The Camel and the Needle's Eye

Robert Sheaffer

Many fundamentalists seek to explain away the obvious hostility to wealth in the saying attributed to Jesus, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). Fundamentalists today constantly tell each other that the "eye of the needle" was a narrow gate into Jerusalem through which a camel could just barely squeeze, implying that even rich people can get into Heaven, provided that they walk a straight and narrow path.

While believing this no doubt lowers the cognitive dissonance they suffer between the resentment against wealth that is integral to the Christian religion they revere, and their own desire to achieve, it is nonetheless a silly legend, like the alligators in the sewers. The Jerome Biblical Commentary is a standard reference work found in many libraries, written by Catholic scholars. Its commentary on Matthew 19:24 states bluntly, "the figure of the camel and the eye of the needle means exactly what is said; it does not refer to a cable or a small gate of Jerusalem." The Abingdon Interpreter's Bible is a major reference work compiled by Protestant scholars, and its analysis of this passage is in full agreement. Unfortunately for the fundamentalists, the concensus of New Testament scholars is that Matthew's passage barring rich people from heaven means exactly what it says. It remains to be seen how many of them are willing to give up all their wealth in accordance with the ideals they claim to profess.

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