Hmm perplexing..



Categories: Bible, Jesus

15 replies

  1. And the “apocryphal” gospels of Judas said that Judas was crucified instead of Jesus. Also the “apocyphal” Apocalypse of Peter indirectly says the wicked was killed instead of Jesus.

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  2. And there is even this imaginative speculation.

    No wonder God says “….And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except speculation…..” (4:157). I used the word “speculation”

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  3. I.

    It is hard to reconcile a death from hanging with someone’s insides bursting open. I don’t see how hanging would result in the latter.

    The Wikipedia article on Judas Iscariot says:

    The existence of conflicting accounts of the death of Judas has caused problems for scholars who have seen them as threatening the reliability of Scripture.[20] This problem was one of the points leading C. S. Lewis, for example, to reject the view “that every statement in Scripture must be historical truth”.[21]

    Various attempts at harmonization have been suggested. Generally they have followed literal interpretations such as that of Augustine, which suggest that these simply describe different aspects of the same event – that Judas hanged himself in the field, and the rope eventually snapped and the fall burst his body open,[20][22] or that the accounts of Acts and Matthew refer to two different transactions.[23] Some have taken the descriptions as figurative: that the “falling prostrate” was Judas in anguish,[24] and the “bursting out of the bowels” is pouring out emotion.

    I honestly don’t see the point though. It does not seem fundamental to “Christian” theology.

    I would focus more on what Paul said as a polemic since Muslim apologists/polemists typically emphasize the differences between the Gospels and Pauline (and the deutero-Pauline) writings. I looked up the most obvious place where Paul would say that Jesus (saws) appeared to the Twelve (1 Corinthians 15) and he does say in in verse 5. This provides some evidence that Paul did not know much about the life of Jesus, including important parts about how he was betrayed.

    The fact that Matthew said “twelve” does not necessarily indict the Gospels for error.

    The context of Matthew is the same as in Mark, and the text is very similar showing that Matthew was using the text of Mark. However, this verse is an addition. In the Messianic age, Jesus will be sitting on the throne in his glory, and so will the disciples, all twelve of them! These twelve will then judge the twelve tribes of Israel. It is not certain whether Matthew made a blunder and forgot about the betrayal of Judas and thus perhaps should have spoken of eleven disciples sitting on eleven thrones. However, it is more likely that twelve was used for rhetorical purposes, as twelve disciples sitting on twelve thrones to judge twelve tribes sounds a lot better than eleven.

    It is more smoother to say twelve than for Jesus (saws) to bring up the prospect of his betrayal.


    Off topic:

    How did Paul know the words of the Last Supper. Were those words circulating around in the early practices of Christians?

    23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

    1 Corinthians 11

    Perhaps the synoptics were edited to conform to the epistles. But for whatever reason it does match.


  4. It is worth noting that while the Bible says Judas hanged himself as well as that he burst open, it does not say he died from that bursting. In other words, it is entirely possible that his body burst open after he died. Ergo, there is no explicit contradiction regarding how he died.

    While this was not touched on in the image, it may be worth noting that the text in Acts doesn’t require that he “fell headlong”. πρηνης γενομενος can be understood along the lines of “having become prostrate” (i.e. his body winding up facedown). γενομενος (which is to say an aorist participle of γινομαι, in the nominative case) can mean “having become” or even “was made”. πρηνης can mean to be laying facedown, or on one’s front. Ergo, the phrase in Acts can apply even to a case of people taking him down and laying him in a field, face down.

    Also interesting, the entry for πρανης in Liddell-Scott-Jones’ Lexicon (emphasis on Jones) connects πρηνης γενομενος with “becoming distended”. That certainly has the potential to put a rather different spin on the verse…

    [Source: Henry George Liddell, Robert Scoot, & Henry Stuart Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon, (Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 1459.]

    To touch on one other thing not brought up in the image, but which does come up in discussions on whether Acts 1 contradicts Matthew 27 regarding Judas, there is the question of the money and the field. Personally, I think 2 Peter 2:13 may provide a key to understanding Acts 1:18. That verse in Acts states that Judas acquired the field with the reward for his wickedness. That seems, at first glance, to be a reference to the coins, but it is interesting that the text does not explicitly refer to money or coins.

