by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
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.
Now this man purchased a field
“Now this man” is the traitor “Judas.” This verse and those that follow seem to be the words of Luke the historian, which should be placed within a parenthesis; because there was no reason to inform the disciples of the facts of Judas's death since it was well known by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And since Peter was addressing the disciples (Vs. 15), these verses must have been added for our information, since the disciples certainly would have talked frequently about Judas death among themselves, because it was all too fresh in their minds. The Ethiopic version calls this field, "a vineyard,” and it might have been one and the potter's field too.
Some have difficulty with this verse because it says the priests bought the field in Matthew 27:7—“And they consulted together and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in” (Matt 27:7; NKJV). But one explanation shows that both are true; Judas after he received his money from the chief priests two days ago, might not only intend to purchase the field but might have actually struck a bargain with the potter who owned the field; but then he repented of his sin, and instead using the money to pay for the field, he went to the temple and threw it to the chief priests; and then he hanged himself. After that, they, perhaps by the secret persuasion of the Holy Spirit, might have been directed to purchase the same field with his money; therefore, 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, which could have happened; and if that is true, all that he gained from his wretched bargain, was only enough ground to be buried in; or it may mean that "he caused it to be purchased; by returning the money which the chief priests used to make the purchase. Matthew states that the money which was given for betraying the Lord Jesus was thrown down in the temple, and the field was purchased with it by the Jewish priests—“Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself”… “and gave them for the potter's field, as the LORD directed me" (Matt 27:5, 10; NKJV). There is yet another version that is close to this one, which says, “The priests, knowing his intentions, might have completed the purchase, and, because Judas was now dead, they directed that the field they bought should be used for the burial of strangers, that is to say, Jews from foreign lands, or others who died when visiting Jerusalem.
Judas’ burial in this field has been a perpetual disgrace; because it was the reward which he had received for his deceit and wicked act. But he never enjoyed the money; he only possessed the field, and that was after his death. Furthermore, it came about through the marvelous providence of God, that the field which had a common name, came to be known as “The Field of Blood,” and because of its notoriety, became a scandal for the priests, because it had been bought the money paid to a man who betrayed (the) innocent blood. Judas provided the money, which remained after his death; and therefore the field rightfully belonged to Judas, his estate, and his heirs (if any). Certainly, the priests refused to accept the returned money, either for them or for the temple treasury. Thus it is exactly true that Judas "obtained" the field. His money bought it. The priests, however, actually did the purchasing, hence the statement that "they" bought the field.
with the reward of iniquity;
“The reward of iniquity” is what Luke calls the fee paid to Judas for that act of horrible wickedness—the betraying of the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
It is obvious that this verse and Acts 1:19, which are placed in a parenthesis in the R.V., are not part of St. Peter's discourse, but are explanatory words inserted by St. Luke for the instruction of Theophilus and his other readers; which would include you and me.
and falling headlong,
The word translated “headlong” is the Latin “pronus,” from which we get our English word “prone” which means “bent forward, head-foremost”; and the idea is, that when he attempted to hang himself the rope broke and he fell headlong or fell forward on his face. This can be easily substantiated if it is thought he threw himself from a rock or elevated place. He first hanged himself, then the rope broke, and due to the violence of the fall his body burst, and his bowels gushed out. There is an ancient tradition that says “the devil caught him up into the air, strangled him, and threw him down on the ground with violence, so that his body was burst, and his guts shed out!”
Matthew's account of this incident (See Matthew 27.5), has been alleged to contradict what Luke said here; but, in actuality, the two accounts are in perfect harmony. Judas hanged himself, as Matthew related; but his body also fell, as Luke stated. We do not know whether the fall took place as a result of Judas' bungling efforts at suicide, or if his body hung until it fell due to natural causes. Tradition says that he fell while in the process of hanging himself. Johnson says:
He probably hanged himself on a tree projecting over the cliffs of the Valley of Hinnom, and afterward, on account of the rope or limb breaking, he fell headlong with such force that it caused his body to burst open on the jagged rocks. This is the traditional account of his death.
Such alleged "contradictions" as skeptics delight to point out from seeming variations in the holy gospels are called "pseudocons," which means sham-contradictions, since, in fact, they are not contradictions at all but variations that can be expected from independent accounts of events in the New Testament.
There are a few more theories that have attempted to explain the difference between Matthew’s account and Luke’s version, which are offered for your consideration:
1. Casaubon observes, that Judas hanged himself; but the rope broke, he fell down, and, due to the fall, his belly broke open. He supposes, therefore, that St. Matthew relates only the beginning of the account, and St. Luke the conclusion.
2. Stephanus, in his Lexicon, says that when Judas had put the rope about his neck, and threw himself forward from the place where he stood, his belly burst open because of the shock which he received.
3. Hensius interprets the word απηγξατο in Matthew to mean, he was suffocated by the anguish of his mind; to which he applies what is said in Job 7:15—“So that my soul chooses strangling And death rather than my body” (Job 7:15; NKJV)—and adds, "such a suffocation is wont to occasion a rupture;" which he thinks is applicable to St. Luke's account.
4. Gronovius understands the word to signify he hung himself, but then he interprets the expression πρηνης εγεντο, falling headlong, in a passive sense, as if Judas's body, when dead, was cut down by some other person, and burst as a result of the fall.
5. Lastly, Perizonius, agreeing with Hensius, understands St. Matthew as speaking only of a suffocation arising from a melancholy disorder; which sense of the word he proves from a variety of examples, But then he supposes, that this did not kill Judas, who afterwards threw himself down from an eminence upon his face, and broke his belly by the fall; which is what is suggested by St. Luke’s version.
Another apparent discrepancy in the accounts of St. Matthew and St. Luke is in regard to the name given to the field that was purchased with Judas’ blood money. St. Matthew said, “Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day” (Matt 27:8; KJV). He suggests that it was Judas's own blood, shed in his fall, which gave the field its name. Luke, in verse 19 states, “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.” He explains that the name Akel-dama was given to the field because it was the price of the "innocent blood" of Jesus, who was betrayed by Judas. But both accounts of the name might be true, some understanding the name in one sense and some in the other. But, since there is no serious discrepancy between St. Luke and St. Matthew, it is probable, from the variations mentioned above, that St. Luke had not seen St. Matthew's account.
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