Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Eye Of A Needle

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Matthew 19:16-26

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Rich Young Ruler

16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man *said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be [a]complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 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 very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew scholar Ellison explains that the popular interpretation that there was a door within a city gate is baseless. Ellison. (1986: 1141). A rabbinic equivalent of that period was an elephant going through the eye of a needle. Ellison. (1986: 1141).  Salvation is only achieved by trusting in God, and by trusting in wealth, talent and human abilities it actually cancels out the trust in God. Ellison. (1986 (1141).  Basically by turning to God what would be impossible, as in salvation, would therefore be possible, even for the rich.  Ellison. Ellison (1986: 1141).

R. T. France calls this a ludicrous parallel in comparison to the Kingdom of Heaven because the camel, being the largest common animal in that culture ( I am supposing he does not think the elephant is as common for rabbis that used this from Africa and India) trying to squeeze through the smallest imaginable hole would be ridiculous. France (2001: 287). So, therefore the point is the impossibility of it all. France (2001: 287).

It would be impossible without the atoning work and grace of God.

Mark 10:17-27

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Rich Young Ruler

17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words [a]he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “[b]Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” 

In Mark, as Short explains, Jesus notes that it is impossible for the rich man to have salvation, as it would be impossible for the camel, the largest animal in Palestine at the time to pass through the eye of a needle. Short (1986: 1170).  Jesus reminds the disciples that all things were possible for God in the context that salvation could come to the rich through God. Short (1986: 1170).

Luke 18:18-27

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Rich Young Ruler

18 A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to [a]go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

From Luke, Laurence E. Porter writes that the needle's eye is not a 'postern gate', it is hyperbolic language used by Jesus Christ.  Porter (1986: 1218).

When I adolescent I had some experience in Amway with my family and much of the experience was good but one of the things I heard on a tape was the teaching from a preacher that the eye of the needle parable had more to do with a person being humbled before God, as in the existence of the door within the city gates than the impossibility of rich person being saved. But that is simply not the case. That is why the disciples asked astonished who could be saved because it took an act of God, not an act of humility by humanity for salvation to occur.

Interestingly very much in agreement with compatibilism...

Byzantine Majority Text

Through   (the) eye        of a needle

dia truphmatoV rafidoV  

ELLISON, H.L. (1986) ‘Matthew’, in F.F. Bruce (ed.), The International Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

FRANCE, R.T. (2001) Matthew, Grand Rapids, IVP, Eerdmans.

MARSHALL, ALFRED (1975)(1996) The Interlinear KJV-NIV Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

PORTER, LAURENCE.E. (1986) ‘Luke’, in F.F. Bruce (gen.ed.), The International Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Marshall Pickering/ Zondervan.

SHORT, STEPHEN S. (1986) ‘Mark’, in F.F. Bruce (ed.), The International Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

Greek New Testament

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