ὅπως ἔλθῃ ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς πᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον ἐκχυνόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος Ἅβελ τοῦ δικαίου ἕως τοῦ αἵματος Ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ Βαραχίου ὃν ἐφονεύσατε μεταξὺ τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου TR, 1550
According to Constantin Tischendorf’s critical apparatus, the Codex Sinaiticus omits υἱοῦ Βαραχίου, but there are earlier witnesses who cite it, such as Irenaeus (~130-202 A.D.) and Origen (~182-254 A.D.).
Analysis of Names
The name Ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ Βαραχίου is entirely declined in the genitive case. The nominative form of Ζαχαρίου is Ζαχαρίας, which is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name זְכַרְיָה (Zekharyah)/ זְכַרְיָהוּ (Zekharyahu).1 As for the name Βαραχίου, its nominative form is Βαραχίας, which is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name בֶּרֶכְיָה (Berekhyah)/בֶּרֶכְיָהוּ (Berekhyahu).2 Therefore, in the Hebrew Tanakh, we would be looking for an individual named זְכַרְיָה בֶּן בֶּרֶכְיָה (Zekharyah ben Berekhyah), or in the Greek Septuagint, Ζαχαρίας υἱοῦ Βαραχίου.
It is commonly believed that the person killed in Matt. 23:35 is misidentified by either the Lord Jesus Christ or the evangelist, or perhaps even a later scribe. Rather than Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, some believe the actual person who was killed was Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (זְכַרְיָה בֶּן יְהוֹיָדָע), as this is the only Zechariah whose death matches the one mentioned in Matt. 23:35. For example, in 2 Chr. 24:20-22, it is written,
20 And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. 21 And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. 22 Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it. KJV, 1769
This individual’s name was Zekharyah (זְכַרְיָה), and he was killed (stoned) in the “house of Yahveh” (בֵּית יַהְוֶה) another name for the Temple (cp. 1 Kings 6:1). The difficulty with this belief is that this Zechariah (Zekharyah) was the son of Jehoiada (Yehoyada), not Berechiah (Berekhyah), therefore it doesn’t appear to be the same person.
Option 1: Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist
An alternative belief is that the Zechariah in Matt. 23:35 is the father of John the Baptist (cp. Luke 1:5).3 While the gospels never mention Zechariah’s father’s name, nor mention Zechariah being murdered in the Temple, some base their belief in this theory on a passage in the Gospel of James.4
But at the hour of the salutation the priests went away, and Zacharias did not come forth to meet them with a blessing, according to his custom. And the priests stood waiting for Zacharias to salute him at the prayer, and to glorify the Most High. And he still delaying, they were all afraid. But one of them ventured to go in, and he saw clotted blood beside the altar; and he heard a voice saying: Zacharias has been murdered, and his blood shall not be wiped up until his avenger come. And hearing this saying, he was afraid, and went out and told it to the priests. And they ventured in, and saw what had happened; and the fretwork of the temple made a wailing noise, and they rent their clothes from the top even to the bottom. And they found not his body, but they found his blood turned into stone. And they were afraid, and went out and reported to the people that Zacharias had been murdered. And all the tribes of the people heard, and mourned, and lamented for him three days and three nights. And after the three days, the priests consulted as to whom they should put in his place; and the lot fell upon Simeon. For it was he who had been warned by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death until he should see the Christ in the flesh. Translation by Roberts-Donaldson
Of course, the difficulty with this belief is the book itself is not canonical and essentially amounts to hearsay, although I believe the Greek Orthodox Church (and perhaps others) accepts the account therein.
