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A Church Cover up Distorting Christ's Message

Post of the Month: July 2011


Subject:    | 9 Bills That Would Put Creationism in the Classroom
Date:       | 09 Jul 2011
Message-ID: |

Suzanne, a resident creationist, opens with her assertion:

> In Greek there is such an idiom and it's the one about the eye of a needle.
> The eye of a needle is a doorway that still exists at least in Syria, and it
> is still called in that tongue by the words in Syrian of "eye of a needle."
> It does not matter to some that a picture of such doorway is provided,

Burkhard begins his POTM:

There is no picture of a gate that has been called at the time "eye of a needle". Gates in Hebrew architecture at or before the time of Christ do not even look remotely like them. Only the much later Muslim architecture has gates that someone with a lot of fantasy might just think look like needles.

> and that a Syrian guide tells people that the doorway is called an eye of a
> needle,

Tourist guides are indeed a pretty bad source for reliable information, as they tend to find out early on that they get bigger tips when they tell their charges what they want to hear. In this case, he will have heard the story somewhere and repeated it.

> because some refuse to accept that there ever was such a doorway in
> Jerusalem.

Yes, because all the evidence says otherwise, from archaeology to linguistics. There is no evidence whatsoever that any of the gates of Jerusalem were called "eye of the needle", or even remotely in the form of one. Nor are city gates in Syria called by that term, neither in the past nor now. There is not a single text from the time of the NT or before, be it in Hebrew, Syrian or any other language, where the gates of a city are referred to by this name. There are however plenty of Jewish texts where the idiom is used to describe an impossible task - the closest modern analogy would be "and pigs can fly", which if course Jews would not use.

There are however theological texts from the 15th century that suddenly propose the city gate interpretation. They do not provide however any sources or evidence, and are very clearly intended to make a specific political or theological point. After the Church had come close to a schism over the issue whether it was permissible for priests to own property (the backstory of "The Name of the Rose") and the issue had been settled in favour of the rich, theologians tried feverishly to explain away those bible passages that had given the various Spirituals (eg. the Franciscans) backing, in particular Luke 18:25. 15th century theologians of course might have seen the Moorish architecture in Spain that has gates that look just a little bit like needles (if you have fantasy or alcohol) and got the idea from there, but that architectural style is centuries younger than the New Testament

So we know exactly where the idea comes from and what the motives behind that interpretation where. We also have a very good idea what the idiom really means, see below. The whole idea of eye of the needle as city gates is 15th century bogus, contradicts directly the text at least in Luke (whose Greek term is very specific, not just "needle") and contradicts lots of secular Jewish texts from that time and before.

> Therefore to some it requires interpretation for them to understand what the
> verse says. But to many, it is self explanatory and it is an acceptable and
> easy to understand idiomatic expression by translation alone.

Yes, it means: it is impossible for a very big animal to go though a very small thing such as the eye of a surgeon's needle (which is the actual word used in Luke, "belones", a surgeon's needle, not "rhapis", sewing needle as in Mark)

The idiom is well documented in early Jewish literature, where "needle" is generally used as a metaphor for something very small: "A needle's eye is not too narrow for two friends, but the world is not wide enough for two enemies"

The specific expression in Luke is based on a common Jewish proverb that you also find in the Babylonian Talmud (eg. Baba Mezi'a 38b, or Berakhot 55a, where it is an elephant, not a camel) and other Jewish texts.

It is always used as expression for something that is utterly impossible or unbelievable, and has nothing to do with gates of any kind, shape or form. We know with other words exactly what the idiom means from other texts from the same time - pretty much what it says, that it is impossible to do because very big things don't go through something as small as the eye of a needle, the thing you use for sewing.

Everybody at the time of Christ would have understood immediately that he is using a common Jewish aphorism here for an impossible task, only Christian theologians more than a 1000 years later who were not accustomed to these Jewish sayings could come up with such an elaborate invention as the "city gate" interpretation.

> However, the translators themselves were not sure so they translated the idiom
> itself, lest there be any question about it. So for some that verse would
> require some interpretation.

And the "city gates" interpretation is a politically driven late invention that has provably nothing to do with the historical text.

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