I had a great question asked of me yesterday and it is one that many have had over the years. The person asked if the Bible contradicted itself when you compare the account of the death of Judas Iscariot in Matthew 27 with the account by Luke in Acts 1. The problem arises when people do not take into consideration the culture and the intent of the writer when they look at these passages. So let me see if I can walk you through this seeming contradiction. Here are both of the passages.
The death of Judas Iscariot Bible verses.
Judas Hangs Himself
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”
5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” 7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)
Matthew was writing to Jews and as such he went into details historically that were of importance to Jews. Matthew was tying what happened to Judas to a prophecy that was given by Jeremiah over 400 years earlier. This is why he goes into details about how Judas died. Luke, on the other hand was writing to Greeks as is indicated by addressing his book to Theophilus, a common Greek name. Luke was recording Peter’s reason for wanting to choose another Apostle and was only giving a side note to the death of Judas, not a historical description.
However does that mean that there really is a discrepancy between the two accounts?
There are 3 things that seem to contradict one another. The manner of death, who bought the field, and why it was called the field of blood. Let’s look at all 3.
The death of Judas.
Matt 27:5 states that Judas “threw the pieces of silver….and he went away and hanged himself.”
Acts 1:18 states, “and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.”
It’s rather easy to reconcile these:
1. First, Judas tried to kill himself by hanging himself. And this is not always a successful way. Maybe he tried, and failed (as have many others who have tried to commit suicide by hanging). Then after some time, he threw himself off a cliff and fell upon some jagged rocks. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for people who commit suicide to have tried it before.
2. Judas could have tied a rope to a tree branch that extended over a cliff (after all, you have to get some space between your feet and the ground to hang yourself). In this situation, the rope/branch could have broke before or after death, and Judas plummeted to the ground and landed on some jagged rocks.
Certainly, these explanations are plausible, thus a contradiction has not been established.
Who bought the field?
Perhaps here, the following maxim holds – “He who does a thing by another, does it himself.” That is, yes it was the chief priests who actually bought the field, but Judas had furnished the occasion for its purchase. Thus, the verse in Acts could be employing a figure of speech where we attribute to the man himself any act which he has directly or indirectly procured to be done. After all, we attribute the “Obamacare” to President Obama, when in reality, it is a plan devised by others associated with President Obama. There was not enough time for Judas to have bought the field before his death, thus it had to mean that it was a field bought in his name. This is very understandable since the Priests had already said they could not accept the money, so they used tainted money to buy a tainted field.
Why is it called the field of blood?
This seeming contradiction assumes that it was the gut busting episode that was known over all the city rather than the purchase of the field with tainted money. As much as it might have been gruesome, the gut busting episode would not have been so dramatic as to cover the whole field, and as such would not warrant such a designation. Luke does not even mention blood in connection to the spilling of his guts. Thus is is more than likely that the reason the field was called the field of blood was referring to the fact that it was bought with blood money, which the city would have surely known about.
I hope that answers your questions. In all honesty, I had many of the same type of questions before I prayed a simple prayer. I didn’t know all the answers but was seeking and so I very plainly asked God that if He was real, then do something with me. He changed me from the inside out and I knew it. After that, it was much easier to understand the intent and message of the Bible.
- The Psalmist’s Lamentation And The Demise of Babylon (RazorSwift.com)
Reference: The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.