Abraham’s Narrow Gate

Abraham's Narrow Gate

There are a lot of great stories (not to mention a lot of great theology) to be found in pseudepigraphal literature. One must use discernment, of course, but we should not be quick to reject these books outright, simply because they do not come bound in our modern, printed editions of the scriptures.

For example, in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of both narrow and wide gates: “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. How narrow is the gate, and how pressing is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it” (St. Matt. 7:13-14).

The analogy used here is one that is also found in the pseudepigraphal Testament of Abraham, but with some interesting detail and “backstory” included:

And Abraham looked and saw two gates, the one small and the other large, and between the two gates sat a man upon a throne of great glory, and a multitude of angels round about him, and he was weeping, and again laughing, but his weeping exceeded his laughter seven-fold.

And Abraham said to Michael, “Who is this that sits between the two gates in great glory; sometimes he laughs, and sometimes he weeps, and his weeping exceeds his laughter seven-fold?”

And Michael said to Abraham, “Do you not know who it is?”

And he said, “No, lord.”

And Michael said to Abraham, “Do you see these two gates, the small and the great? These are they which lead to life and to destruction. This man that sits between them is Adam, the first man whom the Lord created, and set him in this place to see every soul that departs from the body, seeing that all are from him. When, therefore, you see him weeping, know that he has seen many souls being led to destruction, but when you see him laughing, he has seen many souls being led into life. Do you see how his weeping exceeds his laughter? Since he sees the greater part of the world being led away through the broad gate to destruction, therefore his weeping exceeds his laughter seven-fold.”

Abraham is struck with emotion at the sight of these condemned souls, lamenting:

“And he that cannot enter through the narrow gate, can he not enter into life?” Then Abraham wept, saying, “Woe is me, what shall I do? For I am a man broad of body, and how shall I be able to enter by the narrow gate, by which a boy of fifteen years cannot enter?”

Michael answered and said to Abraham, “Fear not, father, nor grieve, for you shall enter by it unhindered, and all those who are like you.”

Interestingly enough, the hope for all who would enter by the “narrow gate” is to be “like Abraham.” This reminds me of the great apostle’s words: “Know, therefore, that those who are of faith are likewise Abraham’s children [...] And so, those of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:7,9). Faith like Abraham’s is what makes us “fit” enough to squeeze through the narrow gate and into the true Life in Christ.

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