Matthew 17:20 – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [New International Version (NIV)]
It can be argued that this statement made by Jesus-Christ is one of, if not, the greatest statement ever made about faith. With it, we can move mountains! That is certainly some power that God has placed at our disposal. The issue at hand however is on the kind of faith that can help us move mountains. Is it really a faith as small as a mustard seed? The short answer to this question is NO! The next few articles will be dedicated to this topic.
Argument 1: It is a matter of Bible translations, and here…it really matters!
Here is the same verse in two other popular Bible translations: The King James Version (KJV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Matthew 17:20 (KJV) – And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Matthew 17:20 (NASB) – And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
It is clear that while the NIV and NASB make explicit reference to the size of the mustard seed, which is very, very small, the KJV does not. However, what is very interesting is that in the Greek texts, neither the word size nor the word small appears in this verse. In other words, the NIV and NASB added these words, while the KJV left this verse intact. Another example is in Luke 17:6, where Jesus-Christ gives another teaching that is very similar to the one in Matthew.
Luke 17:6 (KJV) – And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
Again, in this verse, the NIV added the word small (“…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…”). However – and interestingly – the NASB did not add the word size as it did in Matthew (“…If you had faith like a mustard seed…”). Why such inconsistency in the NASB, especially since the teachings of Jesus-Christ in Matthew 17 and here in Luke 17 are essentially the same?
The important question is therefore whether the three versions (KJV, NIV, and NASB) are essentially saying the same thing. The short is answer is NO! As will be argued, adding either size or small changes entirely the message of Jesus-Christ.
It is a good idea to have several Bible versions and compare them as often as possible to detect any potential error in translation.
[…] About the Author: Serge N. Sala-Diakanda started his blog with a passion for thought-provoking biblical topics, by revisiting many of the Christians concepts we think we already know. This article is a summary of a 7-parts series he wrote on the mustard seed in his blog. You can read the full series here. […]
Faith can do anything,if it is in God’s will and His plan. I need to remember that with God nothing is impossible – Matthew 19:26.
I love how you commented about God’s will and His plan. May He give us wisdom in all things! Amen.
Right on family. Jesus just corrected them about how tiny their faith was. The mustard seed has great faith! For its reliance to become the greatest garden plant depends solely on God’s plan and goodness. Good job family. We must rightly divide God’s word to have proper doctrine.
Amen to these words Melkizedek! And my apologies for replying 5000 years later. You have quite a name 🙂
Russel Conwell would be proud of you ! JLDR Nov. 8, 2021
Thank you! I only read the KJV. I hear people always saying you only need a small amount of faith like the small mustard seed. I say the mustard seed has a lot of faith. Now I see why they don’t understand: KJV: “…as a mustard seed..” Not “as small as a mustard seed” like the other versions have changed it to. The Bible warns not to add or take away from scripture. The internet also tells people they only need a small amount of faith. I could be wrong bc it also says lean not to your own understanding.
Hi Petra. Thank you for commenting. You are right. There is much confusion on the subject. I hope you will be able to read the full 7 part series because I believe it gives multiple arguments which show that this subject is often misunderstood.
May God open both your eyes and mine as we seek to understand His Will. Amen!
Lean not to your own understanding. Don’t add or subtract anything from the Bible. This is why I only read the King James Version. I do not want to be deceived by prosperity preachers, feel good preachers, or picking and choosing.
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