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There is a great set of answers that covers some of my question regarding the interpretation of this passage over on the Biblical Hermeneutics site, but it didn't answer all of my questions.

Today I heard an old pastor speak about when he saw one of those gates for himself in Jerusalem. If I understand it right, the gate he saw was even labeled with "The eye of the needle" or something similar (though his interpretation was not the classic, because he was sure of that there was no way a camel could get through the gate he saw).

  1. What gate (which obviously exists today) is this pastor speaking about?

  2. Is there really any part of the Jerusalem walls left since Jesus time? Weren't all of the walls destroyed after the siege of Jerusalem 70 A.D?

Update 1

Even since before asking this question, I never doubted that Jesus was speaking about a real "eye of the needle", and not a gate. Even though I marked one answer (which was really clarifying) as accepted, it would be really interesting to nail this myth and go down to the details. According to the New Bible Dictionary, third Edition, p. 562, there is one remaining ancient wall "at the present-day Damascus Gate". What does "ancient" mean in this context? Could it have survived since the days of Jesus? In that case, how big is this part? Are there other ancient walls that could be from the days of Jesus? And are there any "gates" in these ancient walls that have been suggested as the "needle eye gate"?

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migrated from hermeneutics.stackexchange.com Apr 30 '12 at 9:19

This question came from our site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts.

    
Hey Niclas and welcome to Christianity.SE. Per our discussion while this was on the hermeneutics site, I have migrated it here for you. I hope we have some modern geography buffs here that can put that knowledge together with how a few modern tour outfits try to tie this together with Christian doctrine and whether that is legitimate or not. –  Caleb Apr 30 '12 at 9:51
    
I've heard (although I forget the sources) many very compelling arguments agreeing with your edit: I.e. nothing to with the gate, but really the eye of a needle. If that is correct, one can only infer that it is more... pleasing for those with resources to use the "gate" interpretation than the "I'm damned" interpretation. –  Marc Gravell May 3 '12 at 20:09
    
Yeah. But that makes it kind of strange to hear this hybrid theory where this pastor says that there is no way a camel could get through that gate. So in the end his interpretation is the same as mine. –  Niclas Nilsson May 7 '12 at 10:49
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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Minor clarification. While the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD, the city of Jerusalem retained its general street plan until 135 AD. In 135 AD, after the Bar Jakova Revolt, the already damaged city was razed to the ground. In its place, a Greek city called Aelia Capitolina was put in its place.

As such, when Constantine's mother, Helena visited the city in the 300s, there was nothing left, except new settlements which bore no relation to the extant city. This why Golgotha, for example - the outskirts of the town in the day - are, if you believe Helena, now inside the Church of the Holy Sepelchure, smack dab in the center of the city.

Indeed, the city itself has migrated over time. The "City of David," extends south of the current city walls. That one would now exit the "Dung Gate" to go to where David's palace was shows how fluid city layouts can be.

The Temple, which was at the northern end of the city, is now central to it. The "beautiful gate" (or the "Golden Gate", next to the Temple) was sealed off in 1541, and most of the existing walls date to the Ottomans, built in the 1500s.

Walls of Jeruslaem

As such, if there ever was an "eye of the Needle" gate, (which in my mind is highly doubtful) it certainly no longer exists today. Additionally, any understanding of where the gate was in relationship to the city would be of no use, because there is no context for it.

Update

The Damascus Gate has been the historic main entrance to the city. The actual edifice, however dates to 1547, and was built on the ruins of a 2nd Century AD gate,

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Your answer was really helpful to me! Thanks alot! You seems to have the knowledge to alsoanswer my follow-up issues and if you have the time I would appreciate a lot if you did (see update 1 in my question) –  Niclas Nilsson May 2 '12 at 11:31
    
+1 for ... which in my mind is highly doubtful. –  svidgen Jan 5 '13 at 2:43
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  1. There is a gate called the Eye of the Needle. It is large enough for a man to pass through by ducking and squeezing, but a camel could never fit through, much less one with a person riding on it. But the gate is named because getting through it is like putting thread through the eye of a needle. http://hethathasanear.com/Needle.html has some information on said gate.

  2. I do not think the Romans razed the whole city to the ground. If you recall, the only walls that were important were the city walls; we take them for granted nowadays, but they were the defense of the city. But you must also remember that even in Jesus' time the walls had been expanded a few times, so there are probably a couple of different tiers of walls and I do not believe the Romans leveled everything.

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Sorry, they did. The historical evidence is clear on that point. –  Affable Geek Apr 30 '12 at 13:04
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  1. Well, there is a lot of debate about whether there was such a gate, but the disciples apparently didn't think there was, as their response is one of surprise, asking "but then, who can be saved?" To which Jesus replied "with men it is impossible but with God, all things are possible."
  2. Yes. No. The walls of the Old City are still basically as they were in the time of the crusaders. I believe the crusaders did some stuff to the walls, not sure what all. I think the walls around the temple mount are the same as they were in Jesus time. Josephus says that the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, whether he intends this to include the temple mount or not, I don't know. But probably not.
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I believe I was a bit unclear regarding my first question. Neither do I believe Jesus spoke about a gate. But I was more specific of where this gate the pastor spoke about lays today? What is it named? Is there a sign pointing to it as the gate of the needle? I've seen the pictures of gates like the one on this page: amazinggospelinsights.blogspot.se/2011/02/… but I got the impression the "gate" he spoke about was even smaller. –  Niclas Nilsson Apr 29 '12 at 19:59
    
As of the second question, thanks for a clarifying answer. –  Niclas Nilsson Apr 29 '12 at 20:00
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