October 10th, 2009
3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
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.
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.
17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
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.
In both Matthew 27 and the Acts 1, Judas is associated with the Field of Blood. However, their reasons for this association are completely different. Does Judas hang himself, or does he fall and have his intestines spill open? Did he buy the orchard, or did the priests? Is the Field of Blood so named because of the blood money used to purchase it, or was it because Judas spilled his guts there? Maybe they’re both wrong and Judas purchased the orchard with the blood money fully intending to hang himself there, but before he got to do it, he tripped over the rope and split his guts open? Maybe while on the way to hang himself, Judas was abducted by unicorns and forced to knit socks out of parsley until his fingers bled?
Some have suggested that the account in Acts 1 is allegorical, that his fall was a fall from grace, and that his guts spilling out where his losing his mercy and kindness. This interpretation fails because none of the rest of the chapter is allegorical. The entire chapter is written as a story. Additionally, Luke the Evangelist give Judas’ guts spilling out as the reason for the name of the Field of Blood and does not mention that it might be so named because of the blood money. This passage in Acts suggests that the literal gore produced by this scene is the cause of the name of the field, which points to a literal, not allegorical, interpretation.
Others have suggested that Judas hung himself, then rotted on the rope before falling and bursting open, that the field was purchased by his money by the priest, and that he also happened to hang himself in that field by coincidence. The problems with this interpretation is simple. Judas wouldn’t have fallen headlong from hanging, but rather feet first.
Additionally, no one mentions him being dead and rotting long enough for his guts to be able to burst out on impact. Also, his hanging is the cause of his death in this interpretation, but the verse never mentions hanging and actually makes it seem as if the fall killed him. While it is true that you do fall when hanged, your guts do not spill out. In a worst-case scenario, your neck breaks.
Furthermore, some have suggested that he hanged himself over an embankment, or a cliff. After rotting on the rope for a while, the rope would break, and he would fall a far enough distance to turn in mid-air so that he’s falling head-first. Being slightly decomposed, he would indeed burst open upon impact. While this is the most plausible interpretation, this one also fails. In this passage, it does not mention a cliff, Judas hanging, or his body rotting, all of which one would assume would be important enough to mention.
If we can apologize it away by saying that the King James Bible doesn’t say it happened that way, that implies that we can insert whatever we want into the story and that it’s entirely possible that the story did indeed include unicorns and socks knit from parsley. The King James Bible doesn’t say it didn’t happen that way. As in the previous interpretation, the contradiction about who purchased the field and the naming of the field are still preserved.
The fact of the matter is that in trying to determine how Judas died, you have to do quite a bit of mental acrobatics. You have to twist the story until it all fits. In the end, you’ve got something that doesn’t resemble the story presented in either passage. The only logical conclusion is that someone was wrong. As one of the most influential characters in the life and death of Jesus, one would assume that Judas could keep his story straight. Apparently, that is just not the case. What should be more distressing to Christians is the proximity of this glaring mistake so close to the story of the death of Jesus, their savior. If this piece of the story is false, how much else is false?