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12485.  Thu Dec 23, 2004 12:48 pm Reply with quote

Who knows about Camels and passing through eyes of needles?

In the ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver it states that the biblical passage which refers to it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to pass into the kingdom of heaven may well be a translation error. It stated that the Hebrew word for camel is very similar to the word for rough thread or cloth (which would be difficult to pass through the eye of a needle). It'd make sense, and it rather tickles me that we have spent these past few millennia trying to figure out why anyone would WANT to try to thread a camel.

My searches have only come up with Kamel (for camel in case you were wondering) and smartut (piece of fabric), a-hut (string) and beged or Tilboshet (clothes) - not EXACTLY the same I'm sure you'd agree.

Jumping Jack says he heard the explanation was that The Eye of The Needle or Needle's Eye was a narrow gate leading into Jerusalem, which was a camel-problem.

Any views?

12494.  Thu Dec 23, 2004 6:11 pm Reply with quote

A mistranslation changing the meaning of something in the Bible? Surely not! ;-)

This page seems to be fairly detailed, and suggests that it makes some kind of sense in (mangled) Greek and possibly Aramaic, but not for actual camels.

12496.  Thu Dec 23, 2004 6:58 pm Reply with quote

Good site. I think the myth of the very small gate is sufficiently widely known to be a good question for us, although it would be nice if there was a clear "right" answer - saying "we don't know, it could be this and it could be that" doesn't make for crispness.

12497.  Thu Dec 23, 2004 7:56 pm Reply with quote

Last week's TLS carried a review of a new biography of Alexander Cruden (1699-1770), who devoted his life to the production of the first complete concordance to the King James Version.

He undertook this task with the same fervour as that with which he inappropriately solicited royal favour and hopelessly wooed the cynosures of the Hanoverian court. He declared to the public that:

Alexander is of the opinion that Divine Providence purposes to make him Corrector of the People [...] I have been convinced since September 8, 1753, that God
in his sovereign and gracious Providence hath appointed me Corrector of the People

He identified with, and referred to himself as, "Joseph", seeing public obloquy as confirmation of his calling, and famously resisted the diagnoses and incarcerations of incipient psychaitric practice which resulted from such declarations.

Some Cambridge students played upon his delusions to invite him to a mock-knighting ceremony, in which he participated in all seriousness.

S: TLS articles move around on the site as they are archived. This is currently the second article at:

Ooops... the point of all that is that the original question on camels prompted my first ever use of a concordance. The results are at:

You may not eat
the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.

Deuteronomy 14:7

Jesus referred to Pharisees as:

blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Matt 23:24

On Biblical infallibilty, please have a look at:

where it is argued that errors may well occur in Homer (and the Koran) but cannot, do not and shall not be found in the Bible. I don't even think the article troubles to distinguish between possible errors of fact in the original and "human" errors that may have crept in during translation or type-setting.

His case is somewhat undermined by his representation of Hugo Winckler, the German archaeologist, as umm... Henry Winckler, who sported a leather jacket and addressed Mr Cunningham in an over-familiar way.

The Mosaic narrative asserts that the Universe had a "beginning" (1:1), which is perfectly consistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

13344.  Mon Jan 10, 2005 5:18 am Reply with quote

The sexual delights of the camel
Are stranger than anyone thinks
One night 'neath a moon bright and balmy (?)
He attempted to bugger the sphinx
But the sphinx's sexual orifice
Was blocked by the sands of the Nile
Which accounts for the hump on the camel
And the sphinx's inscrutible smile

The camel, as you all probably know, is related to the llama. They've recently managed to cross breed the two to produce a camel-sized animal with llama-length wool.

13355.  Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:59 am Reply with quote

The one l lama, he's a priest
The two l llama, he's a beast
But I will bet a silk pyjama
There isn't any three l lllama.

Ogden Nash

13356.  Mon Jan 10, 2005 9:19 am Reply with quote

Maybe this ought to go under General Ignorance, because of the enduring myth that camels store water in their humps?

However, they don't. The hump (or humps) are fat deposits that provide energy when food is scarce. When reserves run low, the hump shrinks and softens and can flop to one side, becoming upright again when food supplies improve.

