Retraction and new comment on camel

        Due to recent research on my part and the criticism of my earlier
comment, I wish to withdraw my earlier explanation of the Matthew 19:24
passage.  However, I will contribute what I have found, with references
for those who wish to verify.
        Many of the commentaries that I checked through all agree that
the camel through a narrow gate is an absurd explanation.  The best comment
against this comes from The Interpreter's Bible commentary on the parallel
text in Mark 10:25.  The commentator states, "A far later fancy, fifteenth
century, is the supposed "needle's eye" gate, a small postern entrance beside
the large city gate, used after nightfall, and to be entered, it is argued,
by a loaded camel only upon its knees.  Only so also, according to this view,
can a rich man enter the kingdom of God.  But such a gate was far to small
for a camel, loaded or unloaded; and who ever saw a camel crawl on its four
knees!"  Truly, once one thinks about this imagery of a camel crawling on
its knees, they must realize the absurdity of this image.  (However, couldn't
this fit into the context of the passage, anyway.  How absurd a sight it would
be for a rich man to try to crawl through a gate that is way too small!)
        However, most commentaries also discredit the use of the word for
rope in the place of the word for camel.  The strongest evidence against
this substitution is the use of this type of expression in other documents.
The Babylonian Talmud uses a similar expression of an elephant passing
through the eye of a needle (Berakoth 55b).  The context of this expression
is that of an impossible or inconceivable occurence.  (Is this not the same
context of the Gospel usage?)  A second occurence of the expression is found
in the Koran.  In the Koran, this expression is identical to that used in
Matthew, and has a very similar context.  "...the gates of heaven shall not
be opened to them (those who reject the message), nor shall they enter
Paradise until the camel passes through the eye of the needle."  (Koran
        How do the commentaries handle the Matthean passage?  Most label
this expression as an "extreme Oriental exagerration, a colorful image for an
insuperable difficulty" (New Jerome Biblical Commentary) or "simply a proverb
cast in hyperbolic form" (Anchor Bible).
        So it would seem, based on several different commentaries, that both
the camel through a gate explanation and the rope substitution are 
unsatisfactory.  The expression "camel through the eye of a needle" seems
to be a proverb used to describe something that is impossible.  This does
seem to fit in with the context of the expression in the Gospels.
        In defense of my earlier, though faulty, comment, I would like to add
one comment.  The gate explanation does fit in with the context also.  The
passage does state that the rich man is only required to rid himself of the
excess baggage, wealth, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.  However,
as was commented earlier, there is no archaelogical evidence that I am aware
of that would support this explanation.  Also, since this explanation has
doubtful origins, I do agree, now, that it is unsatisfactory.
        I would also like to agree with Ward Powers when he sights this as
an example of humor in the gospels.  Truly this is an extreme exageration
that served to catch the attention of the reader and to point out the
absurdity of the situation.
Bruce William Cory