Everyone is familiar with the New Testament story of the rich man and the Kingdom of God.

All three of the synoptic Gospels have the story. Below is Luke’s version:

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 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.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Luke 18:18-27 NIV

A camel through the eye of the needle? Even his disciples were incredulous, and said “who then can be saved?” We’ve all heard the Sunday School Answer to this problem.  The “eye of the needle” was a small door to enter Jerusalem at night, and a camel can get through if it crawls through on its knees.  It was very difficult, but possible. There are two problems with this.

First there is no archaeological evidence for an “eye of the needle” gate from the time of Jesus. It is also not known in literature from the time. If it was as well known as we were lead to think, why were his disciples so dumfounded? The earliest evidence of anyone thinking that the eye of the needle is a gate is from the early medieval period and attributed to Thomas Aquinas.

The second problem is that camels cannot crawl on their knees! The can bend their knees, but they have very hard knees, and cannot crawl.

The most likely interpretation to me of this is that camel was an inscription error, or “typo” in the modern vernacular. The Greek word for camel is kamelon, while kamilon is the Greek word thick rope.  The simple changing of an “I” to an “E” takes the very difficult/impossible (rope trough an eye) to the absurd (camel through an eye).

So where does this leave us? Theologians have been struggling with this for years. They needed to come up with a plausible explanation to this so as not to alienate all the rich converts. The camel explanation gave a loophole for the rich. It was hard but not impossible.  But it’s looking like Jesus really did say that it is impossible for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of God. There is no Prosperity Gospel, and Elder Stevenson is going to hell.

Your thoughts?