passage, and some goods had to be taken off to get the camel through.  
 
This relates to other similar passages about wealth and money that people often get wrong.  For example, it's "the love of money" that is the root of evil, not money itself, which is an inanimate thing.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 5, 2018 - 9:51am
Steve, I don't know what you read, but this article is about the same "eye of the needle" you describe.
 
Of course it's "the love of money" that's the root of all evil, and the "evil" people do to get it.
 
World's richest 500 see their wealth increase by $1tn this year
 
I don't know who these 500 are, but I know it means more "evil" in this world with starving masses of people and all the wars resulting in a human cull, culminating with the unleashing of the Nukes for the final kill.
Dave Volek Added Jan 5, 2018 - 10:35am
Steve
 
You have another plausible cultural reason for the idiom of the "eye of the needle". But I think the interpretation is more or less the same. Rich people have extra challenges to earn God's acceptance (or salvation or whatever).
 
 
 
TexasLynn Added Jan 5, 2018 - 10:51am
Steve >> The "eye of the needle" was a particular passage
 
I have heard the eye explained as a passage/gate that those Jesus spoke to would be familiar with (but now lost in meaning to the general populace).  I think Dave's message is still very applicable in that the basic idea is the same.  The eye is not literally an eye of a needle, but rather an idiom Jesus' audience was familiar with; a confined space that required a lot of effort to get a camel through.
 
Steve >> This relates to other similar passages about wealth and money that people often get wrong.  For example, it's "the love of money" that is the root of evil, not money itself, which is an inanimate thing.
 
Very true.
TexasLynn Added Jan 5, 2018 - 10:57am
Ray >> Lynn, Selecting the Scriptures from Revelation upstream directly complements what Dave is writing about in this article.
 
The Lazarus parable (your fist comment) certainly pertains and complements; the later quotes from revelation 19, less so in my opinion; though not completely off the mark.  I certainly think the rich make up the "kings of the earth" who align themselves with the dragon (Satan) and his allies; but the verse had little to do with how the rich might seek salvation.
 
Ray >> God Bless you for your interest in replying to my comments, the only one to do so, as if I'm the Invisible Man.
 
Some people are reluctant to discuss these types of topics, and I can understand.  I'm here to listen, lean, and share... hopefully in that order.
 
Ray >> I think the 1st comment posted on the article is worthy of a general discussion, but obviously I'm alone in my way of thinking. not a nibble!
 
I'll nibble on your first comment...which indeed is very relevant to the rich in relation to salvation. (see below)
 
>> If I had all the answers to the growing inequality and imbalance, I would have spelled them out, or snapped my fingers and it would be corrected.
 
None of us do, and that's sort of the point of all this (life).  To learn that we don't have the answers and to learn to turn to Him for them.
 
>> God doesn't operate that way. If humans were punished in real Time for every 'sin' they commit, there would be no humans left on Earth. We wouldn't need Police, Courts and Prisons.
 
Amen... My favorite character/spirit in the "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis is the man who worked hard all his life and played by the rules.  In death, all he wants is what he "deserves", what he worked for.  His friend tells him that's exactly what you’re getting (death/hell/damnation) what you deserve ... but why not choose the free gift offered of life/heaven/salvation (what Christ deserves) instead; even though you don't deserve it in the slightest.  The gift of grace is unfathomably unfair... in our favor.
 
I pray none of us get what we deserve. :)
 
>> Lynn, this says to me God invites humans to become God with God.  If you read it in a different way, as you acknowledge humans tend to do, and I agree with you, let's discuss.
 
I don't disagree so much as cringe at the wording of equating myself on a level with God.  I just don't equate all that God has promised to becoming God.  At his invitation (and gift of grace), I may share His inheritance, His power/throne, His glory, everything He has to offer.  I will be in his presence eternally.  I will even be changed and transformed into the likeness of Christ.  All that is infinitely better than what I am now... but another infinity exists between that and being God in my opinion.
 
>> These are literal words in the Revelation, easy to understand.
 
These words were literally written by John based on what was revealed to him.  Whether they are to be taken literally (or symbolically) is another matter.  My study has led me to take the Book of Revelation symbolically as I think John/Christ/the Holy Spirit intended.
 
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
 
The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
 
The rich man (in the parable of Lazarus) is indeed a perfect example and the warning to the rich.  While alive, he gave no thought to Lazarus (representing the poor).  He even ignored the example of the dogs (often representing gentiles) who showed compassion to the poor man by licking his sores.  An act I believe represents compassion and benefit.  (Dogs lick wounds to promote healing).
 
Each then receives their reward according to the lives they led.  Lazarus found himself beside Abraham in paradise, the rich man in Hades in torment.
 
Note that the torment the rich man finds himself in is so severe, that he considers even a wetted finger on the tip of his tongue to be relief.  This speaks directly to all men that they want to avoid that fate in the next world.
 
