googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Thirty Pieces of Silver and the Field of Blood

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Thirty Pieces of Silver and the Field of Blood

In my last post, I dealt with the controversy surrounding the death of Judas. Besides the question of how did Judas die, another criticism often raised is what did Judas do with the money he received for betraying Jesus?

Matthew 27:5 says, “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Acts 1:18 says, “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity.”

So which is it? Did he return the money or did he buy a field with it? People who raise this objection must not have thought about it for very long. If you think about it for more than a moment, it's really not hard to see how both verses can be true. Imagine this hypothetical scenario:

I work in a bank and a customer offers me $100 to perform a questionable transaction for him (perhaps he's trying to launder money). I take the money and perform the transaction. That night, I take my wife to a nice dinner with the $100. However, after a few days, I feel guilty for having done it and so I take $100 from my savings account and go to my customer saying, “I shouldn't have done that transaction. Here's your money back. Don't ask me to do it again.”

Now, what did I do with the money: did I take my wife to dinner or did I return it? I did both, of course. The same then could be said for Judas. He must certainly have bought a field with the money but later, when guilt overtook him, he returned 30 pieces of silver to the priests.

The controversy doesn't end there, though. There is also the additional question of who bought the Field of Blood? In Matthew 27:6-8, the priests did not want the money Judas returned so they decided to buy a field in which to bury strangers. The field became known as the Field of Blood. Acts 1:19 says that the field Judas had bought and died in was called the Field of Blood.

Who then, bought the Field of Blood? There are a couple of plausible explanations. One very simple possibility is that there were 2 fields referred to as “the Field of Blood.” This is not unusual; just about any large city you visit today will have a dangerous section of road called by the locals, “Dead Man's Curve.” Even in the same city different residents might identify different locations as “Dead Man's Curve.”

Of course, there did not necessarily have to be two different fields since there are plausible theories where it could have been same field. We know that Judas bought a field in which he died and the field was later called the Field of Blood. When the Pharisees were looking for something appropriate to do with the “blood money,” they might have decided to buy the same field from Judas' family. Or perhaps Judas had only contracted to buy the field and died before paying for it; the Pharisees then paid the owner for the field with the money Judas returned.

Along those same lines there is still another possibility. It is the concept that since the Pharisees used the reward returned by Judas, he was still considered the man who purchased the field. Many times people will use an agent to make a large purchase yet it is still the one who paid the money – not the agent – who is considered the buyer. But I'm not familiar enough with ancient, Jewish legal practices to know if this is a likely explanation. I've heard it suggested before and I offer it only for consideration.

We can see that reconciling these other details in Matthew and Acts is far easier than addressing the actual death of Judas. Yet in spite of the simplicity in rebutting this “contradiction,” critics continue to raise these minor points. Therefore, we must be ready to answer them.

Further reading: How Did Judas Die?

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