In Mark 11.2 Jesus sends two disciples to get a colt for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem. Since this Gospel was written prior to Matthew (according to most scholars) many assume that Matthew used this story in his own Gospel. One major difference is that Matthew 21.2 adds a second animal, depicting a donkey and colt. Then he quotes Zechariah 9.9 as a text that this event “fulfilled”,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

These last two lines are a form of Hebrew parallelism. As we see above to “Rejoice greatly” is to “Shout aloud” and the daughter Zion is one Jerusalem. Likewise, there is a line about a donkey paralleled by a line about a colt, which seems to be a more precise description of the donkey in line one. That donkey is a colt.


Mark says nothing of a donkey being with the colt. Matthew does. Did Matthew add to Mark’s story because of his reading of Zechariah 9.9?


In Craig A. Evans’ new commentary on Matthew for the New Cambridge Bible Commentary (NCBC) series he writes the following (p. 359):


“Although some commentators have thought that Matthew has misunderstood the synonymous parallelism of Zech 9:9 in thinking that the text speaks of two animals, others rightly recognize that it is highly unlikely that the evangelist, who can work with Greek and probably Aramaic and Hebrew, would not recognize synonymous parallelism. As with other texts that are cited as “fulfilled,” Matthew may well have seen a correspondence between an event in the life of Jesus and the details of a prophetic text. Matthew would have read Mark’s reference to a colt as “never been ridden” (Mark 11.2) and would have assumed that the mother of the young colt was present and would have accompanied it. Matthew either assumed this from the practice of his time or actually knew that this had been the case. The presence of both the mother and the foal, seen through the eyes of typology, would have drawn a close correspondence with the prophetic texts.”


Evans appeals to the reality that in Matthew we find the Evangelist working very hard to make texts from the Hebrew Scripture fit events in the life of Christ in order to “find” Christ in Scripture. If this is so, then maybe Evans (and others whom he cites like R.H. Gundry, D.A. Hagner, and C.S. Keener) is right that Matthew knew something Mark did not know and he found Zechariah 9.9 to provide him with the necessary “biblical” language. Could it be that Matthew’s account is a more accurate description of the events, hence the stretching of Zechariah 9.9 to make it fit? It’s something worth considering.