Abraham is the bearer of much bad news to the rich man.
1) You are reaping what you sewed and now it is too late.
2) Not Lazarus, not Abraham, no one can help you or offer relief now that your life
TexasLynn Added Jan 5, 2018 - 10:58am
Abraham is the bearer of much bad news to the rich man.
1) You are reaping what you sewed and now it is too late.
2) Not Lazarus, not Abraham, no one can help you or offer relief now that your life is over and the next (eternity) has begun.
 
The rich man realizes that his family is in peril of suffering the same fate.  If Lazarus cannot come to him, perhaps he can go to his family (his five brother) and save them!  Abraham informs him that they have all the information they need (the words of Moses and the prophets) to repent.
 
Knowing this was not good enough for him and likely won't be good enough for his family; the Rich man implores that if they see a miracle (Lazarus back from the dead) they will listen to him.
 
Finally, Abraham tells the rich man "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."
 
I think this last verse has a special double meaning, the parable isn't just referencing a risen Lazarus in the parable; but a risen Christ who is telling the parable but will in fact die and rise soon.
 
TexasLynn Added Jan 5, 2018 - 3:53pm
One of my favorite (despite his leftist leanings) cartoonists had a relevant cartoon today...
 
Non Sequitur: The Ultimate Glass Ceiling
 
Thomas Sutrina Added Jan 5, 2018 - 5:41pm
Today what we often hear from the pulpit is Gnosticism.  The rich man that could not get into heaven (through the eye of the needle) like the leaders of the Jewish church at the time and most of us today, we have created our own set of rules to get into heaven.  The leaders of this world tell us the rules they see which when followed will get us into heaven, save our soles.  These rules represent the rich man and the eye of the needle God.   In the old testament and Islam those would rules since both are judgemental theologies.  
 
What is strange is that God's rules for example the Ten Commandments: 8 of them are restrictions on our actions and the first to is to show respect to God and the second to other humans.  Fairly simple yet man seems incapable of following them.   We are told they are too complex for most humans to understand so the master minds of our societies and religions have come up with "regulations"  broke them down into thousands of rules and they say are simple.  This was also done in Christ's time.
 
For us old Roman Catholics before Vatican II, we could not eat meat on Friday.  I tried to figure out which of the Ten Commandments that fit into or even a public health issue now or even 2000 years ago.  I always wondered if 99% of the regulations had nothing to do with the Law of Nature and Nature's God that is expressed in the Ten Commandments.  It is preparing us to have the right attitude.  As a grammar school child the only conclusion for standing, sitting, and kneeling that made sense was to insure that everyone stayed awake because what was said didn't accomplish that. 
 
Back to the eye of the needle and the fat rich man stuck in it.  We try to use the parable of a judgement theology when since about 550 BC  Judaeo Christian uses a forgiveness theology,  you are already forgiven for your sins.  And by trying to live by the Law of Nature and Nature's God  you are showing that you accepted the gift of forgiveness.    Now I do not remember that gifts had string attached such as wealth, race, sex, age, intelligence, etc.   
 
I am baffled by why you want to spend so many words talking about an Minutia of caravan camels, treading post, rich men, etc.  The basic question is do we live by the human written regulations or go back to the original text and interpret ourselves.  Considering how poorly the master minds have done I would think the second approach would be appealing.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 5, 2018 - 5:58pm
Nice post Dave. I, too, had heard that the "eye of a needle" was not the eye of a sewing needle, but the needle you described. My question is, if rich people are so generous, why then, do they keep money in banks (formerly Switzerland, but the U.S. has squeezed them into reporting things now) where they can escape U.S. taxes? If you are worth $100 million, so what if you have to pay even 30%? If the rich are as clever with making money, why do so many of them attempt to avoid taxes; couldn't they just use their extraordinary brains or financial acumen and make more money? To quote Milton Friedman once again, it is people who do not have a lot of money who pay more of their income in taxes, because the $.48 cents in taxes (the average) for a gallon of gasoline, is a far bigger part of the income of someone making 20k a year than someone making several million, and add on all the other taxes such as city taxes, state taxes, and sales taxes. Municipal bonds are tax free and have been a haven for the rich for decades, and every time Congress starts talking about taxing them, it never gets anywhere. Wonder why?
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Jan 5, 2018 - 7:50pm
Lynn, in replying to Steve, you wrote "but now lost in meaning to the general populace." Like so many other things. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden has been turned into the Apple Tree to the incurious mind.
God told Adam, 'It's all Good. You don't want to mess with the Knowledge of evil. You don't want to have to deal with it.'
What stands out to me in the story is the man blamed the woman, and the woman blamed the Serpent. They did not accept responsibility for their own actions.
 
Lynn, this says to me God invites humans to become God with God.  If you read it in a different way, as you acknowledge humans tend to do, and I agree with you, let's discuss.
 
