6. The Camel and the Needle.


Matt. 19. 24.

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Vieyra, quoting the text in one of his sermons (t. 10. p. 249.) uses cable instead of camel, following a plausible but erroneous interpretation. It suited his purpose better in this place. “What remedy then, says he, is there for the rich man, that he may enter Heaven? I will tell you. 10Untwist the cable, and then thread by thread it may go through the needle. Christ Himself has taught how this is to be done, by saying, sell that thou hast, and give it unto the poor.”

There is a print of the Camel and the Needle in one of the little books, of Drexelius,..if I remember rightly: a man is beating the beast forward towards a needle which some unseen hand is holding down, and though it is big enough to have been Gargamelle’s stocking needle, the camel appears perfectly sensible of the impossibility of effecting his passage. That ϰαμηλος is to be rendered camel is proved by three Hebrew adages which Drusius has collected. Facilius Elephas per foramen acus. Non est Elephas qui intret per foramen acus. Forte ex Pombodita tu es, ubi traducunt Elephantem per foramen acus. The latter applied to a liar, the two former, what he calls Proverbia τȣ αδυνατȣ. Hoc adagium, he adds, usurpat o σωτηρ. Matt. 19. 24. in 11hyperbolâ, Non enim αδυνατου divitem introire in regnum cœlorum, sed admodum difficile. Ibidem pro Elephante Camelus legitur. Nam ϰαμηλος est Camelus vel Syro interprete, qui גבזל vertit, voce minime ambiguâ: quæ animans, cum notior sit vulgo in Judæa quam Elephas, libet suspicari ideo in Elephanti loco positam esse a Christo. Adagia Ebraica,p. 40.

Many mischievous alterations of Shakespere have been proposed, in that spirit of criticism which would make all the parts of a metaphor fit in as if they were dove-tailed. It is of the very essence of passion to speak in hints and fragments, and they who censure a figurative expression as contrary to the principles of taste, because it may appear abrupt to their conception,.. may as well maintain that every rainbow must be a perfect arch, and that all broken ones violate the principle of optics.


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