The narrow gate (Mt 7:13-7:14)

“Enter through

The narrow gate!

The other gate is

Wide and spacious.

The way that is easy

Leads to destruction.

There are many

Who take the wide gate.

The narrow gate

Has a difficult way

That leads to life.

There are few

Who find it.”

 

ἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν, καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι’ αὐτῆς·

ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν, καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν.

 

This saying of Jesus is somewhat similar to Luke, chapter 13:23-24.  You had a choice between two gates.  Jesus, via Matthew, wanted you to enter the narrow gate (ἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης).  Matthew in his description of the wide or spacious gate (ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος) used two words for wide and spacious, “πλατεῖα” and “εὐρύχωρος,” that never appear elsewhere in the New Testament.  The easy way of the wide gate led to destruction (ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν).   Many people were entering through this wide destructive easy gate (καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι’ αὐτῆς).  On the other hand, the narrow gate (ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη) had a difficult way, leading to life (καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν).  Only a few people were able to find their way through this difficult hard narrow life filled gate (καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν).  This idea of two ways can be found also in Deuteronomy, chapter 30:15-20, and among other religions with the way of death and the way of life.  The early Christian teachings of the Didache used this concept, as did many other dualistic religions that pointed to the choice of life or death, good or bad.  As you had basic choices in life, God was giving you the choice, life and prosperity with the narrow gate or death and adversity through the wide gate.  You could choose your path.

The moral use of the Bible

Some see the Bible as some sort of instruction manual on how to live a supposed good life.  Somehow, the Bible serves as a backup proof text for all the great questions in life.  A biblical response is either good or bad, not subject to argumentation.  You can only discuss the text.  Putting your life and belief system in the Bible means that you are trumping every other argument.  “The Bible tells me so” ends the discussion and the argument.  You can only agree, disagree, or argue about the meaning of the text, if your morality is based on the Bible.

The unbelieving rich (Zeph 1:12-1:13)

“At that time,

I will search Jerusalem

With lamps.

I will punish

The people

Who rest complacently

On their dregs.

I will punish

Those who say

In their hearts,

‘Yahweh will not do good.

Nor will he do harm.’

Their wealth

Shall be plundered.

Their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

They shall not inhabit them.

Though they plant vineyards,

They shall not drink wine

From them.”

On the day of Yahweh, Yahweh was going to search through Jerusalem with lamps.  He would punish the complacent people, those who had drunk too much of the dregs of their wine casks.  Yahweh was going to punish those who said that they didn’t care about Yahweh, because he had no effect on their lives, either for good or bad.  Yahweh was going to take the wealth of these rich people by plundering their belongings and destroying their homes.  If they were planning to build a house, they would never live in it.  If they were planting vineyards, they would never enjoy the wine from those vines.  Wealth would not save them from the Day of Yahweh.