Camel and the eye of a needle (Lk 18:25-18:25)

“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.”

 

εὐκοπώτερον γάρ ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρήματος βελόνης εἰσελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that it was easier for a camel (εὐκοπώτερον γάρ ἐστιν κάμηλον) to go through the eye of a needle (διὰ τρήματος βελόνης εἰσελθεῖν) than for a rich man (ἢ πλούσιον) to enter the kingdom of God (εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν).  This saying about wealth and the camel going through the eye of a needle can be found in Mark, chapter 10:25, and Matthew, chapter 19:24, almost word for word.  Mark indicated that Jesus said that it would be easier (εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν) for a camel to go or pass through the eye of a needle (κάμηλον διὰ τῆς τρυμαλιᾶς τῆς ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν), that was used for sewing, than for a wealthy rich man to enter the kingdom of God (ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν).  In Matthew, once again, this was a solemn proclamation of Jesus (πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν).  He said that it would be easier (εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν) for a camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle (κάμηλον διὰ τρήματος ῥαφίδος εἰσελθεῖν) than for a wealthy rich man to enter the kingdom of God (ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ).  This was a follow up to the obstacles of wealth.  Notice that Matthew followed the other two gospels by using kingdom of God (τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ) rather than his usual kingdom of heaven (τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν), as in the preceding verses.  Everyone knew that it would be impossible for a camel to go through a sewing needle eye or a needle opening.  There was no needle gate in Jerusalem, since this was about a sewing needle.  Do you see wealth as a problem?

The mustard seed (Lk 17:6-17:6)

“The Lord replied.

‘If you had faith

The size of

A mustard seed,

You could say

To this mulberry tree,

‘Be rooted up!

Be planted

In the sea!’’

It would obey you.’”

 

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Κύριος Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐλέγετε ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ ταύτῃ Ἐκριζώθητι καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ· καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus, the Lord, replied (εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Κύριος) that if they had faith (Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν) the size of a mustard seed (ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως), they could say (ἐλέγετε) to this mulberry or sycamore tree (ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ ταύτῃ), be rooted up (Ἐκριζώθητι) and planted in the sea (καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ).  Luke is the only biblical writer to use the Greek term συκαμίνῳ that means a black mulberry tree or a sycamore tree that had medicinal value.  Then this tree would obey them (καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν).  There are expanded faith sayings that can also be found in Mark, chapter 9:28-29, and Matthew, chapter 17:19-21, who are much closer to each other.  Matthew indicated that the disciples came to Jesus privately (Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ).  They wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirits from that boy (κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπον Διὰ τί ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  Jesus reminded them (ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς) of their little faith (Διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν), a term used predominately by Matthew.  Jesus came back with a solemn pronouncement (ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν) that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed (ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως), like here in Luke, they could move mountains from here to there (ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ Μετάβα ἔνθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται).  Nothing would be impossible for them (καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν).  If they had faith with prayer and fasting (εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ καὶ νηστείᾳ), they would be able to cast the evil spirits out (τοῦτο δὲ τὸ γένος οὐκ ἐκπορεύεται).  Matthew continued to emphasize the lack of faith or the little faith of the disciples of Jesus.  Mark said that the disciples wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirit from that boy (Ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  The disciples were concerned that they must have lacked something that made it impossible for them to get rid of this evil spirit that was in that boy.  Mark added the need for prayer.  There was no emphasis on faith as in Matthew, where Jesus talked about faith and the mustard seed.  Mark emphasized prayer, as he indicated that Jesus said that this kind of evil spirit could only be expelled (Τοῦτο τὸ γένος ἐν οὐδενὶ δύναται ἐξελθεῖν) through prayer (εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ).  Prayer might imply faith, but it is not explicit here in Luke.  Which is more important to you, faith or prayer?

The prophet dies in Jerusalem (Lk 13:33-13:33)

“Yet today,

Tomorrow,

And the next day,

I must proceed

On my way.

Because it is impossible

For a prophet

To be killed

Outside of Jerusalem.”

 

πλὴν δεῖ με σήμερον καὶ αὔριον καὶ τῇ ἐχομένῃ πορεύεσθαι, ὅτι οὐκ ἐνδέχεται προφήτην ἀπολέσθαι ἔξω Ἱερουσαλήμ.

