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Eye of a needle

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File:Eye of a Needle.jpg

The eye of a needle is the section of a sewing needle formed into a loop for pulling thread, located at the end opposite the point. These loops are often shaped like an oval or an "eye", hence the metaphor.

Aphorisms

Eyes of needles are often notoriously small and difficult to thread, leading to an aphorism used in the religious texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These aphorisms are based on the impossibility of passing a large object or animal through the eye of a needle.

Judaism

The Babylonian Talmud applies the aphorism to unthinkable thoughts. To explain that dreams reveal the thoughts of a man's heart, the product of reason rather than the absence of it, the rabbis say:

They do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle. [1]

A Midrash on the Song of Songs uses the phrase to speak of God's willingness and ability beyond comparison, to accomplish the salvation of a sinner:

The Holy One said, open for me a door as big as a needle's eye and I will open for you a door through which may enter tents and [camels?][2]

Christianity

"The eye of a needle" is part of a phrase attributed to Jesus by the synoptic gospels:

...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell 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.

The parallel versions appear in Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25 and Luke 18:24-25.

The saying was a response to a young rich man who had asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he should keep the commandments, to which the man stated he had done. Jesus responded, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The young man became sad and was unwilling to do this. Jesus then spoke this response, leaving his disciples astonished.

Some commentators[who?] have found it incredible to speak of a rich man's chance of being saved as being harder than threading a camel through a literal sewing implement. Consequently the phrase has inspired various interpretations.

Islam

The Quran uses this phrase to express the idea of something that is unlikely to happen:

To those who reject Our signs and treat them with arrogance, no opening will there be of the gates of heaven, nor will they enter the garden, until the camel can pass through the eye of the needle: Such is Our reward for those in sin. Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:40

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