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Matthew 19:23-26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to you that it will be difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of the heavens. 24 Again I say to you, 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.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Before delving int what Jesus meant by the words that he used, we must first establish what words did he use.
24 πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρήματος ῥαφίδος εἰσελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
Jesus reference to the camel was used in an illustrative way. As we can see from the above, Jesus made the point that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the Kingdom. (Matt. 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25) Some have argued that Matthew 19:24 should be rendered “rope” instead of “camel.” As you can see from below, the Greek word for “rope” (κάμιλος kamilos) and “camel” (κάμηλος kamēlos) are very similar to each other. Therefore, they argue that what we have is a scribal error or some confusion over the two words.
Camel: κάμηλος kamēlos
Rope: κάμιλος kamilos
A Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott defines κάμῑλος, ὁ, rope,
κάμῑλος, ὁ, rope Sch.Ar.V.1035, Suid. (Perh. coined as an emendation of the phrase εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστι κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος (v.l. τρήματος) ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν [“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”] Ev.Matt.19.24: but cf. Arab. jummal ‘ship’s cable’.) perh. also ICilicie108 (sp. καμηλ-, v/vi a.d.).
Thus showing that kamelos (camel) not kamilos (rope) was in the original Greek text. We have over twelve fragments of the Gospel of Matthew that go back as far as 150 A.D. up to 300 A.D. However, while almost all of Matthew is covered in these fragments, Matthew 19:24 is not. Nevertheless, the two greatest parchment manuscripts Codex Vaticanus (300-330 A.D.) and Codex Sinaiticus (330-360 A.D.) and the Codex Alexandrinus (400-440 A.D.) have κάμηλος kamēlos (camel). Initially, Matthew wrote his Gospel first in Hebrew and shortly thereafter he also wrote it in Greek. Therefore, it is all too clear that Matthew knew exactly what Jesus had said and what he meant by what he said. So, Matthew knew the word that had been used, κάμηλος kamēlos (camel), and our oldest manuscripts that contain Matthew chapter 19 has κάμηλος kamēlos (camel). Therefore, we can be certain of the correct reading.
In short, Jesus used hyperbole quite often in his parables and his illustrations, so his words about the young ruler were not meant to be taken literally, but, of course, once we establish what he mean by the words that he use, that we take literally. Jesus was not saying a rich person cannot get into the Kingdom of God; he was making the point that the camel can’t go through the eye of a needle; it is even more impossible for a rich person who is clinging to his riches to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Here again with the needle’s eye we have some trying to look for a way to overcome what they perceive to be a Bible difficulty. So, some have thought the needle’s eye to be a small gate called “the eye of the needle” through which a camel, without its load, could crawl through with some difficulty. However, the Greek word for “needle” in Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25 (ῥαφίς rhaphis) is taken from a verb meaning “sew.” Furthermore, the Greek word in the parallel passage of Luke 18:25 (βελόνη belonē) is used to refer to a literal sowing needle for clothes as well as a surgical needle. Concerning these Greek terms, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says,
The idea of applying “the needle’s eye” to small gates seems to be a modern one; there is no ancient trace of it. The Lord’s object in the statement is to express human impossibility and there is no need to endeavor to soften the difficulty by taking the needle to mean anything more than the ordinary instrument. Mackie points out (Hastings˒ Bib. Dic.) that “an attempt is sometimes made to explain the words as a reference to the small door, a little over 2 feet square, in the large heavy gate of a walled city. This mars the figure without materially altering the meaning, and receives no justification from the language and traditions of Palestine.”
As was said above, this is Jesus using hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point), the illustration is meant to emphasize just how difficult it would be for a rich man not only to begin his walk with God but truly what is involved for one who is rich to enter into the Kingdom of God. – 1Ti 6:17-19; Lu 13:24.
 Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 872.
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 429.
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