Did Jesus ride a colt, a donkey, or both?

Question
Matthew mentions a donkey and a colt but Mark and Luke only mention a colt. Who is right? And if Matthew is right, how does one ride a donkey and a colt at the very same time?
Answer

Matthew 21:2-7: Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me ... They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.

Mark 11:2-7: Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. ... And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.

Luke 19:30-35: Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. ... And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all giving truthful statements. Matthew’s account goes into more detail and reveals how this event fulfilled the prophecy of both a donkey and a colt (cf. Zech. 9:9). While Mark and Luke mention only the colt, note that they do not deny the presence of the donkey. Similarly, if you had three friends, Bob, Jeff, and John, come to your home yesterday and the next day at work you said that Bob was at your home, is it a lie because you didn't include Jeff and John? No it isn’t.

A person doesn't have to state every detail in an event to be telling the truth. Indeed, none of these writers tell us if the animals had fleas, or how many steps each animal took on Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. These facts don't matter because they aren't necessary for the author's main point. Matthew's point was the fulfillment of prophecy, while Mark and Luke primarily wanted to point to Jesus' kingly status by riding on a colt (cf. Luke 23:38, et. al.). So, all three are telling the truth.

As for the other skeptical claim that Jesus rode both animals at the very same time, notice neither Matthew nor Zechariah states that he did. A reasonable explanation of Matthew's statement is that the journey was rather long for a young colt to make with one riding upon its back, so Jesus could have ridden the older donkey first and then the young colt later on. Matthew could have also meant that Jesus rode the young colt while the donkey walked alongside them. Of course, the most obvious answer is the second "them" in Matthew is referring to the cloaks (plural in all three gospels) and not the donkey and colt.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).