On what did Jesus ride into Jerusalem?

Author:  Jim Li
Date: May 12, 2023
Category: ,

Reprinted with Permission from: Veritas Domain - The Domain for Truth

Today’s post will tackle another question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: “On what did Jesus ride into Jerusalem?”

Here are three answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:

On an ass and a colt.

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. (Matthew 21:5-7)

On a colt.

They *brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. (Mark 11:7)

They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. (Luke 19:35)

On a young ass.

Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written. (John 12:14)

(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)

Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:

  1. When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction.  A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time.  To put it another way, the claims found in the Bible are mutually exclusive.
  2. The skeptic cited three answers that supposedly contradict one another.  However the second claim (Jesus rode on a colt to Jerusalem) and third claim (Jesus rode on a young ass) are not contradictory since it is referring to the same thing: a colt.
    1. Both the two verses (Mark 11:7 and Luke 19:35) the skeptic used to demonstrate Jesus rode on a colt to Jerusalem used the Greek word τον πῶλον.  πῶλον is an accusative case (direct-object form) of πῶλος, which refers to a young donkey which is why in our English Bible it is translated as colt.
    2. On the other hand John 12:14 is the verse used by the skeptic to support the claim that Jesus rode on an ass to Jerusalem.  In the Greek of John 12:14 it is the word ὀνάριον.  The Greek word ὀνάριον only appears here in the New Testament but it is not a creature different than πῶλον for two reasons: (1)  ὀνάριον derives from the Greek word ὄνος which means donkey and (2) the very next verse following John 12:14 mentioned that Jesus riding on a colt.  The point of John 12:15 is that Jesus entering Jerusalem with a colt was a fulfillment of an Old Testament Messianic Prophecy from Zechariah 9:9.  Quoting Zechariah 9:9, John 12:15 states: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  The Greek phrase “colt” in John 12:15 in the Greek is πῶλον.   Note this is the same πῶλον found in Mark 11:7 and Luke 19:35.  The original Greek readers of the Gospel of John would have understood that one of the reason why Jesus was the Messiah was because He fulfilled the prophecy of entering Jerusalem riding on a ὀνάριον which is synonymous with πῶλον.
  3. Also the first claim (Jesus rode on an ass and a colt to Jerusalem) and the second claim (Jesus rode on a colt to Jerusalem) are not contradictory.
    1. Both the first claim and the second claim agreed that Jesus rode on a colt (πῶλον) to Jerusalem.
    2. The first claim states that Jesus also rode on an ass/donkey.  This is based upon Matthew 21:5-7.
    3. This additional detail of Jesus riding on a donkey is not contradictory with the second claim that Jesus rode on a colt.  In order for the first claim and the second claim to contradict the second claim has to be “Jesus ONLY rode on a colt to Jerusalem.”  Logically the claim “Jesus rode on a colt to Jerusalem” is not the same thing as “Jesus ONLY rode on a colt to Jerusalem.”  Furthermore if one read the two verses that supports the second claim (Mark 11:7 and Luke 19:35,) readers will notice that they do not support “Jesus ONLY rode on a colt to Jerusalem” since they do not use any language that excludes the addition of a donkey.
    4. Jesus riding on both a colt and a donkey to Jerusalem is not only possible, it is highly probable.  Luke 19:30 states that no one has ever sat on this colt before.  Which means it is also very young and prone to being tired.  If that’s the case it makes sense that Jesus then rode on a donkey.  Also since this young colt was carrying Jesus to Jerusalem during “Palm Sunday” it would have easily been frightened it.
    5. Think of the crowd during the busy season around the Passover when people from all over were in town.  The first century Jewish witer Josephus mentioned that the crowd could get as large as two million people.  Then think about all the crowd flocking Jesus.  Thus bringing along another older donkey, perhaps the colt’s would make sense.
  4. The first claim (Jesus rode on an ass and a colt to Jerusalem) and the third claim (Jesus rode on a young ass) are not contradictory.
    1. As we have demonstrated above, the second and the third claim are not contradictory since they refer to a colt as that which Jesus was riding on.  Everything stated above concerning how the first and second claims are reconciled applies here as well.
    2. Since the third claim is based upon John 12 let us turn back to John 12:15: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  If one were to think about it, “a donkey’s colt” is rather redundant.  A colt is after all a young donkey.  Like the same way the phrase “a mother’s child” brings the mother into the equation so “a donkey’s colt” invites the readers’ attention to the donkey as well as the colt.  Should we be surprised that there were both donkey and colt carrying Jesus to Jerusalem when we read John 12:14-15?  John 12:14-15 is not incompatible with Matthew 21:5-7 but rather hints and/or assumes donkey and colt.
  5. Thus we have demonstrated all three answers mentioned by the skeptics are not contradictory.  Any skeptic that want to assert this is a Bible contradiction is making a donkey out of himself.
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