Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Matthew misread the Book of Zechariah

Just prior to the entry into Jerusalem, Jesus instructs his disciples to find him transportation. In Matthew 21:5, one of the 14 fulfillment citations, we read: All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” Matthew was the only gospel writer to include Zechariah’s prophecy. Thus it is clear that the writer intentionally changed what the Lucan Jesus said from “Blessed is the king that cometh in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” to “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

In Zech. 9:9, the Prophet Zechariah used Hebrew poetic parallelism (the balancing of thought in successive lines of poetry). The terms male donkey, colt, and foal all designate the same animal—the young donkey upon which the messiah would ride into Jerusalem. The failure to recognize synonymous parallelism creates a translation problem. In talking about two donkeys, Matthew clearly did not understand the Hebrew poetic parallelism of his source.

Later, in Matt. 23:35, Matthew made a mistake in his identification of Zechariah as the son of Barachias rather than the son of Jehoiada [2Ch 24:20-22]. The only known Zachariah, son of Barachias, was killed by the Zealots in 67 C.E. [see Jos. Bellum 4:334-344 Zacharias, the son of Baruch (Baruch is equivalent to Barachias)]. The Gospel of the Hebrews reads 'son of Jehoiada.' After this misidentification, Matthew has Jesus discussing the destruction of the Temple that occurred in 70 C.E. These two mistakes suggest the person who wrote these verses was not Matthew, the disciple of Jesus and that this person wrote some time after 67 C.E.

This proposal, that the Greek Gospel of Matthew was written some time after 67 C.E., recognizes the possibility that Matthew with its unique fulfillment citations responded to the needs of its community estranged by the introduction of the Birkath ha-Minim around 85 C.E. The only significant parallel to Matthew’s explicit formula citations in Jewish and Christian literature of this time period occurs on 6 occasions in the Gospel of John.

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Anonymous Steven Avery said...


There is lots of counterpoint in both of these proposed misreadings by Matthew.

e.g There clearly was an earlier Zechariah, son of Berechiah.

Zechariah 1:1 (AV)
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

The discussion of this referencing by Jesus, and the history of the Zechariahs, is quite complex. With e.g. William Pemble being referenced by Matthew Henry, John Gill and Benjamin Blayney contributing, and more recently the Luke-Acts book of Tremper Longman has a good little section, referencing J. Barton Payne's "Zechariah who Perished" (1967).

Similarly the supposed "error" on the foal in Matthew 24:5 is mostly an error in some modern version mistranslations. I have some on this here:

Matthew 21:4 - and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass

While affirming the antiquity and accuracy of Luke, and the fascinating relationship of writing to Theophilus, I believe we should be very cautious in any disparagement of the other gospel writers. Where we may hastily using arguments and positions that are generally those of skeptics rather than New Testament believers and defenders.

Steven Avery

5:57 PM


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