Scala/Art Resource, NY

Straddling two animals, Jesus rides into Jerusalem—the opening act in the drama of his final week—as depicted by the Italian Renaissance painter Pietro Lorenzetti. But why would Jesus enter the holy city balanced uncomfortably on two animals? The Gospel of Matthew explains that Jesus’ action fulfilled “what was spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 21:4); the Evangelist then quotes Zechariah 9:9, who declared, “Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and triumphant, humble and riding on an ass, upon the foal of an ass.” But Matthew knew Zechariah’s words through the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible; author Minkoff notes that the translators missed the parallelisms in the passage. “Ass” and “foal of an ass” echo each other and refer to the same animal, not two different ones. The Septuagint’s error, repeated by Matthew, thus found its way into Christian art.