New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent

Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > Z > Zacharias


Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...

(Hebrew zekharyahu and zekharyah; meaning "Yahweh remembers", Sept. Zacharia and Zacharias), son of Barachias, son of Addo, a Prophet who rose in Israel in the eighth month of the seventh year of the reign of King Darius, 520 B.C. (Zechariah 1:1) just two months after Aggeus began to prophesy (Agg., i, 1). The urgings of the two Prophets brought about the building of the second temple (Ezra 5 and 6). Addo was one of the chief priests who, in the first year of the reign of Cyrus 538 B.C., returned with Zorobabel from captivity (Nehemiah 12:4). Sixteen years thereafter, during the high priesthood of Joacim (verse 12), Zacharia, of the family of Addo (Heb. of verse 16), is listed as a chief priest. This Zacharia is most likely the Prophet and author of the canonical book of the same name. It is not at all probable that the Prophet Zacharias is referred to by Christ (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51) as having been slain by the Jews in the Temple; that Zacharias was the son of Joiada (2 Chronicles 24:20). Moreover, the Jews of Zorobabel's time obeyed the Prophet Zacharias (Zechariah 6:7); nor is there, in the Books of Esdras, any trace of so heinous a crime perpetrated in the Temple court.

The prophecy of Zacharias is one of the books admitted by both Jews and Christians into their canon of Sacred Writings, one of the Minor Prophets. This article will treat its contents and interpretation, canonicity, author, time, place, and occasion.

Contents and interpretation

Part first (chapters 1-8)

Introduction. The purpose of the book, the return of the people to Yahweh (i, 1-6).

(1) The eight visions of the Prophet, on the night of the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month of the second year of the rule of Darius in Babylon (i, 7-vi, 8).

(2) Sequel to the eight visions

As a sequel to the eight visions, especially to the fourth and fifth, Yahweh bids Zacharias take of the gold and silver brought from Babylon by a deputation of Jews of the captivity, and therewith to make crowns; to place these crown upon the head of Jesus the high priest, and then to hang them as a votive-offering in the Temple (vi, 9-15). The critics generally insist that it was Zorobabel and not Jesus who was to be crowned. They err in missing the prophetic symbolism of the action. It is the high priest rather than the king that is the type of the priest of the Messianic kingdom, "the Man Whose name is the Sprout" (Heb. text), Who shall build up the Temple of the Church and in Whom shall be united the offices of priest and king.

(3) The prophecy of the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year of the rule of Darius in Babylon (vii and viii)

Almost two years after the eight visions, the people ask the priests and Prophets if it be required still to keep the fasts of the exile. Zacharias makes answer as revealed to him; they should fast from evil, show mercy, soften their hard hearts; abstinence from fraud and not from food is the service Yahweh demands. As a motive for this true service of God, he pictures to them the glories and the joys of the rebuilt Jerusalem (vii, 1-9). The Prophet ends with a Messianic prediction of the gathering of the nations to Jerusalem (viii, 20-23).

Part second (chapters 9-14): the two burdens

Many years have gone by. The temple of Zorobabel is built. The worship of Yahweh is restored. Zacharias peers into the faraway future and tells of the Messianic kingdom.

(1) First burden, in Hadrach (ix-xi)

(2) Second burden, the apocalyptic vision of Jerusalem's future (xii-xiv)


Zacharias is contained in the canons of both Palestine and Alexandria; Jews and all Christians accept it as inspired. The book is found among the Minor Prophets in all the canonical lists down to those of Trent and the Vatican. The New Testament writes often refer to the prophecies of the Book of Zacharias as fulfilled. Matthew (xxi, 5) says that in the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the details were brought to pass that Zacharias (ix, 9) had predicted; and John (xii, 15) bears like witness. Although, in xxvii, 9, Matthew makes mention of Jeremias only-yet he refers to the fulfilment of two prophecies, that of Jeremias (xxxii, 6-9) about the purchase of the potter's field and that of Zacharias (xi, 12, 13) about the thirty pieces of silver, the price set upon the type of the Messias. John (xix, 37) sees in the Crucifixion a fulfilling of Zacharias's words, "they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced" (xii, 10). Matthew (xxvi, 31) thinks that the Prophet (xiii, 7) foretold the scattering of the Lord's disciples.


In the foregoing analysis of the contents of Zacharias, we have stated the author, time, place and occasion of the book. The author of the entire prophecy is Zacharias. The time of part first is the second and fourth years of the reign of Darius in Babylon (520 and 522 B.C.). The time of part second is probably toward the end of the reign of Darius or the beginning of that of Xerxes (485 B.C.). The place of the entire prophecy is Jerusalem. The occasion of the first part is to bring about the building of the second Temple; that of the second part is perhaps the approach of the Prophet's death. The traditional view taken by Catholic exegetes on the unity of authorship of the book is due in part to the witness of all manuscripts of the original text and of the various versions; this unanimity shows that both in Judaism and the Church there has never been a serious doubt in the matter of the unity of authorship of Zacharias. Solid reason, and not mere conjecture, are necessary to shake confidence in this traditional view. No such solid reasons are forthcoming. Internal evidence is appealed to; but internal evidence does not here favour divine criticism. Quite the reverse; scope and style are one in the prophecy.

