The Death(s) of Judas: It Gets Worse!

In my blog, I am often more honest and open here than I am on my YouTube videos. This is not to say I’m dishonest in my videos, but I am often so concerned with the content of my video, I do not talk about what makes me choose the topics I am addressing. So I’ll be honest, for the last few days, I have started six different blog posts and lost interest in each, so I have just saved them all for another day. I don’t know whether this is because I am currently feeling under the weather, or am getting back to writing my book or I’m just not happy with how my second draft of my paper is going, either way, I have not set aside enough time to dedicate to writing a full blog post… But that ends today!

If you have read a number of my posts, you will know I am a huge fan of Amateur Exegete. His blog is honestly one of the best around, so if you haven’t seen it yet, then I’d highly recommend you do so! His most recent post is about The Death(s) of Judas and it provides a detailed answer as to why the two accounts of the fate of Judas in the New Testament are contradictory. This is in response to a half-wit, internet apologist who I will not name because she is not worth the attention… But anyway, because he provides a great analysis of this, I won’t simply repeat Amateur Exegete’s post regarding the objections to the Christian rationalisations of the two depictions of Judas’ fate in Matthew and Acts. I do however want to draw attention to his conclusion, because I certainly echo his sentiment that:

Attempts to reconcile passages like Matthew 27:3-10 and Acts 1:18-19 are not only futile but disrespectful. In creating these tired and contrived explanations, pop-apologists mute the voice of the authors, forcing upon them a view that they did not hold. The obsession with inerrancy is to blame for it asserts something about the Bible that the Bible does not assert for itself. The moral of the story is this: let the authors say what they want to say. Embrace the contradiction and learn to live with its tension.

While this is something I agree with when it comes to the New Testament, but this is certainly perhaps equally, if not more the case when it comes to the Jewish Bible. So today, I will be going through the claim that:

In the Old Testament, the prophet Zechariah (11:12-13) prophesied as follows:

“I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.

And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.”

This account parallels the accounts from Matthew, where the Pharisees used the 30 pieces of silver to purchase a potter’s field, and Acts, where Judas symbolically “bought” the field. In both cases, the money Judas had “earned” by betraying Jesus funded the Field of Blood where he committed suicide

In other words, I will be analysing the Christian claim that the betrayal of the Messiah was part of the criteria of what would make someone the Christ and this was all part of God’s plan. Yet, it seems by merely reading what is reported in the Jewish Bible, this shows that this is clearly not the case. Let’s begin to analyse the issue!

Zechariah or Jeremiah?

While there are a number of issues with the Christian claim, it is often contended by Christians that the Messiah will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver which is found in Matthew 26:14-15. Of course, while this is the reference to Judas Iscariot going to the chief priests, what Christians often fail to notice is that the claim that thirty pieces of silver thrown into the house of the Lord in Matthew 27:3-5 is claiming to fulfilling a prophecy in Zechariah 11:12-13, as we can see from the above quote. Yet, isn’t it interesting that when it is actually recorded in Matthew 27:6-10, here it reports:

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 as a burial place for foreigners.That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

In other words, the author of Matthew gets the reference wrong because the author claims this prophecy comes from Jeremiah yet this is actually quoting the prophet ZechariahThis is something which the author of the blog post does not even mention. I’m not even totally sure she knows this is an issue, because I really doubt that Christians claiming Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies have even read the Jewish Bible to begin with! So other than claiming this was a prophecy spoken by Jeremiah when it was actually from Zechariah, this leaves the question: what is the problem with the Christian reading of this passage from the Jewish Bible?

It’s A Fake Rolex!

To explain why this is an issue, I have often used this analogy; when we want to be able to recognise someone claiming a prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament by Jesus, this is ultimately trying to see whether something is a genuine prophecy and something which is not actually a prophecy at all. So let’s imagine you are an antiques dealer and someone comes to you with what they claim is a Rolex and obviously, if you want to buy it to sell it on, you need to make sure it’s the real deal! So what clues would make you question whether it was a genuine Rolex? While one could recognise a fake Rolex by seeing the materials it is made out of, the quality or the quartz dial movements etc. that’s what we are having to do here, we are looking for clues that what is being offered is the real deal or not.

