Judas Iscariot: One Man & Two Prophecies in Jeremiah
Purchase the potter’s field &
The potter’s jar will be cast and broken beyond repair
Of the four Evangelists, Matthew is the only writer to narrate Judas’ death (27:3-10) and thus explain why Judas could not see the risen Christ with the other eleven disciples in Galilee (28:16-20). Judas’ exclusion from the group of the twelve apostles is also implied by Mark and Luke, who record that Jesus appeared to and instructed the “eleven” rather than the “twelve” after His resurrection (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9 and 33). In John’s Gospel, where the phrase “the eleven” does not exist in the resurrection narratives, Judas Iscariot’s exclusion from the rest of the apostles is hinted at in Jesus’ prayer when Jesus identifies Judas Iscariot as the only “son of destruction” in 17:12. Consequently, it is not wrong to say that all of the four Gospels are in perfect harmony with regard to the exclusion of Judas Iscariot from the group of the twelve apostles.
However, things start to look different and get complicated when Luke the Evangelist relates the replacement of Judas Iscariot with Matthias in the Acts of the Apostles, which is the fifth book of the New Testament. The account of Judas’ death given in Acts by Peter prior to the election of the “new” twelfth apostle is apparently different from the one given by Matthew in the 27th chapter of his Gospel. At this point of the discussion, it is plausible to consider that Matthew and Luke follow different traditions concerning Judas’ tragic end.
Matthew states that Judas regretted handing Jesus over to His adversaries and took his own life after Jesus' arrest:
Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!” So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)1
In Luke’s Acts, however, Apostle Peter narrates Judas' tragic end from a radically different perspective and does not point out Judas’ regret and repentance as the cause of his death. Actually, Judas' death is seemingly bound to a disastrous accident in Peter’s speech:
Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. This became known to all who lived in Jerusalem, so that in their own language they called that field Hakeldama, that is, “Field of Blood.” (Acts 1:18-19)
The adversaries of the Holy Bible – who almost always read it superficially and inaccurately so as to challenge its authenticity and infallibility – conclude that the two accounts quoted above have a number of overt discrepancies. This is why it is not surprising that the opponents of the Word of God, through many efforts, work out three supposed contradictions from the differences between Matthew’s account and Peter’s speech. These differences are highlighted through the construction of the following questions:
- Did Judas buy a field (Acts 1:18) with his blood-money for betraying Jesus, or did he throw it into the temple (Matthew 27:5)?
- Did Judas die by hanging himself (Matthew 27:5) or by falling headlong and bursting open with all his bowels gushing out (Acts 1:18)?
- Is the field called the 'field of blood' because the priest bought it with blood money (Matthew 27:8), or because of Judas’s bloody death (Acts 1:19)?2
All of these questions are equally important and presented as the multiple discrepancies stemming from the narratives of the two Evangelists. Being aware of these frequent assaults launched on the two biblical texts, the Catholic Encyclopedia refuses the charges of contradiction and reconciles the differences stated in the first and third questions above:
Some modern critics lay great stress on the apparent discrepancies between this passage in the Acts and the account given by St. Matthew. For St. Peter's words taken by themselves seem to imply that Judas himself bought the field with the price of his iniquity, and that it was called "field of blood" because of his death. … But there does not seem to be any great difficulty in reconciling the two accounts. For the field, bought with the rejected price of his treachery, might well be described as indirectly bought or possessed by Judas, albeit he did not buy it himself. And St. Peter's words about the name Haceldama might be referred to the "reward of iniquity" as well as the violent death of the traitor.3
The remaining alleged discrepancy concerning the means or type of Judas’ death is more readily refuted through the reconciliation of the accounts with the help of a clear distinction between the “method” of Judas’ death and the “result” of the same incident:
According to ancient tradition, Judas hanged himself above the Valley of Hinnom on the edge of a cliff. Eventually the rope snapped (or was cut or untied), thus causing his body to fall headfirst into the field below, as Luke described. Matthew does not deny that Judas fell and had his entrails gush out, and Luke does not deny that Judas hanged himself. In short, Matthew records the method in which Judas attempted his death. Luke reports the end result.4
It is also interesting that some Islamic scholars refer to the differences between Matthew 27:3-10 and Acts 1:18-19 to support their theory that Judas Iscariot was substituted for Christ at the time of the passion. While trying to deny the historicity of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jamal Badawi, a Muslim scholar, raises the same questions and concludes that the accounts about Judas’ death in the New Testament are contradictory.5
The accusations targeting Matthew are not restricted to his giving a peculiar account of Judas’ death and thus contradicting the data presented by Luke since Matthew is severely criticized by some readers of the Bible who assert that the prophecy integrated into the narrative of the events occurring before Judas’ suicide is mistakenly ascribed to Jeremiah although the reference overtly comes from the text of prophet Zachariah.6 This supposed confusion of sources by Matthew is indirectly linked to the differences between the accounts of Judas’ death in Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s Acts of the Apostles and, therefore, should be added into the questions below, which I pose in order to answer the basic question: What are the reasons for all the differences between Matthew and Luke’s accounts about Judas’ death?