Camels actually store water in their blood streams. Their water-conserving biology is unique to the species. They can lose 40% of their body weight before becoming distressed, and can go 5-7 days without drinking. When they can drink, the amount they drink in one go - up to 21 gallons in 10 minutes - would be lethal to most animals because of water overload. The camel can take in large amounts of water, because it's absorbed very slowly, allowing time for equilibration. Their erythrocytes can swell to 240% of normal size. (Other species can go to 150%.) Dromedaries' plasma volume is maintained at the expense of tissue fluid; their erythrocytes continue to circulate even when their blood becomes very viscous because of lack of water.

Camels are able to drink brackish or salt water.and they can drink water that would be too brackish for other animals. If moisture-laden forage is available, a camel will not need as much water.

As well as adaptations in their blood plasma, the kidneys of all camels concentrate the urine as thick as syrup to reduce water loss and excrete twice as much salt as sea water. Their faecal pellets contain no water and can be used for fuel.

Camels are also able to have fluctuations in body temperature. During the day, the camel's body acts as a heat sink, and during the cold night, excess body heat is dissipated by conduction.

Camels have built-in windscreen wipers! In a sandstorm, the thick hair in his ears filters out sand and dust, and their two rows of long, thick eyelashes shield their eyes from the bright sun and stop sand from getting in his eyes. They also have a separate thin nictitating membrane under their eyelids, and if even a tiny grain of sand gets into an eye, the camel's inner eyelid will pop out like a windscreen wiper and whisk it away.

How to remember which is a Dromedary (one hump) camel and which a Bactrian (two hump) camel? Think of the capital letter lying on its side.

How is a camel like a giraffe? Both have a natural pacing gait - moving the two legs on the same side at the same time, unlike the horse which (except when trained to do so) has a natural trotting gait.

15975.  Wed Mar 09, 2005 9:26 am Reply with quote

The Sopwith Camel was the plane with which the Brits took control of the air over the Western Front in 1917. It was called the Camel because someone thought the pilot's windscreen and headrest looked like a camel's hump on the fuselage.

Thomas Sopwith, who designed and manufactured them, was 29 years old in 1917. In 1935, as chairman of Hawker-Siddley, he took the decision to build a thousand Hawker Hurricanes without a government contract, thanks to which initiative we had a force of fighters ready for the Battle of Britain.

15982.  Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:31 am Reply with quote

Persian hunting houds - Salukis? - handsome buggers, you see them being walked on leashes outside Harrods sometimes - have the same anti-sand eye arrangements as camels; when hunting they lie on the camel's neck watching for deer, and then leap off in chase. They can leap anything up to twenty feet from a standing start.

15984.  Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:50 am Reply with quote

Blimey, is that true? Do you suppose there's any film of that?

15985.  Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:51 am Reply with quote

These Salukis seem pretty important.

From various dog-sites:

”The Moslems declared the Saluki a sacred breed”

”The Saluki is represented in Sumarian carvings dated back to 7000 B.C”

“It is said that Whenever one sees the word 'dog' in the Bible it means the Saluki."

Although, from the bible (peter 2:22)

“A dog returns to its vomit and a sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

15986.  Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:56 am Reply with quote

If we knew which show was going to air first we could use that as Stephen's introduction: "As a dog returns to its vomit and a washed sow goes back to wallowing in the mud - QI is back for another series". Good trailer, too, if were allowed one.

15989.  Wed Mar 09, 2005 1:25 pm Reply with quote

The Persians also hunted with cheetahs, which are very tame compared to other cats.

15999.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:07 am Reply with quote

Back to camels:

"Camels may build up a pressure cooker of resentment toward human beings until the lid suddenly blows off and they go berserk. In Asia, when a camel driver senses trouble, he gives his coat to the animal. Rather like Japanese workers reported to work off frustrations by beating up models of their executives, the camel gives the garment hell—jumping on it, biting it, tearing it to pieces. When the camel feels it has blown its top enough, man and animal can live together in harmony again." (David Taylor, Zoo Vet, Lippincott)

16439.  Wed Mar 23, 2005 6:57 am Reply with quote

I am always wary of “Books of Facts”, even if they are written by respected authors, but this nugget from Isaac Asimov could be worth pursuing

Historians have related the heartwarming story of Abdul Kassem Ismael, the scholarly grand-vizier of Persia in the tenth century, and his library of 117,000 volumes. On his many travels as a warrior and statesman, he never parted with his beloved books. There were carried about by 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order. His camel-driver librarians could put their hands instantly on any book their master asked for.

Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts (Grosset & Dunlap), quoted in Reader’s Digest, June, 1981


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