So how does this relate to the topic today? Well, in the case of the Bible we need to ask, what are some of the signs that someone is claiming something is a prophecy, which in fact isn’t? I’d say, something which is taken out of context and applied to Jesus would be an example of this. So if someone is taking something which is not prophetic, either spoken by someone other than a prophet, or something which was never meant to be read as a Messianic prophecy, these would be examples of this and alarm bells would surely start to ring. Equally, simply coming up with things they claim are prophecies which do not exist and the claimed prophecy being fulfilled ends up contradicting what is already written in the Bible would also be a clear problem for someone claiming these are legitimate prophecies which were fulfilled by Jesus. Fundamentally, the case for Christianity would be so much stronger if we didn’t have any of these but the sad fact is, we do. What Christians need to contend with, is that if the prophecies which were applied to Jesus which were taken out of context, for example Isaiah 7:14 or Hosea 11:1, or we have apparent prophecies are also based on mistakes by the authors, for example Matthew 2:23, when is no prophecy saying that the messiah (or anyone else for that matter) will be called a Nazarene, each these are all clear clues that the “prophecies” which Jesus apparently “fulfilled” are not actually instances of prophecies being fulfilled because Jesus is the Messiah, but instead these are merely the authors taking verses out of context or just making them up and just applying them to Jesus. This is obviously going to be problematic because these are all clear signs that we are dealing with authors claiming Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, yet the authors are making clear and obvious mistakes and this is a perfect example of this. In other words, we’re dealing with a fake Rolex!

Reading Zechariah 11 In Context

Christians are often so keen on pointing to the maximum amount of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, with some claiming as many as 365 prophecies which Jesus apparently fulfilled, they not only look past the issue that the author of Matthew makes a mistake in claiming this is a prophecy from Jeremiah, when it is actually from Zechariah, they also do not read the actual Jewish Bible to see whether this is a Messianic prophecy at all!

While this is a complicated chapter, I’m just going to make this simple: Zechariah 11 is not a messianic prophecy, no person is betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, Zechariah was not saying that in the future someone will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver and the “thirty pieces of silver” are not even thirty pieces of silver in Zechariah 11 at all! Let me explain, but first, this is the chapter in full:

1 Open your doors, O Lebanon, and let the fire consume your cedars.
2 Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the mighty ones have been spoiled. Wail, O oaks of the Bashan, for the fortified forest has gone down.
3 Hearken [to] the wailing of the shepherds, for their glory has been spoiled. Hearken [to] the roar of the young lions, for the pride of the Jordan has been spoiled.
4 So said the Lord, my God: Tend the flock of slaughter,
5 whose buyers shall slay them and not be guilty; and whose sellers shall say, “Blessed be the Lord, for I have become wealthy”; and whose shepherds shall not have pity on them.
6 For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of the land, says the Lord. And behold! I will deliver the men, each one into his neighbor’s hand and into his king’s hand. And they shall crush the land, and I will not save [them] from their hand[s].
7 And I tended the flock of slaughter; indeed, the poor of the flock. And I took for Myself two staffs; one I called Pleasantness, and one I called Destroyers; and I tended the flock.
8 I cut off the three shepherds in one month, I could not tolerate them; moreover, they were too much for Me.
9 And I said, “I will not tend you. That which dies-let it die; and that which is cut off-let it be cut off. And the survivors shall eat, each one her neighbor’s flesh.
10 And I took My [first] staff, [called] Pleasantness and I cut it off to nullify My convenant that I [had] formed with all the peoples.
11 And it was nullified on that day. And the poor of the flock that kept My word knew this, that it was the word of the Lord.
12 And I said to them: “If it pleases you, give [Me] My hire, and if not, forbear.” And they weighed out My hire: thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the Lord said to me: Cast it to the keeper of the treasury, to the stronghold of glory-of which I stripped them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and I cast it into the house of the Lord, to the keeper of the treasury.
14 And I cut off my second staff, the Destroyers, to nullify the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
15 And the Lord said to me; Take for yourself still another thing, the instrument of a foolish shepherd.
16 For, behold! I am setting up a shepherd in the land. Those that are cut off he shall not remember; the foolish ones he shall not seek. The lame he shall not heal; the one that can stand he shall not bear. And the flesh of the fat one he shall eat, and their hoofs he shall break.
17 Ho, worthless shepherd, who abandons the flock! A sword is on his arm and his right eye; his arm shall wither, and his right eye shall dim.

