Parable of the eye of a needle

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Representation of parables in the Bonifatius Church in Dortmund

The parable of the eye of a needle (also parable of the camel and the eye of a needle ) is a parable of Jesus , which uses a paradoxical image to underline the statement that it is impossible or almost impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God .


The parable is narrated in all three synoptic gospels :

"A camel is more likely to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

- Mark 10.25  EU

"Εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ [τῆς] τρυμαλιᾶς [τῆς] ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν."

"Because a camel is more likely to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

- Luke 18.25  EU

"Εὐκοπώτερον γάρ ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρήματος βελόνης εἰσελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασσιλεθαν τν ασιλεθθν ῦτοῦ θεενεοεθστοῦ θενεοεθεοτοῦ.

"Again I tell you: a camel is more likely to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

- Matthew 19:24  EU

"Πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλαεθεθεοἰ ἰτντεθεθιν ετντλεθεῦνον ἰἰτλεθεῦσνον εττλεθεῦσνον ἰἰτλεθεῦσνον ῖττλεθεθσνον ἰστλεθεθσσνο εῦτλεθεῦσνον τστλεθεῦσνον ῦστλεθεῦσνον ῦττλεθεῦσνον ἰἰτεθεθ σσον εἰτλεθ σον ἰστεθεθ“

The parable of the eye of the needle also appears in the apocryphal Gospel of Nazarene :

"Simon, Johanni's son, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man goes to heaven."

- "Gospel of Hebrews", translation by Edgar Hennecke (1904)



In research, the camel reading is predominantly considered to be original, even if this calls for an increased need for interpretation.

One of the earliest interpretations of this comparison suggests that we are talking about a hypothetical narrow alley in Jerusalem with a small gate at its end, which is popularly known as the “eye of the needle”. According to this now generally rejected assumption (Pedersen: Art. Κάμηλος , Col. 610), a camel could only pass through the gate when it was kneeling and not packed with too much goods.

A direct origin of the parable from the Aramaic culture is excluded, since none of the Gospels were originally written in these languages. Only with the question of the historical context has to be taken into account that Jesus spoke Aramaic.

The New Testament text exegesis , which is based on the priority of the kámêlos variant, uses the Talmudic tradition (see below) to interpret Jesus' words theologically. The kámêlos is seen as a "typical Middle Eastern image" that Jesus is said to have used based on the elephant to show the impossibility of rich people to get to heaven in the paradox of coupling a large animal with a small passage. although even in this case God's gracious action is not excluded in the Gospels. The rhetorical figure of paraphrasing an impossibility by such a comparison is known as the Adynaton .


There are interpretations that assume that a rope was originally intended instead of the camel. The word κάμιλος ( kamilos , dt .: "Schiffstau," "rope") was because of the iotacism same pronunciation as falsely κάμηλος ( kamêlos dt .: "Camel", "Caravan") understood. In today's Bible editions, however, the kamilos variant (ship rope, rope) is rather rare.

This variant was for a long time unknown to textual critics. In the meantime, however, many cases of kamilos lesart (ship rope, rope) have become known, including the Armenian and Georgian Bible translations as well as various manuscripts. The oldest source based on the Greek kamilos can be found in the Syro-Aramaic Peschitta Bible, which was translated from around 145 AD. The only surviving non-biblical source that references this similarity is the Suda .

These references could be interpreted in such a way that the kamilos variant (rope, ship rope) should be regarded as the original, while the kámêlos variant (camel, caravan) would be more later and belong to the complex of folk etymologies and corruptions .


The broader connection between the verses of the camel and the eye of the needle in the Synoptics suggests that empires are not excluded from the kingdom of God per se: it is difficult to get rich in the kingdom of God, but not impossible:

23 Then Jesus looked at his disciples and said to them: How difficult it is for people who have much to enter the kingdom of God! 24 The disciples were dismayed at his words. But Jesus said to them again: My children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 A camel is more likely to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. 26 But they were even more frightened and said to one another, Who can then still be saved? 27 Jesus looked at them and said, It is impossible for men, but not for God; because everything is possible for God. "

- Mk 10.23-27  EU

Jesus' warning of riches can also be found in other logia of the Jesus tradition, such as that about mammon .

This restriction through the reference to the omnipotence of God is missing in the apocryphal tradition of the Nazorae, which leads to a shift in meaning compared to the canonical Gospels: The commission to give all possessions to the poor is introduced not only as Jesus' advice on perfection, but as a necessary one Consistency of the commandment of love viewed; According to Jewish Christian tradition, disregard actually leads to exclusion from the kingdom of heaven, which is why the piece is concluded here with the parable of the camel and the eye of the needle and is not relativized according to the reaction of the disciples. In the Jewish Christian Nazarene Gospel, participation in salvation is tied more closely to social solidarity in other passages as well.

Other religions


In the Babylonian Talmud , the “eye of the needle aphorism” is about “unthinkable thoughts” as they can also appear in dreams. There it says about the meaning of dreams: "They show neither a palm tree made of gold nor an elephant that can go through the eye of a needle."


