My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Zechariah 9


God is against Tyre and Sidon and Damascus and the Philistines. Their 'strength' will mean nothing to God. Only the godly will be left. God will defend his people.

Look! The king is coming on a donkey! Israel will be protected from attack.

God himself will come and save.

Key verse:
9. See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

My thoughts:
Jesus! Lol!

When Jesus came in on a donkey it was certainly interpreted Messianically by the people of the time. The triumphal entry is one of the most well documented events of the New Testament.

Of course, Jesus could have set this all up with the knowledge of Zechariah 9. A statement that he is the Messiah as such.


Anonymous Deane said...

You're right that it's hard to say whether the action fulfilled the prophecy, or Jesus orchestrated the action in order to copy the prophecy. Presumably Jesus was aware of the messianic prophecies, though.

There is a further option, also - that the donkey in the story was simply invented from the Old Testament by the Gospel tradition. This does seem to be the case for the two donkeys that Matthew has in his Gospel. The two animals in Matthew's account are clearly driven from his interpretation of Zechariah's prophecy. The author ostensibly makes his narrative fit the prophecy, trimming extraneous details from the account.

"... Mt has two animals, "an ass tied and a colt with her", instead of the single colt of Mk-Lk; and he does not mention the fact, so strongly insisted on by Mk-Lk, that the colt is one "on which no one has ever sat".

"The ass and the colt in Mt are clearly redactional. The inner probabilities of the narrative itself, the obviously primitive character of Mk's account, and Mt's evident embarrassment with his two animals (see on the epano auton of v6 below), show that only the colt is original to the story. Mt brings in the ass to adapt his narrative to the formula quotation of 21,4f. where both onos and polos are mentioned. True, in the original Hebrew test, these do not describe two animals, but are parallel synonyms for the same "young male ass". But Mt has either misunderstood, or more probably as we shall see below, deliberately ignored the parallelism, reading two animals into his version of the prophecy, and adapting his context accordingly...

"...the fact that the colt has not been ridden on before is not a fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy, as quoted by Matthew. That may be why Mt fails to mention it. If this is so, the whole of the immediate context of the quotation (v3) would have been redactionally adapted to the quotation text.

"...The instructions of Jesus (v3) have been explicitly and precisely adapted in their concrete details to the formula quotation, and have been implicitly integrated into its theological perspective.

- George M Soares Prabhu, The Formula Quotations in the Infancy Narrative of Matthew (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1976)

So, if Matthew can base the presence of two donkeys solely on a literary reference (not from 'real life'), maybe the other Gospels also only derive from literary references?

6:02 pm

Anonymous Buchanan said...

"The idea of Jesus riding on the backs of two beasts at the same time is ridiculous, but Matthew was often very exact in his interpretation of OT texts. In Zechariah this was a couplet, with the second line saying in other words the same thing that the first line had said. The two names were to be understood poetically rather than accumulatively. The colt was the same as the donkey… The conjunction kai should either have been omitted or understood as "even" in translation: a donkey, even a colt, the offspring of a donkey.

"Matthew, however, mistakenly took the conjunction to mean there was both a donkey and a colt, so Jesus had to be placed on both, in his judgment. When Matthew's method of composition is exposed, it becomes clear that this pericope was composed by someone who forced a historical account to fit into prophecy. He may not have been a witness of the event himself.”

- George Wesley Buchanan, "The Gospel of Matthew" Mellen Biblical Commentary (NY: Edwin Mellen, 1996)

6:09 pm

Anonymous Mark said...


So Matthew is a liar, and a stupid one at that. Methinks Messrs Prabhu & Buchanan are clutching rather desperately at straws...

11:05 pm

Anonymous Deane said...

So Matthew is a liar, and a stupid one at that.

That's a harsh conclusion, Mark! I don't think anything about Matthew's method is "stupid". And while Matthew appears to have interpreted Jesus in light of Old Testament prophecy considered to be "messianic", this is not a "lie" in the intentional sense. It was quite acceptable at the time to interpret the Old Testament as though it referred to present-day figures, whether the Old Testament did in fact do so. And even today, amongst millions of American readers of the 'Left Behind' series, it is quite acceptable to apply Old Testament prophecy to the present day(!)

Methinks Messrs Prabhu & Buchanan are clutching rather desperately at straws...

Neither Prabhu or Buchanan are "Messrs", they are doctors.

Prabhu goes on to explain that Matthew did not simply make a mistake or "lie". Instead, Prabhu understands Matthew as making a deliberate interpretation in line with the sorts of methods applied by Matthew's contemporary Jews:

"... That Matthew (the presumed author of the formula quotations) should have misunderstood the Hebrew and given us an over-literal translation, is per se possible, especially since his translation, unlike that of the LXX does in fact correspond word for word with the Hebrew. But it is very unlikely, given that Matthew (or, for that matter, whoever is responsible for the formula quotations) shows an excellent command of Hebrew in the other quotations he presents. The hypothesis of a mistranslation, in fact, is tenable only if we are prepared to admit that Mt 21,4f has an origin different from that of the other formula quotations of the Gospel – a drastic way out, with little to recommend it.

"It is better, then, to suppose that Mt's version of the quotation is a deliberate, ad hoc, targumizing translation, in which Mt has intentionally and according to approved rabbinic techniques interpreted the w'al of the Hebrew as copulative, in order to read two animals into Zechariah's text. This is not without parallel in the NT itself. The fulfilment quotation of Jn 19,24 refers ... to Ps 22,19, which in the Psalm are two parallel ways of saying the same thing, to two distinct actions: the partitioning of the garments (himatia) of Jesus, and the casting of lots upon his tunic (chiton)."

The New Testament authors, like contemporary Jews, did things differently from us when it came to writing and interpretation. This fact makes inadequate our modernist dochotomy of either (1) Literal Truth, or (2) Stupid Lie. There's (at least) a third option. Matthew added a detail to the 'triumphal entry' which never in fact happened, but which 'truthfully' interpreted the event in light of contemporary messianic expectations.

2:19 pm

Anonymous Mark said...

hehe. blah blah blah. more stirring...

3:10 pm

Blogger Pete W said...


It's either true or not. If we decide it not to be true, we can then discuss whether the author had a legitimate reason for not relaying the truth.

4:20 pm

Anonymous Mark said...

While I think it's pretty easy to argue around this particular "Bible error", I think there are other instances where New Testament figures or authors cite the Old Testament in a rather questionable way...but we'll get to those soon enough & then Deane can have his fun :)

5:36 pm

Blogger Pete W said...

Bible error? What's this you speak of?

5:40 pm

Anonymous Deane said...

I only read the Old Testament. I'm switching this channel off when we get to the New.

5:27 pm

Blogger Pete W said...

That explains a lot...

8:33 pm

Anonymous Mark said...

*cough* one-trick pony :P

8:50 am

Blogger Pete W said...

I guess Deane doesn't want to take his right of reply...

12:16 pm


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