Option 2: Zechariah, son of Baruch, in Josephus’ Wars of the Jews
Others believe that the person mentioned in Matt. 23:35 is “Zechariah, son of Baruch.” The Jewish historian Josephus mentions him in his Wars of the Jews.5
334 And now these zealots and Idumeans were quite weary of barely killing men, so they had the impudence of setting up fictitious tribunals and judicatures for that purpose; 335 and as they intended to have Zacharias, the son of Baruch, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain,—so what provoked them against him was, that hatred of wickedness and love of liberty which were so eminent in him: he was also a rich man, so that by taking him off, they did not only hope to seize his effects, but also to get rid of a man that had great power to destroy them. 336 So they called together, by a public proclamation, seventy of the principal men of the populace, for a show, as if they were real judges, while they had no proper authority. Before these was Zacharias accused of a design to betray their polity to the Romans, and having traitorously sent to Vespasian for that purpose. 337 Now there appeared no proof or sign of what he was accused; but they affirmed themselves that they were well persuaded that so it was, and desired that such their affirmation might be taken for sufficient evidence. 338 Now when Zacharias clearly saw that there was no way remaining for his escape from them, as having been treacherously called before them, and then put in prison, but not with any intention of a legal trial, he took great liberty of speech in that despair of life he was under. Accordingly he stood up, and laughed a their pretended accusation, and in a few words confuted the crimes laid to his charge; 339 after which he turned his speech to his accusers, and went over distinctly all their transgressions of the law, and made heavy lamentations upon the confusion they had brought public affairs to: 340 in the meantime the zealots grew tumultuous, and had much ado to abstain from drawing their swords, although they designed to preserve the appearance and show of judicature to the end. They were also desirous, on other accounts, to try the judges, whether they would be mindful of what was just at their own peril. 341 Now the seventy judges brought in their verdict, that the person accused was not guilty,—as choosing rather to die themselves with him, than to have his death laid at their doors; 342 hereupon there rose a great clamor of the zealots upon his acquittal, and they all had indignation at the judges, for not understanding that the authority that was given them was but in jest. 343 So two of the boldest of them fell upon Zacharias in the middle of the temple, and slew him; and as he fell down dead they bantered him, and said, “Thou hast also our verdict, and this will prove a more sure acquittal to thee than the other.” They also threw him down out of the temple immediately into the valley beneath it. Translation by William Whiston
The difficulty with this belief is that the Lord Jesus Christ likely spoke those words (which the evangelist Matthew later wrote in his gospel) around 30 A.D., give or take a few years. Referring to Zechariah son of Berechiah, the Lord Jesus Christ told the Jews, “...whom you killed...” (ὃν ἐφονεύσατε), past tense, referring to an event which had already happened. On the other hand, the Zechariah the son of Baruch mentioned by Josephus would have been killed approximately 35 years after the Lord Jesus Christ died. One last note is that the Greek name of the person mentioned above is Ζαχαρίας υἱὸς Βάρεις, which doesn’t exactly match the name of the person in Matt. 23:35 (i.e., Βαραχίου).
Option 3: Common Belief is the Authentic Meaning
So we return to Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (זְכַרְיָה בֶּן יְהוֹיָדָע), whose death was described in 2 Chr. 24:20-22. In the LXX, his father’s name is written (in the genitive) as Ιωδαε (2 Chr. 24:20). But, in Matt. 23:35, the father of Zechariah is written as Βαραχίου.
In the Targum of Lam. 2:20, it is written,
See, O’ Yahveh, and observe from heaven against whom you have turned. Thus is it right for the daughters of Israel to eat the fruit of their wombs due to starvation, the lovely boys wrapped in fine linen? The Attribute of Justice replied and thus said, “Is it right to kill priest and prophet in the temple of Yahveh, as when you killed Zechariah son of Iddo, the high priest and faithful prophet in the temple of Yahveh on the Day of Atonement because he admonished you not to do evil before Yahveh?”
חזי יהוה ותהי מסתכל מן שמיא למן אסתקיפתא כדנן אם חזי לבנתא דישראל למיכל פירי בטניהון עולימיא רגיגתא דהוו מלפפין בסדינין דמילתין ענת מידת דינא וכן אמרת אם חזי למקטל בבית מוקדשא דיהוה כהנא ונבייא כמה דקטלתון ית זכריה בר עדו כהנא רבא ונבייא מהימן בבית מוקדשא דיהוה ביומא דכפוריא על דאוכח יתכון דלא תעבדון דביש קדם יהוה
Now, one might think that this “Zechariah son of Iddo” (זכריה בר עדו) is the prophet Zechariah in Zec. 1:1. The Targum states that the people killed this high priest and prophet Zechariah son of Iddo on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). In his commentary on 2 Chr. 24:20 (recall that this is the verse that refers to Zechariah son of Jehoiada) Rashi wrote,
above the people - Higher than the people, in order to make his voice heard. In Lamentations Rabba (Eikha Rabbati), it is interpreted as meaning that he relied on himself; he was a prince higher than all the people, a prophet and a priest, and it was Yom Kippur, and he was the king’s son-in-law, and he was not afraid to say the prophecy. Concerning this incident, it was stated (Lam. 2:20): “shall priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of Yahveh?”
