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In fact, there are multiple discrepancies between these two verses, what did really happen?

Matthew 27:5-8

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.

Now compare that to what the book of Acts says about this:

Acts 1:18-19

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.

If you read these two passages carefully you will notice that they seem to disagree on the following points (my paraphrase):

  1. Matthew says Judas didn't use the money at all but rather threw it down the temple's floor (in fact, the priests used the money to buy a field), but Acts says that Judas himself bought a field with the money he 'earned' from his betrayal.
  2. Matthew says that Judas died by hanging himself, but Acts says that Judas died by 'falling headlong' in the midst of the field he bought and 'burst asunder', spilling his guts out.
  3. Matthew says that the field was called the 'field of blood' because it was bought with 'blood money', but Acts says that the field is called 'field of blood' because when Judas fell and died he spilled his guts and blood over the field.

These seem to be two completely different stories. How can these to different accounts be reconciled?

  • Another rendering of "hanged" is "strangled." Strangling was a common form of suicide in those days, but often didn't "finish the job," so there was a practice in those days of standing at the edge of a cliff or wall and strangling yourself so once you passed out you would plummet to your death. The whole process would legitimately be called "strangling himself" and could easily be (mis)translated into English as "hanging himself." – Jas 3.1 Nov 9 '13 at 17:58
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    @Jas3.1 It would be awesome if you provided some references to look up your proposed answer – sergeidave Sep 20 '15 at 23:00
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Attempts to harmonise the two accounts should not use the salami technique of arguing. This means that all discrepancies should be addressed in the same argument, which must also be internally consistent. The important discrepancies are:

  1. Judas through the money down in the Temple and the priests bought the field of blood; OR Judas, no doubt pleased by his sudden wealth, went himself and bought the field of blood (and was clearly not suicidal);
  2. Judas committed suicide, OR Judas fell down and died (by misadventure?)

I propose that unless both discrepancies can be harmonised, then it is not satisfactory to attempt to harmonise just one. In that case, we must accept that at least one of the two accounts is fictional, and choose one - or acknowledge that we do not know how Judas died.

I also want to avoid suppositions or speculation, in favour of biblical hermeneutics. While it is vaguely possible that when Judas hanged himself he broke his neck, this is an unusual outcome; an even more improbable outcome would be that the consequent fall would result in his innards gushing out. In any case, why would each author report only half the story, and neither of them report that Judas' neck was broken?

My answer is that we do not know how Judas died - two different authors wrote what they thought would be the most satisfyingly disgusting death possible, one by suicide and the other in a revolting manner. The account in Acts 1:18, with Judas' bowels gushing out, brings to mind Acts 12:23, where Herod died a somewhat similar and equally a satisfyingly disgusting death.

I support this by pointing out that New Testament scholars have demonstrated that Luke's Gospel was substantially based on Mark's Gospel, which means that this author, who actually wrote anonymously, knew nothing about the life and mission of Jesus apart from what he learnt in Mark. The prologue of Luke's Gospel supports this, as he says that the gospel contains what he and his community most surely believe and that this came down to them from other sources that must once have included eyewitnesses. Now, if the author of Luke knew nothing about Jesus other than what he gleaned from Mark's Gospel, then he could not have known about the lonely death of a traitor. In the same way, Matthew's Gospel was substantially based on Mark's Gospel, containing some 90 per cent of the verses in Mark, and the very need for its anonymous author to carefully copy material from that source demonstrates he knew nothing about the life and mission of Jesus other than what was to be found in Mark. His death of Judas was a suicide, but (if true) a surely lonely suicide, not witnessed by anyone who could have passed on this information.

John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Nonreligious, points out that Judas is a variant of Judah, and that in Genesis 37:26-27, it was Judah who sought money and received 20 pieces of silver; in Zechariah 11:14 the king was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, which he hurled back into the temple just as Judas did in Matthew; in 2 Sam 15:12-17:23 Ahithophel hanged himself when his betrayal of King David was discovered,just as Judas did in Matthew. The 'field of blood', common to both accounts, also comes from the Old Testament.

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I. Howard Marshall gives a concise statement of the options for harmonization in his commentary:

It is quite possible that Matthew or Luke is simply reporting what was commonly said in Jerusalem, and that we are not meant to harmonize the two accounts. If we do try to harmonzie (sic) them, the following possibilities arise: (1). Judas hanged himself (Matt.), but the rope broke and his body was ruptured by the fall (possibly after he was already dead and beginning to decompose); (2). What the priests bought with Judas’s money (Matt.) could be regarded as his purchase by their agency (Acts); (3). The field bought by the priests (Matt.) was the one where Judas died (Acts).