In the Qur'an the following can be read about sinners : “Verily, those who explain Our signs as lies and turn away from them with arrogance, the gates of heaven will not be opened, nor will they enter paradise before a camel goes through the eye of a needle. And so We reward the criminals. "

Reception in literature and philosophy

In Ödön von Horváth's novel Jugend ohne Gott (1937) the biblical passage is discussed (chapter 12: “In search of the ideals of humanity”):

"He remains very calm:" To think correctly is the principle of morality. "He empties his glass again. “Yes, the rich will always win because they are the more brutal, mean, and unscrupulous. It already says in Scripture that a camel is more likely to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man goes to heaven. "" And the church? Will it come through the eye of the needle? "" No, "he says and smiles again," but that wouldn't be very possible. Because the church is the eye of the needle. ”This priest is devilishly clever, I think to myself, but he's not right. He's not right! And I say: "So the church serves the rich and does not think about fighting for the poor."

Theodor W. Adorno refers to the parable in Minima Moralia (1951) in the paragraph "Tugendspiegel" (No. 139):

“If the visible effect in the existing state provides the standard for people, then it is nothing but consistent to credit the material wealth, which tangibly confirms that effect, as a property, since its moral substance itself, no different than later in Hegel's philosophy, should be constituted by its participation in the objective, social. Christianity was the first to negate that identification in the sentence that a camel is more likely to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man into heaven. But the special theological premium on voluntarily chosen poverty shows how deeply the general consciousness is shaped by the morality of property. "

See also


  • Sigfred Petersen: Art. Κάμηλος . Exegetical dictionary for the New Testament, Vol. II, Stuttgart 1981, Sp. 609–611, ISBN 3-17-007383-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b Jörg Frey:  Nazorae Gospel. In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (eds.): The scientific Bibellexikon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff. (Created: Oct. 2013).
  2. Edgar Hennecke: New Testament Apocrypha. Tübingen and Leipzig 1904, page 20 . The Nazarene Gospel and the tradition known as the “ Hebrew Gospel ” were not yet strictly differentiated at the time.
  3. ^ Bauer: Dictionary of the New Testament . Art. Κάμηλος and κάμιλος, Sp. 793f; Pedersen: Art. Κάμηλος , Sp. 610f
  4. Earliest creation in the 9th century; first recorded by Archbishop Theophylactus of Bulgaria († approx. 1107)
  5. This should be understood as an analogy, according to which (in a figurative sense) the empire, who was not attached to his earthly goods, but could also lay off this burden, could enter the kingdom of heaven. Popular in popular belief was (and is) also the aspect of the kneeling camel as a parallel to the humility of believers before God.
  6. In the footnote to Mt 19:24 of a Syro-Aramaic Peschitta translation, in contrast to the main text, the “rope” is equated with a “camel”. However, this cannot be used as a relevant source for an Aramaic origin, as attempted in the article "'The camel and the eye of the needle', Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25" , since the The priority of the Greek in the New Testament is undisputed, but at most documents the beginning transformation from kamilos to the Hebrew loan word kámêlos in the New Testament original sources.
  7. ^ Kittel / Friedrich (eds.): Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged, 1985); Pedersen: Art. Κάμηλος , Sp. 610
  8. Cf. Mk 10:27
  9. Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler Lexikon Sprach. 2nd Edition. Verlag JB Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2000, p. 16.
  10. For example Pinchas Lapide : Jesus, money and world peace. Gütersloh 1991 (see review in Spiegel 37/1991 , accessed on March 19, 2016). Georg Peter Landmann (1989) believes that the transformation goes back to the regional dissemination of the Gospels, which began in the coastal cities and extended along the trade routes to the arid regions in the east and south, where the seaman's jargon is either unknown or unknown to possible reasons had not been recognized as such.
  11. FHerklotz, BZ 2, '04, p. 176 f .; Nestlé-Aland: Apparatus to the Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine to Mt 19,24
  12. ^ Nestlé-Aland: Apparatus on the Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine on Mk 10.25 (Georg .: Mk 13.28)
  13. ^ Nestlé-Aland: Apparatus for the Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine to Lk 18.25
  14. Mt 19:24; see. George M. Lamsa: The New Testament according to the Eastern Text (1940, xxiv)
  15. Suda , keyword Κάμηλος , Adler number: kappa 282 , Suda-Online . The oldest known source for the word καμιλος is the comedy Sphekes (1035) by Aristophanes : kamilos to pachu schoinion dia tou i.
  16. ^ Bauer & Aland: Dictionary for the New Testament (1988); see. also Boisacq: Dict. étym. , Bröndal and Haupt: "Camel and Cable" ( American Journal of Philology 45).
  17. Talmud: bBer 55b; bBM 38b and to the eye of the needle: MidrHL 5,2; Pes.r. 15th
  18. Al-A'raf (“The Heights”), Sura 7, 40, translation: Koran-German ( Memento of August 21, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) PDF, p. 78.
  19. Full text of the chapter in the Gutenberg project