מעל לעם - גבוה מכל העם כדי להשמיע קולו, ובאיכה רבתי דורש סמך על עצמו שהיה שר גבוה מכל העם נביא וכהן וביום הכפורים וחתן המלך ולא נתיירא מלומר נבואה ועל זה נאמר (איכה ב') אם יהרג במקדש ה' כהן ונביא ובמותו אמר ירא ה' וידרוש כי לא הרגוני אלא שאמרתי שליחותו של מקום ומאחר שנהרגתי עליו מן הדין והגון וכדי הוא שידרוש דמי וכן היה כי מיד נדרש דמו כי לתקופת השנה וגו
So, it seems that maybe “Zechariah son of Iddo” could be another name for Zechariah son of Jehoiada. The prophet Zechariah (Zec. 1:1) was not the son-in-law of a king, but Zechariah son of Jehoiada certainly was (2 Chr. 22:11). This does not mean the prophet Zechariah (in the book of Zechariah) is Zechariah son of Jehoiada. They obviously lived in different times; so, this isn’t a possibility. Rather, there was obviously a tradition that Zechariah son of Jehoiada (זְכַרְיָה בֶּן יְהוֹיָדָע) was also named Zechariah son of Iddo (זְכַרְיָה בֶּן עִדֹּו).
Now we turn to Isa. 8:2, in which it is written,
And I shall take faithful witnesses to witness for Me, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.
Coincidentally, in the LXX, this “Zechariah son of Jeberechiah” has the same name as the Zechariah in Matt. 23:35.6
John Lightfoot wrote,7
the difficulty under our hand is resolved, as I imagine, very clearly: and I suppose that Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah in Isaiah is the very same with our Zacharias the son of Jehoiada; and that the sense of Isaiah comes to this: in that and the foregoing chapter there is a discourse of the future destruction of Damascus, Samaria, and Judea. For a confirmation of the truth of this prophecy, God makes use of a double testimony: first, he commands the prophet Isaiah to write, over and over again, in a great volume, from the beginning to the end, “To hasten the spoil, he hastened the prey”: and this volume should be an undoubted testimony to them, that God would certainly bring on and hasten the forementioned spoiling and destruction. “And moreover (saith God), I will raise up to myself two faithful martyrs,” (or witnesses,) who shall testify and seal the same thing with their words and with their blood, namely, Uriah the priest, who shall hereafter be crowned with martyrdom for this very thing, Jeremiah 26:20,23, and Zechariah the son of Barachiah, or Jehoiada, who is lately already crowned: he [Zechariah], the first martyr under the first Temple; this [Uriah], the last. Hear, thou Jew, who taxest Matthew in this place: your own authors assert, that Uriah the priest is to be understood by that Uriah who was killed by Jehoiakim; and that truly. We also assert, that Zechariah the son of Jehoiadah is to be understood by Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah; and that Matthew and Christ do not at all innovate in this name of Barachias, but did only pronounce the same things concerning the father of the martyr Zacharias, which God himself had pronounced before them by the prophet Isaiah.
John Lightfoot subsequently includes answers to questions which he pre-empts on account of his interpretation and resolution of the verse. The reader is encouraged to read further on p. 307-308.
Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged. Trans. Whiston, William. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987.
Lightfoot, John. Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae (Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations). Trans. Gandell, Robert. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1859.
1 cp. 2 Kings 15:8 LXX, where the Hebrew name זְכַרְיָהוּ (Zekharyahu) is translated into Greek as Ζαχαριας (Zacharias). To note, this is not the same individual mentioned in Matt. 23:35. It is only meant to demonstrate the Hebrew name of the person in Matt. 23:35, as it will obviously be necessary to investigate the Hebrew Tanakh and find such a person by the same name.
2 cp. 2 Chr. 28:12 LXX, where the Hebrew name בֶּרֶכְיָהוּ (Berekhyahu) is translated into Greek as Βαραχιας (Barachias). Again, this is only meant to demonstrate the Hebrew name of the person in Matt. 23:35, not to imply that they are the same person.
3 While the King James Version spells his name as “Zacharias,” the Greek name is Ζαχαρίας, the same name found in Matt. 23:35. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes the translators who produced the King James Version had a habit of transliterating the same Greek name differently into English for different individuals.
4 §24. Also known as the Protoevaneglium of James or the Infancy Gospel of James. This apocryphal book is dated to about 145 A.D.
5 Book 4, Ch. 5, §4, or Book 4, §334-343.
6 The LXX has Ζαχαριαν υἱὸν Βαραχιου, which of course, Ζαχαριαν is the accusative declension of Ζαχαριας.
7 p. 306-207