Marshall, I. H. (1980). Vol. 5: Acts: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (69). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Marshall's three points address the first two differences you note (whether successfully or not depends I suppose on the reader).

As for the third difference about the origin of the names, it's possible for multiple stories to contribute to the giving of some name or sobriquet. For example, it's plausible that my nephew might be named both for me as well as for his great-grandfather who shares the same name. It would be equally valid to claim that he is named after his uncle as it would his great-grandfather.

Likewise, it seems plausible under Marshall's harmonization that the people of the day remembered the blood money and the bloody death of Judas both being connected with this field and so it became soon known as the Field of Blood. It would be perfectly valid were someone to ask how it got the name and be told that it was bought with blood money.

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  • Points by @Soldarnal are persuasive. Please also consider that if Judas were an obese man at more than 200 lbs., and his "long drop" hanging were more than 5 feet, then he would have decapitated himself. His obese body, falling "headlong" (or top-down), would burst open upon hitting the ground. Please click here for an historical discussion of this eventuality in capital punishment. – Joseph Mar 31 '13 at 1:41
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(1). Judas hanged himself (Matt.), but the rope broke and his body was ruptured by the fall (possibly after he was already dead and beginning to decompose); (2). What the priests bought with Judas’s money (Matt.) could be regarded as his purchase by their agency (Acts); (3). The field bought by the priests (Matt.) was the one where Judas died (Acts).

-Marshall offering a possible reconciliaion. Which makes sense. This does not prove that Matthew and Luke had different understandings of the events surrounding Judas' death. However, it does prove that they do not necessarily contradict each other.

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Or it is possible Judas had a lot of help "hanging himself". If you want to hang a person,, and make sure he absolutely dies, or dies in total disgrace, you slit him from neck to naval before kicking him over the ledge. When the rope jerks, his bowels would burst forth and spill onto the ground. I would think those who conspired and paid off Judas would not want this loose end running around. It's not a stretch. And maybe as a spite or to cover their tracks the temple priests purchased the field under Judas's name,, or dedicated it to his name. I wouldn't call this a contradiction. Even two witnesses to the same incident will recall details differently. The bible contains the word of God but it also contains a lot of history, documentation of accounts from people who saw or heard of specific incidences relating to Israel and that bloodline.

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  • It would be easy for those who didn't witness the killing, who later walked by and saw a man hanging, to just casually say "he hung himself". – Dustin Thomas Sep 21 '17 at 19:52
  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. Speculation about this matter really doesn't help to resolve the problem with the two accounts. There are a couple of excellent answers in this question about the Potter's Field that you might find valuable. – enegue Sep 22 '17 at 0:09
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...καὶ and πρηνὴς swollen γενόμενος that you turned ἐλάκησεν burst μέσος (the) middle...

...and swollen that he turned, burst the middle...

...and swollen that he have become, broke the waist...

πρηνὴς = swollen We came to this conclusion based on three factors:

  1. The corresponding verb πρηνὴς that occurs in Vulgate Wisdom 4.1 is Inflates (i.e. swollen / exaggerated).

  2. According to the information indicated in the critical apparatus: (2) A Different Tradition is represented in the Armenian version and the Old Gregorian version; These describe Judas’s end Thus: "being Swollen up he Burst asunder and all his bowels gushed out." What the Greek may have been from which this Rendering was made problematical. Papias, who According to Tradition was a disciple of the apostle John, described Judas’s death with the word

  3. Testimony of Κώστας (KOSTAS) Where it says that: being a Native Greek Speaker who is strongly involved in the Ancient language, I consider it as highly unlikely - if not Impossible - that «prenes» Ever had either the meaning or the connotation of swealling up! …

ἐλάκησεν = burst (meaning of leaving with noise)

μέσος(o) means, in Greek has the main significance of the center of an object, or of something. It may have a “waist”connotation when accompanied by the verb.

Acts 1:18 Now this man acquired a field of the price of unrighteousness, and swollen that he made broke his waist, and all his bowels were poured out. . Matthew 27:5 ...himself suffocated. (which may have been: he strangled, he hanged, etc.)