1) Why does Matthew stress that the idea of buying a field belonged to the Pharisees rather than to Judas?
2) Why does Matthew claim that the field bought by Judas' money was reserved for the burial of strangers?
3) Why does Matthew ascribe the prophecy about the potter’s field in the 27th chapter of his Gospel to prophet Jeremiah although the scriptural reference is apparently from the book of prophet Zachariah?
4) Why doesn't Luke mention Judas' regret and repentance leading him to suicide?
5) Why in Luke are Judas' betrayal and death associated with the sin of greed?
6) Why does Luke give his audience the impression that he is trying to depict Judas' tragic end as a means of divine punishment?
7) Why does Luke insist that a disastrous accident befell Judas in the field he himself had bought?
JUDAS ISCARIOT IN MATTHEW
Matthew depicts Judas as a traitor who subsequently repents and commits suicide due to the unbearable feeling of guilt. Besides, Matthew does not narrate Judas’ repentance and tragic death as something that occurs all of a sudden with a drastic change in the course of events in his life. As a consequence of textual unity and faithfulness to the principle of thematic consistency, Matthew implies that Judas began to feel guilty at the Lord’s Supper. The question posed by Judas after Jesus’ prediction of the betrayal gives the first sign of his sorrow:
The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said it yourself.” (Matthew 26-24-25) (Matthew singles out Judas as the disciple that asks Jesus this question.)
Nevertheless, Judas’ repentance and unbearable sorrow leading him to suicide functions as a significant event that is directly associated with an Old Testament prophecy indicating God’s wisdom and foreknowledge. Rather strikingly, Judas’ regret and his indignation expressed through the throwing of the thirty pieces of silver to the temple results in the realization of a certain prophecy in Jeremiah’s book. Matthew surprisingly says that Judas and the Jewish religious authorities acted in accordance with what Jeremiah said hundreds of years ago:
Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price of the one whose price had been set by the people of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” (Matthew 27:9-10)
Although it may seem a bit baffling and problematic to some critics that Matthew attributes this prophecy to prophet Jeremiah, it is not at all easy and reasonable to claim that Matthew made a mistake by confusing Zechariah with Jeremiah. It may take one some time to become convinced that Matthew focuses on a prophecy present in Jeremiah’s text with a few secondary predictions drawn from Zechariah’s book. However, the most important point about this prophecy is that it is mysteriously affiliated with the relationship between the Jewish religious authorities and Judas Iscariot, the traitor. Thus, Judas is involved in God’s plan and astonishingly functions as the major accomplisher of a certain prophecy in the Old Testament, which indicates God’s transcending will and power to make use of Jesus’ betrayer as an instrument.
