There’s a strong possibility that Jesus’ use of the word camel at Matthew 19:24 was a humorous play on words. You see, if he was speaking Aramaic, the word used would be g’amlah, which can be translated as either camel or rope.
Why were camels called by the same name as ropes?
The ancients used descriptive words for animals. So horses were called hypos (translated as mounts) and camels were called ropes, which referred to the way they were led.
On the other hand, if Jesus spoke Greek (which we doubt), he would have called the animal a camelon. Although camelon likely came from the same root as the more ancient Aramaic word, it only meant a camel in Greek (not rope).
Yet, if Jesus said g’amlah (in Aramaic), he was really saying that it would be easier to ‘thread a rope through the eye of a needle,’ which in the context makes more sense than camel. But there may be more – it may be a play on words, something common in Aramaic. This amusing double-meaning (camel/rope) would have helped his listeners to remember his parable.
So did Jesus mean to say camel, or rope? If he spoke Aramaic, then he actually said both, and it’s up to the listener to conclude which was meant by the context. In that case, rope would fit best.
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