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May 11, 2016


It's weird how folks are quick to say that there are "so many" (so-called) contradictions, but fail to recognize how unified and consistent the Scriptures truly are from start to finish, which is incredible when you consider how many different authors contributed and over what great time span the Bible was written.

Great work Tim. It amazes me when skeptics are surprised that these first century texts do not read like twenty-first century texts. When the New Testament is read in its literary context, it is far more accurate than other contemporary writings.

It never ceases to amaze me how people continue to make, in nearly every facet and area of society, sweeping and broad generalizing statements that mean absolutely nothing. Then they call that an argument.

The Judas question,Hanged or impaled? Did he buy Potters field as one verse suggests or did the Pharisees buy it as is suggested in another ?.We know there are explanations given but convoluted and unlikely ones they are too. But it is the absurdity of these explanations and the effort people go to to refute those apparent contradictions that betray an unwillingness to honestly engage intellectually not only with others but also with themselves. It seems ultimately that there is no need for a credible or rational explanation .This type of apologetics is merely an exercise in disengaging from intellectual discipline and simply a falling back on a serious of bullet points that kill the need to engage in useful debate or the need to think objectively ...And ultimately as the chap in the video admits ' It does not matter if there are contradictions'. Which would relegate the bible to a book of best practice .Christianity must stand or fall on the claim that the bible is the inerrant and indisputable, perfect and holy utterances of a divine being...The cracks are beginning to show.

"And ultimately as the chap in the video admits ' It does not matter if there are contradictions'"

Did we watch the same video?

Tim makes a distinction between a mystery...a discrepancy that's reconcilable but for which we don't know the reconciliation...and a contradiction..an irreconcilable discrepancy.

He also notes that it is possible for the main point of a book to true even if minor details contradict. That's not the same as saying that it does not matter whether there are contradictions. Some matter more than others. Which is true. The number of blind men near Jericho is not nearly so important as the number of bodies in the tomb on Easter.

This view of the Bible raises problems, of course, which Tim doesn't get into. The problems are basically a special case of the Problem of Evil: why would an undeceptive God allow error to occur in His own inspired Word?

There are well-worn responses to the Problem of Evil, perhaps they will work in the case of an errant Bible autograph.

But Tim is not committed to providing an answer (well-worn otherwise) to this version of the Problem of Evil in any case. That is because he also identifies himself as an inerrantist...which means he does not believe that there are contradictions (or errors of any kind) in the autographs.

I, by the way agree with Tim on that and almost everything that he said in the video. (I wasn't quite as taken by the half-brother bit as he was.)


As for Judas, obviously, the priests bought the field with Judas' money.

The priests paid Judas to betray Jesus. Some time after that, Judas gave the money back, but the Priests were not allowed to take it. So it was still Judas' money. Using Judas' money, they bought the Potter's field that Judas hanged himself in (and later burst open in).

Who bought the field?

Well, there is a sense in which the priests bought the land. They are the ones who physically handed Judas' money to the previous owner. They probably negotiated the price with the previous owner.

But it was Judas' money that was used. So he bought it. He owned the land.

How convoluted and unlikely!


From Mathew....

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

From Acts...

With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.

I am failing to see how these two accounts can reasonably be reconciled as being an accurate description of the same event. ...and I certainly don't think if there is an explanation it could be described as 'obvious'.

The A T Robertson quote was actually a half quote and went on to say any explanation that may be forthcoming should be a reasonable one.

Re the Titanic analogy..I agree to some extent but you are changing the nature of how the bible has been presented for hundreds of years. If the little things are up to questioning then who decides where the little things suddenly become the big things.Numbers of people in a crowd may not matter but for key players such as Judas to be depicted with such disparity ?,It should at least bring into question the divine nature and inerrant qualities that its devotee's claim for it.

Then he went away and hanged himself. ... his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.

Consider the act of hanging as we perceive it versus Now consider the death of Haman, hung on the gallows meant for Mordecai. Did they use the traditional "hangman's noose," or did the Persian/Oriental idea of hanging not involve rope at all?

On the same path, could we also say that Jesus hung for His "crime?" Galatians 3:13 would be open for this.

If we block the Western notion of "Ox-Bow Incident" hanging, we might be closer to a possible explanation.

A portion of the post dropped out.

Consider the act of hanging as we perceive it versus the cultural background of the various societies of Biblical times. Now consider the death ...

"With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field"

This is entailed by the Matthew passage. Because the Matthew passage implies that Judas' retained ownership of the money, and that money was used to buy a field.