"I don't disagree so much as cringe at the wording of equating myself on a level with God." Me too, and I wouldn't presume to make myself equal to God in the Flesh.
 
At the Republican National Convention in Kansas City in 1976, the Secret Service guarding the President called me out of the crowd in the Lobby of the Crown Centre Hotel, looking up expecting the President to be at his Podium on the SS restricted balcony any minute.
To my surprise, instead of questioning me in an anteroom, they led me to the Podium of the President and questioned me in view of the Republicans below and the 3 Networks, pre-cable, broadcasting live.
It was a greater surprise, when after 10 or 12 questions, the SS Agent, standing Face to Face with me, let these words out of his mouth, "Are you Jesus Christ?" Having no illusions about that then or now, in a nanosecond answered, "NO."
The becoming God with God will happen only after we cast off the Flesh and our Spirit returns to God who gave it. While we are on Earth, our Spirits are connected with God through Christ, making us co-creators with God on Earth. Religious Leaders collecting the money to do God's work, living the lifestyle of the rich and famous,
do not preach and teach the Universal Priesthood.
 
You must know the record of the woman who asked Jesus to place her 2 sons, one on his left and the other on his right when he came into the Power of his Kingdom. Jesus freely confessed that was not in his power to give, but God's. In the Flesh, God is always Higher and Greater then anyone has experienced. Humility before God is Good, Right and Proper.
>> These are literal words in the Revelation, easy to understand.
 
These words were literally written by John based on what was revealed to him.  Whether they are to be taken literally (or symbolically) is another matter.  My study has led me to take the Book of Revelation symbolically as I think John/Christ/the Holy Spirit intended.
 
Reading your interpretation of the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16, you are symbolizing a lot as if it is from Revelation. All scripture is a Revelation if you get it.
 
I have seen in the Scriptures some words are to be taken literally, and others symbolically or allegorically. The literal sense in the words I was specifically referring to in Revelation 3:14-22, are easy to understand in what it's saying. I find it explicit..
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 8, 2018 - 4:50pm
Dave, thanks a lot for explaining the camel-eye metaphor! It makes so much more sense. I think Jesus reacts to a wealthy man who does not want to leave his property to follow him. So Jesus makes the camel analogy. Interpretation: We have to give up something in the short term, to move on, and to gain it back later.
Dave Volek Added Jan 8, 2018 - 5:25pm
Benjamin:
I think Jesus was a crafty politician. He could not speak freely about the injustices of the Roman/Pharisee rule; otherwise he would have gone to jail or been executed. But by using parables and metaphors, he was able to get his message across to the common people yet under the radar of the authorities.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 8, 2018 - 5:33pm
Dave: I also think that Jesus was a politician, but I think he was very clear - mostly. As I told you before, the Pharisees were no rulers and Jesus himself belonged to this sect of Judaism. The last time somebody even chimed in to explain that the Sedduzeens (I won't look it up how that word is written in English) were more likely to be in high positions than the Pharisees.
TexasLynn Added Jan 8, 2018 - 5:58pm
Dave and Benjamin...
Guys!  Please!  Use a word other than "politician" in reference to my Lord!  :)  Jesus would be spinning in his grave... if he had one. :)
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 8, 2018 - 6:19pm
Lynn, I understand. He didn't like tax collectors and a centralized international government spearheaded in Rome. So he shouldn't be associated with RINOs. :)
Dave Volek Added Jan 8, 2018 - 6:22pm
Benjamin
My understanding of history is that the Pharisees were in cahoots with the Romans to be the elite Jews in Palestine. The Sadduccees were not so well politically connected. The Zealots advocated open rebellion, but just waiting for the right time to strike. The Essenes were of a more spiritual nature.  A Jew in those days might been a bit of all four sects (for the Pharisees controlled the temples), but Jesus was mostly in the Essene camp. Add in the Romans, and it was a very complex social order.
 
But maybe it is time to read a different book on those four sects.
 
Lynne
Jesus was very much aware of what he could and could not accomplish in his ministry. Had he overturned the tables on the first day, his movement would not have gone very far.
 
His ministry was also obfuscated by the fact that other Jews were claiming to be the messiah and developing their own following. The authorities could not throw everyone in jail.
 
They are politicians who really understand the time and place they are in--and can accomplish much of their agenda. In that sense, I would say Jesus was an effective politician.
 
 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 9, 2018 - 1:26am
Dave: Yes, you need another book. There were, for example, not multiple temples, but the temple; Jesus was also a zelot (a political orientation) and not an Essene; rather the Sedducceens than the Pharisees were in powerful positions.
Joe Chiang Added Jan 10, 2018 - 2:44pm
I will have to verify, but this has a LOT of very interesting and new to me information.  Thank you for posting!
Jeff Michka Added Jan 20, 2018 - 5:09pm
Was this in your book, too, Dave? 

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