Matthew 7:13

New Testament

13 “Enter through the narrow gate because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it! 15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

Sifre Deuteronomy 53

Halakhic Midrash

(Devarim 11:26) "Behold, I set before you this day blessing and curse": Because it is written (Ibid. 30:19) "The life and the death have I set before you, the blessing and the curse," lest Israel say: Since the Holy One Blessed be He has set before us two ways, the way of life and the way of death, we can choose whichever we wish; it is, therefore, written (Ibid.) "and you shall choose the life, you and your seed." An analogy: A man is sitting at the crossroads, with two paths stretching before him, one, whose beginning is level and whose end is thorns, and one whose beginning is thorns and whose end is level. He apprises the passersby: This path whose beginning you see to be level — for two or three steps you will walk on level ground, and, in the end, on thorns. And this path whose beginning you see to be thorny — for two or three steps you will walk in thorns, and in the end you will walk on level ground. Thus did Moses speak to Israel: You see the wicked prospering — For two or three days they will prosper in this world, and in the end, they will be cast away, as it is written (Proverbs 24:20) "For there is no (good) end for the wicked one," and (Koheleth 4:1) "Behold, the tears of the oppressed (in Gehinnom)." And (Ibid. 5) "The fool folds his hands together (in contentment), and, (in the end) he eats his own flesh." And it is written (Proverbs 4:19) "The way of the wicked is pitch darkness." They see the righteous suffering in this world. Their end is to rejoice, viz. (Devarim 8:16) "to benefit you in your latter end." And it is written (Koheleth 7:8) "Better the end of a thing than its beginning." And (Jeremiah 29:11) "For I (the L-rd) know the thoughts that I think concerning you … to give to you a (goodly) end and a hope." And it is written (Psalms 97:11) "Light is sown for the righteous one," and (Proverbs 4:18) "The path of the righteous is like shining light."

 Notes and References

"... Greek and Roman writers fairly often employed the image of the two paths in life (Seneca, Epistulae Lucilium 8.3; 27.4; Diogenes 30 to Hicetas; compare the Pythagorean version of a narrower way in Athenaeus Deipnosophistae 11. 10.77; Porphyry Letter to Pythagoras 42) or two ways after death (Virgil Aeneid 6.540-43; Cicero Tusculanae Disputationes 1.30.72). Jewish pietists also stressed the two moral ways (Deuteronomy 30:15; Psalm 1:1; Pirkei Avot 2:9; Testament of Asher 1:3, 5 ... especially on Sifre Deuteronomy 53) early Christian literature developed it further (compare Didache 1:1-6:2; Epistle of Barnabus 18:1-2, 1:9), and those particularly concerned with the future judgment especially employed the image of the two ways, the narrow one leading to life (compare Matthew 19:17) and the broad one to destruction (4 Ezra 7:3-16, 60-61; 8:1-3; Testament of Abraham 11 A; 88). The story is told of a pious first-century teacher, Johanan ben Zakkai, unsure on his deathbed whether he will proceed on the road to paradise or the one to Gehenna (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan 25A: Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 28b; Genesis Rabbah 100:2; compare Genesis Rabbah 96:5): other accounts similarly depict those two roads after death (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan 25A: Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 27:2; compare Genesis Rabbah 59:6; 69:7) ..."

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (p. 250) William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009

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