Questions From Readers
● In Matthew 19:23, 24 Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to you that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. Again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” Is this proved to be a poor translation in the light of the short article that appeared in The American Mercury magazine, entitled “The Way of the Translator,” which article reads as follows:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. This scriptural saying has been repeated millions of times, but it is a mistranslation from the original Greek. The idea of a camel going through the eye of a needle was striking. The Greek original of the Gospel, however, merely spoke of the difficulty a rope would have in passing through the eye of a needle. The Greek equivalent of ‘rope’ is kaʹmilos but another Greek word, kaʹmelos, means camel. The man who translated the Gospel into Latin confounded the two words—and from the Latin translation his mistake has passed into all the other languages of the world.”
This article is doubtless based upon the translation made by George M. Lamsa, entitled “The New Testament According to the Eastern Text Translated from Original Aramaic Sources,” published in 1940. In Matthew 19:24 his translation reads: “Again I say to you, It is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” There is a footnote on the word “rope,” which reads: “The Aramaic word gamla means rope and camel.” In the choice between rope and camel Lamsa chooses the meaning “rope.” However, there are other translations into English from the Syriac language, which is closely related to Aramaic. How do these render Matthew 19:24? The translation by Charles Cutler Torrey, entitled “The Four Gospels,” of 1933, reads: “Again I say, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
The translation by Dr. James Murdock, entitled “The New Testament—A Literal Translation from the Syriac Peshitto Version,” of 1893, reads: “And again, I say to you: It is easier for a camel to enter the aperture of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Thus we have two modern translations that prefer the meaning “camel” to the meaning “rope.” The article in The American Mercury would have us understand that there was a confusion between the Greek words kaʹmilos and kaʹmelos. So we turn to a Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott, the new edition by H. S. Jones and Roderick McKenzie of the year 1948. We consult it under the Greek word kaʹmilos. It defines kaʹmilos as rope, but it makes this comment, that the word kaʹmilos was “perhaps coined as an emendation of the phrase, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’—Matthew 19:24.”
The oldest Greek manuscripts that we have of the Gospel of Matthew are the Sinaitic manuscript, the Vatican manuscript No. 1209 and the Alexandrine manuscript. These three manuscripts all have the Greek word kaʹmelos, meaning “camel,” not kaʹmilos, meaning “rope.” The apostle Matthew is understood to have written his account of the life of Jesus first in the Hebrew or the Aramaic, and then to have made his own translation of his account into the Greek. He knew, therefore, exactly what Jesus said and meant, and hence he knew the proper Greek word to use in this verse. He used the word kaʹmelos, as shown by the oldest of the Greek manuscripts that we have extant today.
There is good reason, therefore, for believing that the rendering in the New World Translation is the correct one. It is not easy for a camel with its long legs, its humped back and its long neck to go through the eye of a literal needle. People would scoff at the idea of a camel’s trying to do so. Impossible! they would say. So by the use of this extravagant illustration Jesus was teaching us a lesson against materialism, warning us of its dangers. He was saying that just as it was not possible for a literal camel to go through the eye of a literal needle, it was even less possible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, retaining his riches.
● Why, after receiving from God the express command to multiply and fill the earth, did Adam and Eve refrain from carrying out this procreation mandate while they were perfect in the garden of Eden?
Asking this question concerning Adam and Eve is like trying to meddle in the private affairs of a Christian married couple today, and asking why they have had no children as yet. Jehovah God set no definite time for Adam and Eve to begin having perfect children to fill the earth. They being perfect, their intercourse together sexually would be for the purpose of reproducing the human kind. Evidently there was no intercourse between them for the begetting of children while they were in the garden of Eden. Evidently there was no begetting of a child before they were expelled from the garden of Eden; otherwise their first son, born after their expulsion and named Cain, would have been born perfect of his mother Eve, just as Jesus was born perfect from his imperfect mother Mary. Why? Because Cain would have had the perfect Adam as his father.
Jehovah God did not drive Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden just because they did not promptly begin to have children, according to the procreation mandate. The sin for which they were expelled from Eden was their partaking of the forbidden fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” (Gen. 2:17) Their first act of intercourse that the Bible records was after their expulsion from Eden as sinners. Why they did not have intercourse and produce children during their stay in the garden of Eden is their own personal affair.
This proved to be very providential. It made it possible for all the offspring of Adam and Eve outside the garden of Eden to be redeemed by the one human sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. It left no child or children born perfect inside the garden of Eden who did not need to be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice, and the majority of mankind born imperfect outside the paradise of Eden who needed redemption by Jesus Christ. All Adam’s descendants being begotten in sin outside the garden of Eden, all were born imperfect through inheritance from the one man. All were made subject to death through the one man Adam, and thus all those who were disposed to salvation could be recovered to everlasting life through the sacrifice of the one man, Jesus Christ.—Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:20-22.