Matt. 27 vs. Acts 1
By Dr. Niclas Berggren
There are Christians who believe that the
Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. This
note shows that they are wrong in this belief, since there is
a contradiction between a passage in 27th chapter of Matthew and
the 1st chapter of Acts. If the Bible were without error, there
could be no contradiction at all.
Let me begin by stating the two passages
which contradict each other. (If anyone is interested in taking
a look at how other translations render these passages, go to
The WWW Bible Gateway.)
(KJV): "3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw
that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the
thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 Saying,
I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And
they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5 And he cast
down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went
and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces,
and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury,
because it is the price of blood. 7 And they took counsel, and
bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. 8 Wherefore
that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then
was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that
was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10
And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me."
(KJV): "16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have
been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake
before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this
ministry. 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. 19 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."
How do these verses contradict each other?
- In Matthew, Judas threw away the money
to the priests before dying, then he went to hang himself.
After that, the priests bought a field. In Acts, Judas
used the money himself to buy a field.
- In Matthew, Judas threw away the money
before dying, and then a field was bought. In Acts, the
field was bought before Judas died.
- In Matthew, he died by hanging himself,
whilst in Acts he fell headlong and his bowels gushed out.
How could an inerrantist Christian respond
to these three points? Let me speculate on some possible counter-arguments.
As for point 1, one could infer that when
Acts says that Judas bought the field, what is meant is that the
priests bought the field on his behalf. This, however, is not
permissible, since if one is allowed to change the meaning of
the language, no significant discussion about the actual meaning
of anything can be conducted. In ordinary language, we do not
say that "this man purchased a field for $100" if someone
else purchased it for their own usage with money thrown away by
its original owner. Clearly, from Matthew, Judas did not give
any order for the priests to buy a field for his money, and even
if he did, why would they obey him, who they despised?
As for point 2, it seems hard to come up
with a counter-argument, since the past tense is used in Matthew
("went and hanged himself"), implying that the execution
of the deed had taken place before the purchase of the field.
Meanwhile, Acts clearly presents the case where the field is bought
prior to his dying (indeed, since he is said to have bought it
As for point 3, it is logically possible
that the story in Acts is consistent with Matthew in terms of
the method of dying, but it seems highly unlikely, from how his
death is described. If one is to find consistency, one must include
many things not in the text. Amongst other things, one wonders
how the bowels could gush out simply from his having died by hanging,
and one also wonders how he could fall headlong in a field, and
where the tree came from (normally, there are no trees in the
middle of a field).
Note that it suffices for only one
of the three stated contradictions to hold for there to be a contradiction.
To conclude, the case for there being a
clear contradiction between Matt. 27:3-10 and Acts 1:18 is strong,
and hence the view that the Bible is without error is incorrect.
For the serious implication of this conclusion, see my essay "The Errancy of Fundamentalism Disproves the God of the Bible".
Let me add an additional item of interest.
In Matt. 27:9-10, it is asserted that the prophet Jeremy (Jeremiah)
uttered a prophecy regarding Judas, but no such statement is found
in the book of Jeremiah. Instead, a similar statement is found
in the book of Zech. 11:12,13. Again, we note that the
Bible seems quite untrustworthy.