To briefly explain, the overall point in Zechariah’s writings, is that God is saying he will exile the Jewish people to Babylon for seventy years because they have rejected him. After this though, God will return them to the land of Israel because there are thirty righteous men (the thirty pieces of silver) who warrant a return to Israel. But let’s now look at the specific language of the text.

The Importance of Metaphor in Zechariah 12

In the above passage, there are clear non-literal pieces of language in this chapter and so if you read this in context, it soon becomes clear that Zechariah uses a number of metaphors. For instance, “the flock to be slain” (11:4) refers to the Jewish people, who are sold like animals (11:4-5) and that God says he removed 3 shepherds (11:8) which are actually talking about three kings. So when we have this many instances of non-literal uses of language, this means we have to question what the reference to the “thirty pieces of silver” is referring to and whether this is literal or metaphorical.

When we get to 11:10, this reports that God is talking about a covenant that God made with the non-Jewish nations, that they would not harm the Jewish people and says if you want God to be your shepherd (verse 11:12) then you mus pay my fee. This may sound strange, but all this is saying is that to keep their end of the covenant, all they need to be is be good people and God will continue to keep his end of the deal and not let the Jewish people come to any harm. It is in this context therefore, we see the reference to the thirty pieces of silver is actually talking about thirty people who were truly righteous, they are the thirty silver coins, not literal silver coins. Verse 13 therefore, when it talks about “30 coins” are thrown into the Temple, this is saying the Temple will be rebuilt because of the righteous deeds of these 30 people and they paid God’s fee.

Clearly then, this has nothing to do with the Messiah being betrayed, let alone betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. In fact, it is actually talking about precisely the opposite! It is God who is rejected, but because of the role of righteous people, the Jewish people will return from exile, virtually the opposite of the Christian reading of this text. If you keep on reading as well, going through the rest of the chapter, 11:14 speaks of the destruction of Judah which will happen as well of that of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) while 11:15-16 makes reference to Rome and before the Messiah comes the nations will attack Jerusalem (this is found in chapter 12). In other words, this is not talking about the Messiah being betrayed. Just read it and you can see this for yourself!

What About Jeremiah 19 and 32?

Given the above, it is clear that there are a number of issues with claiming this is a prophecy fulfilled. But you might have noticed that in the NIV translation footnotes of Matthew 27, this provides reference to Jeremiah, specifically 19:1-13; 32:6-9. While these are often cited, these passages don’t end up much better for the Christian. Again, just read the Jewish Bible! Let’s start off with Jeremiah 19:

