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Was Matthew a Jew?


I’m currently reading your book “Forged”…not sure whether I read this there or in the blog, but it puzzled me. You said the authors of Mark and Luke were not Jews? I’d somehow assumed the authors of all the Canonical Gospels were Jews – among the educated elite, of course, since they could write in Greek…. I’m sure the author of Matthew was a Jew, though very dissatisfied with some of his fellow Jews!



This comment is part of a larger question the reader had about Mark and Luke specifically – were they Jews? (I haven’t included the entire question here) I have dealt with Mark already on the blog recently, arguing that he probably was not a Jew. I’ll deal with Luke in a later post. Here let me say something very briefly about Matthew. I too tend to think that he was probably a Jew by birth and upbringing, who had converted to be a follower of Jesus. But not everyone agrees.

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The Identity of “Matthew”
Spong’s New Book on John: Part 2



  1. Avatar
    Pat Ferguson  June 17, 2013

    The writer of Matthew’s image of Jesus straddling both an adult and younger donkey might have been more amusing had the colt eyeballed a tasty bit of vegetation along the side of the road . . . . . and stopped or wandered off to get it 😀

    (Do donkeys eat palm fronds?)

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    stephena  June 17, 2013

    I think you, and Meier, are definitely onto something here. Matthew (and even the other three Gospels to an extent) often read as if they were Greeks who were almost totally unfamiliar with the Hebrew Scriptures and customs.

    I agree that it’s peculiar that others haven’t caught onto this, because it opens up a rather interesting discussion about the early chapters of Matthew, in which the author seems to cherry-pick interesting bits of Jewish history to have Jesus “fulfilling” words that were never seen by Jews as prophesies of a Messiah, along with anomalies such as Jesus having to be a “Nazarene.” I can’t see how any Jew would believe these events actually occurred or were fulfilling any Scripture verse.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 22, 2013

      OK, but remember: most Jews inthe period read the Jewish Scriptures in Greek, not in Hebrew.

      • Avatar
        stephena  June 23, 2013

        Well, yes. It put them one step further away from the meanings of these words.

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    veryrarelystable  June 17, 2013

    I did a series of posts on this theme recently using as my base Udo Schnelle’s lists of arguments for and against Matthew’s jewishness in his The New Testament Writings. I’d be interested in your comments if you have time. Part 3 addresses the Hebrew parallelism argument:

    Part 1 http://atheistbiblicalcriticism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/was-author-of-matthews-gospel-jewish.html
    Part 2 http://atheistbiblicalcriticism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/was-author-of-matthews-gospel-jewish_18.html
    Part 3 http://atheistbiblicalcriticism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/was-author-of-matthews-gospel-jewish_29.html

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    kidlat  June 19, 2013

    It’s an amusing picture of the triumphal entry indeed! Why don’t we ask those who believe that the bible is infallible to recreate this scene where the story happened or at least a location with the same terrain and the same atmosphere with people around cheering on and doing exactly what the gospel said. I have seen pictures of the triumphal entry but I’ve never seen one where Jesus is straddling 2 animals. Somebody should paint a picture exactly as described in Matthew. What will the fundamentalist say? The other animal is a spare? Doesn’t v.7 say “he sat on them”?

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    nichael  June 20, 2013

    I’ve listed below three of the arguments that I recall (from my intro to the NT course) that argued that Matthew was likely a Jew (and, moreover, writing for a predominantly Jewish audience). I was wondering if you could comment on these.

    1] Other gospel writer’s often translate Hebrew terms (e.g. “…he said Rabbi, that is ‘teacher’) whereas Matthew tends to leave these terms untranslated –even when quoting a synoptic/parallel passage. (The assumption being, of course, that he has no needs to translate these terms for his presumed readers.)

    2] Matthew seems to be going to great lengths to portray Jesus as the “New Moses”. One notable example being Matthew’s grouping of Jesus’ sayings into five long speeches (starting with the Sermon on the Mount). Many commenters assume that these are meant to parallel the “five Books of Moses”.

    3] Similarly, prior to Jesus’ first prolonged “speech”, virtually everything Jesus says in Matthew are quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures.

    (Hope the fishing went well.)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 22, 2013

      Yup, fishing was great!

      I”m not sure any of these things shows that Matthew or his audience was Jewish. I know what Rabbi means, and I’m not Jewish. Mproever, we know of lots of Gentile Christians who were interested in the Hebrew Bible and were invested in thinking of Jesus as a new Moses. And Gentile Christians quoted Scripture a lot as well. So I think there needs to be some other kinds of argument.

  6. Avatar
    bobnaumann  June 20, 2013

    What a great story! They usually read thr Matthew version of the triumpful entry on Palm Sunday and I could never get the picture of how Jesus rode both animals, especially since one was full grown and the other was a colt.

  7. Avatar
    donmax  June 20, 2013

    I think this is a great question, and one that deserves a more complete answer. How about a more the following?

    Bible Commentator
    Rabbi Moshe Reiss

    Saint Mathew


    The Gospel of Matthew is a Gospel of Law and differs radically from Paul’s gospel which is based of Faith. The intrinsic difference between these lies in the fact that Paul’s audience were Gentiles whereas Matthew was preaching to Jewish believers-in-Jesus and was faced with competition by the developing Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism at that juncture in history differed significantly from that practiced by the Qumran Community and by the Sadducees; both largely destroyed in the Roman War.

    In order to place the Gospel of Matthew in an historical perspective one must understand the context in which it was composed (80-90 CE). The Temple had been destroyed and Jews had began their rejection of sectarianism. Believers-in-Jesus were being rejected by Rabbinic Judaism and had begun the path towards a Gentile religion. Matthew’s position vis a vis the Law is a most controversial issue among theologians. Was Matthew Jewish or Gentile? Did he preach to Jews or to Gentiles? Do the anti-Judaism sections found in Matthew suggest that he was preaching against the Jews? Some scholars believe he was a Jew himself (W.D. Davies & H.D. Hummel), some have concluded that he came from Qumran (K. Stendahl) while others that he was a Gentile (G. Strecker & J. Meier). I find most compelling the argument that Matthew and his community were composed of Jewish believers-in-Jesus which competing with the traditional Synagogue as stated by Anthony Saldarini and J. Andrew Overman convincing. 1 Matthew appears to be preaching to those believing in Jewish law and custom and his style of argumentation bears much resemblance to Jewish modes of thought and argument . 2

    In the Gospel of Matthew it is clear that the Law – Halakha – is the expression of God’s will. The law of Moses is still in force (Matt. 23:3) but Jesus is the new teacher of the law (Matt. 23:8). Jesus assumed for the Matthean community a stance parallel and equal to Moses for the Jews. In the Gospel of Matthew there is no denigration of Moses 3 – in stark contrast to the Gospel of John. Moses, the giver of the law, is a figure of great importance for Matthew. Many parallels are explicitly drawn by Matthew between Moses and Jesus; danger from death at the hand of Pharaoh and Jesus from Herod, both live in exile in Egypt, Moshe’s forty years in the desert is compared to Jesus’ forty days of temptation and both ascend the mountain in order to proclaim the law.

    As Eusebius stated ‘no one but our savior can be shown to resemble Moses in so many ways’. 4 More than sixty quotations from the scriptures times appear in Matthew. 5 In chapter 3 we compared Jesus statements to similar ones of Hillel; all these Jesus statements come from Matthew. (Luke twice seems to copy Matthew’s quotes). The law in Matthew’s Gospel is in fact stricter than that of Moses. It is not Pharisaic law that is being criticized but the ethics and hypocrisy of individual Pharisees. David Flusser has noted that ‘All the motifs of Jesus’ famous invective against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 are also found in rabbinical literature’. 6

    Matthew (and Mark) claim that the Pharisees not only criticized Jesus for having performed healing on the Sabbath but weighed the option of having him executing with the help of Herod Antipas (Mark 3:6, Matt 12:14). In Luke, after the event of delivering the curing of the Sabbath, it is the Pharisees who warn Jesus of Herod’s plan to kill him (Luke 13:31). Mark and Matthew may have been referring to the followers of Shammai who opposed healing on the Sabbath and Luke to the followers of Hillel who did not.

    Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew stated a ringing affirmation of the law.

    “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. In truth I tell you, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke is to disappear from the Law until all its purpose is achieved. Therefore anyone who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but the person who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 5:17-19)

    These verses are an unambiguous statement about the importance of the Law. There is a statement in the Talmud which seems to quote Jesus ‘I come not to destroy the Law of Moses nor to add to the Law of Moses’ (BT Shabbat 116b). This, of course is almost a quote of Matthew’s phrase from above.

    Matthew’s definition of Jesus’ Law is defined in chapters 5-7, beginning with the `Sermon on the Mount’. The Sermon of the Mount (5:3-11) begins with a statement about the blessedness of the poor, the gentle, the mourners and the righteous. This ethical statement which reminds the people to act righteously towards the underprivileged is highly reminiscent of the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel.

    Matthew then proceeds to introduce stringent appendices to the Law:

    *The Torah commands Do not murder – Matthew orders do not be angry – 5:21

    *The Torah commands Do not commit adultery – Matthew orders not even in your heart – 5:27

    *The Torah allows divorce under several conditions – Matthew rules No divorce except in the case of adultery – 5:31

    *The Torah says fulfill your vows – Matthew says do not make vows – 5:33

    *The Torah says Love your neighbor – Matthew says Love your enemies – 5:43 – offer no resistance to the wicked and offer the other cheek – 5:39. (Matthew’s statement that Judaism teaches ‘hate your enemy’ (Matt. 5:43) in fact appears no Jewish text.)

    Each of these statements by Matthew (with the exception of ‘hate your enemy’) can be found in the multi-faceted streams of Judaism that existed during the lifetime of Jesus.

    A Rabbinic statement declares ‘Keep aloof from what leads to sin and from whatever resembles sin’. 7 Furthermore what does the commandment ‘do not covet’ imply? If you covet your neighbor’s wife and act upon it you have committed adultery. As an example we find in the Talmud the following statement: “Whoever looks lustfully at a women is like one who has had unlawful intercourse with her”. (BT Yoma 29a)

    If one covets ones neighbor’s house and acts upon it he has stolen. What therefore is the sin of coveting? Is it not that lust itself and anger itself are sins in and of themselves? Can Jesus’ statement ‘love your enemies’ be interpreted as referring to Rome, the premier Jewish enemy at the time and can it mean do not resist the Roman enemy? The statement which many Jews reject as being specifically Christian ‘love your enemy’ has many Jewish underpinnings: Lamentations states that one should ‘offer one’s cheek to the striker’ (Lam. 3:30). Despite the hostility of sinners in the Qumran community David Flusser discovered in their documents ‘I will not return evil to any body, good will I will pursue’. 8 The Essene Manuel of Discipline states ‘My son, . . .Be not angry for anger leads to murder’. . . .be not lustful, for lust leads to adultery’. 9 And from the Testament of Benjamin ‘If one betrays a righteous man, the righteous man prays’. 10

    The conflict surrounding plucking and eating on the Sabbath or healing on the Sabbath, issues which were greatly debated in this gospel, are also lie within the acceptable range of interpretations found in the many sides of Judaism in the first century. Jews are forbidden to go hungry on the Sabbath (although it can depend on the degree of hunger) and if one is hungry one would be allowed to pluck. In regard to healing on the Sabbath when Jesus said to the man with a withered hand “hold out your hand” (Matt. 12:13) he did nothing to violate Jewish law. Speaking or asking God to heal is not a violation of any Jewish law on the Sabbath. There is nothing in Jesus’ position, as annunciated by Matthew, regarding the Sabbath suggesting abrogating the law. Furthermore questions about circumcision or dietary are not raised in Matthew in contrast to the Gospel of Mark (chapter 7). Jesus is fact behaving in ways similar to the Prophets who criticized sacrificing and the Temple. 11 He concentrated on the ethical content of Judaism rather than ritual law. Divorce was forbidden to community of Qumran and among Galilean Jews.

    The anti-Judaic statements of the Gospel of Matthew begin in chapter 10 and continue in chapter 15,22,23 and 27. In chapter 10 Jesus warns his disciples that they will find hostility within the Jewish community when they attempt to missionize them. Jesus is clear ‘do not travel to into Gentile lands and do not enter any Samaritan cities’ (Matt. 10:5). In view of the above it appears unlikely that Jesus would say after his resurrection ‘you are to go and make followers of all the people. You are to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19). Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew told his followers not to go and preach to Gentiles. The phrase ‘in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ came in a latter stage of Christology, not during the lifetime of Jesus.