The key phrase that points at Jeremiah’s book rather than at Zechariah’s for the correct source of the prophecy in Matthew 27:9-10 is “commanded me”. The Lord appoints – or commands – prophet Jeremiah to buy a field, and the same prophet strikingly regards the act of purchase as the fulfillment of God’s prophecy in the 32nd chapter of his book:
So now, Jeremiah said, “The Lord told me, ‘Hanamel, the son of your uncle Shallum, will come to you soon. He will say to you, “Buy my field at Anathoth because you are entitled as my closest relative to buy it.”’ Now it happened just as the Lord had said! My cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guardhouse. He said to me, ‘Buy my field which is at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. Buy it for yourself since you are entitled as my closest relative to take possession of it for yourself.’ When this happened, I recognized that the Lord had indeed spoken to me.” (Jeremiah 32:6-8)
Obviously, Jeremiah gives testimony to God’s might and wisdom by recounting how a prediction made by the Lord comes true. In the same way, Matthew first narrates the dialogue between Judas Iscariot and the Pharisees and then states how Judas’ regret and the return of the money latently forced the Jewish leaders to buy a field. He subsequently makes associations between the purchase of a field by the chief priests and God’s commandment given to Jeremiah to buy a field from one of his kinsmen. It is most likely that Matthew so courageously ascribes that prophecy to Jeremiah because God inspires and enables him to see many associations between the 32nd chapter in Jeremiah’s book and the incident occurring after Judas’ regret and his bringing the money of betrayal back to the Temple.
First of all, Matthew discovers the remarkable similarities between the two parties in Jeremiah’s book and Judas’ close friendship and compliance with the Jewish authorities. It should be kept in mind that Jeremiah is a priest and he buys the field upon the request of his relative in accordance with God’s commandment. Jeremiah’s purchasing the field from his relative was actually based on Leviticus 25:25-34, which meant to prevent the transfer of a man’s property to some hands outside his family due to poverty: “Underlying this request are the laws of redemption of property spelled out in Lev 25:25-34 and illustrated in Ruth 4:3-4. Under these laws, if a property owner became impoverished and had to sell his land, the nearest male relative had the right and duty to buy it so that it would not pass out of the use of the extended family.7 Thus, it was not Jeremiah’s idea to purchase the field but it was a duty put on him by the law in Leviticus 25 and by the specific command of God to him.
Now it happened just as the Lord had said! My cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guardhouse. He said to me, ‘Buy my field which is at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. Buy it for yourself since you are entitled as my closest relative to take possession of it for yourself.’ When this happened, I recognized that the Lord had indeed spoken to me. So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I weighed out seven ounces of silver and gave it to him to pay for it. I signed the deed of purchase, sealed it, and had some men serve as witnesses to the purchase. I weighed out the silver for him on a scale. There were two copies of the deed of purchase. One was sealed and contained the order of transfer and the conditions of purchase. The other was left unsealed. (Jeremiah 32:8-11)
In Matthew, Judas Iscariot is the person that goes to the Jewish religious leaders and indirectly motivates them to buy a field. The chief priests decide to buy the potter’s field because the right to use the money previously given to Judas now returns to them. Since Judas does not want the money and throws it away in the Temple before his suicide, the chief priests symbolically inherit the money as well as the right to use it from Judas Iscariot, who is the equivalent of Jeremiah’s cousin in the metaphorical sense of being someone’s kinsman. Thus, it is possible to say that the potter’s field bought by the chief priests actually belongs to Judas Iscariot as the chief priests use Judas’ money while purchasing the land.8
Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!” So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
At this point, it is also noteworthy that the transaction between Hanamel and Jeremiah is similar to the transaction between Judas Iscariot and the Jewish authorities. For whatever reason, Hanamel gives up his “inheritance” and sells out something of high value (that was supposed to be an “eternal” possession) for a sum of money. Likewise, Judas gives up his position as one of the twelve apostles, selling this honor for a sum of money. And in both cases, the payment (for the field or the betrayal) comes from the priests. Only in Jeremiah’s case, it is one transaction, in Judas case there are two: first the money for the betrayal, and then the money comes back to the priests and they have to do something with it.