1 So said the Lord: Go and buy a potter’s earthen jug, and [take] along some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests.
2 And you shall go out to the Ben- Hinnom Valley which is at the entrance of the Harsith Gate, and you shall call there the words that I will speak to you.
3 And you shall say; Hearken to the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; so said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold I am bringing evil upon this place, which whoever hears, his ears will tingle.
4 Because they forsook Me and they estranged this place and burnt incense therein to other gods, which they had not known, they, their forefathers, and the kings of Judah, and they filled this place with the blood of innocent people.
5 And they built the high places of Baal to burn their children with fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command, neither did I speak nor did it enter My mind.
6 Therefore, behold days are coming, says the Lord, when this place will no longer be called Topheth or Ben-Hinnom Valley, but the Valley of Slaughter.
7 And I will frustrate the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will hurl them down by the sword before their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives, and I will give their carcasses for food to the fowl of the heavens and to the beasts of the earth.
8 And I will make this city into a waste and a hissing; everyone who passes by it shall be astonished and hiss concerning all her plagues.
9 And I will feed them the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and each one will eat the flesh of his friend, in the siege and the straits that their enemies and those who seek their lives will inflict upon them.
10 And you shall break the jug before the eyes of the men who go with you.
11 And you shall say to them: so said the Lord of Hosts: so will I break this people and this city, as one breaks the potter’s vessel, which can no longer be repaired, and in the Topheth they will bury without place to bury.
12 So will I do to this place, says the Lord, and to its inhabitants, and to make this city like the Topheth.
13 And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah shall be like the place of the Topheth, the unclean ones, of all the houses on whose roofs they offered up incense to all the host of heaven and poured libations to other gods.
14 And Jeremiah came from the Topheth where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the house of the Lord and said to all the people.
15 So said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all her cities all this evil that I spoke concerning her, for they stiffened their necks not to hearken to My words.

Do you see anything to do with 30 pieces of silver or buying a potter’s field? I certainly don’t! What I see, is this is talking about buying a potter’s earthen jug (בַּקְבֻּק). Specifically, God is telling Jeremiah to buy a clay jug from a potter, go to the Dung Gate (where broken pottery was thrown away) and because people were sacrificing their children to false gods, he was warning them that this would lead to their destruction and so was to smash the jug in front of the leaders of the people. To stress again, this is talking about a jug, specifically a potter’s jug, not a potter’s field and nothing whatsoever to do with 30 pieces of silver! Let’s move on to Jeremiah chapter 32:

