) is an episode in the life ofJesusin theNew Testamentthat deals witheternal life
In Matthew and Mark, the discussion is set within the period when Jesus ministered inPerea, east of theRiver Jordan. In Matthew, a rich young man asks Jesus what actions bring eternal life. First, Jesus advises the man to obey the commandments. When the man responds that he already observes them, and asks what else he can do, Jesus adds:
If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure inheaven. Then come, follow me.
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through theeye of a needlethan for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The non-canonicalGospel of the Nazarenesis mostly identical to theGospel of Matthew, but one of the differences is an elaboration of this account. It reads:
The other of the rich men said to him Master, what good thing shall I do and live? He said to him Man, perform the law and the prophets. He answered him I have performed them. He said to him Go, sell all that thou hast and divide it to the poor, and come, follow me. But the rich man began to scratch his head, and it pleased him not. And the Lord said to him How can you say I have performed the law and the prophets? seeing that it is written in the law Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, and look, many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are clad with dung, dying for hunger, and your house is full of much goods, and there goes out therefrom nought at all unto them. And he turned and said to Simon his disciple, sitting by him, Simon, son of John, it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of the heavens.
This event relates the term eternal life to entry into theKingdom of God.The account starts by a question to Jesus about eternal life and Jesus then refers to entry into the Kingdom of God in the same context.To avoid conflict with the Christian doctrine that states that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9dispensationaltheologians distinguish between the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is being taught here, and the Gospel of Grace, which is taught in dispensational churches today.
The rich young man was the context in whichPope John Paul IIbrought out the Christian moral law in chapter 1 ofVeritatis Splendor.
While Jesuss instructions to the rich young ruler are often interpreted to besupererogatoryfor Christians,Dietrich Bonhoefferargues that this interpretation acquiesces in what he calls cheap grace, lowering the standard of Christian teaching:
The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith. But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite honest. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience.
Some Christians interpret this passage literally, and try to put it into practice, backing it up with the example of the church as described inActs 2andActs 4. Various monastic groups would follow this line of thought, as would theBruderhofand some otherAnabaptistgroups, such as theHutterites.
The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament: Volume 1
Gospel of the Nazaraeans (wikisource). . 2015-04-22
The Westminster theological wordbook of the Bible
A Contrast of Character Zacchaeus and the Rich Young Ruler. Randywhiteministries.org
Veritatis Splendor, Official English Text. W2.vatican.va
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