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Matthew 27 NIV

Judas Hangs Himself

1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. 6 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.” 7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 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.”[a]

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

One is naturally inclined to believe that Judas killed himself just prior to the Lord's crucifixion, going by this text.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul states the following:

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importancea : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

(Note: "the Twelve" is not capitalized in every translation)

Thus, we see that Paul is saying that Jesus appeared to the twelve after His resurrection. But that cannot be, as Matthew, as shown above, indicates or insinuates that Judas killed himself prior to the crucifixion; therefore, being a witness to the risen Christ would be an impossibility.

So, was Judas still part of the group when Jesus began to appear publicly following His resurrection or not? Did he die before or after the crucifixion/death/resurrection or some other time?

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Matthew 27:3 says that the impetus for Judas' suicide was seeing him be condemned, rather than seeing him being executed or anything else. Jesus' interactions with Pilate, including the possibility of his being freed, are narrated afterwards. Although the gospels do jump forwards and back in time, I take the explicit description of Judas' remorse being because Jesus was condemned as a clear indication that he killed himself before Jesus was executed.

1 Corinthians 15:5 uses the phrase "The Twelve" which was a title for the twelve apostles, and the title was used somewhat regardless of how many of them were still alive. We can see this most clearly by reading the very previous phrase!

While Judas may have been replaced by Matthias, Peter never was, and so although he is distinguished from the other twelve apostles in 1 Corinthians 15:5, that doesn't stop Paul from using the natural title The Twelve for the others.

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It appears that according to the gospels Judas was one of the eleven disciples that Jesus appeared to the day of his resurrection. Remember there was eleven because Thomas was not there the first time Jesus appeared unto them.

Matthew 28:16: Then >>the eleven disciples<< went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

Luke 24:33: And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found >>the eleven gathered together<<, and them that were with them,

John 20:24 But Thomas, >>one of the twelve<<, called Didymus, >>was not with them when Jesus came.<<

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In Mathew 28;16, the Holy spirit reminds us that Jesus had told his disciples to meet with him and they met after the resurrection and Judas was not there, most likely he had already committed swicide. Here the Holy spirit who inspired this writing make it clear that we see the absence of Judas by saying the eleven disciples

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THE TWELVE

"The twelve" is a reference to the eyewitnesses from the start of Christ's ministry at His baptism until His ascension. This is the definition of the twelve.

Acts 1:22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

Judas hadn't finished the course.

Acts 1:17 For he [Judas] was numbered with us [the eyewitnesses], and had obtained part of this ministry [the twelve].

But he killed himself before the ascension, thus disqualifying himself. Matthias then replaced him.

Acts 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

That group of eleven is thus still defined as "the twelve".

JUDAS

Mark 14:10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

John 6:71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

Before Christ's appearance to the twelve, Judas had hung himself upon finding out Christ was condemned.

Mt. 27:5 And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

Even though Judas is gone, but before Matthias replaces him, the twelve are still called the twelve.

MATTHIAS MAKES TWELVE

The twelve less Judas plus Matthias makes the twelve. Or in this next verse wherein Peter and the eleven stand making the twelve opens the door.

Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

Acts 6:12 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

So, Paul continues the natural identification of "the twelve" (those who were the eyewitnesses from baptism to ascension, even though one of the original called, though not completed, was gone, but was replaced with a like man).

1 Cor. 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

CONCLUSION

So, Judas kills himself before Christ's resurrection. The identification of "the twelve" is to the twelve eyewitnesses from Christ's baptism to ascension.

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It is true that whether Judas Iscariot killed himself (or died by misadventure: Acts 1:18) before or after the resurrection of Jesus, he would have been persona non grata among the remaining apostles, and it is inconceivable that Jesus would have appeared to the apostles with Judas present. The evidence of the gospels is that when Jesus appeared among them, there were only eleven apostles present. Whether or not Judas was already dead, he was not present when Jesus appeared.

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus does not appear to the apostles in Jerusalem, but in Galilee, and it is clear that he met only the remaining eleven:

Matthew 28:16: Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus appears to the apostles at a meal in Jerusalem, where again there were only eleven apostles present, joined by Cleopas and another, unnamed disciple:

Luke 24:33: And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them

On the other hand, Paul, who wrote some time before any of the gospels appeared, never mentions the name of Judas Iscariot or a betrayal by one of the disciples. John Shelby Spong says, in Jesus for the NonReligious, page 45, that Paul does not seem to have known that one of the twelve handed Jesus over. It has also been pointed out that the references in 1 Corinthians 5:5 to the appearance to "the twelve" and in 1 Corinthians 5:7 to "all the apostles" suggests that, for Paul, "the twelve" and "all the apostles" are two quite different groups.

The evidence of Paul's epistles does not tell us when Judas killed himself, but it does tell us that Paul knew nothing of help in answering that question. Matthew's Gospel tells us that Judas threw the blood money in the temple and went away and killed himself before the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but we should also look at the evidence of Acts:

Acts 1:18: 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.

It is inconceivable that Judas could receive his pieces of silver on the very day of the crucifixion, which fell before the Sabbath day, yet be able to buy and take possession of land in time for Jesus' resurrection on Sunday. In this account, by the author of Luke's Gospel, Judas was undoubtedly still alive when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room.

  • You can't conclude Paul didn't know something because he didn't mention it. – ThaddeusB Nov 10 '15 at 2:10
  • @ThaddeusB I spent the last half an hour looking for a reference I could cite. I found one from Bishop Spong and have updated my answer. So, this is no longer my own opinion, but the conclusion of a theologian. – Dick Harfield Nov 10 '15 at 2:41
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    Whether it is from you or Spong, it is equally a logical fallacy to say Paul didn't write about X in any letter, so we can conclude he didn't know anything about X. For example, Paul didn't write about his parents in any letter, but it would be absurd to conclude from that that he didn't know who his parents were. – ThaddeusB Nov 10 '15 at 3:42
  • In the first place, Judas would have decided to take the Jewish leaders for a ride, by taking the silver coins first and then ensuring that Jesus escaped from them by a miracle. He would have lingered around to see what was happening at the Pilate's palace. On seeing that Jesus was handed over for crucifixion, he felt let down by his own foolish plans, and decided to die. Had he waited to see Jesus after resurrection, he would not have chosen to die. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Nov 10 '15 at 9:20
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When you consider the relationship of Matt 27:5 and 27:6 things get interesting. If you want Judas to go and immediately hang himself in verse 5, then why did it take the priests so long to pick up the coins?

Verse 5 is not linear, else, verse 6 is out of joint. If verse 5 is not linear, then it simply states that those events happened, not necessarily when. So, Judas did not immediately kill himself, was alive and saw the resurrected Christ. Was offered a share in the ministry (see Acts 1:18-20).

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