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah; that is the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar.
2 Then, the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was imprisoned in the prison yard that was [in] the house of the king of Judah.
3 For Zedekiah the king of Judah had imprisoned him, saying, “Why do you prophesy, saying, ‘So said the Lord: Behold I deliver this city into the hand[s] of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it.
4 And Zedekiah the king of Judah shall not escape from the hand[s] of the Chaldeans, for he shall surely be delivered into the hand[s] of the king of Babylon, and his mouth shall speak with his mouth, and his eyes shall see his eyes.
5 And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and he shall be there until I remember him, says the Lord; if you wage war with the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed’?”
6 And Jeremiah said: The word of the Lord came to me, saying:
7 Behold, Hanamel, the son of Shallum your uncle, is coming to you, saying: Buy for yourself my field that is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.
8 Then Hanamel, my uncle’s son, came to me in the prison yard, according to the word of the Lord, and said to me; Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, that is in the country of Benjamin, for the right of inheritance is yours, and you have the right of redemption; buy it for yourself.” And I knew that this was the word of the Lord.
9 So I bought the field from Hanamel, my uncle’s son, which was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, seven shekels and ten pieces of silver.
10 And I wrote a bill of sale and signed it and took witnesses, and weighed the silver on a scale.
11 And I took the deed of the purchase, that which was signed according to the law and the conditions, and that which was open.
12 And I gave the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah the son of Maaseiah in the presence of Hanamel my uncle and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, in the presence of all the Jews who sat in the prison yard.
13 And I charged Baruch in their presence, saying:
14 So said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Take these scrolls, this deed of purchase and the signed one and this open scroll, and put them into an earthen vessel so that they remain many years.
15 For so says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be purchased again in this land.
16 And I prayed to the Lord after I had delivered the deed of purchase into the hand of Baruch the son of Neriah, saying,
17 “Ho! O Lord God, behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and Your outstretched arm, and nothing is hidden from You,
18 Who exercises loving- kindness to thousands and requites the iniquity of the fathers in the bosom of the children who follow them, O Great and Mighty God, the Lord of Hosts is His Name.
19 Who is great in counsel and mighty in carrying it out, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of mankind, to give everyone in accordance with his ways and in accordance with the fruit of his deeds,
20 Who performed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt until this day, and in Israel and in mankind, and have made a name for Yourself as of this day.
21 And You brought Your people Israel forth out of the land of Egypt with signs and with wonders and with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with great fearfulness.
22 And You gave them this land which You swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey.
23 And they came in and took it into possession, but they did not obey You, nor did they walk in Your teachings, all that You commanded them to do they did not do; then You caused all this evil to come upon them.
24 Behold, the mounds, they have come to the city to take it; by the sword and the famine and the pestilence the city is already given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it, and what You have proclaimed has come to pass, and lo! You see it.
25 And You said to me, O Lord God, ‘Buy yourself the field for money and appoint witnesses!’ Yet the city is given into the hand[s] of the Chaldeans!”
26 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying:
27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything concealed from Me?
28 Therefore, so said the Lord: Behold I deliver this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it.
29 And the Chaldeans who are warring against this city shall come and ignite this city with fire and burn it, and the houses on whose roofs they burnt incense to Baal and offered up libations to strange gods in order to provoke Me.
30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah were indeed doing what is evil in My eyes from their youth, for the children of Israel indeed provoke Me with the work of their hands, says the Lord.
31 For this city has aroused My anger and My wrath since the day they built it until this day, to remove it from before My face.
32 Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah, that they did to provoke Me, they, their kings, their officers, their priests, and their prophets, and the people of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
33 And they turned their backs to Me and not their faces; although I taught them, teaching them betimes, they do not hearken to receive instruction.
34 And they placed their abominations in the house upon which My Name was called, to contaminate it.
35 And they built the high places of Baal, which was in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to pass their sons and their daughters to Molech, which I neither commanded them nor did it enter My mind to commit this abomination, in order to bring guilt upon Judah.
36 And now, therefore, so said the Lord God of Israel concerning this city which you say, “It has been given into the hand[s] of the king of Babylon by the sword and by famine and by pestilence”;
37 Behold I will gather them from all the lands where I have driven them with My anger and with My wrath and with great fury, and I will restore them to this place and I will cause them to dwell safely.
38 And they shall be My people, and I will be their God.
39 And I will give them one accord and one way to fear Me all the time, so that it be good for them and for their children after them.
40 And I will form for them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, and My fear I will place in their heart, not to turn away from Me.
41 And I will rejoice over them to do good to them, and I will plant them in this land truly with all My heart and with all My soul.
42 For so said the Lord: As I have brought upon this people all this great evil, so will I bring upon them all the good that I speak concerning them.
43 And the field shall be bought in this land, which you say, “It is desolate without man or beast; it has been given into the hand[s] of the Chaldeans.”
44 Men shall buy fields for money and inscribe deeds and sign [them] and appoint witnesses in the land of Benjamin and in the environs of Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah and in the cities of the mountain and in the cities of the lowland and in the cities of the southland, for I will restore their captivity, says the Lord.

Now, this is a long chapter. But again, do you see anything being described as even remotely a prophecy being fulfilled? I don’t know about you, but I’m reading that Jeremiah 32 is talking about prophet being imprisoned and him having a vision that his cousin is coming to see him to ask to use his right of redemption to purchase a field in Anathoth (a town which lay between Michmash and Jerusalem).

Conclusion

While I am really behind with my series about whether Jesus is the Messiah, this is pretty much the long and short of it. Christians claim something is a prophecy in the Jewish Bible and firmly believe that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied by the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures. They point to various passages in the Jewish Scripture as proof of this claim but when you read them, you soon realise that it is like biting into candy floss. Therefore, as with the conclusion I mentioned above, not only are attempts to reconcile passages like Matthew 27:3-10 and Acts 1:18-19 disrespectful to try and stifle the voices of the authors, forcing upon them to say things they didn’t say and holding to a view that they did not hold, the same case can be made against when we are dealing with Christians claiming the Jewish prophets were talking about Jesus. If in doubt, look at the Jewish Bible and see whether it says what the Christian claims and **spoiler alert** it won’t, as you can clearly see here!

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