The "Straight" and Narrow Path

You've heard it all your life. It would be good for you to walk the Straight and Narrow Path. Jesus was the one who said that, right?

Actually, he said nothing of the sort. Instead, he only called the path narrow. It was the gate he called "strait" and not "straight." He did not speak of a strait and narrow path, because that would have been redundant; sort of like calling Hulk Hogan a large and big man.

You've probably heard of the Straits of Gibraltar. Those "straits" are the narrow waterway between Spain and Morocco that connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The word means narrow or confined. A person in "dire straits," is in a difficult or confined situation where it is hard to know what to do. A straitjacket is a jacket used to confine the dangerous. It is a "strait" jacket specifically because it is cramped or confined. The Bering Strait, connecting the Arctic and Pacific oceans between Russia and Alaska, is also named for its narrowness.

The comment about the strait gate is found exclusively in the King James Version of the Bible and other older English translations. More modern translators are aware that most of us have forgotten the real meaning of the word strait, confusing it with its completely different homonym, straight, so they don't use it. Instead, they use a synonym, like narrow (Holman Christian Standard Bible®, for example).

The passage, Matthew 7:13-14, reads like this in the King James Version:

"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."

So now you can tell folks that Jesus never said the path was straight. The path to life, indeed, may wander all over the place. It really is, however, narrow. In fact, that Holman Christian Standard Bible® calls the path difficult, and other versions translate the Greek thlibo as cramped.