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Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time. The reading is from Gospel of Matthew 7:13-14.

The Codex Sinaiticus, which contains the text of the New Testament and includes the Epistle of Barnabas.

The Narrow Gate – Matthew 7:13-14

[Jesus said:]

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.

The final section of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-28, is composed of a series of antitheses, contrasting two kinds of life within the Christian community – that of those who obey the words of Jesus and that of those who do not.  The above verses are echoed in Luke also.

  • “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (Like 13:24)

The metaphor of the “Two Ways” – Dualism

The metaphor of the “two ways” – narrow gate and wide gate, was common in pagan philosophy and in the Old Testament. In Christian literature it is found also in the Didache, an early second-century Christian composition, that is clearly composite, consisting of a “Two Ways” section (chaps. 1-6) and in the Epistle of Barnabas (18–20).

Qumran texts and 1 John

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts consisting of biblical manuscripts from what is now known as the Hebrew Bible, and extra-biblical documents. These scrolls were found between 1946 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. They were specifically located at Khirbet Qumran in what was then British Mandate Palestine, now known as the West Bank since 1947.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were compared with writings in the New Testament, scholars noted many parallels between themes developed in 1 John and in the Scrolls.

The Psalms Scroll, designated 11Q5, with transcription.

Most of the parallels to 1 John are found in the Manual of Discipline (1QS) of the Qumran texts . The origin of “two ways” is attributed in “The Community Rule” to two spirits that God gave man at the creation: the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit (1QS 3, 18-19).

  • We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit. (1 John 4:6)

These include light and darkness, truth and deceit (1QS 3:19).

  • Now this is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
  • If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
  • Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4)
  • I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth. Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. (1 John 2:21-22)
  • If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. [Now] this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him. (1 John 3:17-19)

The division of people into two groups, sons of light (1QS 3:33), and sons of darkness (1QS 1:10) who are distinguished by these pairs of opposites.

  • But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

They are motivated by two spirits, the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit (1QS 3:18, 19)

  • We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit. (1 John 4:6)

The spirits of light and darkness and the angels or princes of light and darkness (1QS 3:20-25).

  • Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God. In this way, the children of God and the children of the devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:8-10)

This ethical dualism, “love the sons of the light and hate all the sons of darkness”, is again oriented toward the great eschatological event. There was no freedom of choice, but only rigid determinism.

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