Answering The Atheist
April 25, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 17
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
On what did Jesus ride into Jerusalem? On a donkey and a colt (Matthew 21:5-7), on a colt (Mark 11:7; Luke 19:35), or on a young donkey (John 12:14)? Is there a contradiction?
There are five different Greek words used to identify the creature upon which Jesus rode. Three of the five words specifically identify the beast as a donkey:
onos which specifically means a donkey;
onarion which refers to a young donkey; and,
hupozugion which refers to a beast of burden, most commonly, a donkey.
The other two words do not speak of the type of animal, but of the age of the animal.
polos a young creature, a colt; and,
huios a son, an offspring.
All five words can and do describe one creature, not two. Let us focus on Matthew 21:5-7, which uses four of the five words:
"Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey (onos), a colt (polos), the foal (huios) of a donkey (hupozugion).' So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey (onos) and the colt (polos), laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them."
The beast is a donkey (onos), which is a beast of burden (hupozugion). However, this particular donkey, since it was a colt (polos) or a foal (huios), had not yet carried a burden (Mark 11:2).
A couple of translating errors account for some confusion. In the phrase "...the donkey and the colt..." (v 7), the Greek kai need not be translated "and", but could be rendered "even". Also in verse 7, the word "them" (Gr. autos) need not be plural. It can be, and is most commonly translated "him". The assumption that more than one beast was brought comes from the addition of the word "them" by the translators in verse 2, but no support can be found for this in the Greek. Jesus simply said "...loose, and bring unto me." (cf. Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30).
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible