Sunday, April 17, 2011

Did Jesus Ride Two Donkeys? What the?

"They brought the donkey and her colt and put their garments on them, and he sat upon them." ηγαγον την ονον και τον πωλον και επεθηκαν επ αυτων τα ιματια και επεκαθισεν επανω αυτων (1881 Westcott-Hort New Testament).

Well, that's odd. Jesus rode two donkeys? Do you wonder how that's done? It says he rode on them, right? Someone I know once suggested that Jesus was indeed riding both the donkey and her colt, that the man from Nazareth was doing tricks on them, like standing with one foot on one animal, and one foot on the other. Maybe Jesus was even doing handstands to show off! (as I recall the conversation). Circus tricks. On the way into Jerusalem. Where Jesus knows he is going to be put to death. Hmmm....

Here's a different point of view. Perhaps the pronoun "them" refers to the "garments" on the animals. This way, Jesus is sitting on the garments, and not necessarily on two animals. On the other hand, even if we establish that the pronoun "them" has its antecedent in "garments," that doesn't really solve the apparent problem. For, if the garments are on the animals (plural), and Jesus sat on the garments, then it stands to reason that Jesus sat on the animals (plural). But, if "garments" is the antecedent of the pronoun, then that at least gives us the option of picturing Jesus on one set of garments, for it is untenable to think of the garments, as a singular unit, on both animals. That would be cumbersome and awkward, not least for the donkey and her colt. Besides, the "garments" were outer robes (think of a large, bath robe) and hardly big enough to cover two animals, even if they are walking closely together.

Nevertheless, "garments" is indeed the nearest antecedent of the pronoun "them," and ta himatia (garments) agrees with the pronoun in gender and number--they're both neuter plural. In Greek, pronouns agree with their antecedents in gender and number. The donkey (ten onon), is feminine singular and her colt (ton pwlon) is masculine singular. This could be further evidence that "them" refers to "garments" and not the two animals, for they have differing genders. The donkey and her colt are indeed described by the first pronoun "them" as a neuter plural entity, but the word order in the second clause places "garments" closer to "them." All that and... wouldn't that be a bit awkward as both animals would be different in size? Luke tells us that the colt had never been ridden (19:30). This suggests a younger animal, different in size that its mother. That's an awkward ride, bro, if indeed Jesus is riding on both animals simultaneously.

Besides grammar, maybe its best to apply a simple lesson in hermeneutics. Let's say I'm about to go round up the horses, as some of them ate too many oats that morning and heard their were some wild mares out near the plateau. So, in order for me to be on the good graces of my own female counterpart, I need to go round 'em up. I do so, and bring the horses home. "Honey, I rode the horses home." And she says, "Danke."

So that's an easier reading. Jesus rode them animals into Jerusalem. But not two at the same time.

*Thanks to Aaron Peer for help with Greek grammar!

No comments: