Gospel lection for April 13 2014 Palm Sunday; Matthew 21:1-11; Comments on the Greek text


Mt 21:1 Καὶ ὅτε ἤγγισαν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ ἦλθον εἰς Βηθφαγὴ εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν, τότε Ἰησοῦς ἀπέστειλεν δύο μαθητὰς And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,
Mt 21:2 λέγων αὐτοῖς· Πορεύεσθε εἰς τὴν κώμην τὴν κατέναντι ὑμῶν, καὶ εὐθέως εὑρήσετε ὄνον δεδεμένην καὶ πῶλον[A] μετ’ αὐτῆς· λύσαντες ἀγάγετέ μοι. saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey, tied up, and a colt with her.  Having untied [them,] bring [them] to me.
Mt 21:3 καὶ ἐάν τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ τι, ἐρεῖτε[B] ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτῶν χρείαν ἔχει[C]· εὐθὺς δὲ ἀποστελεῖ αὐτούς. And if anyone says anything to you, you will say ‘The Lord has need of them, and he will send them [back] immediately.’”
Mt 21:4 Τοῦτο δὲ γέγονεν ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου[D] λέγοντος· This happened so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, when he said,
Mt 21:5 Εἴπατε τῇ θυγατρὶ Σιών· Ἰδοὺ ὁ βασιλεύς σου ἔρχεταί σοι πραῢς καὶ ἐπιβεβηκὼς ἐπὶ ὄνον καὶ ἐπὶ πῶλον υἱὸν ὑποζυγίου[E]. “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the son of a pack animal.’”
Mt 21:6 πορευθέντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ καὶ ποιήσαντες καθὼς συνέταξεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς And having gone, the disciple also did just as Jesus [had] directed them.
Mt 21:7 ἤγαγον τὴν ὄνον καὶ τὸν πῶλον, καὶ ἐπέθηκαν ἐπ’ αὐτῶν τὰ ἱμάτια, καὶ ἐπεκάθισεν ἐπάνω[F] αὐτῶν. They led the donkey and the colt, and the put garments on them, and he sat above them.
Mt 21:8 ὁ δὲ πλεῖστος[G] ὄχλος ἔστρωσαν ἑαυτῶν τὰ ἱμάτια[H] ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, ἄλλοι δὲ ἔκοπτον κλάδους ἀπὸ τῶν δένδρων καὶ ἐστρώννυον ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ. And the biggest crowd spread their own garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and they were spreading [them] in the road.
Mt 21:9 οἱ δὲ ὄχλοι οἱ προάγοντες αὐτὸν καὶ οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἔκραζον λέγοντες· Ὡσαννὰ[I] τῷ υἱῷ Δαυίδ· Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου· Ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις.[J] And the crowd that was going ahead of him, and those who were following, were crying out saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in [the] name of [the] Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”
Mt 21:10 καὶ εἰσελθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἐσείσθη[K] πᾶσα ἡ πόλις λέγουσα· Τίς ἐστιν οὗτος; And when he entered into Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up saying, “Who is this?”
Mt 21:11 οἱ δὲ ὄχλοι ἔλεγον· Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ προφήτης Ἰησοῦς ὁ ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲθ τῆς Γαλιλαίας. And the crowds began to say, “This is the prophet Jesus, the [one] from Nazareth of the Galilee.”

[A] Of course, the presence of two animals in the story is unique to Matthew, and constitutes one of the major interpretative challenges of this text.

[B] A somewhat surprising future, where one would have expected an imperative.

[C] Hence presupposing an arrangement already made?  Not much explanation seems to be needed here.

[D] This verse and the next are unique to Matthew, along with the two animals.

[E] Two comments here.  First, most commentators think that the citation from Zech 9:9 is meant to be Hebrew parallelism—two different ways of saying the same thing, but Matthew seems to be taking both literally.  Secondly, the word ὑποζυγίου, translated “pack animal” commonly means “donkey” or “ass,” but it’s noteworthy that it’s not the same word in the original as the initial phrase (ὄνον), underscoring that in Zech 9:9, this is a parallel expression, and not the foal of the first animal, as Matthew assumes.

[F] A surprising preposition that I have rendered “above,” where one might have expected the simpler επι “on.”  Matthew leaves it somewhat undetermined exactly how Jesus sat on them.  There is also exegetical debate about whether the text is saying that Jesus sat on both animals, or whether “them” refers to the garments.  That’s a legitimate debate, but one still has to reckon with the unusual επανω here.

[G] Literally, “the mostest crowd”!

[H] So some garments are on the animals, and some on the road.

[I] Most commentators translate this Aramaic word as “save, we pray.”  The following dative is a bit harder to render.  Is the prayer directed to the Son of David, or should we render this “Save [us], we pray, by the Son of David?”  (Though the dative would be a bit grammatically unusual for such an interpretation.)  Or perhaps Matthew sees this simply as a general form of acclamation directed to the Son of David.  That would be confirmed by the next clause.  It’s also worth noting that “to the Son of David” is unique to Matthew and not in the synoptic parallels, nor is it in the original Psalm 118:25.  That would also suggest that Matthew sees “Hosanna” as a form of acclamation, rather than as a prayer.

[J] Either a reference to where the prayer is directed ([to the one] in the highest [heaven]), or else adverbial, indicating how the prayer is offered “in the highest [degree/to the greatest extent].”

[K] Cf. two other uses of this verb in 27:51 & 28:4.