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Biblical Questions
How Did Judas Die - Hanging or Falling? (Matthew 27:3-8 vs. Acts 1:16-19)

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The Dilemma
It is alleged that the bible contains two contradictory accounts of the death of Judas Iscariot. The verses of interest are found in Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:16-19. The former reads:
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!" Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood." And they consulted together and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. (Matthew 27:3-8, emphasis added)
The latter reads:
Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry." (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.). (Acts 1:16-19, emphasis added.)
Are these "accounts" contradictory?

For these two narratives to be contradictory, one would have to preclude the other. However, neither passage is exclusive of the other. Apparently, Judas went to hang himself after his thirty pieces of silver of remorse were rejected by the chief priests and elders. After hanging himself (presumably from a tree), his body apparently fell to the ground and burst open upon impact. Therefore, Judas hanged himself AND then fell to the ground from a high height, thus ironically inheriting / purchasing his burial plot by his iniquity (a figurative reference in Acts 1 to the fruit of his evil betrayal).

Whether Judas died during the hanging before he fell to the ground is uncertain, as neither text indicates the direct cause of death. The two accounts merely imply together that by the time Judas fell to the ground, he was disgracefully dead. If they both stated that Judas died by different means, then they would be contradictory; yet, this is not the case.

That the above is a reasonable harmony is strengthened by a consideration of the geography of the area of Judas' death. It is commonly believed that Judas died nearby a canyon that was surrounded by old dead trees. If Judas jumped from a dry tree after noosing his neck to a branch with rope, the branch could very easily have broken and allowed him to plunge to his death far below. One need not stretch the imagination too far to come up with similar plausible scenarios to allow for both texts to stand consistent with one another.

Another Problem?
Another question that has been raised with these verses regards who actually "purchased" the field: Judas or the chief priests and elders. Based on the texts, it would seem that the chief priests and elders literally purchased the plot of land, the "potter's field." It might also be inferred from Matthew's account, that Judas in a sense also literally purchased the land, since his thirty pieces of thrown-back silver went to the cause. However, it is more likely that Judas' "purchasing" of the field in Acts carries with it a bit of "irony." In fact, the "purchase" is implied in those verses as being figurative, as he purchased/inherited the land with the "wages of iniquity." Judas basically inherited that which was his due, although the literal payment was made first-hand by the chief priests and elders.
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