Look in the dictionary and you will discover two primary definitions for the word ass. The first is “a donkey.” The second is “a vain, self-important, silly, or aggressively stupid person.” In reading through the websites attempting to debunk the Bible on the basis of the number of asses Jesus rode into Jerusalem, both definitions immediately spring to mind. One website actually appends the word absurd to Matthew’s rendering of Palm Sunday: “In three of the four accounts of the triumphal entry, Jesus rides a single donkey. Matthew, though, apparently misunderstands the prophecy and, rather absurdly, has Jesus ride two donkeys.”

First, for the sake of plain old common sense, I should note that wherever there are two animals, there is always one. Every time. Without fail. One hundred percent of the time! If Mark, Luke, and John had stipulated only one donkey, while Matthew stated that more than one donkey was involved, we would be faced with an obvious contradiction. Instead, the complementary details provided by the four gospel writers serve to flesh out the rest of the story.

Furthermore, while Matthew spoke of two asses, he did so advisedly rather than “absurdly.” In other words, Matthew was using the presence of two animals as a way of depicting faithful Jews and faithful Gentiles, who through the mission and ministry of Messiah have come together as one body. Far from contradictory, the biblical imagery is complex and awe inspiring. Jesus did not ride into Jerusalem in a horse and chariot as a conquering king but on an animal that quite obviously signifies peace and humility. The message is not one that conveys earthly might but rather one that conveys the heavenly reality that the meek shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Finally, while Matthew did say that the disciples “placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them” (Matthew 21:7), this is not to say that Jesus rode into Jerusalem sitting on two animals simultaneously as though His triumphal entry were akin to a clown act. A straightforward reading of the text is that the disciples placed their cloaks on two animals, and Jesus sat upon them, meaning the cloaks. Even if the word them is taken to refer to both animals, it would hardly be “absurd.” When we say that the president rode into Washington in a motorcade, only the most entrenched literalist supposes that he was sitting in multiple vehicles simultaneously. Absurdly, therefore, does not apply to Matthew but to myopic fundamentalists bent on rendering the majestic tapestry of Scripture in wooden, literalistic fashion.

In contrast to spoofers, scholars look for a reliable core set of facts to validate historical narratives. If each of the gospel writers were to present their accounts in identical fashion, we would quite justifiably wonder about collusion. Instead, what we discover are complementary details that serve as fibers in an unparalleled tapestry. You’ve got to love it! God can speak through even the mouth of an ass.

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

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.’”

So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

Matthew 21:1–7 NKJV

See also, How Many Times did Jesus Cleanse the Temple? 


***Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming. When available we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***