224RE: [SORForum] The Syriac NT & Mat. 19:25
- Apr 2, 2002
To further define the problem of riches, Jesus gave an illustration of camels and needles that has been little understood in our generation. The main gates of most cities in ancient times were huge wooden structures set in an archway and often overlaid with brass for strength and flame proofing. At night, the gates were closed
and locked with a bar on the inside and not opened until morning. Travelers that arrived late in the day after the gates were closed were forced to spend the night outside the city unless there was some provision for them to get into the city. Outside the city, law and order did not exist at night and travelers were at the mercy of outlaws. This is still the case today in some third world countries.
To deal with this situation, many ancient cities had a “needle’s eye gate” which was a small, low door beside the main gate. Such a feature existed on at least one of the gates of Jerusalem and Damascus (Weiss, Insight into Bible Times and Customs, pp. 24-25). A man could fit easily through the “needle’s eye gate”, but a
camel, being a large animal, could not fit easily. If the camel’s pack (which could weight up to 1,000 pounds) were removed and the camel were made to kneel, the camel could just barely crawl through the “needle’s eye gate.”
The statement Jesus made, that it is easier for a camel to go through the needle’s eye gate than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, made use of the above imagery. Like the camel, the rich man first needs to unload his pack or burden. The parable of the sower refers to this pack as “the cares of this world, the
deceit of riches, the desire for other things” (Mark 4:19) and the pleasures of life (Luke 8:14). These are things that appeal to our flesh and which can lead us away from God. Some of the early disciples, like Barnabas (one of the Seventy) sold a large amount of property and brought the entire proceeds to the Twelve (Acts4:34-37). Ananias and Sapphria on the other hand, were caught in the deceit of riches and held back part of the proceeds – and paid dearly (Acts 5:1-10).
This does not mean that no Christian can be rich. The Patriarch Job was very wealthy (Job 1:1-3, 42:12-17), yet the Lord referred to him as a blameless and upright man who had no peers in his righteousness (Job 1:8, 2:3). In Jesus’ illustration, nothing is said about the camel’s pack being loaded back up once the camel is inside. The key here is discerning the deceitfulness of wealth and the strength of its pull on one’s heart. Job was able to let his pack be taken off without remorse. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord” (Job 1:21; also Job 2:9-10). Many Christians throughout the ages have been unable or unwilling to continue fighting this pull and have taken oaths of poverty to thrust a sword (so to speak) into the heart of the demon of wealth.
Garabed A. Sarkessian
The Apostolic, Catholic, Orthodox, Holy Church of Armenia
From: Rudolf Luhukay [mailto:rudolf_sby@...]
Sent: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 5:46 AM
Subject: [SORForum] The Syriac NT & Mat. 19:25
As I read from the link http://sor.cua.edu/Bible/index.html I would like to ask as follows:
1. I need lightening of these sentences:
The words of Christ were first transmitted in his native language, the Palestinian dialect of Aramaic, either orally or in a written form. It is from this Aramaic tradition that the Greek Gospels were derived. The Syriac New Testament as we know it today is an early translation of the Greek text back into Syriac, the Aramaic dialect of Edessa (Modern Urfa in Southeast Turkey).
If the words of Christ were first transmitted in His native language, either orally or in a written form the the result is the Greek Gospels were derived, so why the Syriac New Testament is an early translation of the Greek text?
2. When I read these one as well:
In many instances the Syriac language offers interesting interpretations of Biblical verses. An understanding of Syriac homonyms, for example, help us clarify the reading in Matthew 19:25 (also Mark 10:25 and Luke 128:25), when Jesus tells us how much easier it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. The Syriac word corresponding to camel is gamlo which means 'camel.' However, gamlo has other meanings as well, one of which is given by the Syriac lexicographer Bar Bahlul (10th century) in his Syriac dictionary: "gamlo is a thick rope which is used to bind ships." Considering that Jesus was speaking to fishermen, this meaning of gamlo seems more appropriate.
According to Syriac Orthodox Church's view which one we should keep the interpretations of this verse wheter as a 'camel' or a ' thick rope' ?
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