    Chapter 23 begins with a recognition of both the scribes and Pharisees authority to interpret the law. `Do and observe what they tell you’. (23:2) The gospel proceeds to list the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees in seven categories. They are accused of being blind guides and fools (five times -16,17,19,24,26) being liars (18) of being corrupt and lawless men (25,28) and of committing murder (29-39). This vitriolic list of those who have the authority to interpret the law, suggests a family feud or sibling rivalry carried to an unfortunate extreme. Jesus also tells us that the Pharisees ‘sit in Moses’ seat: you must therefore do and observe what they tell you; but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they preach’ (Mt. 23:2-3). Jesus required of his disciples that they exceed that of the Pharisees (Mt. 5:20).

    What do other Jewish writers tell us, in the first Century of Jewish intramural conflict?

    I Enoch, an apocalyptic mystical writer said the following: “For the sinners shall alter the word of truth and many sinners will take it to heart: they will speak evil words and lie and they will invent fictitious stories and write out my scriptures on the basis of their own words. ” (104:10). The writer of I Enoch and his community believed that sinners do not follow the law instead they lead people astray. The Scriptures are known only by the righteous and wise men of that community.

    The writer of the Psalms of Solomon believed that false and lawless leaders had corrupted and defiled the Temple. They break the law (4:1), misuse it (4:2) and are hypocrites. (4:8,22; 8:9) Only the faithful remain true to God’s law (14:1-2) and the devout few will inherit life (14:10)

    The Qumran community led by the Teacher of Righteousness fought a man called in the texts a `Wicked Priest’, who was probably the High Priest in Jerusalem. 12 The `Wicked Priest’ persecuted him and may have killed him. The `Teacher’ is also called the `interpreter of the law’ and their Halakha – their law – was quite different than pharisaical Halakha. Their solar based calendar made all holidays fall on different days than the traditional Jewish lunar calendar. This difference in calendars is more important than any of the disputes discussed in the Christian Bible since it meant that communal life between the two groups was impossible. 13 The Teacher’s knowledge of the end of days would made him, at the least, a special Prophet. His community was persecuted by the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They called the Pharisees `seekers of falsehood’.

    All of these groups of Jews believed themselves to be true heirs of God’s word. They also all agreed that the Jewish establishment leadership was corrupt and they alone represented the remnant following God’s law. They were very hostile to the Jewish leadership.


    Finally in chapter 27, after Pilate washes his hands the Jewish crowd is reported to have said `every one of them’ [?} says `His [Jesus’] blood be on us and on our children’. (27:25) This statement redacted by Matthew 50-60 years after Jesus’ death is not mentioned in any of the other Gospels. It may be that the words ‘on us’ and the ‘on our children’ came from different periods in the life of the Matthew church. 14 It is certainly problematic that Jews would put this curse upon themselves. From the perspective of preaching to future generations this may be the most anti-Judaic statement in the Christian Bible. ‘The main theme in religious hostility towards Jews has been that they are under a curse’. ‘This passage has been taken as proof that the Jews voluntarily accepted eternal guilt for the death of Jesus’. 15

    Can a text be simultaneously be considered the most anti-Jewish and the most Jewish at the same time? This question has been raised in the Gospel of Matthew (as well as in the Gospel of John). Part of the answer depends of the definition of the question. Anti-Judaism can be defined as an internal critique as used by Biblical prophets – Jeremiah and Ezekiel as prime examples. Anti-Judaism can also be defined from a Jewish-Christian perspective – it is still an internal critique. Gentile anti-Judaism can no longer be called an internal critique but an external polemic that removes Jews from salvation history and substitutes Jews for a New or True Israel, thus having Christianity supercede Judaism. 16 As Levine notes if Jackie Mason, the Jewish comedian (who is also a Rabbi) directed his material towards African-Americans or Richard Pryor, the African-American directed his material towards Jews it could not be called an internal critique. 17 Given that Matthew’s Gospel is a Gospel of Law – of Halakhic law – this polemic was a ‘family argument’ – a civil war. Civil wars are the most acrimonious of all wars. Matthew does not refer to a New or True Israel as does John. Can one be both polemical and respectful? George Smiga who calls Matthew’s texts a ‘subordinating polemic’ states ‘I am persuaded that such a combinations fits the text of Matthews rather well’. 18

    Whether Matthew was Jewish may be debatable; however that he acted against the traditional synagogue is beyond doubt. The Synagogue hypocrites (Matt. 6:2,5) ‘have no synoptic parallels’. 19 He preached to Jewish Christians (note his continual use of the Bible, used however through his Christological lenses) who were leaving the synagogue (Matt. 10:17). But does this not suggest that the ‘Parting of the Way’ had already begun? Begun Yes, completed No.