    The Greek text of Acts 1:18 states that Judas acquired the field from μισθου της αδικιας. The Greek text of 2 Peter 2:13 employs an almost identical phrase: μισθον αδικιας. The preceding verse states that the relevant blasphemers will die, and it is then that it is stated that they will receive the reward for their wickedness. So, perhaps based on that, we can conclude that the reward for Judas’ wickedness is not a reference to the thirty coins he got from the priests, but rather the brutal end which he met. In other words, imagine a scenario as follows: after Judas commits suicide, men angry with him toss his rotting corpse into the relevant field (a cemetary for non-Jews), where his broken body bursts open (either from the tossing or during the rotting process). Thus via such a disgraceful fate, he acquired the field in the sense that it became attached to him in the minds of those who saw or heard what happened.

    [On an interesting side note, the Greek verb used in Acts 1:18 to refer to Judas acquiring the field is also used in the Septuagint version of Isaiah 57:13 when it speaks of those who remember the LORD GOD receiving the Holy Land (to be contrasted with the wicked, who are blown away and scattered to foreign lands).]

    Getting back to the image, Jesus appearing to “the twelve” could be a figure of speech referring to the group, irrespective of precise number of members present. Another possibility is that a person who would take Judas’ episcopal position was there (even if had not yet officially taken the position yet). This also can apply to the line about the disciples being on thrones (Judas may be replaced on the throne by a person who took over his episcopal office).

    Now that I think about it, perhaps this comment could have been a blog entry unto itself…


    • Denis do you admit the possibility that the Bible might contain errors and


    • Br. Paul,
      You might find the answer for your question in this passage
      “ the twelve” could be a figure of speech referring to the group, irrespective of precise number of members present. Another possibility is that a person who would take Judas’ episcopal position was there (even if had not yet officially taken the position yet). ” !!!


    • Sure, Paul, in an a priori sense, it is certainly possible for there to be errors and contradictions in the Bible. Though, over the years, I have seen lots of difficulties in the Bible fade away upon further study and closer examination, so I know that if a person does not presently know how to explain or reconcile a certain text (or texts), the matter need not end there.

      But I wish to ask: how is that relevant to what I wrote? Shouldn’t my argument be examined on its own merits, irrespective of whether I am an inerrantist or even a believer in the Bible at all? Honestly, even if I were an atheist, I could take the position that Acts 1 does not contradict Matthew 27 on the death of Judas, as that is a question of logic.

      Now, permit me to ask you, Paul, what are your thoughts on what I wrote above? Can we agree, for example, that πρηνης γενομενος ελακησεν μεσος need not be understood as describing how he died, but rather could refer to events after his death?


    • I just want to press you further on this question. Do you accept (or not) that there are actual errors and contradictions in the Bible?


    • Greetings again, Paul.

      Permit me to first give a formal logical definition of “contradiction” (as it is what I have held to since I was an atheist, and thus my position on current contradictions in the Bible is honestly only slightly more conservative than the position I held to before becoming a theist, much less a Christian).

        Two (or more) propositions constitute a contradiction if, and only if, it is impossible for both (or all) to be true simultaneously.

      Even before I was a theist, I became unimpressed with arguments about errors in religious texts, because religious texts are often three dimensional, and potentially metaphorical at every turn, thus nailing down precise referents can be nigh impossible due to the fluidity of meanings held to from one reader to the next.

      So, to answer your question, I, personally, cannot think of an actual contradiction or error in the Bible (and, in case you’re wondering, yes, I would identify as a sort of Biblical inerrantist). The closest thing that comes to mind is I’m open to there being scribal errors in the Masoretic Text (e.g. for precise number amounts).

      Now tell me, Paul, are you asking questions yet not answering any? I ask because I would like to get your thoughts on my original post. For example, can we agree that πρηνης γενομενος ελακησεν μεσος (in Acts 1:18) need not be understood as describing how Judas died, but rather could refer to events after his death?


    • Let’s not change the subject quite yet. Your belief in biblical inerrancy is a dogmatic presupposition, rather than a conclusion reached after examining the Bible correct?
      I am aware of numerous numerical contradictions, scientific errors, archaeological facts that contradict certain biblical accounts and so forth.

