A Voice in the
Wilderness

site navigation

free newsletter

July 8, 2001

Return to: Q/A
Q/A Topics:
Judas Bible Contradiction (as mentioned in today's commentary)

READER QUESTION:
A co-worker asked me about this. Have you heard this argument before? I would be interested in your comments / response.

--Quote--


                A Bible Contradiction:
                  Matt. 27 vs. Acts 1
                By Dr. Niclas Berggren

There are Christians who believe that the Bible is the inspired,
inerrant, infallible Word of God. This note shows that they are wrong
in this belief, since there is a contradiction between a passage in
27th chapter of Matthew and the 1st chapter of Acts. If the Bible were
without error, there could be no contradiction at all.

Let me begin by stating the two passages which contradict each other.
(If anyone is interested in taking a look at how other translations
render these passages, go to The WWW Bible Gateway.)

Matthew 27:3-10 (KJV): "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. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the 
prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price 
of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 
10 And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me."

Acts 1:16-19 (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. 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."

How do these verses contradict each other?

  1. In Matthew, Judas threw away the money to the priests before 
     dying, then he went to hang himself. After that, the priests
     bought a field.  In Acts, Judas used the money himself to buy a
     field.

  2. In Matthew, Judas threw away the money before dying, and then a 
     field was bought. In Acts, the field was bought before Judas died.

  3. In Matthew, he died by hanging himself, whilst in Acts he fell 
     headlong and his bowels gushed out.

How could an inerrantist Christian respond to these three points? Let 
me speculate on some possible counter-arguments.

As for point 1, one could infer that when Acts says that Judas bought
the field, what is meant is that the priests bought the field on his 
behalf. This, however, is not permissible, since if one is allowed to 
change the meaning of the language, no significant discussion about the 
actual meaning of anything can be conducted. In ordinary language, we 
do not say that "this man purchased a field for $100" if someone else 
purchased it for their own usage with money thrown away by its original 
owner. Clearly, from Matthew, Judas did not give any order for the 
priests to buy a field for his money, and even if he did, why would 
they obey him, who they despised?

As for point 2, it seems hard to come up with a counter-argument, since 
the past tense is used in Matthew ("went and hanged himself"), implying 
that the execution of the deed had taken place before the purchase of
the field. Meanwhile, Acts clearly presents the case where the field is
bought prior to his dying (indeed, since he is said to have bought it
himself!).

As for point 3, it is logically possible that the story in Acts is 
consistent with Matthew in terms of the method of dying, but it seems 
highly unlikely, from how his death is described. If one is to find 
consistency, one must include many things not in the text. Amongst 
other things, one wonders how the bowels could gush out simply from his 
having died by hanging, and one also wonders how he could fall headlong 
in a field, and where the tree came from (normally, there are no trees 
in the middle of a field).

Note that it suffices for only one of the three stated contradictions 
to hold for there to be a contradiction.

To conclude, the case for there being a clear contradiction between 
Matt. 27:3-10 and Acts 1:18 is strong, and hence the view that the 
Bible is without error is incorrect. For the serious implication of
this conclusion, see my essay "The Errancy of Fundamentalism Disproves
the God of the Bible".

Let me add an additional item of interest. In Matt.  27:9-10, it is
asserted that the prophet Jeremy (Jeremiah) uttered a prophecy
regarding Judas, but no such statement is found in the book of
Jeremiah.  Instead, a similar statement is found in the book of Zech.
11:12,13. Again, we note that the Bible seems quite untrustworthy.
--endQuote--

VW ANSWER:
Well, I'm not going to make this into an article. If I were to do so, it would open the door for many other such things; and there are other websites that answer these "contradictions". That is not VW's purpose. So, let me answer this briefly for you.

1) Regarding the "purchasing" of the "field"...both accounts are true. The temple rulers bought the plot of ground, like Matthew says. Acts does not contradict Matthew. Remember that the priests said, "it is not lawful to put them into the treasury". In other words, they were not taking actual 'receipt' of the money, diverting it, instead, to purchase the plot of ground. Thus, in a 'legal' sense (?) since they were not taking 'ownership' of the money, it was still Judas' money. And when Peter speaks of "wages of iniquity", it is not that Judas bought the plot of ground...but that the money he had received to betray Jesus had bought it. The money was Judas' "wages"...but he threw it back, and the priests weren't accepting it. These "30 pieces" were like the proverbial "hot potato" BLOOD MONEY both parties were trying to get rid of. Technically it was still Judas' money, which the priests used to purchase the plot of ground. Thus, in a legal sense, it could be said that Judas bought it, because it was 'his money' that bought it.

Regarding the scoffing comment about "there are no trees in the middle of a field". First of all, such a comment is not entirely true. There are often trees in the middle of fields, particularly if it was a rather noble, old, distinguished tree, and the farmer might cultivate around the tree. But on the other hand, the term "field" doesn't necessarily designate a 'cultivated' piece of farm land. Field can also mean "plot of ground". And certainly, plots of ground will have trees on them.

But then, the "doctor" assumes Judas hung himself from a "tree". Neither narrative mentions a "tree".

And so, did Judas hang himself...or did he "fall headlong"? Both are obviously true. He hung himself. When did he fall headlong? Did the rope break? Or did his "entrails gush out" when others came along to cut him down from the tree (assuming he actually hung himself from a tree limb)...and he split open when he hit the ground? There is a lot of data the Bible doesn't tell us. How tall was the tree? If he hung himself on a tall branch, it might not have been possible for somebody to hold the body while another cut the rope. So, if a single person went up and cut the rope, and the body fell a great distance to the ground (not gently), the chances might be good that the body would land, making a 'mess'.