    Saldarini concludes his study of the Gospel of Matthew’s with the words ‘it seems clear that he sees himself and his group as part of Israel and that he hopes to attract members of the larger Jewish community to his form of Judaism’. 20
    Dali – Crucifixion
    Dali – Crucifixion

    1 Anthony Saldarini, Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community, (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1994) and Overman, J. A., Matthew’s Gospel and Formative Judaism, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1990).

    2 Saldarini, pg. 11-12.

    3 Allison, D.C., The New Moses: A Matthean Typology, T7T Clark, Edinburgh, 1993, pg. 274.

    4 Quoted in Allison, pg. 283.

    5 Not always correctly; Matthew’s ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’ to explain Jesus’ family moving from Egypt where they fled not back to ‘Bethlehem’, according to Matthew his birthplace but to Nazareth. No one has found a extant scripture for this.

    6 Quoted by J.D.G. Dunn in Bieringer, R., Pollefeyt, D., Vandecasteel-Vanneuville, F., eds. Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel, (Royal Van Gorcum, The Netherlands, 2001) pg. 59.

    7 Ibid.

    8 Flusser, HTR, pg. 123.

    9 Quoted in Flusser, Judaism, pg. 497.

    10 Flusser, HTR, pg. 123.

    11 Among the Prophets who condemned the Temple and its sacrifices was Samuel (1Sam. 15-22), Amos (Amos 5:21-24), Hosea (Hos. 6:6) Isaiah (Is. 1:11-17, 61:1-2), Micah (Mic. 6:6-8) and Jeremiah (Jer. 6:20 and 7:21-23).

    12 The Wicked priest may have been King Alexander Janneus (a latter Macabbean King) or his earlier ancestors Jonathan or perhaps his brother Simon, the High Priest. See Charlesworth, Jesus and Dead Sea Scrolls, Pg. 144.

    13And yet despite the importance of this difference, after the end of the Hasmonuem Kingdom in 60 BCE, the two groups lived separate but peacefully until their destruction at the Great Revolt.

    14 Richardson, Peter, and Granskou, David, Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity, (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1986) article by Benno Przbylski, pg 200.

    15 Gllck, C.Y. and Stark, R., Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism (Harpern N.Y., 1966) pg. 197.

    16 Warren Carter notes his students in mainline Protestant seminaries are ‘genuinely puzzled’ when he mentions anti-Judaic sentiments in Matthew while Levine notes her students in synagogue adult education groups ‘overwhelmingly are appalled’ at what they read. Farmer, W.R., Anti-Judaism and the Gospels, (Trinity Press, Harrisburg, PA, 1999pg. 58 and footnote 35.

    17 Amy-Jill Levine in Farmer, W.R., Anti-Judaism and the Gospels, (Trinity Press, Harrisburg, Pa., 1999) pg. 14, 19.

    18 Smiga, George, M., Paul and Polemic, (Paulist Press, N.Y., 1992) pg. 69-74.

    19 Richardson, Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity, article by Benno Przbylski, pg. 194.

    20 Saldarini, Matthew’s, pg. 195.

  8. Avatar
    bobnaumann  June 21, 2013

    Matthew apparently did not bother to read Isiah in Hebrew or he wouldn’t have used the passage in Isiah 7 to predict the virgin birth of Jesus.

  9. Avatar
    jhague  June 22, 2013

    Do you thinks its more likely that the author of Matthew was a Jewish man who had the Hebrew Bible available to him but did not know/understand Hebrew poetry? Christians today and in the past quote the old and new testaments all the time and have no understanding about the passages they use.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 22, 2013

      At the end of the day, I don’t know if he was a Jew. But I’m pretty certain he read the Jewish Scriptures in Greek, not Hebrew (as was true of most Jews in his day; and of course, of virtually all gentiles).

