Did Jesus ride two donkeys into Jerusalem?

Many are familiar with the story of Jesus riding majestically into Jerusalem on a donkey during the Triumphal Entry. What you MAY not know is that in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus rides into town on TWO DONKEYS.  

Count 'em: two.  A mother donkey and her colt.

It's unclear how Jesus was able to physically ride on two donkeys at once, especially when they were two different sizes.  Maybe something like this: 

The most plausible donkey configuration...another possibility is to ride them like water skis

But this little bit of weirdness in Matthew's gospel is overwhelming evidence that the anonymous author of Matthew was INVENTING fiction in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy--or at least, what he UNDERSTOOD to be OT prophecy.

In order for fulfilled prophecy to be actually compelling, it has to be something like this:

  1. Prophecy is written down
  2. Events actually happen that fulfill the prophecy
  3. Documentation is written about the events
If Step #2 does not occur, then why take it seriously? Prophecy wasn't fulfilled; a story was merely written as if it had been.

Short background on the translations.  The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and was later translated into Greek in the Septuagint.  Though it isn't known for sure, the anonymous author of Matthew most likely could not read Hebrew and relied on the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

Based on evidence which I will present below, this is how the two donkey weirdness happened:
  1. Prophecy is written in Zechariah 9:9 in Hebrew
  2. Hebrew is translated into Greek but not correctly
  3. <prophesied events did not happen>
  4. Matthew further misinterprets the Greek translation of Zechariah 9:9, writes a story to fulfill the misinterpreted prophecy
  5. Matthew is forever haunted by his two donkey blunder
So what does Zechariah 9:9 say?  This is the Greek Septuagint translated into English:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim [it] aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a Saviour; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal.

Matthew even quotes this passage in his gospel (Mt 21:5) so we know without a doubt that this is the specific OT prophecy that he is attempting to fulfill.  (Click here for full Matthew passage).

There are two problems that contributed to Matthew's blunder:
  1. The mistranslated conjunction word "and"; 
  2. Misinterpretation of a poetic structure called "parallelism"
Let's take a closer look!

The Conjunction Word "And"

In the Hebrew text of Zechariah 9:9, there is a short conjunction (joining word) between the two lines.  This conjunction word can mean "and", "but", and "or", and sometimes the meaning is so insignificant that it is dropped entirely in translation.  But in the Septuagint, this pesky word is translated as "AND".  So the version of the scriptures that Matthew relied on (quoted above) implied that there were two separate animals, but the Hebrew version does not imply the meaning "AND" by the use of that conjunction.

Parallelism

It seems that Matthew was not too familiar with Hebrew poetry, which often contains the poetic structure parallelism.  Parallelism is one line followed by another line that is a repetition of a thought.  In other words, the idea is restated on the next line.  (See what I did there?)  There are many examples of this in the Hebrew Bible.  The Zechariah prophecy contains parallelism in these two lines (this is the Hebrew version without the conjunction):

humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

It appears that when Matthew read this passage in the Septuagint, he failed to recognize the parallelism and he interpreted it LITERALLY.  That is, he read the donkey and the colt as separate animals, instead of one.  Combine that with the fact that the Septuagint ALSO contained an erroneous "AND" conjunction between the two lines, and we can almost forgive Matthew for thinking the prophecy was referring to two donkeys.  Well, if it weren't for the ludicrous mental image.

The Bottom Line

When you consider all the evidence above and add to it the facts that Mark, Luke, and John only write Jesus riding ONE donkey AND that Matthew has done this type of thing before...it's not looking good for the historical reliability of the gospel of Matthew.

So what does all this mean?  Instead of describing events that actually happened, Matthew crafted a narrative based on his own understanding of a mistranslation of the original scriptures.

If Matthew had been recording actual events, or eyewitness accounts of them, or his own memory of them, then why would he be consulting the scriptures while he was writing?  If there actually were a God directing events and fulfilling prophecy, then it would be irrelevant what the scriptures said or how they were translated. Nobody would need to rely on the scriptures to see what the prophecies were...GOD WOULD FULFILL THEM ON HIS OWN.

Which makes you wonder...what else in the New Testament was merely written to fulfill OT prophecy? Could it be...everything?

Matthew Chapter 21:1-8 NIV

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 

Further watching and reading:

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