Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Judas Bond - You only die twice

Having finished listening to the gospels on MP3s lately, I then embarged on Acts of the Apostles.
My ears nearly fell off when one of the first things that I heard was this:
"Now this man [Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." (Acts 1:18)
I thought, WTF? I always thought he hung himself, and didn't he just hang himself in Matthew 27:5?
"And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself."
He did. A clear contradiction there. While this won't matter a bit to the liberals, it should be a nut for the inerrantists I thought. As I started up a forum thread on the subject, however, it struck me that for the apologetic there is a perfectly reasonable excu-planation here:
"He hung himself from a tree, but the knot didn't hold and then he fell headlong bursting asunder in the midst, with all his bowels gushing out."
And guess what, here's a real one from CARM.org:
"There is no contradiction here at all because both are true. A contradiction occurs when one statement excludes the possibility of another. In fact, what happened here is that Judas went and hung himself and then his body later fell down and split open. In other words, the rope or branch of the tree probably broke due to the weight and his body fell down and his bowels spilled out. "
I know how they think, all right. The apologetic gut feeling is (when they can't resort to creative use of a thesaurus) always to combine evidence. It doesn't matter if the outcome is unrealistic. Imagine that some Gospel Z appears saying that Judas died from being shot with an arrow. And then Gospel X appears saying that Judas was knocked over by a car. For the apologeticist, this is no problem.

1. He hung himself...
2. the rope broke.
3. As he fell he was penetrated by an arrow
4. and hit by a car
5. and he fell headlong and spilled his guts!

Can anyone honestly say that this is not technically possible? No.
But can such an explanation be defended as a realistic answer? No.

Notice the choice of words in Acts. He fell headlong. That means he fell with the head foremost. (Or at breakneck speed, but I doubt any apologeticist will try that!) I did some search for pictures of Judas, and came across a nice drawing of the two deaths. Well, Horatio Caine just called and said that if you've hung yourself, then you won't fall headlong if the rope breaks. You'll fall down on your feet or knees.
If we see the story in Acts isolated, it's also unrealistic that his body burst asunder from simply falling. The apologeticists will say that if he's hung for a while, then this might happen, but again: there's no rope or hanging in Acts. Some other apologeticist pulls the translation card and actually manages to make headlong become... swollen! In the Norwegian translation (which obviously is not translated from an English bible), the word used is hodestups. Literally: head diving. Frankly, I prefer a scholarly Bible translation any day over apologetical word play and straw clutching.

There's more.
As we remember he got 30 pieces of silver for being a snitch on Jesus. According to Acts, he purchased the aforementioned field:
18 Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness [...]
19 And it 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.
He bought a field, and after he accidentally (or by divine will) spilled his guts all over the place, it was called the Field of Blood. Matthew has a completely different explanation:
3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!"
5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood."
7 And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers.
8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
He returned the money, and the chief priests bought the field, and since the money was blood money, the field was called the Field of Blood. And the apologetic explanation? Combining evidence! See this example from Lookinguntojesus.net (CARM didn't offer an explanation here.)
"Luke indicates that Judas purchased it, while Matthew reveals that the chief priests bought the field. This is not a contradiction, but a difference of perspective. Indeed, the chief priests conducted the transaction for the field, hoever, it was not with their money. Nor would they have claimed the money. In verse 6, the abominable nature of this money is spoken of. They would not permit it to be included in the treasury, and certainly did not take possession of it for themselves. It had to be disposed of in some fashion. Thus, they purchased the field with it. Was it their field? No, for it was not their money that purchased the field (nor did they want the money or the field). The field was purchased by means of Judas, thus it was his field.
There is no contradiction."
Only that Luke didn't "indicate" anything it in Acts. He was perfectly clear: "this man (Judas) purchased a field with the reward of iniquity". He did not write that "Judas went to the chief priests and said: "Would you mind investing these silver pieces in property for me?"
If we go back to Matthew 27:4-5, we see that Judas gets a cold shoulder from the priests, not advice on property. Feeling pretty bad, Judas just throws the money into the temple sanctuary and goes off to hang himself. The priests decide to use the money for something useful, and buys property.

What unites these stories is that Judas got money, and he died and a field was called the Field of Blood. Most likely, that's all that Matthew and Luke had heard about it, but Matthew's story was better written. It's a story that's not mentioned in Mark which as mentioned in my former post predated both and which they drew heavily upon. And further, none of the even earlier Pauline letters mention Judas by name while at least 1Cr 11:23 mentions the betrayal.

Regarding his betrayal of Jesus, there's another strange thing with him. When they come to arrest Jesus, Jesus says in Mark:
14:48 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?
14:49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.
By this time Jesus had become something of a celebrity as he had been teaching in the temple and stepped priests on their toes and frequently called them vipers while working on the Sabbath. Why else would they need to kill him? What Judas does, however, is to indicate to the soldiers who among them is Jesus:
Matthew: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
Mark: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.
Luke: he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
John: Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
It reminds me of the house search in Life of Brian where dimwitted soldiers can't find anything. Not even the most famous preacher in the region (if we are to believe Christians).
John's version is a little more realistic in that Judas had merely reported his whereabouts.

