The Two Asses Of Zechariah 9:9 In Matthew 21 -- By: David Instone-Brewer

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 54:1 (NA 2003)
Article: The Two Asses Of Zechariah 9:9 In Matthew 21
Author: David Instone-Brewer

The Two Asses Of Zechariah 9:9
In Matthew 21

David Instone-Brewer


Matthew appears to depart from the Synoptics, Johannine tradition and from common sense when he gives Jesus two asses to ride on for his grand entrance into Jerusalem. Most commentators have assumed that Matthew misunderstood the meaning of the parallelism in Zechariah 9:9, which caused him to create another animal to enable Jesus to fulfil the prophecy. It will be suggested here that Matthew understood the concept of parallelism, but that he did not believe that Scripture should be interpreted in that way. This is in line with rabbinic thought of the first century which rejected the concept of parallelism in Scripture.

I. Introduction

All four Gospels record the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on an ass among the jubilant shouts of Hosanna. Although only Matthew and John explicitly link this with the prophecy of Zechariah, this prophecy is clearly implied in the version by Mark and Luke. Lindars suggested that Mark and Luke’s accounts do not necessarily indicate any Messianic elements, so that the use of Zechariah is Matthew’s idea1 This seems unlikely. It is true that Hosanna can simply be an exclamation, and does not necessarily indicate the invocation ‘Save now!’.2 It is also true that riding into Jerusalem in this way was not

nearly as majestic as the recent entrance of Pilate,3 though it is impossible to escape the parallels with other triumphant arrivals.4 Lindars translates Mark 11:10 as ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David’5 which could be used equally well of a messianic forerunner or prophet. Lindars argued that Jesus did not proclaim any messianic identity, and that this was a construct of the church, as illustrated by Matthew and John’s development of this scene.6

Whether or not Mark and Luke regarded this entrance as Messianic, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that they would have associated it with the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9:

Χαῖρε σφόδρα θύγατερ Σιῶν, κήρυσσε θύγατερ Ἰερουσαλήμ. Ἰδοὺ ὀ βασιλεύς σου ἔρχεταί σοι δ...

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