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)

8 Answers 8


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


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.


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.

  • Unless you can back up these statements by references (other Scriptures, language authorities, etc.) they may be viewed as simply your own opinions.
    – Pilgrim
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 0:53
  • 1
    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
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 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. Commented Oct 29, 2017 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, ..."


In Matthew 7, Jesus is retelling a portion of The Testament of Abraham.

  1. And the archangel Michael went down and took Abraham upon a chariot of the cherubim, and exalted him into the air of heaven, and led him upon the cloud together with sixty angels, and Abraham ascended upon the chariot over all the earth. And Abraham saw the world as it was in that day, some ploughing, others driving wagons, in one place men herding flocks, and in another watching them by night, and dancing and playing and harping, in another place men striving and contending at law, elsewhere men weeping and having the dead in remembrance. He saw also the newly-wedded received with honor, and in a word he saw all things that are done in the world, both good and bad. Abraham therefore passing over them saw men bearing swords, wielding in their hands sharpened swords, and Abraham asked the chief-captain, Who are these? The chief-captain said, These are thieves, who intend to commit murder, and to steal and burn and destroy. Abraham said, Lord, Lord, hear my voice, and command that wild beasts may come out of the wood and devour them. And even as he spoke there came wild beasts out of the wood and devoured them. And he saw in another place a man with a woman committing fornication with each other, and said, Lord, Lord, command that the earth may open and swallow them, and straightway the earth was cleft and swallowed them. And he saw in another place men digging through a house, and carrying away other men's possessions, and he said, Lord, Lord, command that fire may come down from heaven and consume them. And even as he spoke, fire came down from heaven and consumed them. And straightway there came a voice from heaven to the chief-captain, saying thus, O chief-captain Michael, command the chariot to stop, and turn Abraham away that he may not see all the earth, for if he behold all that live in wickedness, he will destroy all creation. For behold, Abraham has not sinned, and has no pity on sinners, but I have made the world, and desire not to destroy any one of them, but wait for the death of the sinner, till he be converted and live. But take Abraham up to the first gate of heaven, that he may see there the judgments and recompenses, and repent of the souls of the sinners that he has destroyed.
  1. So Michael turned the chariot and brought Abraham to the east, to the first gate of heaven; and Abraham saw two ways, the one narrow and contracted, the other broad and spacious, and there he saw two gates, the one broad on the broad way, and the other narrow on the narrow way. And outside the two gates there he saw a man sitting upon a gilded throne, and the appearance of that man was terrible, as of the Lord. And they saw many souls driven by angels and led in through the broad gate, and other souls, few in number, that were taken by the angels through the narrow gate. And when the wonderful one who sat upon the golden throne saw few entering through the narrow gate, and many entering through the broad one, straightway that wonderful one tore the hairs of his head and the sides of his beard, and threw himself on the ground from his throne, weeping and lamenting. But when he saw many souls entering through the narrow gate, then he arose from the ground and sat upon his throne in great joy, rejoicing and exulting. And Abraham asked the chief-captain, My Lord chief-captain, who is this most marvelous man, adorned with such glory, and sometimes he weeps and laments, and sometimes he rejoices and exults? The incorporeal one said: This is the first-created Adam who is in such glory, and he looks upon the world because all are born from him, and when he sees many souls going through the narrow gate, then he arises and sits upon his throne rejoicing and exulting in joy, because this narrow gate is that of the just, that leads to life, and they that enter through it go into Paradise. For this, then, the first-created Adam rejoices, because he sees the souls being saved. But when he sees many souls entering through the broad gate, then he pulls out the hairs of his head, and casts himself on the ground weeping and lamenting bitterly, for the broad gate is that of sinners, which leads to destruction and eternal punishment. And for this the first-formed Adam falls from his throne weeping and lamenting for the destruction of sinners, for they are many that are lost, and they are few that are saved, for in seven thousand there is scarcely found one soul saved, being righteous and undefiled.

This apocryphal text appears to also be the literary background of these passages:

[2 Peter 3:9 NKJV] (9) The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

[Luke 9:53-56 NLT] (53) But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. (54) When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, "Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?" (55) But Jesus turned and rebuked them. (56) So they went on to another village.

[Luke 16:19-31 NLT] (19) Jesus said, "There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. (20) At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. (21) As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. (22) "Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, (23) and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. (24) "The rich man shouted, 'Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.' (25) "But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. (26) And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.' (27) "Then the rich man said, 'Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father's home. (28) For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don't end up in this place of torment.' (29) "But Abraham said, 'Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.' (30) "The rich man replied, 'No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.' (31) "But Abraham said, 'If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead.'"


In the context of this verse citing the wide gate a better translation for strait (G4728 stenos) gate is narrow which is listed as an alternative translation for strait G4728. Therefore:

13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

In this context Matthew is discussing the narrow gate leading to salvation, eternal life & the broad gate which leads to destruction. Narrow in the sense that few find salvation as few follow the example of God’s Lamb by keeping Passover.

The physical shadow of Passover is repeated throughout scripture so clearly there is a message to be learned. We see the blood of the Lamb sparing the Israelites as they flee Egypt; sparing Isaac from Abraham & culminating in our Messiah & Gods Passover Lamb offering his own life on our behalf.

What can we learn? Passover or the sacrifice of a prized lamb was a great personal sacrifice for the Israelites. Our equivalent sacrifice in this new covenant is submitting to God’s Laws. Our Messiah instructed to do exactly this:

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
Do what? Follow the example set by God’s Lamb and keep Passover.

We are instructed to keep God’s Laws & in so doing we keep the feasts & yes, Passover
John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (The Lamb said to keep the commandments of God, not one jot or tittle will be abolished).

In light of the above the narrow gate relates to how we keep Passover & God’s other feasts, narrow indeed!

The lesson in Matt 7:13 is elaborated on in John 10. The symbolism used in John 10 is God as the gatekeeper to green pastures (eternal life). Our Messiah as the good shepherd leading the flock by setting the example we are to follow by spiritually offering our own lives as spiritual Passover Lambs (submitting to the Laws) & we, the bride of the Groom, God’s Lamb following the good shepherd (‘s example keeping Passover).

John 10:1-11 - The Good Shepherd and His Sheep who enter through the Passover “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate (Passover), but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate (Passover) is the shepherd of the (rest of the) sheep. 2 The gatekeeper (God) opens the gate for him (the Shepherd, our Messiah who leads us out of a life of bondage into a new life of freedom from sin by his Passover sacrifice), and the sheep (we too our lambs of God) listen to his (Messiah’s) voice (example). He calls his own sheep (Passover Lambs) by name and leads them out (of this physical world and into the Kingdom of God through Passover). 3 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them (offering his life as a living sacrifice and suffering at the stake on Passover), and his sheep follow him (in the Passover example he set) because they know his voice. 4 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 5 Our Messiah used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them (1 Cor. 1:23). 6

Passover (the example set by God’s Lamb), the narrow gate that we must follow to eternal life.


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

![narrow gate ]1


Strait is the gate. Narrow is the way. Strait is not the way. It is the gate. There are two things you must notice. A gate (other languages it is door) and a Way. Gate is different from Way. Don't mix both together. Strait in other languages is less space. Enter through the door Jesus. Every one can't enter through this door. You have to repent from your sins before you can enter. Then the way you take is narrow which is the Way of holiness which leads to our heavenly Zion. Isaiah 35:8 praise the Lord.

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  • This is unsusbstantiated by reference to the scriptures and is therefore an opinion.
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    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 6:12

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