Who found the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem?

Posted on Jan.27, 2010. Filed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Average rating: 1.2 / 10 (Rate It).

The triumphal entry, the ocasion on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey, thus fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 and claiming to be the king of the Jews, is in all four gospels. There is a discrepancy, however, concerning how Jesus acquired this donkey on which he rode.

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus sends two of his disciples to fetch the donkey for him; it is they who find it:

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. [Matthew 21:1-2 (NRSV)]

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. [Mark 11:1-2 (NRSV)]

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. [Luke 19:29-30 (NRSV)]

John, however, instead of reporting that two of Jesus’ disciples found the donkey, reports that Jesus found the donkey himself:

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it… [John 12:14a (NRSV)]

So, who found the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem? Was it Jesus, or two of his disciples?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    Meh. He found a donkey via the disciples. Or something.

  2. 2

    I suppose that one way to read the story is as a miracle of some sort. Jesus miraculously knew that the donkeys would be found tied outside the village. And when the disciples say “The master has need of them”, it’s like Obi-Wan Kenobi saying “These aren’t the droids you are looking for”: it miraculously prevents anyone from stopping them.

    But it is also possible that Jesus had already rented the donkeys from their owner by ordinary means. He then arranged with the owner to have the donkeys tied up just so and had told them that his friends would be picking the donkeys up. His friends would make themselves known by saying “The master has need of them”. If so, it would be correct to say that Jesus found the donkeys and that the disciples fetched them.

  3. 3

    Not impressed with this one then? Fair enough, neither am I.

    King Solomon built the Jerusalem temple using various labourers, so I don’t see why Jesus couldn’t have found the donkey using two of his disciples.

  4. 4

    It may be that John thought Jesus found the donkey without any use of disciples. That seems to be the simplest way of reading John. BUT it would be appropriate to describe Jesus as finding it even if the disciples picked it up.

    So there is no real problem here.

  5. 5

    Who found the donkey? Jesus knew exactly where the donkey was and told the Disciples where they could fetch the donkey from. So again I ask, who found the donkey? Jesus did! Whether by divine inspiration or having prearranged it, there is no leap of faith required here to understand that Jesus found a donkey.

    The disciples went looking for the donkey where Jesus had told them they would find it. Although you might use the phrase “they found the donkey” the key here is who found it first.

    If you were a treasure hunter and found a great treasure but were unable to carry it all yourself you might employ some people to assist you getting it. Perhaps you sent them to get the treasure but didn’t accompany them yourself. Does this mean ‘they’ found the treasure? No, since it was at your direction, nobody in that group would be claiming that they were the ones who found the treasure. Those responsible for a find are those who found it first.

    No problem here.

  6. 6

    My my, how the creation loves to question the Creator. What you should be asking is who was the guy that owned the donkey and colt and was willing to give it to the Jesus. How did he know? He is one of the many I want to get to know in Heaven. How God used the common for the most uncommon purposes. You never know what one act of kindness, of obedience will do.

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