Matthew 23:24

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by HankD, Jun 19, 2005.

  1. HankD

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    Once again I'd like to play "devil's advocate" (yes I know it suits me well).

    Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

    We have heard a great deal about straining "at" the gnat but not so much about "swallowing" a camel.

    How do we square Jesus statement with the inspiration/inerrancy/infallibilty of the Scripture?

    Were the pharisees actually "swallowing" camels?

    Or perhaps inspiration/inerrancy/infallibilty has as much to do with the thought (as in "figure of speech") behind the words as the actual words of Scripture?

    What do ye think?

    HankD
     
  2. TCassidy

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    I think there is a world of difference between the use of metaphors and conceptual inspiration. [​IMG]
     
  3. StefanM

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    Agreed.
     
  4. robycop3

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    There's nothing that says Jesus couldn't use a metaphor. Jesus most likely used as many of them as anyone He ever talked to on earth, but the Gospel writers didn't record them most of the time. This'n was prolly remembered by Matthew because it was part of a rebuke Jesus was giving some of the Pharisees.
     
  5. HankD

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    Agreed, but the concept of ingesting camels offered by the raw words "swallow a camel" is definitely modified by the obvious figure of speech.

    So both the raw words "swallow a camel" and the metaphoric meaning (or figure of speech) which changes the concept of ingesting camel to a statement of irony to dramatize the error of the pharisees are inspired.

    The concept drives the meaning of the words in many cases.


    HankD
     
  6. Ziggy

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    I don't think the issue of swallowing a camel is particularly hyperbolic (such as the camel going through the eye of a needle); rather, this is a metaphor associated with the biblical dietary laws, in which the (flying) gnat is actually considered clean (Lv 11:21, while the camel is specifically unclean (Lv 11:4; Dt 14:7).

    Once these considerations are applied to the metaphor without the supposed hyperbole getting in the way, the irony becomes obvious: the Pharisees literally will strain out a *clean* gnat from their drink, while (metaphorically, if not in reality) willingly choosing to eat *unclean* food.
     
  7. dianetavegia

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    The large doors into the city would be opened to allow travelers in caravans or on camels. A smaller door was opened to allow those on foot without large loads. The smaller door was called the EYE OF THE NEEDLE. A camel would not fit through that small door without getting to his knees and being pulled through and this camel could have 'no baggage'. Gives much meaning to a rich man (lover of money) entering heaven's 'door', does it not?
     
  8. Ziggy

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    DianeT: The smaller door was called the EYE OF THE NEEDLE.

    If one investigates this claim using *reliable* Bible encyclopedias and other tools, one will find that the so-called "Needle's Eye" door lacks credence. It appears to have been created as an "urban legend preacher's myth" (one among many) that happened to be extremely suitable for sermon illustrations.

    Further, it would not be likely that either forcibly or by persuasion one could get a camel to shimmy (even burdenless) on its knees through such a door. One might as well try to herd a flock of cats. Thus, the hyperbole remains, so why not simply retain the exaggeration of a camel and a sewing needle? There certainly is no need to attempt a rationalization of a hyperbolic metaphor merely so additional hyperbolic preaching can occur.

    I would rather preach against women smoking from Gen 24:64 (And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she lighted off the Camel"). :cool:
     
  9. rsr

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    While that story has made the rounds for a long time, it is of doubtful origin and certainly not contemporaneous with Christ. It also doesn't fit the rest of the account; Jesus was describing something his disciples though impossible, not just difficult.

    As John Piper said, "One thing is crystal clear: a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle. It is impossible. And if you have ever heard anyone say that this is a reference to a gate in the wall around Jerusalem which was so small that a camel had to get down low and take the load off its back, there is no such gate and the context will not allow such an interpretation."
     
  10. dianetavegia

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    Easton's Bible Dictionary

    Needle [N]

    used only in the proverb, "to pass through a needle's eye" (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25). Some interpret the expression as referring to the side gate, close to the principal gate, usually called the "eye of a needle" in the East; but it is rather to be taken literally.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    So in the Koran, "The impious, who in his arrogance shall accuse our doctrine of falsity, shall find the gates of heaven shut; nor shall he enter till a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle." It was a common mode of expression among the Jews to declare any thing that was rare or difficult.
    26; 23:24 Jeremiah 13:23; Mark 10:24,25; Luke 18:25; John 5:44

    Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament

    It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye (eukopwteron estin kamhlon dia trhmatoß rapidoß eiselqein). Jesus, of course, means by this comparison, whether an eastern proverb or not, to express the impossible. The efforts to explain it away are jejune like a ship's cable, kamilon or rapiß as a narrow gorge or gate of entrance for camels which recognized stooping, etc. All these are hopeless, for Jesus pointedly calls the thing "impossible" (verse Mark 26). The Jews in the Babylonian Talmud did have a proverb that a man even in his dreams did not see an elephant pass through the eye of a needle (Vincent). The Koran speaks of the wicked finding the gates of heaven shut "till a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle." But the Koran may have got this figure from the New Testament. The word for an ordinary needle is rapiß, but, Luke (Luke 18:25) employs belonh, the medical term for the surgical needle not elsewhere in the N.T.

