Matthew 21:5-7 - whoa, how many donkeys?!

EutychusEutychus Admin
edited April 5 in Kerygmania
This morning I had one of those unnerving moments for a preacher when, during my selected Palm Sunday Scripture reading immediately before opening my mouth to preach, I realised it didn't say quite what I'd thought it said (and wondered how I'd never noticed this before):
They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.

It seems the verse in Zechariah (9:9) is ambiguous about how many beasts are referred to. I wonder if it might be some sort of Hebrew parallelism.

Also, isn't it Matthew who's notorious for 'seeing double' (two blind men, two lepers, etc...?).

Still, I'm trying to picture just exactly how Jesus is supposed to sit on both beasts of burden (note that according to Matthew, both get improvised saddles).

What's going on here?

Comments

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Changed horses midstream. Where's the problem.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    I’m pretty sure we had a discussion on this on the Old Ship. Whether it’s still there and whether I can find it, though, Lord only knows.

  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited April 5
    "Them" can also refer to the cloaks. And if you're intending to ride an unbroken foal, it's a wise idea to save that for the easiest / most meaningful bits, and ride the experienced / stronger animal at least part of the time. As in, use the foal on the straightway into the gates, and the jenny on the hilly bits.
  • Okay... any ideas on why Matthew keeps seeing double?
  • Clonk on the head? (you know it had to be said)
  • GarasuGarasu Shipmate
    Zechariah 9.9

    "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
    See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
    lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

    I'm thinking there's an interpolated "and", as it were...
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    A parallelism that Matthew completely missed, taking the 'and ' unduly literally. The sort of thing which, I would suggest, an overzealous interpreter easily does.
  • That's Hebrew parallelism, of course. But then, you'd expect Matthew to be thoroughly familiar with Hebrew parallelism...

    Me, I think there were in fact two donkeys for the very sensible reason that it is easier to get the younger, untrained donkey to behave and not freak out when its mother is around.
  • GarasuGarasu Shipmate
    That's Hebrew parallelism, of course. But then, you'd expect Matthew to be thoroughly familiar with Hebrew parallelism...

    But if Matthew keeps "seeing double"...?

  • Clonk on the head, I'm telling you.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    My wife brought up this very point in our home devotions this morning! All four gospels have the triumphal entry and three have a single donkey. Mark makes no reference to the Zechariah prophecy, nor does Luke. John alludes to the event as a prophetic fulfillment.

    I've heard Lamb Chopped's explanation and it is reasonable, but what persuades me there was only one donkey it the primacy of Mark for the gospel accounts. Matthew's narrative contains a lot of references to prophetic fulfillment and I suspect he was making explicit the Zechariah prophecy. The extent to which the crowd saw this donkey-riding as a Messianic act is something we can't be sure about, but the use of palms to mark his journey is pretty indicative that some at least were reminded of that. So I believe Matthew's narrative is based on the oral tradition that this was indeed a prophetic fulfillment and he clearly had access to Mark's account as well. So his expanded narrative was an amalgamation of the Mark account and the Zechariah prophecy.

    Personally I am sure that Zechariah 9 refers to only one donkey and the portion "the colt, the foal of a donkey" is a classic example of emphatic writing, of which there is a lot in the OT. Perhaps Matthew read it to mean two donkeys? Perhaps there were differences of interpretation about? We can't know for sure. But the primacy of Mark clinches it for me. If Mark says one donkey, then that's what there was.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    If someone (say Lady Godiva) rode a horse through town and you were mentioning it to your cousin in Limoges, you might write, "Lady Godiva wrote unclothed upon a white palfrey" even if you knew she changed horses halfway through town (as long as the second horse was also a white palfrey). The change of horse wasn't the issue, it's that she piloted a pale palfrey while peeled. You'd stick to the important bits (and boy were those some important bits, wot wot).

    On the other hand if your brother, who is autistic and an obsessive-compulsive literalist, were writing to your cousin's brother, he might well say the good Lady wrote two horses.

    Matthew seems to be a bit on the autistic side when it comes to such things.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Personally I am sure that Zechariah 9 refers to only one donkey and the portion "the colt, the foal of a donkey" is a classic example of emphatic writing, of which there is a lot in the OT.

    I'm sure you're correct. It's not so much emphatic, as very common Hebrew device of saying the same thing twice using slightly different words.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I’m pretty sure we had a discussion on this on the Old Ship. Whether it’s still there and whether I can find it, though, Lord only knows.

    We did, and my memory is that the conclusion was much as Barnabas's post.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    mousethief wrote: »
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Personally I am sure that Zechariah 9 refers to only one donkey and the portion "the colt, the foal of a donkey" is a classic example of emphatic writing, of which there is a lot in the OT.

    I'm sure you're correct. It's not so much emphatic, as very common Hebrew device of saying the same thing twice using slightly different words.

    Thanks mousethief. That's more accurate than my colloquial use of emphatic.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    I don't have a particular opinion, but some people do imagine it as a cloak or cloaks spread across two animals, and Jesus somehow perched on top.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Golden Key wrote: »
    I don't have a particular opinion, but some people do imagine it as a cloak or cloaks spread across two animals, and Jesus somehow perched on top.

    That, to me, makes less sense than either of the two-horse-traded-off or matthew-invented=the=second=horse theories.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited April 6
    Would those be people who have never ridden a quadruped before? Ouchie.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    If someone (say Lady Godiva) rode a horse through town and you were mentioning it to your cousin in Limoges
    I once lived in Limoges. Believe me, merely receiving such an account there would be the highlight of your day, or possibly even month.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Would those be people who have never ridden a quadruped before? Ouchie.

    Or maybe people who watched "The Mask of Zorro" with admiration for Antonio Banderas' stunt double.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Would those be people who have never ridden a quadruped before? Ouchie.

    Or maybe people who watched "The Mask of Zorro" with admiration for Antonio Banderas' stunt double.
    Indeed! I have an image of Jesus standing on the backs of the animals (one foot on each) like a trick rider. No wonder the crowds cheered him!
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Even more impressive if one donkey is full grown and the other is a colt.
  • tclune wrote: »
    Would those be people who have never ridden a quadruped before? Ouchie.

    Or maybe people who watched "The Mask of Zorro" with admiration for Antonio Banderas' stunt double.

    Or then again, Epic Split.
  • yohan300yohan300 Shipmate
    edited May 27
    Eutychus wrote: »

    They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.

    You might not be the first to be confused. The Tyndale bible has "...brought the asse and the colte, and put on then there clothes, and set him thereon" which I assume is down to the printers seeing "them" as a bit strange rather than being a slip-up as it's not listed in "The errours committed in prentynge" at the end.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    Clonk on the head, I'm telling you.

    The best explanation!
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