Matthew 7:13-20

7.13 Εἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης ὅτι πλατεῖα [ἡ πύλη] καὶ εὐρύκωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν, καὶ πολλοὶ εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι᾿ αὐτῆς· 7.14 ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν, καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὐρίσκοντες αὐτήν.

7.15 Προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψεθδοπροφητῶν, οἵτινες ἔρχονται πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ἐνδύμασι προβάτων, ἔσωθεν δέ εἰσιν λύκοι ἅρπαγες. 7.16 ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. μήτι συλλέουσιν ἀπὸ ἀκανθῶν σταφυλὰς ἢ ἀπὸ τριβόλων σῦκα; 7.17 οὕτως πᾶν δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ποιεῖ, τὸ δὲ σαπρὸν δένδρον καρποὺς πονηροὺς ποιεῖ. 7.18 οὐ δύναται δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς πονηροὺς ἐνεγκεῖν, αὐδὲ δένδρον σαπρὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ἐνεγκεῖν. 7.19 πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται. 7.20 ἄρα γε ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς.

7.13 Enter in through the narrow gate since wide [is the gate] and broad is the way leading off into ruin, and many are the ones who enter in through it; 7.14 since narrow is the gate and constricted the way leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.

7.15 Beware of false prophets, those who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but within are ravenous wolves. 7.16 From their fruits you will recognize them. Do you expect men to gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? 7.17 Thus every good tree produces excellent fruits, but the bad tree produces terrible fruits. 7.18 A good tree cannot bear terrible fruit, nor a bad tree bear excellent fruit. 7.19 Every tree not producing good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 7.20 Therefore, from their fruits you will recognize them.

Right from the start we are greeted with the verb εἰσέρχομαι, meaning “to enter in” or “to go out”, having the idea of passing, going into a new state or condition, etc. It is used both as a command to his hearers (“Enter the narrow gate”) and as participle describing the ones who fail to heed his words (“many are the ones entering through it.”) Now, in that word “it” I have already made a determination of reference. The question is whether it should refer to the narrow gate or the broad/wide/spacious gate and way. I think the expected answer is the wide and spacious entrance, allowing for greater traffic. The preposition διά “through” seems to rule out “ruin” as the referent.

By comparison, the next verse is noticeably different, though parallel in many ways. It ends with a prepositional phrase (using the same αὐτῆς “it”) which possibly refers to life, not the gate to it. All the major words used are in the feminine (πύλη “gate”, ὁδὸς “road, way”, ζωή “life”) making the determination somewhat less solid. My reason for taking the referent to be “life” is that the verse speaks of “finding”, rather than continuing the dynamic of “entering in through.”

In both verses 13 and 14 we find the participle ἀπάγουσα “leading away”, used to contrast the two paths or gateways. Often this term has a negative connotation, as when leading someone away for trial or prison. Because of the repeated use, once with a very positive connotation, I have chosen to translate it as “lead off.” This avoids the somewhat negative implications of “lead away”, while highlighting the shared concept of leading to a clear and determined end. The road/gate is not important because of its breadth or area, but because of the destination that awaits the traveler. Yet the breadth and area should indicate to us which path God intends us to walk.

In verse 15, προσέχετε “beware” has the idea of “guarding oneself against”, rather than just wariness. Jesus shares a vivid image of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” that has cemented itself in popular culture – indicting lawyers, salesmen and politicians alike. Jesus had in mind a very particular audience, however; those who reported to speak God’s words while not really doing so at all. They hoped to gain something by being God’s voice. God looks at their lies as despicable and pernicious.

Jesus quickly moves to another tangible example to relate to his audience. Trees bearing fruit can easily be determined good or bad, excellent or chimney-fodder. And in the same way, we will be able to recognize those who feign to speak for God. Their fruit won’t line up with the truth we know from scripture and from the Holy Spirit’s direction. μήτι, found in verse 16 and translated “do you expect” here, is an interrogative that expects a negative response. No one expects to go harvesting grapes and figs from weeds and brambles. You go to the good tree to get the good fruit.

Though i often treat the ministry of people like Joel Olstein as simple quackery, God considers this kind of shameful “fleecing” (Baaa…) of people a serious matter. People like that speak and give their words credence with God’s name, while turning a blind eye to what he actually says and has said. We will recognize them by their fruit.

The next passage will proceed directly from this, with Jesus sharing that not all who claim to know him and serve him are true disciples. We’ll look at that next time.

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About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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