This is similar to another question "How did Judas Die", but is specifically addressing another aspect of the story.

In Matthew we have the priests purchasing the field:

Matthew 27:5-7 (NASB)

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.

And in Acts we have Judas purchasing it:

Acts 1:16-18 (NASB)

16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.

This seems a clear contradiction in the New Testament. What is going on here?


6 Answers 6


They both did - it just depends on perspective for application of the word "bought".

It was Judas' money, and it was the priests who used the money he returned to them to buy the field. They bought the field because they could not accept blood money and return it to the temple treasury.

In essence, the priests bought the field on behalf of Judas.

This is just like when my mother would give me money to go to the store to buy some groceries; we both bought the groceries - I did the physical act and she did through providing the financial resource (and, back in the day of single income families, so did my Dad in earning the income to begin with).


In many languages today there is the equivalent of the English word "acquire." In Russian "priobrel" means acquire - in contrast "buy" in Russian would be kupit.
In Azerbaijani language for "buy" we use a word "almaq" which has many meanings like buy, take, gain.

This word acquire in the original Greek does not necessarily mean that someone put down real money on the counter and got something in exchange for it. To make the long story short, the Scriptures show that the Priests bought it, and so Judas gained or acquired it.

Now what was Judas doing on that land?

He was angry with what happened, he understood how he was fooled by the Pharisees, and could not believe his foolishness. It happens to all of us. In the heat of our passions, envy or some other feelings we do something stupid, and then like in the Azeri saying -- let the earth swallow me -- feelings rush in. With that perspective, a very human reaction, Judas wanted to do two things on the land: 1. to kill himself; 2. to also disgrace the place Pharisees gave him, in an attempt to disgrace Pharisees too.


The ESV Study Bible includes this note about the purchase of the property in the Acts account:

That is, the field was acquired indirectly by Judas, through the agency of the chief priests. As Matt. 27:3–7 records, Judas brought the 30 pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders. The chief priests then purchased the potter’s field with Judas’s money, with the same effect as if Judas had himself made the purchase.

The verse in Matthew uses the word ἀγοράζω (transliterated agorazō, strongs #59) which is translated consistently as "buy" or "purchase" through 27 places in the NT. 3 more instances in Revelation are translated "redeem" or "ransom" which certainly carries the same general idea.

A further examination of the verse in Acts shows that the Greek word used is κτάομαι (transliterated ktaomai, strongs #2932). The other places it occurs in scripture are translated in the ESV as "acquire", "get", "gain", "obtain", "bought" and even "control". It seems quite likely that the word could be used for something acquired through a transaction in which you used your own money, but it quite often used for other ways of coming into possession or control.

It seems quite probably that the two verses can be indeed be reconciled as the note above suggests. The Chief Priests did the buying but somehow Judas came to use the land. Whether the Priests deeded it to him as part of the purchase or he was only squatting on it out of some morbid interest in seeing what happened to his money -- or some other explanation -- is not stated. There does not appear to be a real conflict between these two statements.

  • 4
    I am reminded of the expression "he bought the farm", which actually means someone died. The implication is that with the life insurance policy, a man's widow was able to pay off the farm. He bought it, even though he was dead.
    – Narnian
    Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 16:35

It is difficult to accept that contradictions can exist in the Bible, yet this is one of them. Raymond E. Brown says, in An Introduction to the New Testament, page 114, that Luke's account of the death of Judas in Acts 1:18-19 is scarcely reconcilable with that in Matthew 27:3-10. If they can not be reconciled then one or both accounts are not really historical and it then becomes a moot point whether we choose to say that the priests bought the field of blood, Judas bought the field, or even blend them in a rather implausible combination.

The two important discrepancies between the two accounts are: (1) Judas threw the money down in the Temple and the priests bought the field of blood, OR Judas, no doubt pleased by his sudden wealth, went himself and bought the field of blood (and was clearly not suicidal); and (2) Judas committed suicide, OR Judas fell down and died (by misadventure?). Various attempts to resolve one discrepancy by means of semantics still fail to resolve the other, and it is only if both discrepancies are truly resolved that we can say that both New Testaments passages are historical.

