happened to Judas - hung himself per Matthew 27, or bought a field and
fell per Acts 1?"
two books (Matthew and Acts) have different authors that are speaking about
the same event. We see that situation in the four gospels as well (Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John). I think the paradox is handled in the same way that
we address occasional differences between those same books; namely by first
asking if there is a way to reconcile both accounts as true. In other words,
could these passages be not contradictory, but complementary?
are the pertinent verses (NASB):
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 sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
And 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 counseled
together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place
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...
(Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness; and falling
headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out...)
the case of the field and the fate of Judas, such a reconciling between
Acts and Matthew would ask the reader to believe several things:
That Judas did not go back and retrieve his pieces of silver from
the temple nor transact a real estate purchase so as to buy a place
to hang himself. First of all, why buy land just to kill yourself? Secondly,
isn't his suicide portrayed as a heat-of-the-moment action; not a well thought-out
event following an undetermined period of real estate shopping?
That the passage "acquired a field with the price of his wickedness" is
properly interpreted to say Judas' ACTIONS effectively bought that field.
It would be like a historian writing "our Founding Fathers bought this republic
with their blood". No, revolutionary patriots did not go around selling
pints of hemoglobin, but their cumulative actions, as a matter of consequence,
achieved an end result even after many were dead.
That Judas' body was both hung, and fell from some height to burst open.
Admittedly these two details are not identical like I've always wished
them to be. That is unfortunate when you wonder what unbelievers might think
if these two verses were the only ones they had ever read. Well, I and perhaps
yourself have read the entire Bible and know the sixty-six books mesh extraordinarily
well; and usually easily and apparently...BUT not so apparently in this
if 99.9% of Scripture meshes perfectly, can the hanging and falling be reconciled
with equal surety? Yes - IF Judas hung himself AND subsequently his body
fell and burst open; eitherů
a.) falling from a
high place during or after the process of hanging himself, or
b.) falling a short
distance after his body had long since died from hanging and was rotting
(in which case it would not need to fall far to burst open).
if we knew the geography of the place where Judas died we could estimate
which scenario was most likely. I don't know the geography, and it isn't
clear which action definitively killed Judas, so I can't tell you if he
died from hanging and then his body eventually dropped, or a botched attempt
at hanging left him crashing to the ground below.
not sure you buy my explanation? Then consider these three different statements
about Peter Jackson's King Kong:
a.) Kong was shot
b.) Kong fell off the Empire State Building,
c.) "T'was beauty killed the beast"
one correctly identifies how King Kong ended up dead? Answer: all three;
two literally, and one figuratively. They aren't conflicting, they're complementary;
together painting the full picture of how King Kong died. So if you can
understand how King Kong 'bought the farm', you can probably understand
how Judas died and bought that field.
which talk more about these verses concerning Judas include Norman Geisler's
"When Critics Ask" and Gleason Archer's "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties".
I've looked at Geisler's piece which I've basically reflected above, but
I don't know what Archer has to say on this.)