The second significant similarity between the narrative in Jeremiah 32 and what occurs after Judas’ suicide is based on the notion of priestly obedience to God’s Law. Jeremiah buys the field from his cousin primarily because God commands him to do so, and the act of purchase is carried out with honesty in accordance with the law:
So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I weighed out seven ounces of silver and gave it to him to pay for it. I signed the deed of purchase, sealed it, and had some men serve as witnesses to the purchase. I weighed out the silver for him on a scale. There were two copies of the deed of purchase. One was sealed and contained the order of transfer and the conditions of purchase. The other was left unsealed. I took both copies of the deed of purchase and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. I gave them to him in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, the witnesses who had signed the deed of purchase, and all the Judeans who were housed in the courtyard of the guardhouse. (Matthew 32:9-12)
In Matthew, the chief priests decide to buy the potter’s field primarily because they cannot put the money back into the Temple treasury. Interestingly, their final decision to buy a field results from their will to use the money lawfully:
The chief priests took the silver and said, “It is not lawful to put this into the temple treasury, since it is blood money.” After consulting together they bought the Potter’s Field with it, as a burial place for foreigners. (Matthew 27:6-7)
God commands Jeremiah to preserve the documents of the purchase in an earthen vessel so as to signify the continuity of the contract:
‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, “Take these documents, both the sealed copy of the deed of purchase and the unsealed copy. Put them in a clay jar so that they may be preserved for a long time to come.”’ (Jeremiah 32:14)
In Matthew, the religious leaders decide to buy the potter’s field, which is lexically related to earthen vessels (pottery). More, the means of the purchase is remembered for many years through the name given to the field in terms of representing the price of blood:
For this reason that field has been called the “Field of Blood” to this day. (Matthew 27:8)
Finally, the field bought by Jeremiah is destined to serve foreigners since the invasion of Jerusalem is at hand:
The city is sure to fall into the hands of the Babylonians. Yet, in spite of this, you, Lord God, have said to me, “Buy that field with silver and have the transaction legally witnessed.” (Jeremiah 32:25)
The potter’s field bought by the chief priests in Matthew serves not the buyers, but strangers coming to Jerusalem9:
After consulting together they bought the Potter’s Field with it, as a burial place for foreigners. (Matthew 27:7)
It is likely that Matthew discovered a link between the purchase of a burial place for strangers and Jeremiah’s description of the fields bought during Jerusalem’s invasion by foreigners:
You and your people are saying that this land will become desolate, uninhabited by either people or animals. You are saying that it will be handed over to the Babylonians. But fields will again be bought in this land. (Jeremiah 32:43)
In the light of these verses, it is clear that Judas Iscariot’s regret and suicide are closely related to the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. Like Matthew, Luke and John also state that Judas’ becoming one of the twelve and betraying Jesus were the indispensable part of God’s plan. Judas served Jesus in everything good and bad he said and did with no knowledge of his involvement in the history of salvation.
JUDAS ISCARIOT IN ACTS
First, Luke highlights Judas’ greed as the cause of his betrayal and implies that Judas’ love for money overrode his love for the Lord. Interestingly, evangelist John, too, describes Judas Iscariot as a greedy person stealing the money collected for the poor. Besides, Judas tells lies in John’s Gospel to pretend to be defending the rights of the poor:
Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box, he used to steal what was put into it.) So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. (John 12:3-7)
In this incident, we see that Judas gives the imminent signal of his betrayal and implies the reason for turning from an apostle to a traitor: he likes money more than Jesus and prepares to get more money by selling Jesus out to His adversaries. Luke portrays Judas’ betrayal and tragic death in Acts in close association with Judas’ sin by getting closer to John’s Gospel, which highlights greed as the primary characteristic of the betraying apostle. In Acts Peter describes the horrible details of Judas’ death as the natural outcome of his sin (greed) with regard to the concept of divine justice taking place instantly:
Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. (Acts 1:18)
While narrating in Acts the significant incidents occurring in the early days of the Church as indicators of immediate divine judgment, Evangelist Luke highlights the sin stemming from one’s extreme love for money. As a result, it is possible to regard the description of Judas’ horrid death in Acts as the primary typology illustrating the consequences of sinful deeds related to greed. As the prominent example of thematic unity and textual consistency in Acts, Luke also recounts at length the tragic end of a greedy couple:
Now a man named Ananias, together with Sapphira his wife, sold a piece of property. He kept back for himself part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge; he brought only part of it and placed it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!” When Ananias heard these words he collapsed and died, and great fear gripped all who heard about it. So the young men came, wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, but she did not know what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me, were the two of you paid this amount for the land?” Sapphira said, “Yes, that much.” Peter then told her, “Why have you agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!” At once she collapsed at his feet and died. So when the young men came in, they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear gripped the whole church and all who heard about these things. (Acts 5:1-11)
It should be remembered that in Acts Luke underscores the act of selling lands and bringing the money to the apostles as a common practice that displays believers’ devotion to Christ and His church:
For there was no one needy among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds from the sales and placing them at the apostles’ feet. The proceeds were distributed to each, as anyone had need. So Joseph, a Levite who was a native of Cyprus, called by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:34-37)
In short, Barnabas and those selling their lands to contribute to the needy constitute a sharp contrast to greedy sinners like Judas Iscariot (the first one of those mentioned in the Acts) and Ananias-Saphira.
