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.