Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bible Verse from my inbox

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person 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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, "Then who can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."
- Matthew 19:23-26

This verse, for the longest time, made no sense to me. Who would ever give a thought to putting a camel through the eye of a needle?

Well, in the Bible used in the Eastern Orthodox tradition- the Peshitta- there is shown to be- or perhaps I should say alleged to be- a translation error that suggests perhaps the individuals who wrote the Greek Bible may have been working with at least some earlier text (perhaps portions of what scholars call Q) that was in Aramaic- the language of Jesus. Apparently the words 'camel' and 'rope' are almost indistinguishable, with a fine accent mark being the key difference.

Upon reading this, the saying made much more sense to me. Not only because of the elimination of a seemingly bizarre reference, but also in a more significant sense. If we thin down by reducing our attachment to material goods, to the material world, then we can bring ourselves closer to what God wants for us- entrance into his Kingdom, his Presence, through the eye of the needle. In reading other texts from the Eastern tradition (the Philokalia, for example), this point of moving away from our attachment to the material world- away from having material considerations drive our lives and towards a God-driven life- is given heavy emphasis as not just a theological concept, but as a way of living, as a practice. This thinning down can be difficult, but with our own perseverance and the help of God and our family in God we can do it.

A camel will never pass through the eye of a needle. But for us, as ropes of varying thickness, hope remains.

By the way: this is my first post after surgery. Typing with one hand takes FOREVER. So i don't expect to be very active here for a few weeks. Just odds and ends periodically. For some reason the issue above is close to my heart- although I may not be quite patient enough to make that clear as I hunt and peck at my keyboard- and I wanted to write a little something about it.
Until next time, whenever that may be,

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