Question: What does [the] eye of a needle mean in the Bible?
Answer: I believe you are speaking of this passage in Mark 10: “Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.'”
26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”
27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:23)
Some have said that when Jesus was speaking of a camel going through the eye of a needle He was speaking of a gate in the wall to Jerusalem where only by getting on its knees could a camel go through it. However, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says this about that: “The idea that the eye of a needle , referred to here, was a small gate through which a camel could enter only on his knees is without warrant.
“The word for needle [in Greek] refers specifically to a sewing needle. Furthermore, Jesus was not talking about what man considers possible, but about what seems to be impossible (cf. v. 27).” (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary)
So if the eye of a needle is not a small gate, but if Jesus is really talking about a sewing needle, then that is impossible for a camel to go through it. In order to understand this, we need to go back to the context of this statement. The context is the verses before or after the verse we are dealing with. Let us look at Mark 10 again, and see what the background is to the verse about the eye of the needle and the camel going through it.
“Now as He [Jesus] was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”
20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:18-22)
“Jesus’ love for the man is expressed in a challenge, both stern and gracious. The one thing the man lacked was a wholehearted allegiance to God. So Jesus gave him a stern test to reveal the fact that he had made an idol of wealth, thus breaking the first Commandment (Exodus 20:3)
“Treasure in heaven: This is a common Jewish expression, but, for Jesus, it contains no idea of merit. Jesus looks beyond specific requirements to single-hearted devotion to God, that is, in taking up the cross of discipleship.
“The Jew saw wealth as a mark of God’s favor and thought it inconceivable that riches would be a hindrance to kingdom life. Jesus shows the fallacy of such a view and uses it to teach through exaggeration that it is impossible for one who trusts in riches to enter heaven. Human achievement cannot attain salvation; only God has the power to bestow it.” (The Spirit Filled Life Bible)
“As Jesus was talking about how difficult it is for someone to be saved, the disciples asked Him, in exasperation, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus told them, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.’ In other words, it is impossible for a man to get saved [on his own merits], but God is in the business of doing the impossible.” (The Word For Today Bible)
To answer your question, then, ‘What does the eye of a needle mean in the Bible?’ It means that whether we are rich or poor, whether we are good or bad, etc., with us it is impossible to be saved. Just as impossible as it would be for a camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle. But, God could get a Camel through the eye of a needle if He wanted to do it. With God everything is possible, even our salvation.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If you ask people how do you go to heaven, do you know what the number one answer is? Yes, you guessed it. They will say, “You get to heaven by being good.” This answer is incorrect, none of us are good enough to get to heaven, that is why God had to die on the cross for our sins. Now if we ask Him to forgive us for our sins and receive Him into our hearts, He will save us, not by good works, but by His grace.
Even as Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by faith , not by good works. After we are saved, yes, we are to perform good works, but they do not save us. Only God’s mercy and grace can save us! If you have not prayed the sinners prayer you could do it right now. It goes like this: Dear God in Heaven, I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I know that I am not good enough to get to heaven by my good works. I believe that Your one and only Son, Jesus Christ, was born of the blessed Virgin Mary. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that He came to life again the third day. Right now I confess to You that I am a sinner in need of Your salvation. I receive your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into my heart and life. Please save me and make me a child of Yours, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, God did a miracle and saved you and now your are born again. Now you need to know the rest of the passage we quoted earlier, it goes like this: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Once we are saved we need to do good works, not to keep our salvation, but because we are commanded to do this. You say, “what are some of the good works?” One thing is to be baptized, another is to go to a good Bible believing church. Other things we need to do as good works are to read the Bible and pray everyday. Then too, to witness for Him, that means telling other people how you were saved and how they can be saved as well!
A humorous ventriloquist routine I do to explain what I have just shared with you can be seen right now if you would like. It takes as little as 60 seconds to load depending on your computer internet connection. First we have a funny story called the ‘Yoke was on her,’ and then my friend José and I go into the story of David and Goliath from the Bible.
Thanks for the question,
Gary T. Panell
For more information email me.
Woodrow Mitchell says
Very good words shared. I do understand The Word Is God !!!
Gary Panell says
Thank you Woodrow, praise God. Brother, Gary
I used to think Jesus was referring to a “sewing needle” too, until the Holy Spirit led me to the truth. (John 16:13) We try to make the bible more mystical and symbolic, than it is literal. Actually, there are physical “eyes of needle” in the physical land of Israel.
The sewing needle was not invented until 1755, by a german, named Charles Fredrick Wiesenthal, a german. More than likely, the people of bible times would have used a method called “spinning” and “weaving” to make garments (clothing, robes, shauls or blankets). They would spin the material or cotton into a yarn, then they would weave the yarn into a cloth. Their technology would not have been as advanced as ours, but here is an excellent video on weaving.
“The “eye of the needle” mentioned in the Bible, was one of the many gates providing passage through Jerusalem’s massive walls. The “Needle Gate” was used when the city’s main gates were closed at night.” This gate was so small, that a person would have to crouch down to fit through it. Is it any wonder that a camel, at 7 feet tall and loaded to its maximum, could not fit into this tiny gate?
Here’s one of many sources that has a picture.
Gary Panell says
Hi Tee, Yes, they did have needles in Israel at the time of Jesus and before. However, there has never been a gate called, “The eye of the needle” Needle Gate” That was a story made up by a commentator. I have visited Israel, there is not now, nor ever has there been a gate called, “The Eye of the Needle.” The point Jesus was making was that just as a camel cannot go thru the eye of the needle, nor can men and women be saved by their own good works. Only God can save us, that is why we have Ephesians 2: 8, 9. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. In Christian love, Gary
I wanted to tell them that but you explained it perfectly.
Gary Panell says
Praise God, please pray for those who write in and myself that God will give me wisdom from Him and His Word to answer. Thank Cathy, Brother Gary
Emil Bonam says
Hello there! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
Gary Panell says
Thank you Emil, and you are welcome. Brother Gary
Gary, I have seen small gates within large gates in Israel. They keep large animals and armies from being able to rush through the gates. Only humans and smaller animals pass through. They tell you they are called the eye of the needle. A camel most definitely can’t pass through. There are several around. I guess that we’ll wait until we get to having to see who was right!. God bless.
Gary Panell says
Hi Cathy, Trust me, that is not what Jesus is teaching. It is a real needle, He is talking about. What Jesus is teaching is that with man, it is impossible to get saved. Just like it is impossible for a camel to go thru the eye of a real needle. So, with salvation, no one can be saved except God does the miracle in his/her life. By the way, I have been to Israel also. Brother Gary
I went to Yisrael in December 2019, and our guide showed us what the eye of the needle was and it was a slit in the stone structures that was above the ground at least four to 10 feet, and about 4 feet tall and 6-8 inches wide and are slits in the Western (Wailing) wall. And a camel definitely can not go through this shaped eye of a needle.
Gary Panell says
Hi Don, I know, if you read the article you know that I said that is not what Jesus was speaking about, but a real eye of a needle. He was saying with man salvation is impossible, it takes a miracle that only God can do! There is no gate made for camels to go through, I have been to Jerusalem too. Brother Gary