John 13:29 "...since Judas was in charge of the money..."

Now, if Judas returned the coins to the archpriests, how did he buy the field with this injustice? Or is it for this one?

Injustice he wrote: John 12:6 ".... He said this not for the sake of the poor, but because he was a thief and, bringing the bag, stole what was thrown into it..."

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One explanation in antiquity was that although Judas had attempted to hang himself, the tree bent and broke, so that he survived, but later became so swollen from a sickness that his bowels burst, similar to something that Josephus and Acts (12:21-23) recount happened to Herod.

Theophylact (11th c.) offers the explanation:

Judas began to have second thoughts and he repented, but it was not a good repentance. To pass judgement against oneself is good, but to hang oneself is of the devil; for Judas was not able to endure the thought of the reproaches that would later be heaped upon him and so he fled from this life, when he ought instead to have wept and reconciled himself to Him Whom he had betrayed. Some say that Judas in his greed believed that he himself could gain the silver by betraying Christ, without Christ actually being slain, as He would escape from the Jews as He had done on many occasions. But when Judas saw that Jesus had been condemned and already sentenced to die, he repented that the affair had not turned out as he had planned. Whereupon he hanged himself thinking to precede Jesus into hades and there to plead for his own salvation. Nevertheless, know that while he did put his neck into the noose and hanged himself from a tree, the tree bent and he survived, as God wanted to save his life, either so that he could repent, or to make an example of him and to shame him. They say that Judas later became so bloated from dropsy that he could not pass through an opening that a wagon could easily pass through; and then falling face forward he burst asunder, or ruptured, as Luke says in the Acts of the Apostles.

Most, though, seem to have thought that what is described in Acts was due to his neck having been severed or the body breaking the noose and falling and breaking. Bede, for example, quoting some other unnamed ancient source, wrote:

“The betrayer, out of his mind, found the punishment that he well deserved, namely, that the knot of the noose slew the throat through which the word of treachery had gone out.” He also got the death place that he deserved, for “in hatred of both heaven and earth” (as though he would be associated only with the spirits of the air), he had betrayed the Lord of men and angels to death, and so “he perished in the middle of the air,” following the example of Ahithophel and Absalom, who proceeded against King David. For him death itself surely followed by a well-deserved termination, inasmuch as his bowels, which had conceived the evil scheme of treachery, fell torn asunder, and his bodily cavities were exposed to the wind.

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Peace.

Matthew’s account of Judas is the historical event while the one in Acts is forward-looking towards those whom Judas has become “guide” to… even today. They come to take the real Jesus out of the lives of many….even today.

The end of Judas was strangulation….and the end of his followers is also always destruction.

We must avoid things “strangled”….avoiding them and their lifeless teachings as they go in the footsteps of Judas and meet the same shared end: destruction as the “son of perdition”.

Acts 1:16 KJV (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.

Many are following in the footsteps of Judas in behavior even today as they come to take THE Jesus (the real Jesus) out of the lives of many whom they are deceiving with a “kiss” of the flattering lips.

Multitudes even today are still following in the way of Judas as he “went before them”...the multitude.

They come with a feigned “kiss”…flattery…in order to take the real Jesus out of our lives (the keeping of His daily sacrifice in our lives) so that His eternal life is extinguished out of many lives that they are deceiving. Hence, the “field of blood” as multitudes are mortally perishing from off this earth under their “pastoring”.

Luke 22:47-48 KJV (47) And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. (48) But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

Many reckon (“number”) that those who come along in the way of Judas (following the example of Judas) are true apostles…truly sent by Christ. Even though Judas was chosen by Jesus, he was a “devil”.

Acts 1:17-18 KJV (17) For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

The following in Acts 1:18 speaks of the lack of mercy…the lack of compassion… of those who are following after Judas. Jesus had compassion always for the people but Judas did not care as he was a thief.

They who follow Judas rush headlong after the reward of iniquity. They purchase a field of blood with the reward of iniquity as multitudes of people are taken advantage of (making merchandise of them) and they perish under their rule as they never hear the preaching of the Word of Truth…the gospel of our salvation in the here and now.

They “burst asunder in the midst” and all their “bowels gush out”….that is to say, they have no pity… no mercy, no compassion… as it all has gone out of them as they deceive others in order to get money. They don’t care as they are “thieves”…just as Judas didn’t care and was a thief.

