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Zechariah 11:12, 13

12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.

Matthew 27:9, 10

9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

It seems to me that Matthew was quoting from Zechariah and not Jeremiah.

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  • He in the least referenced Jer. 32:14. according to its similarity.
    – user21676
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 0:21
  • Bill - Thank you for sharing obvious errors by Greek scribes in [Matthew 27:9] attempting to insert connections to the Tanakh. * Another error in Matthew is [Matthew 2:15] incorrectly linking [Hosea 11:1] as a prophecy about Yeshua, when [Hoshea 11:1] refers to Yisrael. - I appreciate your research and discipleship in noticing where scripture does not align. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 15:49
  • Thanks for the vote of confidence.
    – user35953
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 0:28
  • If he did remember wrong, the message of the holy writ would not in any way be diminished, because it is the Holy Spirit that is talking through prophets, according to 2 Petr 1:21: "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit". Thus, who the mouthpiece for prophecies are is of little importance. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 14:48

3 Answers 3

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This problem (Matt 27:9) is an old "chestnut". Various solutions have been proposed and I will not repeat all of them. So allow me to mention a few plausible explanations for this apparent discrepancy.

Jeremiah Did Say That

It should be observed that Matthew does not quote the Hebrew nor the LXX. His quote only resembles the general idea. Therefore, it is possible that he did not quote Zechariah but did actually quote Jeremiah, but what he quotes is nothing that Jeremiah actually wrote but only something that survived in an oral tradition. (In that form, perhaps Zechariah also quoted the same source??) Since then, the oral tradition has vanished and only Jeremiah's written legacy survives. (A similar phenomenon may also exist when Jude 14, 15 quotes the prophet Enoch - only Enoch's oral tradition survived at the time of Jude's writing.) See also 1 Chron 21:19, 2 Sam 12:25, etc.

Jeremiah did Write That

It is also possible that Jeremiah left more writings than just the book that has his name and Lamentations. It is possible that one of these other writings was still extant in the time of Matthew but has now been lost. There are numerous references to other work throughout the OT that no longer exist such as the Book of Jasher (Josh 10:13, 2 Sam 1:18); Nathan the prophet (1 Chron 29:29, 2 Chron 9:29), and others.

Different Reference Method

It is also possible that in Matthew's day, each section of the OT was loosely called by the first book/prophet in that section. Certainly Zechariah is in the section that begins with Jeremiah and so to quote something from the OT in the section of Jeremiah (which includes Zechariah) may be entirely understandable. Despite the logical "neatness" I still find this unsatisfying and not entirely convincing, because I cannot find many other places where this sort of thing occurs.

There are a number of other explanations in various quarters. Here is a sample.
Did Matthew Misquote the Old Testament?

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Yes, it certainly appears that Matthew misremembered the source he was trying to quote. The only other alternative that I can think of is that the text he had contained the same matter we see in Zechariah, which does not appear to be extant. The easier explanation is that "Matthew" misremembered.

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Abductively, it does not make sense that Matthew got it wrong.

Consider the facts:

  • When originally written, Matthew's Gospel was not considered as untouchable holy scripture; it took time for people to realize its significance and make it part of the canon.
  • It was written for a Jewish audience (as Mark's was for Roman, and Luke's for Greek).
  • That audience would have been very familiar with the Hebrew scriptures.

It seems almost impossible that someone wouldn't have pointed out the mistake, or that if they had, Matthew wouldn't have said "oops" and corrected the few written copies that existed.

Other answers have given some possible but not convincing explanations for why "Jeremiah" isn't wrong, and we'll probably never know for sure what the true explanation is, but each of those explanations is much more believable than the idea that no one noticed, reported, or corrected the mistake as soon as the Gospel became available.

Whatever the reason for saying "Jeremiah" rather than "Zechariah", it seems almost certain that when it was first published, it was not considered to be wrong.

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  • Do you think the Book of Mormon is wrong when it identifies Jesus birthplace as Jerusalem? Commented Jun 20 at 5:11
  • @AviAvraham, I wouldn't say it is wrong, only imprecise. My parents always told people that we were from Manchester. I later found out that in fact we lived in a much smaller place called Reddish, which is about 8 km away. Were my parents wrong? Bethlehem is the same distance from Jerusalem. Commented Jun 20 at 12:26

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