How (and Where) Did Judas Really Die?
by J Warner Wallace
I’ve been writing intermittently about some of the alleged Gospel contradictions skeptics cite when arguing against the reliability of the New Testament. When two or more eyewitness accounts appear to disagree, we’ve either encountered an error on the part of one of the witnesses, are somehow misreading (or misinterpreting) the accounts, or have insufficient information to reconcile the descriptions. The death of Judas, as recorded in two places in the New Testament, appears to present us with a contradiction:
Matthew 27:3-10: Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.”
Acts 1:15-20: At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it’; and, ‘Let another man take his office.’”
These accounts seem to differ in two important ways. How was the “blood money” spent? Did Judas use it to purchase a piece of property or did the chief priests use it to purchase the Potter’s Field? This first alleged contradiction seems rather simple to reconcile if we are willing to layer the two accounts (this is often necessary when examining two descriptions in my cold-case investigations, especially when I no longer have access to the original witnesses). Judas threw the money into the temple and departed. The chief priests retrieved the coins and decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. Luke’s description of the purchase does not appear to be a direct quote from Peter linking Judas to the purchase, but is instead a tangential description intended for those who were not familiar with the details of the field or Judas’ death. Luke simply wanted us to know the acquisition of the field was made possible by the money Judas provided.
But what about the manner of Judas’ death?
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