The conclusion?
Independent of eachother Matthew and Luke in Acts improved on the gospel of Mark by adding a well deserved death for Judas, and Mark himself improved on the original story by giving a name to the betrayer: Judas.

6 comments:

Helge said...

Good one

Kojudo Mayor said...

"If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him."

Voltaire

You fall in the same group of these:

You consider your self so open minded. In fact, you're so open minded that you're so close minded in your openmindness.

Atheism is a form of fundamentalism. Period.

Strappado said...

Kojudo Mayor, your comment fails to respond to the text in my blog post. Please do a search in the text to see if I ever made a remark regarding openmindedness.

KOSTAS said...

Hi, Strappado

and please forgive me any mistakes since I'm not a native speaker.
I recently came across your blog and found it really interesting,
especially the discussion about the death of Judas.

According to my opinion, when it comes to this matter, we should always bear the following in mind:

a. Being a native Greek speaker who is strongly involved in the ancient language, I consider it as highly unlikely - if not impossible - that «prenes» ever had either the meaning or the connotation of swealling up!
The word - which is still being used with the same meaning
in modern Greek - does NOT come from the verb «pimpremi» neither from any other word which could be connected to the greek root «pra» or the indoeuropean «*bher»(to boil forth, swell); it comes from the preposition «pro» (in front of) and «*anos / *enos» (face)
and means «with the face towards the ground, face-down, PRONE»,
so NOT (necessarily) «headlong, headfirst». The latter meaning is rather being described by the adverb «prenedon» which is of course also abstracted from
«prenes».

b. «Prenes genomenos» means «he came to fall with the face towards the ground», not «he swoll up» neither he «fell headfirst»

c. Taking all this into consideration, it ’s becoming
clear that it is certainly NOT impossible that the hanging down
body of Judas went after - NOT during! - the free fall into
the prone position. After hitting the ground with his feet, his torso could have easily bent towards the ground and crashed onto a sharp rock's edge that split open his stomach. Of course, things could have also happened
another way: You see, «prenes genomenos» does not exclude
the possibility that Judas may have just ... stumbled and fallen!
If that sharp rock or some forgotten agricultural tool just by accident happened to be in the wrong place, Judas would have died the same horrible death as he supposedly did!

d. As already mentioned, the participle «prenes genomenos» does not connotate a fall from hight,
which, by the way, another verb does: «katapipto» (to fall down, crash). It occurs for example in
Aristophanes' Birds, 840, refering to a fall from a ladder, in Clouds, 1273, for a fall from a donkey, in the Iliad, 12 (M),386, for a fall from a high tower or
in 1(A), 593, describing a free fall from ... heaven’s hights!

e. The claim that Matthew’s description of Judas’ death is
not exhaustive cannot be supported with facts. You see, the aorist «apenxato» describes beyond question the definite, absolute, irreversible ending by hanging.
Had the Evangelist written «ekremasato» (hanged himself or tied himself in a hanging position with a suicidal
purpose), then we would’nt be talking of a certain outcome: Judas might have survived! But as already said, the greek aorist is more than specific: It describes
the death by hanging, and NOT the act of hanging. The objection that in 2 Samuel 17:23 the very same aorist is followed by the phrase
«and died», which must mean that
«apenxato» does not suggest a successful hanging, but simply means «hung himself», is reasonable but it must be rejected. You see, the phrase
«and died» is NOT a clarifying addition. It is simply a pleonastic expression just like the pleonastic wording in Judges, 13:2, where we read that Manoah’s wife «was barren, and bare not»!
Not clear enough? No problem: In the very next passage the angel casts all doubts about the meaning of «barren» aside by repeating it: «Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not»!

f. If as many Christian apologetes claim, Judas actually
did hang himself from a tree on the edge of a ledge or hill or cliff, why on earth did’n he simply hurl himself off that ledge or cliff or hill instead of undergoing all that trouble?

Personally, though, I don’t
really believe that Judas actually ever hanged himself neither that he fell onto a sharp rock's edge that split open his stomach! In fact I am strongly tempted to assume that both versions were nothing more than the attempt to adjust the «evangelical facts» to
Wisdom 4:19 which says that God shall cast the ungodly down headlong and Sirach 10:9 (because while he liveth he [LXX: «I», that is God]casteth away his bowels).

Shimmy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shimmy said...

http://www.jba.gr/Articles/nkjv_jbaother3.htm

This website explains well about the fields of blood been different places and brought differently.

Also the Greek is indicative that he fell face down rather than head first, I don't need to go into detail as the guy before already has for you.

Have a good week.