 

Luke uniquely indicated that Jesus said that today (σήμερον), tomorrow (καὶ αὔριον), and the next following day (καὶ τῇ ἐχομένῃ), he would proceed on his way (πλὴν δεῖ με…πορεύεσθαι), because it is not possible (ὅτι οὐκ ἐνδέχεται) for a prophet (προφήτην) to be killed (ἀπολέσθαι) outside of Jerusalem (ἔξω Ἱερουσαλήμ).  Notice that Jesus used the term “prophet (προφήτην)” to refer to himself, not the “Son of Man” as he often did.   He had to die in Jerusalem because it was set in stone.  In fact, many prophets had died outside of Jerusalem.  Do you have a favorite place to die?

The child of Elizabeth (Lk 1:36-1:37)

“Now,

Your relative

Elizabeth

Has also conceived

A son,

In her old age.

This is the sixth month

For her

Who was said

To be barren.

Nothing is impossible

With God.”

 

καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἐλεισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου καὶ αὐτὴ συνείληφεν υἱὸν ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς, καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ·

ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα

 

Next Luke made the connection between the upcoming birth of Jesus and that of John.  Elizabeth, although older, was a relative of Mary.  She could have been an aunt of a second cousin.  Their age differences would not make them first cousins.  Besides, they lived in different areas, Galilee and Judea.  Elizabeth was a daughter of Aaron, but there was no such claim for Mary.  Was this an attempt to link Mary to the Levitical priesthood via her Levitical relative?  Perhaps Luke wanted to show a closer relationship between John and Jesus.  Luke indicated that the Angel Gabriel told Mary about his previous mission to Zechariah and Elizabeth.  He told Mary that her relative Elizabeth (καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἐλεισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου) had also conceived a son (καὶ αὐτὴ συνείληφεν υἱὸν), in her old age (ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς).  She was, in fact, already six months pregnant (καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ).  Elizabeth had been called barren or sterile (τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ).  The Angel Gabriel concluded that nothing was impossible with God (ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα).  He could overcome old age and virginity to produce a son, just like Sarah in Genesis, chapter 18:14.  Now the plan of God was clear to Mary.  She had no reason to fear anything.

With God all things are possible (Mk 10:27-10:27)

“Jesus looked at them.

He said.

‘For mortals,

It is impossible,

But not for God.

All things are possible

For God.’”

 

ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις ἀδύνατον, ἀλλ’ οὐ παρὰ θεῷ· πάντα γὰρ δυνατὰ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ.

 

This saying about the power of God and the impotence of humans can be found in Matthew, chapter 19:26, and Luke, chapter 18:27, but slightly different.  Mark said that Jesus looked at them (ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  Then he told them (λέγει) that this would be impossible for mortal men (Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις ἀδύνατον), but not with God (ἀλλ’ οὐ παρὰ Θεῷ).  All things were possible with God (πάντα γὰρ δυνατὰ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ), since he could do everything.  This could be an allusion to Genesis, chapter 18:14, when Sarah laughed when she was told she was going to have a son or the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 32:17, when he was talking about creation.  What humans were not able to do, God was able to do because he was an all-powerful God.

The camel and the eye of the needle (Mk 10:25-10:25)

“It is easier

For a camel

To go through

The eye of a needle

Than for a rich person

To enter

The kingdom of God.”

 

εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τῆς τρυμαλιᾶς τῆς ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν.

 

This saying about the camel and the eye of a needle can be found in Matthew, chapter 19:24, and Luke, chapter 18:25, almost word for word.  Mark indicated that Jesus said that it would be easier (εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν) for a camel to go or pass through the eye of a needle (κάμηλον διὰ τῆς τρυμαλιᾶς τῆς ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν), that was used for sewing, than for a wealthy rich man to enter the kingdom of God (ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν).  This was a follow up to the obstacles of wealth.  Everyone knew that it would be impossible for a camel to go through a sewing needle eye or a needle opening.  There was no needle gate in Jerusalem, since this was about a sewing needle.

 

Why were the disciples not able to do this? (Mk 9:28-9:28)

“When Jesus had entered

The house,

His disciples

Asked him privately.

‘Why could

We not cast it out?’”

 

καὶ εἰσελθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς οἶκον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ κατ’ ἰδίαν ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν Ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό;

 

There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 17:19.  Mark said that Jesus and his disciples entered the house (καὶ εἰσελθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς οἶκον).  Then the disciples asked or questioned Jesus privately (οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ κατ’ ἰδίαν ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν).  They wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirit from that boy (Ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  The disciples were concerned that they must have lacked something that made it impossible for them to get rid of this evil spirit that was in that boy.