Resolving Apparent Contradictions in the NT
As I’ve recently been preaching through John 13, the subject of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus has been much on my mind. In the course of my research, I have looked once again at what appear to be three inconsistencies in the biblical text. I emphasize the word “appear”. Continue reading . . .
As I’ve recently been preaching through John 13, the subject of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus has been much on my mind. In the course of my research, I have looked once again at what appear to be three inconsistencies in the biblical text. I emphasize the word “appear”.
(1) The first problem we encounter concerns the “potter’s field” purchased with the money given to Judas to betray Jesus. The “potter’s field” (Matt. 27:7) was one where potters used to obtain their clay, but which had become depleted and was thus offered up for sale. The priests intended to transform this plot of ground into a burial place for strangers.
Here is the problem. Matthew says the priests bought the field (Matt. 27:7), whereas Acts 1:18 says Judas did. So which is it? My answer is that if the priests considered the money to be the property of Judas, and they surely did, then they would have purchased it in his name or would have at least regarded it as owned by him. The point of the text is simply that the money given to Judas led to the purchase of the field, much as the sentence of death by a judge would lead to the actual execution of a convicted criminal. Furthermore, Acts 1:18 says the field was “acquired” by Judas which, technically speaking, is not the same as saying he “bought” it.
(2) Our second apparent difficulty is that Matthew says Judas hanged himself (Matt. 27:5), but in Acts 1:18 it says Judas fell headlong and his body burst open and “all his bowels gushed out.” But surely both are true. Since Judas hung himself on the day which was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day preceding the Sabbath, no Jew would have dared defile himself by coming into contact with a corpse. A hot sun would have accelerated decomposition until the body fell to the ground and burst open. We should also consider the possibility that his body bursting open in such a gruesome manner is indicative of direct divine judgment, much like what will happen to Herod later in Acts 12:23.
(3) Finally, in Matthew 27:9-10 we are told that this sequence of events is in fulfillment of what was prophesied in Jeremiah. The problem is that on the surface it appears the text in mind is rather from Zechariah 11:12-13. The solution is two-fold. First, the passage Matthew has in mind is probably Jeremiah 19:1-13 where there are several important verbal parallels and linguistic links with what we find in Matthew 27. Second, it isn’t unusual for a NT author to “fuse” together under one “quotation” two or more OT sources/references. Says D. A. Carson, “Jeremiah alone is mentioned, perhaps because he is the more important of the two prophets, and perhaps also because, though Jeremiah 19 is the less obvious reference, it is the more important as to prophecy and fulfillment” (563).
Thus what we see yet again is that the Word of God stands firm: infallible, inerrant, and eternally true.