Matthew 21:2 (cf. Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30)—Were there two donkeys involved in the triumphal entry or just one?

Problem: Matthew’s account records Jesus’ request of two disciples to go into a village and get two donkeys. But in Mark and Luke, He requests that the two disciples get just the colt.

Solution: Both animals were involved in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There is no mistake in the accounts because Mark and Luke mention just the colt (p_olos), and Matthew refers to the colt (p_olos,21:5) and its mother. The passage in Matthew is pointing out the literal fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 which states, “Behold your king is coming to you ... humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The Greek version of the OT uses the same word for colt (p_olos) as the NT passages. Matthew literally states that once the disciples placed their garments on the donkeys, Jesus sat on them, that is, on their garments. Matthew does not say that Jesus rode on both the mother and the colt. It merely states that Jesus sat on the garments that the disciples had placed on the donkeys. Perhaps they placed some garments on the mother and others on the colt, and Jesus sat on those garments which were placed on the colt. The fact is the text of Matthew simply does not say on which donkey Jesus sat. Mark and Luke focus on the colt on which Jesus rode, while Matthew mentions the presence of the colt’s mother. Her presence may have been necessary because the colt was so young. Mark 11:12 states that no one had ridden on the colt, and that the colt would be taking a passenger through a noisy crowd (Mark 11:9). Perhaps the mother was brought along in order to be a calming influence upon her young.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.