Problem: Matthew's "triumphal entry" is wrong
Verses: Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:1-7, others; Status: Serious

The accounts of Mark, Luke, and John of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem all say that Jesus rode in on a "colt" which John explains is a donkey. No problem. Matthew, however, writes that Jesus rides in on not one but two animals (though probably not at the same time).

Here's Matthew 21:1-3:

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." (ESV)

By contrast, here's Mark 11:1-3:

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'" (ESV)

The account in Luke 19:29-31 is almost identical to Mark's, and John 12:14-15 is close enough. So why on Earth does Matthew add an animal? The answer becomes apparent when we read on; this is Matthew 21:4-5

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'" (ESV)

Matthew here is quoting Zechariah. Here is the original prophecy, Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (ESV)

It's clear enough that when Zechariah 9:9 says "on a donkey, on a colt" this is simply a rhetorical repetition, rather than an indication of a second animal. But Matthew seems to have misunderstood this, and has edited Mark's version of the triumphal entry to fit his own misunderstanding of prophecy.

Of course, one could claim that Matthew was right and the other authors simply did not mention the second animal. But I find it suspicious that only Matthew mentions it, especially given his misreading of Zechariah.

Updated: 2016-11-03

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