O Ye of Little Faith in Matthew’s Gospel

A favorite turn of phrase used by Jesus in the Gospels is the exclamation, O ye of little faith! The Greek term oligopistos comes from its root, pistos, “faith,“ and the prefix oligo- which means “few.” We can find the term five times in Matthew.

Jesus emphasizes that a strong faith is the remedy for many things. Faith resolves the immediate matters of the day – the provision of food and clothing. Jesus’ calming of the tempest, and the lesson of Peter sinking when his faith waivers, remind us that faith in Christ should take precedence over our own mortal fear. Finally, faith helps us to properly interpret Scripture and the Word of God. In Matthew 16:8, Jesus expresses exasperation with his disciples, saying O ye of little faith, because they had completely misunderstood his admonition to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Saduccees.”

In the first chapter of John, the phrase O ye of little faith! is turned on its head, as Nathaniel’s almost nonchalant expression of faith is affirmed by Jesus. When Jesus meets Nathaniel, he says, “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile!” Nathaniel replies “Rabbi, you are the Son of God.” And Jesus replies, Because I saw you under a fig tree, you have faith? You shall see greater things than this! (John 1: 47-51)

From the Gospel of Matthew

6:30 “If God so clothes the grass of the field… will he not much more provide for you, O ye of little faith…”

8:26 “Why are you terrified, O ye of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea…

14: 31 But when Peter saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O ye of little faith, why did you doubt?”

16:8 When Jesus became aware of this he said, “You of little faith, why do you conclude among yourselves that it is because you have no bread?”

17:20  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

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