(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.

The “field of blood” is the “flock of the slaughter” as many perish now ( perishing without the eternal life of Jesus being made manifest in the mortal flesh of their congregations) under their “care” as pastors of the churches.

Zechariah 11:4-5 KJV (4) Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;

Their own shepherds/pastors pity them not = “he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out”.

They have no compassion upon those they are deceiving while they enrich themselves by making merchandise of the flock.

They rejoice instead. Interestingly, “Judas” means “let Him be praised” as they praise God for their riches: “blessed by the LORD for I am rich”.

(5) Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.

The “rich men” in James 5 are also those rejoicing shepherds (Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich) who are currently “pasturing” the flock of the slaughter as the eternal life of the real Jesus is never made manifest in their mortal flesh.

The flocks are dying without hearing the Word of Truth from their teachers.

They are the “flock of slaughter” today. Their mortal flesh perishes from off this earth when Jesus came into this world to save this world. They purchase the “field of blood” as many whom they are deceiving and made merchandise of are perishing.

James 5:1-6 KJV (1) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. (3) Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. (4) Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

The “rich” pastors rejoice in their activities….nourishing their hearts….but as in a “day of slaughter” as the multitudes are dying without the eternal life of Jesus.

(5) Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

They condemn and kill the Just One (Jesus) out of the lives of many as His eternal life is not being made manifest in the mortal flesh of any of those that they are deceiving.

(6) Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

He…His eternal life that we are to share with Him…is being cut off out of the land of the living.

No where are we finding the manifestation of His eternal life in the mortal flesh of any one as there is a massive deception/war of Satan being waged against His people.

Isaiah 53:6-9 KJV (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

He makes His grave with the wicked and with the rich in His DEATHS….plural in Hebrew….as multitudes are being led down the broad way to their mortal destruction from off this earth by the lead of false prophets who are following in the footsteps of Judas.

(9) And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Judas was the “son of perdition”. Just as Judas “strangled” himself, their “end” is also a shared destruction with Judas. We must avoid things “strangled”. We must avoid them or share also in their destruction.

Their end is destruction…just as Judas showed us…. as they mind earthly things (getting paid in order to get their earthly needs met). They are pasturing the "flock of slaughter" as the eternal life of Jesus is not being made manifest under their "care" as the keeping of the daily sacrifice is being removed from their congregations. Hence, they are "enemies of the cross of Christ".

Philippians 3:17-21 KJV (17) Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (18) (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: (19) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

They are not looking for the Lord to change our mortal humiliated-by-sin bodies to be fashioned like unto His. According to the “working”…the keeping of the daily sacrifice in our mortal bodies….He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.

(20) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (21) Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

We are to keep His daily sacrifice (the powerful working of the cross of Christ) in our lives….ALWAYS bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus…so that the eternal life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body…in our outer mortal flesh for all to see.

Without this "working" of the cross of Christ in our lives, we perish.

2 Corinthians 4:10-11 KJV (10) Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (11) For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

If we “fall asleep” to the “working”, then the followers of Judas can come to take Him out of our lives so that His eternal life never is made manifest…and we perish.

His life “goes away”…it shrinks out of view in this earth by those multitudes that are following in the footsteps of Judas...the teachers.

Matthew 26:24-25 KJV (24) The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. (25) Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

No one has His eternal life in their company...the "field of blood".. with the “son of destruction”. His “habitation” is desolate and no man dwells therein. We perish along with them in their churches without the eternal life of Jesus being made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Acts 1:19-20 KJV (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. (20) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

If we stay awake to the keeping of His daily sacrifice in our mortal bodies (“I sat DAILY with you teaching in the temple”…that is, the temple of the mortal body) , they cannot come forth to deceive us and take Jesus out of our lives.

Yet, they come with swords (causing divisions among us) and with staves (that is, with crosses….preaching another Jesus and another gospel).

Matthew 26:55 KJV (55) In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.

Judas came with a feigned “kiss” …flattering lips….of a “friend”. But we are to salute one another with a holy kiss.

Romans 16:16-18 KJV (16) Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

Judas came with multitudes (and still is) with “swords”….as they cause divisions among us. We must avoid such because they are the “son of perdition”….the ones leading us to our own destruction along with them whose end is destruction. We are to avoid things “strangled”….those who follow in the footsteps of Judas.

(17) Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Their “kiss” = good words and fair speeches.

(18) For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

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