What exactly is meant by the strait gate and the narrow way in the following passage? Is it possible to establish that based on the text?

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (KJV, Matthew 7:13-14)


The word translated as "strait" in the King James Version is στενός. The word appears only in the verses of Matthew you cite and in Luke's parallel version (13:24). Some examples from the Septuagint are (following Brenton's translation, translation of στενός in bold):

Numbers 22:26 LXX

And the angel of the Lord went farther, and came and stood in a narrow place where it was impossible to turn to the right or the left.

1 Kingdoms 23:14 LXX (MT: 1 Samuel)

So David swore to Saul: and Saul departed to his place, and David and his men went up to the strong-hold of Messera.

2 Kingdoms 24:14 LXX (MT: 2 Samuel)

And David said to Gad, On every side I am much straitened: let me fall now into the hands of the Lord, for his compassions are very many; and let me not fall into the hands of man.

1 Chronicles 21:13 LXX

And David said to Gad, They are very hard for me, even all the three: let me fall now into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are very abundant, and let me not fall by any means into the hands of man.

Judith 4:7 LXX

... charging them to keep the passages of the hill country: for by them there was an entrance into Judea, and it was easy to stop them that would come up, because the passage was strait, for two men at the most.

Isaiah 30:20 LXX

And though the Lord shall give you the bread of affliction and scant water, yet they that cause thee to err shall no more at all draw nigh to thee; for thine eyes shall see those that cause thee to err

The phrase translated as "narrow is the way" in the King James Version literally says "straightened is the way", using a participle of the verb θλίβω, which means something like "to experience trouble". Examples elsewhere in the New Testament:

Mark 3:9

And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng [press] him.

2 Corinthians 1:6

And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

2 Corinthians 4:8

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair

1 Thessalonians 3:4

For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

Thus, when we look at how these two words are used in other passages, the image is one of intense struggle - something a little stronger than "strait" and "narrow". A better translation might be: How narrow the gate and how hard the way which leadeth unto life.

The Byzantine (Greek) commenter Theophylact explains this passage thus:

The narrow gate means both trials that are voluntarily undertaken, such as fasting and the like, and trials that are involuntarily experienced, such as imprisonment and persecution. Just as a man who is fat, or who is carrying a great load, cannot go in through a narrow gate, neither can a gourmandizer or rich man. These go in through the wide gate. To show that narrowness is temporary and that the width is likewise transitory, He calls them a "gate" and a "way". For the gate is hardship, and he who undergoes hardship passes through his hardship as quickly as he would pass through a gate. And the pleasures of the gourmandizer's feast are as transitory as any moment in a journey along a road. Since both are temporary, we ought to choose the better of the two.

Explanation of the Gospel According to Matthew (tr. Chrysostom Press, 1992), p.65

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Based on the text itself, the "gate" and "road" have no more definition than "that which leads to life". There is nothing nearby that would make them concrete places or objects. Instead, they are figurative, as in Pindar's Olympian Ode #6 (tr. by Diane Arnson Svarlien):

χρὴ τοίνυν πύλας ὕμνων ἀναπίτναμεν αὐταῖς

And so it is right to open for them the gates of song

...or his Olympian Ode #8:

πολλαὶ δ᾽ ὁδοὶ σὺν θεοῖς εὐπραγίας

with the favor of the gods, there are many paths of success

...or elsewhere in the NT, Acts 2:28:

ἐγνώρισάς μοι ὁδοὺς ζωῆς

you made roads of life known to me

See a good lexicon for the myriad figurative uses of "ὁδός" in Matthew, the rest of the NT, and other Greek works. Liddell-Scott, for example, has a large section summarized as "metaphorically, way or manner". Any of those may be brought to bear on this text at the whim of any author or speaker, but the text itself does not specify it further.

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It seems the "narrow" would be a reference to the obedience needed to enter into Gods glory. While the "wide" lends itself to the flesh and the struggles it brings.

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  • Unless you can back up these statements by references (other Scriptures, language authorities, etc.) they may be viewed as simply your own opinions. – Pilgrim Oct 29 '17 at 0:53
  • You have just stated your own thoughts. In order for other people to accept your thoughts, they need to be accompanied with evidence - reference to scripture, primarily. – Nigel J Oct 29 '17 at 0:59
  • Thanks for the input. I will try to be more scriptural with my answers. I the feed back and the all the thoughts. – F to A Oct 29 '17 at 15:10

It is possible that crucifixion of the flesh is "the narrow gate", and fasting is the "narrow road". The "narrow gate" does come before the "narrow road" in the Bible passage in question. So it is highly likely that the former is a mental state that needs to be arrived to, before the action of doing strategic fastings can take place to subdue our carnal flesh.

Gal 5:25 (NIV) "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires".

1 Cor 9:27 (NKJV) "... I discipline my body and bring it into subjection".

Phil 3:19 (NIV) "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, ..."

Phil 3:19 (NASB) "... whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, ..."

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I like the answer given in gotquestions.com the best:

![narrow gate ]1

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