    Easton's Bible Dictionary

    Camel [N]

    from the Hebrew gamal , "to repay" or "requite," as the camel does the care of its master. There are two distinct species of camels, having, however, the common characteristics of being "ruminants without horns, without muzzle, with nostrils forming oblique slits, the upper lip divided and separately movable and extensile, the soles of the feet horny, with two toes covered by claws, the limbs long, the abdomen drawn up, while the neck, long and slender, is bent up and down, the reverse of that of a horse, which is arched."

    To show the difficulty in the way of a rich man's entering into the kingdom, our Lord uses the proverbial expression that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24).

    To strain at (rather, out) a gnat and swallow a camel was also a proverbial expression (Matthew 23:24), used with reference to those who were careful to avoid small faults, and yet did not hesitate to commit the greatest sins. The Jews carefully filtered their wine before drinking it, for fear of swallowing along with it some insect forbidden in the law as unclean, and yet they omitted openly the "weightier matters" of the law.
     
  11. Ziggy

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    DianeT (quoting Robertson): The efforts to explain it away are jejune ... All these are hopeless.

    Very good. Except for Easton, who allows only that "some" (meaning, I suspect, preachers) try to interpret the expression in relation to a supposed gate, the other sources confirm the mythological nature of that explanation. [​IMG]
     
  12. robycop3

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    Long ago, in a SDA book written sometime between the world wars, I saw a pic of a breach in the wall of Jerusalem the authors say was not repaired by Nehemiah, & was used by merchants to sneak in on the Sabbath to have a head start on their competition. They said the camel had to be unloaded to pass through, and sometimes the camel just flat refused to pass through, even if completely unburdened.(Camels are quite strong, and it's doubtful if ten men could pull one where it didn't wanna go.)

    This story must be taken with a grain of salt, as everything from the SDA must be, but upon second thought, if it was IMPOSSIBLE for a rich man to enter heaven, that would exclude King David, Abraham, Caleb, & Joshua, to name a few OT figures, as well as Cornelius, Zacchaeus, Jairus, & Joseph of Arimathea, to name a few NT chars.

    Somewhere, there had to be an "eye of the needle" that a camel could pass through, albeit with difficulty. I don't believe Jesus meant the same thing WE do when we say "horsefeathers" or "chicken teeth" it indicate something both absurd & non-existent. Seems He was referring to something that could be done only with great difficulty, requiring a complete about-face from a rich person whose wealth may have been ill-gotten.

    In Jesus' time, even the most honest publican made a good living, so when Zacchaeus promised to refund fourfold any overcharges he'd exacted, he would still have a hefty income from doing his job 100% honestly, as well as bonuses paid him by Rome.

    I believe the sins of the rich are the MISUSE or NONUSE of their riches. In Jesus' parable, we see the rich man eating all he wanted of whatever he wanted, while ignoring the starving beggar Lazarus who'd been placed within sight of his table. I believe God gives some people the ability to generate wealth honestly, and He expects them to use most of it correctly in His service.

    The rich young Jewish ruler to whom Jesus was referring in His "eye/camel" statement evidently thought more of his wealth than he did of being saved by Jesus. This was obvious to His disciples and led to Jesus' statement.

    There might be something to that SDA story after all, but I think it's mostly apocryphal.
     
  13. rsr

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    I think Jesus meant what He said; that's what the disciples thought.

    "And those who heard it said, "Who then can be saved?" Doesn't sound like they thought it was just difficult.

    Jesus then gives the answer: "But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
     
  14. Ransom

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    Ziggy said:

    I don't think the issue of swallowing a camel is particularly hyperbolic (such as the camel going through the eye of a needle);

    On the contrary, it is quite hyperbolic, and for the same reason. The camel was the largest land animal in Palestine, and so it could no more fit down a Pharisee's gullet than it could through the eye of a needle.

    rather, this is a metaphor associated with the biblical dietary laws, in which the (flying) gnat is actually considered clean (Lv 11:21, while the camel is specifically unclean (Lv 11:4; Dt 14:7).

    Absolutely, but apropos to the question of whether Jesus was employing hyperbole, this is beside the point.

    The irony of Jesus' teaching is obvious: the Pharisees had a practice of drinking wine through a gauze strainer so that they didn't become "unclean" by accidentally swallowing a gnat (which, contrary to what you said earlier, was not a kosher insect; cf. Lev. 11:20-23). They took such meticulous care to avoid the tiny insect that they let the camel slip down their throat.

    Jesus also made the same point literally in the immediately preceding verse (Matt. 23:23), when he accused them of tithing even a tenth of their spices, but ignoring the real issues such as justice and mercy. Today we might say they failed to see the forest for the trees.
     
  15. Ransom

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    robycop3 said:

    Somewhere, there had to be an "eye of the needle" that a camel could pass through, albeit with difficulty.

    I think that when the disciples disciples implied that it was impossible (not merely difficult) for men to be saved, they understood him quite correctly. Jesus doesn't correct them, he simply points them in the direction of the only one who can make it possible:

     
  16. Ziggy

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    Ransom: a gnat (which, contrary to what you said earlier, was not a kosher insect; cf. Lev. 11:20-23).

    You are correct, and the hyperbole therefore stands. I retract and repent in dust and ashes.
     

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