  10. Avatar
    jhague  June 24, 2013

    I worded my comment incorrectly. I meant that the author of Matthew was probably Jewish and incorrectly interpreted the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures. (I did not mean that he used the Hebrew version of scriptures.)
    My point was that he could still be Jewish and misuse the scriptures. I don’t agree with Meier’s argument that a Jew would never make a mistake in interpreting poetry in scripture. I would guess that happened all the time then just as improperly using scripture happens all the time now.

  11. Avatar
    Polemicist  June 28, 2013

    Having written on this point before, it becomes apparent the focal point of the skeptic’s proposed problem to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is how He could have ridden on two donkeys at once. Obviously, some have concluded that the pseudonymous writer of Matthew intended for his reader to understand Jesus as being some kind of stunt rider—proceeding to Jerusalem as more of a clown than a king. Such reasoning seems rather an opportunity to ridicule than to reason. Matthew could have more logically meant that Jesus rode the colt while the other donkey walked along with them. Instead of saying, “He rode one donkey and brought the other with Him,” the writer simply wrote that He rode “them” into Jerusalem.

    Scripture of course is rife with missing details. For example, Matthew says that He cast out the people selling in the temple and the money lenders. Mark does not mention this. Matthew 21:12 “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,” Mark 11:11 “And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.” If a person gets too obsessed about minor details, they can miss the heart of the meaning, become disoriented and in turn dismiss the whole.

    Regarding the accusation that the writer of Matthew wrote of two donkeys, instead of just one, because he allegedly misunderstood Zechariah’s prophecy, I find many scholars note that Zechariah’s prophecy actually mentions two donkeys (even though only one is stated as transporting the King to Jerusalem). Obviously the writers citation of Zechariah does not get the exact words of Zechariah. New Testament quotations seldom do. The prophet wrote as above discussed: “Behold, your King is coming to you…lowly and riding on a donkey [male], a colt, the foal of a donkey [female]” (Zechariah 9:9). In this verse, Zechariah used Hebrew poetic parallelism as Bart aptly pointed out. The terms male donkey, colt, and foal all designate the same animal—the young donkey upon which the King (Jesus) would ride into Jerusalem (Mark 11:7). Interestingly, even though the colt was the animal of primary importance, Zechariah also mentioned that this donkey was the foal of a female donkey. One might assume that Zechariah merely was stating the obvious when mentioning the mother’s existence. However, when Matthew’s gospel is taken into account, the elusive female donkey of Zechariah 9:9 is brought to light. Both the foal and the female donkey were brought to Christ at Mount Olivet, and both made the trip to Jerusalem. Since the colt never had been ridden, or even sat upon (as stated by Mark and Luke), its dependence upon its mother is very understandable (as implied by Matthew). The journey to Jerusalem, with multitudes of people in front of and behind Jesus and the donkeys (Matthew 21:8-9), obviously would have been much easier for the colt if the mother donkey were led nearby down the same road.

    Additionally, since the writer of Matthew was the only gospel writer to include Zechariah’s prophecy, it would seem to bear witness that he was MORE accomplished in the knowledge of the Hebrew writs than the other synoptic writers, thus possibly Jewish.

  12. Avatar
    hypatiabenz  June 30, 2013

    I was given the explanation that when the disciples put their cloaks on the donkey and the colt and he, Jesus, sat on “them,” the writer meant he sat on the cloaks. The CLOAKS were put on the donkey and he sat on them, the cloaks. What can you say about this explanation?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 30, 2013

      Well, if the cloaks were on both animals (spread between them, or some on one and some on the other), then he was still straddling them. But the more sensible way to construe the Greek sentence is that the “them” refers to the animals.

  13. seminole
    seminole  July 3, 2013

    Did all educated Jews of this period have a Hebrew education? I think not, and I see Matthew as likely a completely Hellenized Jew with no working knowledge of Hebrew and Hebrew prose/poetry styles. He seems obsessed with finding prophesies to back up his story but he was obviously using a Greek translation to do so. This explains his most important error: the prophesy of the virgin birth. The Greeks used one word to mean both “virgin” and “young woman” depending on the context. The Hebrew word “alma”, the one used in the Hebrew version of the Isaiah passage cited by Matthew, means specifically “young woman”; there is a different Hebrew word for virgin, i.e., “bethulah”. If Matthew had had a working knowledge of Hebrew he would have made neither this embarrassing error nor the one about the donkey, would he?

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