If my money is used to buy a thing, I am the owner of that thing...I am the buyer.

However much you'd like it not to be, this is an obvious point.


"his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out."

This is not literally entailed by the Matthew passage, however, it is very reasonable to expect it to happen given the Matthew passage.

Chances are that no one is going to touch Judas' dead body. Certainly the priests never would even go near it (see the Parable of the Good Samaritan).

If a dead body stays out for a while, it's eventually going to burst open and its intestines are going to gush out.

Again, however much you'd like it not to be, this is an obvious point.


"he fell headlong"

There's a lot of debate about this phrase. The word "πρηνής" occurs once in the NT...here. There are two other Greek sources for sacred Jewish writing we can look at: The Septuagint and the Apocrypha. The first couple hits I got on this were from the Apocrypha.

The NRSV translates the word as "fell headlong" in Acts. In Wisdom 4:19 and 3 Maccabees 5:43, it's translated by the NRSA as "level or dash to the ground" Wisdom 4:19 is especially good because it is speaking of dishonored corpses being dashed to the ground.

(I use the New Revised Standard rather than my usual New American Standard because there is also a translation of the Apocrypha for the Wisdom and 3 Maccabees passages)

When it's translated from Homer it's usually translated "down".

So Judas fell to the ground or fell down.

If a body hangs in a tree, and no one disturbs it, it will eventually fall down. And when it falls, chances are close to 100% that it will hit the ground.

So the only way you get something less than completely obvious here is to insist on the translation "headlong".

But that's still hardly a vexing issue. Even if you insist that Judas must, must, must have fallen headlong.

For starters, "headlong" is itself an ambiguous term. It does not imply "head down" or "head first". But even if we insist on head down or head first, there are 1001 ways that a hanged body could fall, when it inevitably falls, head down.

Maybe Judas climbed up into the tree to hang himself. He wanted a good long fall so that his neck would break. After cooking in the tree for a bit the head, being held on only by flesh, detached and fell. The rest of the body, becoming entangled in the lower branches of the tree, followed later.

There's really no reason to insist on a head first fall though. So my gruesome story is not required to harmonize the passages, even if it were the only way to get a head first fall (which it isn't).



This is the only thing in comparing Matthew and Luke that you reference where you even find something curious.

Judas hanged himself. As an inevitable consequence of the body being left alone, it fell to the ground and burst open. It is a curious fact that the field where all this grisly business happened was the very same field that Judas' money was used to buy.

This is hardly a contradiction though. It amounts to no more that a 'fun fact' about Judas' death.

Why did it happen that way though?

I don't know, and frankly at this point it's really irrelevant. It's no more than a detail that Scripture left out. It's not the only detail Scripture ever left out. No one contends that the Bible is exhaustively detailed.


An issue you didn't raise...Matthew said this:

"And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day."

(That's a fairly elegant solution to dealing with Judas' rotting corpse that no one wants to touch. Let the gravediggers bury him along with the strangers.)

Luke reports Peter saying this in Acts:

"And it [Judas' bursting open] became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood."

Is it a contradiction to say that the field was called the field of blood because of the blood money and then to say that it's called the field of blood because of Judas' bloody end there?

Hardly. That just shows that the field was called the Field of Blood for more than one reason.

Find out why Chicago is called the "Windy City". There's not just one reason (there are at least three I can think of without looking it up: high winds, windbag politicians and appropriating the title from Cincinnati as a form of civic competition). That does not mean that a contradiction has been realized.


I think we have an Impasse regarding our respective views on what constitutes a reasonable explanation. Though thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me here.

regards James.

I wasn't trying to explain anything, but to demonstrate that the key elements of the Acts account are to be expected given the Matthew account (some are even logically entailed by the Matthew account).

If A is expected given B, then A and B can hardly contradict.

That is, I was presenting an argument that Acts and Matthew cannot be in conflict.

That argument was successful because it was valid, and based on obviously true premises.

I'm surprised that no one used the Greek text to resolve the Matthew/Luke(Acts) accounts of the purchase of the field and how it came to be associated with Judas.

Matthew 27:7 says that the chief priests bought the field with Judas' money. The word Matthew uses for bought is αγοραζο, or 'agorazo'. One can recognize the term 'agora' (marketplace) in this verb.