As for Jeremiah vs Zechariah...who knows. Just as Peter misapplies parts of Joel in his sermon in Acts ch2, perhaps Matthew misremembered the actual O.T. reference? Let's not forget that one could not simply go to their corner Bible book store a buy a copy of the Scriptures and look up the reference. They would go to synagogue and hear them read, and they would then have to 'remember' the readings. Or, was it a 'copyist' error down through the centuries?

Let's remember, from the commentary, that the "original texts" were without error. There have been 2000 years for miscopies, misprints, mistranslations, etc.etc. Let the esteemed "doctorates" show us any other set of writings that have been as well-preserved as the Scriptures... and for the lack of any such examples, perhaps they will begin to understand God's sovereignty in preserving His Word to us!

[Top]


Seeing God?

READER QUESTION:
Someone in the AOL chat rooms asked this question: "Which Bible verse is true: Genesis 32:30 or John 1:18?" I'm not sure how to answer this one because this to me seems puzzling that, in the specified verses, Jacob claims "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved," yet John in the Gospel claims "No one has seen God at any time."

VW ANSWER:
Well, Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn14:9) Jesus is the "express image of His [Father's] essence" (Heb1:3) Jesus led Israel through the wilderness (1Cor10:4) as "My Angel". (Ex23:23, 32:34)

It would seem apparent that Jesus appeared to many throughout the O.T.

  • Abraham (Gen18:17)
  • Jacob (Gen32:30)
  • Joshua (Josh5:14-15)
  • Gideon (Judg6:20-23)
  • Samson's parents (Judg13:21-23)
  • Nebuchadnezzar (Dan3:25)
This term for when Jesus appeared to people in the O.T. is called a "theophany". Only, He was known to them as the "Angel of Jehovah". No, no one has seen the "Father" (Jn1:18). That is part of the Son's ministry, to "declare Him".

[Top]


Satan Cain's Father?

READER QUESTION:
I keep hearing this ridiculous claim from some people in the AOL Christian chat rooms that Cain was fathered by Satan, and they try to back it up by saying that Cain is not listed in the genealogies of Adam (though they can't tell me where the genealogies that I should be investigating are). Can you help clear up this mystery of who Cain's father is?

VW ANSWER:
What does Genesis 4:1 say?

Genealogies do not include every single last person who was ever begotten by a person. They only list the "official heir". Typically that was the first-born. But, as was the case with Cain, where he was judged, it is obvious that Seth was born and filled that void. (Gen4:25) But it doesn't change the facts of Gen4:1.

[Top]


Really Supposed to Hate?

READER QUESTION:
Question concerning what Jesus said in Luke 14:26 -- "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Does the word "hate" here mean to totally despise or to love less?

VW ANSWER:
Well, this needs to be taken in its context. If your Bible has paragraph markers, it likely has one at vs25. Here, we see the "great multitudes" were following Jesus. From reading in a lot of other places we can understand that for many of them Jesus was a 'pied piper'. He was healing the sick, feeding them with food, and basically being a gracious person who made them feel better. And in the mind of many Jews, He was prime candidate material to become their king and lead them in victory from Roman oppression.

So, He is exhorting them to "count the cost" (vs28) regarding becoming His follower. He is giving them a bit of an inkling of what it -REALLY- will be like for them if they decide to -TRULY- follow Him. Right 'now' they are being healed and fed. But a true disciple must be ready to "forsake all that he has" (vs33)

Thus, He is listing some of those things that a person might have to give up to follow Him. Those things that as dwellers of the world we hold so dear: parents, spouse, children. In many families, when a person becomes a Believer into Jesus Christ, the rest of the family, particularly the patriarchy or matriarchy will edict upon them, "Give up this Christianity, or GET OUT...you are no more part of this family". Many will experience, as I did, that their unequal yoke spouses will leave them.

This is one of the reasons the present false, pretend-christianity promotes "family VALUES" so much. What is more important than "faaaamly"? And these family "values" usually also include the glomming of family members onto each other. When the young couple gets married, the family structure does not allow them to "leave and cleave". (Gen2:24) In fact, they have changed "cleave" to a 'softer' word "joined" in their translations. That way, the young couple can get married, but still be attached to the family 'strings'. This sort of keeping the "family" in tact goes a long way to making sure the family remains in whatever state of heathenism or apostasy that it is.

Thus, if the children wish to truly follow the Lord, and thus, by definition, forsake the "religion" of the family... well, perhaps it becomes clear all the strife that erupts. Jesus said in another place, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household." (Mt10:34-36)

Thus, in the passage you are questioning, it is not so much that a follower of Christ is to "hate" all these people. But when the person follows the Lord, leaving those family "values" behind, -THEY- (the family) will accuse the Believer of 'hating' them. "You don't love us anymore!" "Why do you hate us, so??" And also, thus, our love for the Lord causes our love for our families to be -as- "hate" by comparison. Jesus said, "you cannot serve two masters" (Mt6:24) and goes on to compare between loving one and hating the other. If a person opts to follow the family, at the detriment of faithfulness to the Lord, Jesus also said, "he who is not with Me is against Me.." (Mt12:30, Lk11:23) So, if we are "with" the Lord, by contrast, we are "against" (and separated from) our unbelieving families. And even though our hearts might love them and yearn for their salvation, that they too might know Him, that state of being "against" is as "hatred".

[Top]


Return to: Q/A