More, other kinds of sins related to monetary issues are of great significant throughout Luke’s second book in the New Testament. For instance, Peter rebukes a magician that offers him money, thinking that the Spirit of God is a commodity that can be sold:
Now Simon, when he saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, offered them money, saying, “Give me this power too, so that everyone I place my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire God’s gift with money! You have no share or part in this matter because your heart is not right before God! (Acts 8:18-21)
Now that we know how the description of Judas’ death in the Acts of the Apostles from a perspective totally different from the one employed by Matthew is compatible with the main issues highlighted by Luke, whose handling of the issue serves to maintain thematic unity in his book, we can put forward another question concerning the association between Matthew and Luke’s narrative styles peculiar to themselves. In other words, it is clear that Luke’s text wields consistency within itself, but is there any sign to prove that this consistency is also present between the chapter narrating Judas Iscariot’s suicide in Matthew 27 and the chapter relating the disaster befalling Judas as a result of his sin in Acts 1?
My personal response to this question would be “YES”. I believe that it is definitely possible to capture the harmony between Matthew and Luke’s narratives despite the apparent differences, and the inferential harmony emanates from the fact that both these Evangelists alluded to the book of the same prophet named Jeremiah, Matthew directly whereas Luke does so latently. Nevertheless, Matthew and Luke’s narratives also differ from each other since these Evangelists refer to two different chapters of the same book of prophecy. We so far know that Matthew points out the link between the prophecy in the 32nd chapter of Jeremiah’s book and the incidents leading to the purchase of a field after Judas’ suicide in the 27th chapter of his Gospel. Which chapter could be the counterpart in Jeremiah’s book for Luke’s narrative in the 1st chapter of Acts with regard to Judas’ sin and punishment embodied in a disastrous death? A close analysis of the 19th chapter in Jeremiah reveals amazing parallelism between the severe punishment of the people of Judah because of their sins and the severe punishment of Judas Iscariot due to his sins of betrayal and greed. Read how Judah’s destruction is symbolized through the breaking of a pot by Jeremiah:
The Lord continued, “Now break the jar in front of those who have come here with you. Tell them the Lord who rules over all says, ‘I will do just as Jeremiah has done. I will smash this nation and this city as though it were a potter’s vessel which is broken beyond repair. The dead will be buried here in Topheth until there is no more room to bury them.’” (Jeremiah 19:10-11)
God asks Jeremiah to break a potter’s vessel so that the imminent destruction of Judah can be foretold and proclaimed. The fall and disastrous death of the inhabitants of Judah are predicted through the breaking of the pot beyond repair. Strikingly, Peter in Acts interprets Judas Iscariot’s catastrophic death in close association with the symbolic destruction of the sinful people of Judah. The only difference is that the symbol in Jeremiah turns into reality in Judas Iscariot’s life. His fall and the gushing forth of his bowels corresponds to the fall of the potter’s vessel and its breaking into pieces beyond repair:
Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. (Acts 1:18)
Moreover, there are astonishing similarities on a symbolic level between the sins of the people of Judah, and the sins of Judas Iscariot. Note that in the Greek text of the New Testament the names Judah and Judas are actually identical (*)! Jeremiah blames the people of Judah for shedding innocent blood to the honor of their false gods:
Hear the word of the Lord, O ye kings of Juda, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring an affliction upon this place: so that whosoever shall hear it, his ears shall tingle: Because they have forsaken me, and have profaned this place: and have sacrificed therein to strange gods, whom neither they nor their fathers knew, nor the kings of Juda: and they have filled this place with the blood of innocents. (Jeremiah 19:3-4)10
Peter’s speech in the Acts 1:18 implies that Judas bought a field with the price of iniquity when he betrayed his true Lord Jesus and sold Him out to His adversaries. Thus, Judas Iscariot’s major sins are worshipping the idol of his greed, sacrificing his Lord Jesus to his love for money, and causing the shed of innocent blood.
