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Who bought the Field of Blood?

Posted on Jun.30, 2009. Filed in Acts, Matthew. Average rating: 7.0 / 10 (Rate It).

Both Matthew and Acts contain accounts of what happened to the money paid to Judas for betraying Jesus, and both agree that the money was used to buy a field which became known as the Field of Blood. Who it was that used the money to buy the field, however, varies between the accounts.

According to Matthew, Judas repented of his betrayal and returned the money, and the chief priests used it to buy the potter’s field:

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. [Matthew 27:3-7 (NRSV)]

According to acts, Judas bought the field himself:

Now this man [Judas] acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. [Acts 1:18 (NRSV)]

So who bought the Field of Blood, the high priests or Judas?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Amtiskaw

    The natural reading of Acts is that Judas was in the field because he himself had purchased it; which would tend to rule out the explanation given.

  2. 2
    WisdomLover

    True. The harmonization suggested is not what one would immediately assume given just thee texts. Though perhaps it is enought to formally escape the charge of error.

    Still, I think it’s best not to view this problem in isolation from this one about the manner of Judas’ death. Judas hanged himself, and after his body had rotted a bit, it fell into the field that the priests bought and burst open. When Peter says that Judas acquired the field as a wage for his wickedness, this is what he meant. He acquired the field because it was his final resting place, not because he bought it.

    (I don’t know whether Judas chose that field to hang himself in because it’s the one the priests bought, or if the priests bought it because Judas hanged himself there, or if it was just coincidence/providence.)

  3. 3
    Amtiskaw

    Most translations think it’s Luke (i.e. the author) who’s speaking, not Peter (i.e. it’s not seen as quoted text).

    Anyway, I think the meaning of Acts is clear. He didn’t just acquire the field, he acquired the field with the money, which clearly means he bought it.

  4. 4
    WisdomLover

    You’re right about the translations. Most render the remark about the nature of Judas’ death as a parenthetical remark by the author of Acts (Luke) rather than continued direct quotation by Peter. There, of course, cannot be any reason based on the text itself to do this. The original texts contained no punctuation that would have indicated a sudden break in the direct quotation. The original texts would not even have had spaces between the words.

    I think it does make a bit of difference. Luke is less likely to use the phrase in a metaphorical way than Peter is. This is because Luke’s remark would be an explanatory editorial comment, whereas Peter’s would be part of his rhetoric.

    The phrase could mean “Judas obtained the field as the punishment for his wickedness” and it could mean “Judas purchased the field with the reward for his wickedness”. Both of these meanings are within the range of meanings allowed by the words. But the former clearly involves more metaphorical flourish in the uses of “Ktaomai” (acquired) and “Misthos” (price) than the latter.

  5. 5
    WisdomLover

    The last several comments have compelled me to revisit some of the issues surrounding Judas’ death. In so doing, I stumbled across another interesting possibility regarding the purchase of the field of blood.

    The claim is that Judas bought the potter’s field with the money he pilfered from Jesus and the twelve over the years of Jesus’ ministry. He returned the 30 silver pieces just as Matthew says. Upon his death, the land would have gone to someone, a wife perhaps. The priests purchased the field from that individual with the 30 silver pieces.

    It still gets called the field of blood for overlapping reasons: because it was purchased with blood money and because Judas’ end there was bloody.

  6. 6
    jetmelt

    Judas hanged himself elsewhere. Then a couple days later his body was brought to the very field that was bought by the priests to bury him there as a foreigner. As the carriage pulled into the field Judas swollen decomposing body was somehow knocked off and fell headlong and burst open

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