Matthew 21:4

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Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, (ASV)

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Pro

JW: Whew, boy that's hard work trying to keep straight all those genealogy names of Kings from the Jewish Bible who, God knows why, all have to have "Z's", "J's" and multiple "A's" in their names. Time for some fun. I went to JP Holding's site:

http://www.tektonics.org/uz/wally01.html

to see what kind of "solutions" he had for the claimed genealogy errors and Jew-Lo & Behold, "solutions" 1-100 look like they are taking a cyber dump making them completely unintelligible (note that rules of this Site prevent me from commenting further). I take this as a Sign from Heaven that I should next discuss the following (101) as a claimed error:

First note 21:4 in context:

(ASV) "And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and came unto Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 21:2 saying unto them, Go into the village that is over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose [them], and bring [them] unto me. 21:3 And if any one say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 21:4 Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, 21:5 Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass."

The supposed quote from the “prophet” is actually a conflation from two prophets ("Tell ye the daughter of Zion" is from Isaiah 62:11). The part about the animals is from Zechariah 9:9.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=16213&showrashi=true

"Be exceedingly happy, O daughter of Zion;

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem.

Behold! Your king shall come to you.

He is just and victorious;

humble, and riding a donkey

and a foal, the offspring of [one of] she-donkeys.

And I will cut off the chariots from Ephraim,

and the horses from Jerusalem;

and the bow of war shall be cut off.

And he shall speak peace to the nations,

and his rule shall be from the sea to the west

and from the river to the ends of the earth."


JW: Almost all Bible scholars today, including the Christians, recognize that the above has a style of parallel poetry whereby an idea is repeated. Therefore, the “foal, the offspring of [one of] she-donkeys” refers to the same ass in the previous line and Zechariah is only referring to one ass. The style of parallel poetry is harder to recognize when translated into a different language and the author of “Matthew” who seems to rely primarily on Greek translations for references to the Tanakh apparently didn’t realize that Zechariah was just referring to the same ass twice and mistakenly made a whole ass out himself.

Apologist "defenses" can be very entertaining here often depending on trying out different combinations of ass/asses, clothes/clothes, sat/sitting and they/they. One defense is that the followers literally put the clothes on the donkey who by an act of Providence was exactly the same size as Jesus, a 53 Medium. Another claimed defense is from the Gospel of Jimmy, which regrettably did not make the final cut, but has Jesus say after he is set on the clothes/clothes, donkey/donkeys (adjusted for the inevitable textual variation), "Hey, do these clothes make my ass/asses look big?" I suspect that if we could somehow track down the author of "Matthew" and ask him to explain to us exactly what Jesus did here, he would say, "Whatever Zechariah prophesied, that's what Jesus did."


Joseph

Con

Edit this section if you doubt error.

Neutral

It's quite obvious that the unknown author of the Gospel of Matthew used the Septuagint (aka the LXX) for his Biblical citations--the grammar of his quotes is directly from the LXX, rather than from the Hebrew. And it's also obvious that he doctored his narrative to more closely match the translated passage. At the same time, the tenor of the Pro argument is childish enough as to make the argument worthless without a complete rephrasing.

Hebrew makes use of an "emphatic repeat" (not sure if that's the actual technical name for it), where the same thing stated twice was an emphatic form. In some passages, this takes the form of a repetition of the same concept in different words. The passage in Zechariah 9:9 is an example:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

(Zech 9:9, KJV)

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king [b] comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

(Zech 9:9, NIV)

Here we can see the emphatic repeat in the KJV--the two descriptions of the ass linked by the word "and." In the Hebrew, this is a poetic exercise, and of course does not mean that the promised Messiah would ride on two animals.

The grammar in GoMatthew, however, is quite different:

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

(Matt 21:1-7. KJV)

Obviously Jesus riding through the city on two animals is more than a bit ridiculous, but we can learn a few things:

1: The unknown author of Matthew was not an eyewitness to the event--or if he was (which is doubtful for other reasons), he changed his account to more closely match the text in Zechariah.
2: In all probablility the author did not speak Hebrew or Aramaic, as both of these languages use the emphatic repeat, whereas Greek does not: he was seemingly a native Greek speaker who was probably familiar with Jewish religious and social customs, but did not know the language.

However, to point at this passage and say "Aha! It's an error! Christians are so stupid!" is one of the pitfalls of the hobby of skeptical debate. Far more profitable than casting scorn on those who hold to an inerrant view is the ability to gain insight on the author.

Yes, technically this is an error, and a good argument against perfect inerrancy. But the exultation in the Pro argument debases the one who makes the argument far more than the ones who hold to inerrancy.

--JustinEiler 17:42, 21 Aug 2005 (CDT)

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