Matthew 19:24

New Testament

21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! 24 Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” 25 The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”

Bava Metzia 38b

Babylonian Talmud

The Gemara relates: There was a similar incident in Neharde’a, and Rav Sheshet resolved the matter from this baraita and ruled that the court does not authorize a relative to descend to the property of a captive. Rav Amram said to him: Perhaps we learned in the baraita that the courts do not allow a relative to descend and to sell the land? Rav Sheshet said mockingly to him, employing a similar style: Perhaps you are from Pumbedita, where people pass an elephant through the eye of a needle, i.e., they engage in specious reasoning. But doesn’t the juxtaposition between their wives and their children in the verse teach that the meaning is similar in both cases? Just as there, with regard to the wives, it means that they may not remarry at all, so too here, with regard to the sons, it means that they may not descend to the property at all.

 Notes and References

"... The translation of the term κάμηλος in Matthew 19:24 as “thick rope” or “nautical rope” has been met with criticism and even scorn from very early on in the history of Christian exegesis. Already the anonymous Pelagian treatise De divitiis, written between 408 and 414, calls the interpretation of camelus as “nautical rope” a lame argument (miserrimum argumentum), invented by rich people who wished to weaken the radicality of Jesus Christ’s Reichtumskritik. The variant κάμιλος (supposedly meaning “rope”) was also noticed in some New Testament manuscripts by the early Humanist scholars in Western Europe, but only as a mere curiosity that never gained wide acceptance. Today’s scholarly consensus rejects this interpretation as a later development and argues for the authenticity of the meaning κάμηλος “camel”. The philological and linguistic arguments for this choice are indeed compelling and can be resumed as follows: (a) the source of the confusion seems to lie in the similarity of the words κάμηλος and κάμιλος; (b) the latter variant is only very poorly attested in New Testament manuscripts and cannot have been the original reading; (c) κάμηλος always means “camel” in New Testament Greek; (d) there are significant parallel expressions in other traditions that also refer to the camel, or to an elephant, passing through the eye of a needle, notably the Talmud and the Qurān (See e.g. Talmud Bavli, Berakhot 55b, Bava Metzia 38b; in both cases the animal is an elephant) ..."

Pirtea, Adrian C. To Pass a Rope through the Eye of a Needle: The Influence of Byzantine Catenae and Homiliaries on the Greek, Church Slavonic, and Old Romanian Readings of Matthew 19,24 (pp. 327-352) Studies on Language and Culture in Central and Eastern Europe, No. 37, 2021

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