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mother & son, triumphal entry


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It could not be clearer that Matthew in 22.5 is quoting Zechariah 9.9. What seems to be a bit of literary license of the Greek gospel writer is the specification of the relationship between the two animals Jesus has his two disciples fetch.


Zechariah only says this:


על־חמור ועל־עיר 


And the Greek LXX translators say only this:


ἐπὶ ὑποζύγιον καὶ πῶλον νέον 


But Matthew quotes Zechariah saying this in Greek translation:


ἐπὶ ὄνον καὶ ἐπὶ πῶλον υἱὸν ὑποζυγίου


And Matthew quotes Jesus saying this in his Greek rendering:


ὄνον καὶ πῶλον μετ᾿ αὐτῆς


This gendered Greek language of genesis and of generation by Matthew and by Matthew's Jesus is a marking of sex, of the mother-child relationship of the two who will carry Jesus in as the Messiah. 


This relationship is linguistically marked by the baby animal, the male offspring of the donkey, the "son" if we will in English:


υἱὸν ὑποζυγίου


This relationship is linguistically marked by feminine pronoun for the jenny or the jennet, the mother of her little foal:



πῶλον μετ᾿ αὐτῆς

Wouldn't Matthew's Jewish readers of Greek get this? He's saying Jesus is the son of man, where the Greek Jesus keeps repeating for himself in Matthew to this point points to the fact that he is the male offspring of an ordinary human. And from the get go in this gospel, we all understand. That human parent is not a man, not the man named Joseph. The human parent of this particular son named Jesus is Miriam, aka Mary, the pregnant fiancee of Joseph and then his wife.


So that Jesus sends two disciples to find two animals for him to ride into Jerusalem is significant enough. That Matthew and Jesus mark these animals as mother and son seems significant too.






This relationship is linguistically marked by the baby animal, the male offspring of the donkey, the "son" if we will in English:

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Great idea. I never had considered this.

Here is R.T. France:


>> "In the other three gospels only one animal is mentioned, a “foal” in Mark and Luke27 and a “small donkey” in John and John’s version of the Zechariah quotation is abbreviated to mention only one animal. Matthew has explicitly mentioned two in both the instructions to the disciples (v. 2) and the Zechariah quotation (v. 5), and now two animals are brought to Jesus and prepared for riding, probably by the disciples using their own cloaks as saddle cloths. Assuming that he rode on only one animal (and Matthew does not tell us whether it was the mother or the foal), the presence of the other is probably best explained at the narrative level by the comment of Mark and Luke that the “foal” had not been ridden before, so that its mother’s presence would help it to cope with the new experience (and the frightening noise of the crowd); the festive occasion required that the mother, even though not ridden, should also be given a saddle cloth. But it is not typical of Matthew to add circumstantial detail to his narrative without a purpose, and it seems likely that, aware that two animals had been present,28 he enjoyed the fact that the wording of Zechariah’s oracle can be read as including both mother and foal, and so mentioned them both. That is not to say, as some have suggested, that Matthew simply invented a second animal because his wooden reading of the Hebrew parallelism told him that it was needed. The author of this gospel was not ignorant of OT idiom, and would surely have recognized parallelism when he saw it. His mention of the second donkey is due rather to a typically Jewish interest in the form of the text, so that even though he knew it referred only to one animal its wording nonetheless lent itself to the mention of the other.29 This is not, therefore, another example of Matthew’s “doubling” of characters in the stories (as in 8:28–34 and 20:29–34); if the suggestion that those doublings were connected with the need for “two or three witnesses” has any merit, it could not apply here: the donkeys are not witnesses to anything. In those cases there was no OT text underlying the story, but here there is, and its expansive poetic wording has given Matthew scope for adding a further creative twist to his concept of “fulfillment.”30"


SOURCE:France, R. T., The Gospel of Matthew. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.



I added bold to that one line, although I think your explanation is more compelling than Matthew's interest in text forms per se. 

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Thanks so much for bringing in the comment by R.T. France. What you bold of Dr. France is salient indeed! Matthew seems rather intentional with the Greek choices.

As I've been reading through Matthew with you and others this year, I've been struck by the hierarchies in the constructs of human categories. (Oh, and obviously today's reading is Chapter Twenty One 21, but I'm afraid this forum won't let me correct that mistake of mine here.) Beasts of burden seem on par with human slaves. 

So I do like this one fn of Dr. France on this Chapter 21 of Mt (with my bolding what I'd like to emphasize in it):

"21. It is often suggested that κύριος here has its more basic sense of “owner” (of the donkeys), and therefore refers either to their actual owner (who is assumed to have joined Jesus' entourage) or to Jesus who is claiming the royal right to requisition transport (so J. D. M. Derrett, NovT13 [1971] 241–258) and thus depicts himself as “their owner.” It has even been suggested that Jesus was in fact the owner (R. G. Bratcher, ExpT 64 [1952/ 3] 93)."

So when Dr. France writes that "the donkeys are not witnesses to anything," I think he speaks too quickly. If Jesus is both Master of men and of these two animals, then these animals are both his beasts of burden to carry him in to Jerusalem and so in that very sense bear a witness like no other.

And the two animals, the mother and her son, bear witness also to Mathew's deconstruction of the social constructed hierarchies. I mean tomorrow we'll read about children bearing witness too. But Jesus as child has a genealogy that is full of questionable women, Tamar, not a pureblood Jewess, right? At the very least she's not the wife of Judah, the Patriarch of the tribe of Jesus but rather his daughter-in-law. And Matthew goes on to name Rahab, not a Jewess and worse a whore. And Ruth, um.

And Bathsheba, not King David's wife until he makes sure her husband is killed. And we now fast forwarded to chapter 21 are overhearing Hosanna Son of David.

Then the unmarried pregnant mother of Jesus, and pregnant with him. And so the mother donkey, and the son donkey. Bear him. Bear him witness.


Edited by jkgayle
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Ah, the Kingdom of God is so at variance with the kingdom of men. Thank you both for showing the deep and often overlooked ideas we miss by not reading in the original languages.

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