Sitting On Two Asses? Second Thoughts On The Two-Animal Interpretation Of Matthew 21:7 -- By: Wayne Coppins
TynBull 63:2 (2012) p. 275
Sitting On Two Asses?
Second Thoughts On The Two-Animal Interpretation Of Matthew 21:7
The main thesis of this article is that the ‘two-animal’ interpretation of Matthew 21:7, according to which Matthew speaks of Jesus as sitting on two animals, can be shown to be more probable than the ‘multiple-garments’ interpretation, according to which Jesus is understood to be sitting on multiple garments on a single animal. Prior to my analysis of Matthew 21:7 I discuss the related question of why Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem involves two animals rather than one, arguing that the ‘history conformed to Scripture interpretation’ is more probable than the ‘Scripture conformed to history’ interpretation. Following it, I advance a more tentative interpretation of the surprising outcome of Matthew’s interaction with Scripture.
In Matthew 21:1-11, Jesus and his disciples arrive at Bethphage, near Jerusalem. Jesus then sends two disciples to go and find ‘a donkey bound and a colt with her’ (21:2). The disciples find the two animals and bring them to Jesus. They put garments on them and Jesus is then said to sit on them (21:7). A large crowd spreads their garments and branches on the road and those following cry out ‘Hosanna!’ (21:9). When Jesus enters Jerusalem, ‘the whole city was in turmoil, saying, “Who is this?”’ (21:10).
Matthew 21:7 can be understood to mean that Matthew speaks of Jesus sitting on two animals. It is this oft-repeated interpretation that I would like to investigate with regard to the arguments for and against it. Notably, I began researching this article with the intention of
TynBull 63:2 (2012) p. 276
challenging the plausibility of the ‘two-animal’ interpretation of Matthew 21:7, only to become convinced of its likelihood in the course of my research.
My argument shall proceed as follows. I will begin by briefly establishing the fact that Matthew speaks of two animals in Matthew 21:1-12. This is striking because the parallel pericopes in Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-36 and John 12:12-19 only speak of one animal. Building upon this point, I shall then present two competing explanations for why Matthew has two anima...
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