Matthew's account has more parallels to various Old Testament passages, so it is only in Matthew's account that we learn that Judas received thirty pieces of silver. John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Nonreligious, points out that Judas is a variant of Judah, and that in Genesis 37:26-28, it was Judah who sought money and received 20 pieces of silver; in Zechariah 11:12-13 the king was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, which he hurled back into the temple just as Judas did in Matthew; in 2 Samuel 17:23 Ahithophel hanged himself when his betrayal of King David was discovered, just as Judas did in Matthew as an act of repentance.

The author of Acts does not let Judas off the hook by repenting, so Judas has all this money and uses it as he would have intended to do, buying a field, but is not allowed to enjoy his sudden wealth. No sooner are we told of his purchase of the field of blood, than we are told he suffered the most satisfyingly disgusting death possible, with his bowels gushing out. This brings to mind Acts 12:23, where Herod died a somewhat similar and equally disgusting death.

This seems a clear contradiction in the New Testament. What is going on here?

A clear contradiction does exist, to such an extent that the two accounts can not be reconciled. This means that at least one account can not be historically true, but it is also possible that neither account is entirely true.

Matthew's account relies too much on the Old Testament to be plausible and so should be rejected as being a creation of the evangelist. The account in Acts is both biologically improbable - having Judas bowels literally gushing out after a fall - and too similar to the story of Herod's death in Acts 12:23, by the same author. This account should also be rejected, giving us a draw between the two stories.

Historically, there was no field of blood purchased either by the priests or by Judas. The name 'field of blood' is one of the few points common to the accounts in Acts and Matthew, but this comes from the Old Testament and has different connotations in each account, with Matthew suggesting it is because the field was purchased with the price of blood and Acts following it from Judas' bowels gushing out.

  • I think you've made a great post here, but reject the two stories a little too quickly, seemingly calling the false wholesale. There are similarities between them. 1) Judas dies shortly after receiving his money. 2) His money was used to purchase a field.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 7:22
  • @fredsbend Thanks for your first comment, which is appreciated. In respect to the second, I defend my conclusion: First because this is clearly the view of so many scholars, so I am not alone. Second because similarities,such as they are, can be explained by OT sources and hypothetical traditions existing even before Matthew. Third, similarities must be balanced against differences: the differences win hands down because they are more numerous and, I believe, more striking than the similarities. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:30
  • @fredsbend (cont) Of the 2 similarities you mention, Judas' death was a given - he could not be allowed to appear to profit by his crime, so had to die and quickly. Also, his death had to be repugnant - either suicide (Matt) or physically repulsive (Acts). The purchase of a field is the only similarity that need explaining, and it is explained from the OT. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:34
  • So do you believe the whole betrayal, the silver, Judas, etc. is a fabrication? Jesus was not betrayed, but rather was simply arrested?
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:36
  • @fredsbend It is not necessary to believe that any of those things are a fabrication in order to see problems with the death of Judas. It was common practice among early historians to 'fill in the gaps' when their knowledge of events was incomplete. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:41

Judas Iscariot realized his wrong deed after Jesus Christ was sentenced to death. He got so disappointed that he decided to return the money in frustration. However, it was rejected by the chief priest. Therefore he threw the money and then the chief priest and his team bought the porter's field. Judah Iscariot committed suicide. Therefore, it was Judah who bought the piece of land from the proceeds of his sin.

  • 1
    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview of what this site is about, please take the Site Tour. Though your answer does address the question, as it stands it reads as your opinion, since there are no references to the Bible or biblical scholars to back it up. See: What makes a good supported answer? If you could provide some such references, your answer would be much stronger. Meanwhile, I do hope you'll stick around. Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 20:33

Historically referring ,A field was bought of a price and it was the tradition of the people to bury strangers in such plots, therby when Judas threw the money and went out , the high priests and co. couldn't add the money to the treasury therefore they reconstituted to the excuse of using the money of the usurper for a good cause (bought the piece of land and named it after Judas)..this was indigestible by Judas who was bitterly disappointed by his role in the Messiahs death..(I point out that judas was earlier a leader of a terrorist organization aimed in overthrowing the caeser dominion ) hence the bowels gushing out phrase ...then being unable to carry the burden , he commits suicide ..this is the only plausible event that reconsilates both the matthew and the acts writing.)


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