Unity of scope

The entire prophecy has the same scope; it is permeated throughout with the very same Messianic forecasting. The kingdom and priesthood of the Messias are obscurely depicted in the visions of the first part; vividly in the two burdens of the second part. Both sections insist upon the vengeance to be wrought against foes of Juda (cf. i, 14, and vi, 8, with ix, 1 sq.); the priesthood and kingship united in the Christ (cf. iii, 8 and vi, 12 with ix, 9-17); the conversion of the gentiles (cf. ii, 11; vi, 15, and viii, 22, with xiv, 16, 17); the return of Israel from captivity (cf. viii, 7, 8, with ix, 11-16; x, 8 sq.); the holiness of the new kingdom (cf. iii, 1, and v, 1 sq., with xiii, 1); its prosperity (cf. i, 17; iii, 10; viii, 3 sq., with xi, 16; xiv, 7 sq.).

Unity of style

Whatever slight differences there are in the style of the two sections can be readily enough explained by the fact that the visions are in prose and the burdens in poetry. We can understand that one and the same writer may show differences in form and mode of expression, if, after a period of thirty-five years, he works out in exultant and exuberant poetical form the theme which, long before and under very different circumstances, he had set forth in calmer language and prosaic mould. To counterbalance these slight stylistic differences, we have indubitable evidence of unity of style. Modes of expression occur in both parts which are distinctive of Zacharias. Such are, for instance: the very pregnant clause "and after them the land was left desolate of any that crossed over and of any that returned into it" — Hebrew me'ober umisshab (vii, 14, ad ix, 8); the use of the Hiphil of 'abar in the sense of "taking away iniquity" (iii, 4, and xiii, 2); the metaphor of "the eye of God" for His Providence (iii, 9; i, 10; and ix, 1); the designations of the chosen people, "house of Juda and house of Israel", "Juda, Israel, Jerusalem", "Juda and Ephraim", "Juda and Joseph" (cf. i, 2, 10; vii, 15 etc., and ix, 13; x, 6; xi, 14 etc.). Moreover, verses and portions of verses of the first part are identical with verses and portions of verses of the second part (cf. ii, 10, and ix, 9; ii, 6, and ix, 12, 13; vii, 14, and ix, 8; viii, 14, and xiv, 5).

Divisive criticism

It is generally allowed that Zacharias is the author of the first part of the prophecy (chapters i-viii). The second part (ix-xiv) is attributed by the critics to one or many other writers. Joseph Mede, and Englishman, started the issue, in his "Fragmenta sacra" (London, 1653), 9. Wishing to save from error Matthew 27:9, 19, he attributed the latter portion of Zacharias to Jeremias. In this exegesis, he was seconded by Kidder, "The demonstration of the Messias" (London, 170), 199, and Whiston, "An essay towards restoring the true text of the Old Testament" (London, 1722), 92. In this way was the Deutero-Zacharias idea begotten. The idea waxed strong as was prolific. Divisive criticism in due time found many different authors for ix-xiv. By the end of the eighteenth century, Flugge, "Die Weissagungen, welche den Schriften des Zacharias beigebogen sind" (Hamburg, 1788), had discovered nine disparate prophecies in these six chapters. A single or a manifold Deutero-Zacharias is defended also by Bauer, Augusti, Bertholdt, Eichorn (4th. ed.), De Wette (though not after 3rd ed.), Hitzig, Ewald, Maurer, Knobel, Bleck, Stade, Nowack, Wellhousen, Driver etc. The critics are not agreed, however, as to whether the disputed chapters are pre-exilic or post-exilic. Catholic Biblical scholars are almost unanimous against this view. The arguments in its favour are given by Van Hoonacker (op. cit., pp. 657 sq.) and answered convincingly.


The prophecy of Zacharias has been interpreted by ST. EPHRAIM and ST. JEROME; cf. the commentaries on the Minor Prophets by RIBERA (Antwerp, 1571, etc.); MONTANUS (Antwerp, 1571, 1582); DE PALACIO (Cologne, 1588); MESSAN (Antwerp, 1597); SANCTIUS (Lyons, 1621); DE CASTRO (Lyons, 1615, etc.); DE CALANO (Palermo, 1644); MAUCORPS (Paris, 1614); SCHOLZ (Frankfurt, 1833); SCHEGG (Ratisbon, 1854 and 1862); TROCHON (Paris, 1883); KNABENBAUER (Paris, 1886); GRIESBACH (Lille, 1901); LEIMBACH in Bibl. Volksbucher, IV (Fulda, 1908), PATRIZI (Rome, 1852) treated the Messianic prophecies of Zacharias. The Protestant commentaries have been mentioned in the course of the article. The Catholic writers of general introductions are of service in regard to the authorship of Zacharias; cf. CORNELY; KAULEN, GIGOT.

About this page

APA citation. Drum, W. (1912). Zacharias. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Drum, Walter. "Zacharias." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2021 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.