A good Greek lexicon gives us a definition:

1) to be in the market place, to attend it 2) to do business there, buy or sell 3) of idle people: to haunt the market place, lounge there
from 58; properly, to go to market, i.e. (by implication) to purchase; specially, to redeem:-buy, redeem. see GREEK for 58

Thus, Matthew explicitly indicates that the chief priests carried out the real estate transaction.

In Acts 1:18, Luke says that Judas acquired the field, but the word that he uses is κταομαι, or 'kataomai', which the same lexicon defines as

Definition: 1) to acquire, get, or procure a thing for one's self, to possess 1a) to marry a wife
a primary verb; to get, i.e. acquire (by any means; own):-obtain, possess, provide, purchase.

So, although purchase is a possible translation, if Luke had wanted to inform his readers that Judas went to the marketplace to carry out the real estate transaction, he could have used agorazo, but he didn't.
This is the basis for resolving the apparent contradiction as WisdomLover, and others, do: The chief priests carried out the actual purchase in Judas' name, with his money, and used his name when assigning the ownership title to to field. Makes sense, why would they want to have their names associated with the whole sordid mess?
Thus, Judas acquired the title to the field by proxy.
A reasonable resolution, based directly on the Greek text.

oh, for references to the lexicon I borrowed from:

Matthew 27:7: https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Matthew+27
Acts 1:18: https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Acts+1

If the specific word study does not come up, then select the word in question, double click and select WordStudy

So, for the list of false expectations, I'd add,
6. failing to consider the original languages. What appears to be a contradiction in a particular translation may not be such a problem at all, in the original language.
Related to this - failing to consult more than one translation, if one cannot handle the original languages.

In fact, in the NASB translation, and the NET Bible, from where I retrieved the lexicon info, Acts 1:18 is
translated as

18 (Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. 19 This became known to all who lived in Jerusalem, so that in their own language they called that field Hakeldama, that is, “Field of Blood.”)

I agree with everything you just wrote Victoria.

I didn't get into the nuances of the language of purchases in the Greek language because it did not occur to me. It struck me that even in English one can buy a thing without being the one who carries out the purchase transaction (thus Judas bought the land without being the one to carry out the real estate transaction).

Retailers routinely employ buyers for example. The buyers, of course, buy stuff (for the retailer to re-sell) using the retailer's money. In their actions, the retailer also buys those same items.

It is, as you say, quite telling that the way the Greek is spelled out, the role of the priests as proxies buying a property with Judas' money becomes very apparent.

Hi WisdomLover
The only down side to you example is that Judas probably did not ask the chief priests to buy the field on his behalf :)

It is interesting then, how Acts and Matthew actually harmonize - an undesigned coincidence, as it were.
From Acts, it seems that it was common knowledge (more or less) that the field was owned by Judas, but Luke does not go into much more detail than this. Matthew fills in the missing details of how this came to be.

"Judas probably did not ask the chief priests to buy the field on his behalf"

If you take my money and buy a car with it, to whom does the car belong?

Me, right? Whether I asked it of you or not.

We might also consider this...

By the time the priests acted, it may have been too late to ask Judas: he might already be dead.

This does not change the fact that the priests were forbidden from taking the money. So it still belonged to Judas. (To whom else could it belong to?) In buying the property, they were acting as his de facto executors.

Indeed, if this how things played out (Judas' committing suicide before the priests buy the field), it even tells us why they bought the field in which he killed himself to serve as a graveyard. It gives them a place to finally get Judas buried. And they could claim to actually be acting as good faith executors.

The bonkersness continues.

Agreed...I was responding more to your 'retailers employ buyers' remark.

I think your last paragraph wraps up the resolution of the alleged contradiction very nicely.

Bonkers (according to JA):

  1. If you gain possession of my money, but are not permitted to keep it, it remains my money...and any purchase you make with it belongs to me.
  2. A dead body left out is liable to eventually burst open.
  3. A dead body hanging from a tree is liable to eventually fall to the ground.

Not every phrase or every word in the bible is inspired. The gospels were written by at least four different types or communities.
The OT consists of many authors and communities. In the creation story things happen in ways that scientifically they did not happen. This does not nullify the truth that is conveyed. The bible is simply not teaching science. To expect it is ludicrous. Even in the world of science, things are proven and then disproved, adjusted and then readjusted as time and evidence progresses. That does not deny the underlying principle of science. Atheists and others think that the bible must be read as fundamentalists read it. In doing this they claim superior knowledge or an "aha" or "got you" moment when in reality they quibble over nothing of importance except for their own agenda. But that is what they get for reding other people's mail.

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