How did the Field of Blood get its name?

Posted on Dec.17, 2008. Filed in Matthew, Acts. Average rating: 5.4 / 10 (Rate It).

The New Testament contains two accounts of Judas’s death, one in Matthew and the other in Acts. Both accounts make mention of the Field of Blood, and both describe how this field got its name.

According to Matthew, when Jesus’ was condemned Judas repented and returned to the chief priests the money that they had paid him for his betrayal. The chief priests used this money to purchase a field which, because it was bought with blood money, came to be known as the Field of Blood:

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. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. [Matthew 27:3-8 (NRSV)]

According to Acts, the Field of Blood got its name from the gruesome way in which Judas died there:

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. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood. [Acts 1:18-19 (NRSV)]

So was the Field of Blood so called because it was bought with blood money, or because of Judas’s bloody death there?

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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  1. 1

    The idea that there were two reasons that the Field of Blood was so called does seem possible, but it also seems a little far-fetched.

    There’s more mileage in the idea that Acts agrees with Matthew that the field was named for the manner of its purchase, but that isn’t the simplest reading of the text.

    On the simplest reading of the text, Acts does conflict with Matthew, so this does look like an error to me, even if it isn’t one that can be proven beyond all doubt.

  2. 2

    I don’t find the ‘overlapping reasons’ argument far-fetched at all. We all know that Chicago is called the “Windy City”. The original reason for this is probably not known. Several reasons have been suggested:

    1. Chicagoans are braggarts.
    2. Chicago politicians talk a lot.
    3. Chicago has especially gusty weather.
    4. Cincinnati had the name first (which is true), and Chicago stole it out of civic rivalry. Cincinnati had the name because of _its_ gusty weather.
    5. The Editor of the New York Sun used the term as an insult to Chicago when Chicago beat out New York for the 1893 World’s Fair (perhaps a variant of #1).

    Now, is it true that one of these reasons are correct and all the rest are incorrect? That’s what I find far-fetched. What seems obvious to me is that different speakers have different reasons for calling it the Windy City.

    It is no doubt true that at most one of these reasons was the _first_ reason given for calling Chicago the Windy City. But that’s really neither here nor there. New Yorkers that lived back in the 1890s probably called it the Windy City for reason #5. I’ve lived in Chicago and I called it the Windy City because its…windy. Others probably have or have had other reasons for using that title to name the city.

    Luke may well call the potter’s field “the field of blood” because of Judas’ well-known bloody end there. Matthew may call it the field of blood because of it’s having been purchased with the reward of Judas’ bloody treachery. That’s not a contradiction or even odd. Luke has his reason Matthew has his reason…and that’s all.

    Or is the claim that what is far-fetched is the coincidence that the same field that Judas died in was the very field that the priests happened to purchase with the blood money? Inerrantists would probably call that _Providence_ rather than coincidence.

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