Another interesting parallelism between the punishment befalling the people of Judah and Jerusalem and the horrid death befalling Judas Iscariot in Jerusalem is related to the new name of the place where destruction takes place. In Jeremiah, the punishment causes many people to change the name of the place where the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem previously live:
So I, the Lord, say: “The time will soon come that people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Hinnom Valley. But they will call this valley the Valley of Slaughter! In this place I will thwart the plans of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. I will deliver them over to the power of their enemies who are seeking to kill them. They will die by the sword at the hands of their enemies. I will make their dead bodies food for the birds and wild beasts to eat. I will make this city an object of horror, a thing to be hissed at. All who pass by it will be filled with horror and will hiss out their scorn because of all the disasters that have happened to it. (Jeremiah 19:6-8)
The field bought by Judas Iscariot is likewise renamed after the inhabitants of Jerusalem witness the disaster that befalls the owner of the field in the same place pertaining to his evil deeds:
This became known to all who lived in Jerusalem, so that in their own language they called that field Hakeldama, that is, “Field of Blood.” (Acts 1:19)
Finally, Peter quotes a verse from the Psalms that talks of sinful people in plural form while explaining the results of Judas Iscariot’s death as a prophecy:
For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take. (Acts 1:20)11
This plural form may refer to the symbolic association between Judas Iscariot and the inhabitants of Judah in Jeremiah’s prophecy. The notion of desolation, too, is present in Jeremiah’s prophecy with regard to the uncleanness of the place where the people of Judah and Jerusalem lived:
The houses in Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will be defiled by dead bodies just like this place, Topheth. For they offered sacrifice to the stars and poured out drink offerings to other gods on the roofs of those houses.’” (Jeremiah 19:13)
The interrelation between the prophecy of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in the 19th chapter and the prophecy of buying a field in the 32nd chapter of Jeremiah’s book is apparent through the repetition of the verse above in a slightly modified form in the 32nd chapter with regard to the causes of the invasion:
The Babylonian soldiers that are attacking this city will break into it and set it on fire. They will burn it down along with the houses where people have made me angry by offering sacrifices to the god Baal and by pouring out drink offerings to other gods on their rooftops. (Jeremiah 32:29)
It is not weird to see two different narratives relating Judas Iscariot’s death in the New Testament since these narratives are interrelated in the same way as the two prophecies in Jeremiah’s book. What seems contradictory is actually the natural outcome of approaching this significant incident in accordance with two different but linked prophecies in Jeremiah.
Judas Iscariot, the betraying apostle, is said to feel guilt and regret in Matthew’s Gospel, but this does not change the fact that Judas died in a tragic way and forwent the unmatched honor of becoming one of the twelve. Matthew in his Gospel accentuates the results of Judas Iscariot’s compliance with the Jewish authorities. The first time Judas allies with the Pharisees and the scribes, he gets money and hands Jesus over for crucifixion whilst the second time he goes to the same religious figures, he gives the money back and takes his own life.
On the other hand, Peter in Acts lays stress on Judas’ exclusion from the twelve apostles and sees in the events happening after his suicide the intervention and effects of divine wrath and punishment. The sin of greed (which leads to betrayal) primarily belongs to Judas, declares Peter, as Judas was not forced by the Jewish authorities to betray his Master and Lord.
Trying to solve all the supposed problems and contradictions of the Bible, the Word of God, is equal to fathoming in a vast and mysterious ocean. Many people unfortunately drown in this ocean as they underestimate its vastness and profoundness by mistakenly thinking that the single drops of water are not perfectly united to form the ocean.