Irreconcilable Differences (Matthew 27:1-10; Acts 1:16-19)

Matthew 27:1-10
27 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.
8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

(biblegateway.com; KJV)

Acts 1:16-19

16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

(biblegateway.com; KJV)

Comments:

These are each accounts of the doings and fate of Judas after he betrayed Jesus to the Chief Priests and elders (as the story goes). An analysis of each text reveals two different accounts which can not be reconciled as to certain specifics. Each writer had a slightly different perspective, as is so oftentimes the case when two different people recount the same event. This is especially the case when neither narrator was present nor involved in the event which is being discussed. This is of course precisely the case with reference to the writers of both Matthew and Acts respectively.

The discrepancies are admittedly minor. Mainly details as to who actually purchased a field with the money paid to betray Jesus. Matthew envisions the field being purchased by the Chief Priests after Judas had thrown the money into the Temple and subsequently departed and hanged himself. This purchase by a collective party of individuals allegedly fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (Matthew mistakenly references Jeremiah, but he must have meant Zechariah; cf Zechariah 11:12-13. Ironically, the Zechariah text apparently being referenced is presented as a single negotiator in the exchange of the thirty pieces of silver, which seemingly contradicts its utility in Matthew’s account!). Acts, on the other hand, indicates that Judas in fact purchased the field himself, then took a headlong fall which resulted in his guts being spilled out.

In reading each text, follow closely each distinctive description as to “who” makes the purchase. Matthew references “the Chief Priests” in verse 6, then goes on to cite “they” twice more in the context, each such reference describing “who” made the purchase of the land with the ill gotten gain. Acts on the other hand quite clearly references Judas in v 16, then refers to him as “this man” in verse 18 as being the one who purchased the field.

Clearly, there is some misunderstanding as to who exactly purchased the field with the thirty pieces of silver.

The reason for the misunderstanding? The simplest and most straightforward theory would be that the author of Matthew heard the story one way, and the writer of Acts heard the story yet another way. When reading multiple accounts of the same story, and especially when each writer is referencing second hand information (at best), then minor contradictions such as those in these two accounts are by no means to be unexpected.

Those individuals who read the Acts account would clearly conclude that Judas purchased the field himself before suffering a horrible mishap in a fall which spilled his guts out on the ground.

Those individuals who read the Matthew account would of course conclude that the Chief Priests purchased the field collectively, after Judas had committed suicide by hanging himself.

Separate and apart from each other, these accounts give conflicting details of the same basic story: That the money which was used to bribe Judas to betray Jesus, was afterwards used to purchase a field.

Now those with access to both accounts have two basic options:

Force the two accounts together to attempt to harmonize the details.

Decide for themselves which account makes sense so far as who actually made the purchase, and as to whether the purchase was made before or after Judas died.

Frankly, there is no reason to assume that either writer was depending on the account of the other as a matter or clarification Why pray tell would a narrator do so? So long as the narrator has the quill in hand so to speak, they have ample opportunity to qualify their statements or clarify any assertions. There is simply no reason for any other hermeneutic than to allow each writer to speak for himself, and draw conclusions accordingly.

Conclusion:

Per Matthew and Acts; the money which was used to bribe Judas to betray Jesus was utilized to purchase a field.

Per Matthew and Acts, Judas suffered a horrible mishap resulting in either death by hanging or gruesome bodily injury.

As to who actually purchased the field with the ill gotten gains: Hard to say. Depends on which account the reader chooses to trust.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

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2 thoughts on “Irreconcilable Differences (Matthew 27:1-10; Acts 1:16-19)

  1. In examining trees you miss the forest. Why are the Jews and Judas so vilified if the intent, the plan, was to sacrifice Jesus to expunge original sin? Jesus who could not truly die as he is God. Jesus who is guaranteed to live again and only suffered torment as much as his godly powers allowed. Were not they doing what they must under divine guidance? What if they had not do what they were described to do? Would we now love the Jews and name our children Judas?

    • I personally think the Jews got a bum rap. I am more at this point comparing what the text says and trying to minimize my take on it.

      Personally, I think history has done a “flip flop”. I am somewhat sympathetic to the Jewish community of the 1st Century, even though I am not a Jew. I just think they are victims of Hellenized writers who got their take on it all in print, and then when Rome went Catholic instead of Pagan, thus the Gentile biased written material became the Canonized doctrine.

      Hence, the Jews became the “bad guys” who crucified Jesus. Well, I have yet to be convinced that there even was a historical “Jesus”. As for “the Jews” of that era, they may have actually been the ones who were persecuted, so much so in fact that some had to leave Jerus and take up a dwelling small communities outside Jerus.

      Anyway, I am rambling.

      That is somewhat of my take. My take being a continual work in process as I have much study yet to do.

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