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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.

Matthew 27:5–10

5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
7 And they [v8 - chief priests] conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers.
8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

Judas's death and who bought the field, both differ; Matthew records Judas hanged himself and the Chief Priests bought the field.
Whereas Peter's words (recorded by Luke) mentions Judas's death (falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out) & buying of the field (Judas bought the field) in a different manner.

Commentaries: Luke is recording (Peter's words) the after effects of Judas death (which is approx. 40 days) that his body has fallen after getting rotten and his intestines are visible after it fell down. Peter even doesn’t mention, on what Judas fell that his bowls/intestines burst open.

Concern here is why is Peter mentioning that Judas bought the field, when Matthew mentions the chief priests did it.


Ref: answersingenesis.org

“when people suffer bad falls, they do not usually burst open and have their internal organs spill out. Skin is very tough, and even when it is cut in the abdominal area, internals do not usually spill out. Thus, it is unlikely that Judas could die in this manner merely from falling.”

“bacteria inside his body would have been actively breaking down tissues and cells. A byproduct of bacterial metabolism is often gas. The pressure created by the gas forces fluid out of the cells and tissues and into the body cavities. The body becomes bloated as a result. In addition, tissue decomposition occurs compromising the integrity of the skin. Judas’ body was similar to an overinflated balloon: as he hit the ground (due to the branch he hung on or the rope itself breaking) the skin easily broke, and he burst open with his internal organs spilling out.”

Science Support: sciencefocus.com

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  • The chief priests used Judas' coins to pay for the field, thus the field was purchased out of Judas' own estate. Judas' hanged himself but failed to do the job properly and he fell down from a height, perhaps onto something sharp. I don't see any contradiction, I just see varied accounts of the same occurrence. If both the accounts were identical it would be suspicious and I would suspect one was plagiarising the other. Most suspected 'contradictions' like this can be Googled or searched on SE-BH, most if not all have been answered long ago.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 16 at 20:55
  • @Nigel J Source please for this comment "Judas' hanged himself but failed to do the job properly". Aug 16 at 21:19
  • My source is Acts 1:18-19 as above.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 16 at 21:42
  • @Nigel J Acts doesn't mention anything clearly about this "Judas' hanged himself but failed to do the job properly" its just an assumption from your end Aug 17 at 10:29
  • As they say in the House of Commons : I refer the honourable member to the answer I gave earlier.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 17 at 12:26
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There are two matters here - one about the manner of death and the other about who bought the field. Let us take these one at a time.

Manner of Judas' death

The operative word in Acts 1:18, πρηνής, is a hapax legomenon. The meaning not totally certain but often translated as "headlong". BDAG offers this:

  • forward, prostrate, head first, headlong, ... but prostrate and silent makes good sense in this [Acts 1:18] passage

Thus, all that is really required was that Judas, having hung himself, died and fell, and ended up falling flat on his face, possibly when either the rope snapped or a branch broke.

I think the main point of the story is the ignominy that he suffered at the end. Thus, there is real contradiction between Acts 1:18 and Matt 27:5.

Who Bought the Field?

This matter is trickier. First, we do not know how much he field cost - was it more or less than the 30 pieces of silver? We are not told but that detail does not matter for the question at hand.

So who bought the field - was it Judas or the Priests? The answer, assuming both accounts to be correct, is BOTH! The events were possibly like this:

  • Judas agrees to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver
  • Judas then sees a plot of land, the potters field for sale and agrees to but the filed but does not hand over money that is not yet his.
  • Judas betrays Jesus and collects the money
  • Judas is seized with remorse and returns the money to the priests
  • Judas hangs himself on the plot of land he had agreed to buy
  • The priests purchase the same land

Gill reaches a similar conclusion:

It is somewhat difficult, that Judas should be said to purchase it, when Matthew says the chief priests bought it, Matthew 27:7. Both are true; Judas having received his money of the chief priests two days ago, might not only intend to purchase, but might really strike a bargain with the potter for his field; but repenting of his sin, instead of carrying the money to make good the agreement, went and threw it to the chief priests, and then hanged himself; when they, by a secret providence, might be directed to make a purchase of the same field with his money; or he may be said to purchase it, because it was purchased with his money. The Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions render it, "he possessed" it; not in person, unless he was buried there, as he might be; and so all that he got by his wretched bargain, was only so much ground as to be buried in; or the sense may be, "he caused it to be possessed"; by returning the money which the chief priests used this way, with the reward of his iniquity; that is, with the thirty pieces of silver, given him as a reward for that vile action of his betraying of his Lord and master:

Similarly, the Cambridge commentary says this:

Now this man purchased a field Rather, acquired, which probably was the sense intended by the A. V., as it was an old sense of the English word purchase. This may be said not only of him who buys, but of him who becomes the occasion of another’s buying. The field was bought by the chief priests (Matthew 27:5-8) with the money which Judas returned, but as they could not take that money for the treasury, they were likely to look upon what was purchased with it as still the property of the traitor. St Luke’s employment of the unusual word “acquire” in a narrative where he calls the price of the land “the reward of iniquity,” and speaks of the immediate death of Judas, makes it clear that he views (and that the people of Jerusalem did the same) the field Akeldama as the field which Judas acquired, though it became, from the circumstances, a public possession for a burial ground.

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  • @Dottard As far as I have researched, primarily (my opinion) we need to understand in Acts 1:15–19, Luke is recording what Peter spoke (dialect) and not his (Luke) knowledge of Judas’s death or after it. Then further Peter's knowledge can differ or being specific (dialect) about Judas death/purchasing of the field can differ from Matthew/Luke. Peter even doesn’t mention, on what Judas fell for his bowls/intestines to burst open; this can imply he is speaking of what he knows or seen. However Acts 1:19 is in accordance to Matthew 27:6 Aug 17 at 23:06
  • As Peter's dialect & his behavior pattern too differs from those of the other Apostles as mentioned in the Epistle "Galatians 2" as Paul accuses Peter of his hypocrisy in terms of circumcision, attitude towards Gentiles and the Gospel (as per Galatians 2:11-14). However, Luke could have altered Peter’s words (about Judas death/post it) while recording or even the early copy writers could have altered it, but it hasn’t as its evident till date that it hasn't been altered to fit in the context of Matthew 27:5. Aug 17 at 23:10
  • The chief priests took Judas’s money (silver coins) then purchased the potter’s field with the same money, which gives the same effect as if Judas himself made the purchase (they might have mentioned Judas name); because in both accounts the field is named “The field of blood” due to purpose of the money (silver coins which wasn’t considered back by the chief priests) “price of blood” (Matthew 27:6) - As per ESV Study Bible notes PS I believe that there is no contradiction about the Judas death/purchasing of the field, its just that Peter dialect differs from Matthew/Luke Aug 17 at 23:12
  • Thanks Dottard, appreciate your contribution - please do check questions for duplicates before writing answers, as recently we've had more duplicates than usual coming up that aren't being flagged. Thanks!
    – Steve Taylor
    Aug 18 at 13:26

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