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    • Greetings again, Paul

      Regarding changing the subject, to be fair, was not the original subject whether Acts and Matthew contradict on how Judas died? The question of whether I am an inerrantist is a change in subject, is it not? It seems obvious that the question of whether Acts and Matthew contradict is irrelevant to whether I am an interrantist, as the question is a logical one, and thus the answer should be the same regardless of whether I am an inerrantist or not, or a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu, or a theist or an atheist, or regardless of whether I even exist!

      As for my position on inerrancy, indeed, it was initially more of a leap of faith I was willing to take. Nonetheless, both before and after that leap of faith, I had found that many charges of contradiction which I have examined faded away upon closer inspection.

      Now, you said you are aware of numerous contradictions. In an attempt to bring us back to the original subject, permit me to ask: do you consider Matthew 27:5-8 and Acts 1:18-19 as an example of such (e.g. on how Judas died, or what happened to the money, et cetera)?

      As for scientific errors, that’s a subject of interest of mine. If you’d like to share an example, I’d be willing to discuss it with you, if possible (though I ask that we start with one example, perhaps one you consider particularly egregious).


  5. I.

    Denis, I would say that the accounts of Matthew and Acts on the death of Judas do not necessarily contradict each other. However, it does not seem that the accounts are based upon the authors (or people known by the authors) being witnesses to the event in question.

    Yes, the Bible can certainly use allegories and embellishment to convey some theological point. But it seems that the means of Judah’s death and the fate of his body are supposed to be matter of fact accounts of how he died as opposed to conveying something of theological substance. Perceived contradictions does not necessarily undermine the fundamental theological message being conveyed by religious scripture.

    You said this:

    Yes, unequivocally, I take it
    for granted that the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John were uttered by Jesus. This would be a faith based position.

    Now, you may wonder why I don’t side with the opinions of various scholars who think otherwise. As you may recall from previous correspondences (whether recently on this blog or from years ago on FaceBook), I don’t believe there is a sound methodology for actually demonstrating any given statement in John was not uttered by Jesus. And, just to be clear, while I enjoy reading critical scholarship, I’m more interested in actual arguments than mere appeals to scholarly opinions.

    It is obvious that the synoptics and John differ in their accounts of the post-resurrection appearances. The synoptics claim that Jesus, sallahu alayhi wa salaam, appeared to eleven disciples, while in John, Didymus was written out. One explanation was that John writes him out in order to demonstrate a theological point. Some Christians bring up John 20:27 as a demonstrate that Jesus regards himself as God, since he does not rebuke Thomas. Since that was a further addition to support whatever theological point that John was trying to promote, one cannot claim that this particular event happened or at least the Gospel of John is reliable.

    In 42:00, Shabir Ally mentions this:


    I don’t understand how being hanged to death would result in one’s guts spilling out.

    III. 6 more minutes Blake Bortles, six more minutes. I wonder if that Pats would lose.


    • Greetings Latias

        Latias wrote:
        «I would say that the accounts of Matthew and Acts on the death of Judas do not necessarily contradict each other.»

      Thank you. We are in agreement on this.

        Latias wrote:
        «However, it does not seem that the accounts are based upon the authors (or people known by the authors) being witnesses to the event in question.»

      I’m not sure how we would determine this for Matthew. The portion in Luke can be understood as just reporting what Peter heard from others (though I know some treat verse 18 as a parenthetical thought of sorts, interrupting Peter’s statement). Either way, whether or not the men writing such words down actually saw such is not a major concern of mine, personally. [For an analogy, Matthew and Luke both affirm the Virgin Birth, but I don’t believe either author knew Mary before Jesus was born, much less were present when Jesus was born; rather, the faith-based acceptance of their claims about such are rooted in the belief that such texts are inspired Scripture.]

        Latias wrote:
        «Yes, the Bible can certainly use allegories and embellishment to convey some theological point. But it seems that the means of Judah’s death and the fate of his body are supposed to be matter of fact accounts»

      Agreed. Just to be clear, when I referred to religious texts as often being often three dimensional, and potentially metaphorical at every turn, I was speaking generally, not in reference to much to the texts about Judas in Matthew 27 and Acts 1, specifically.

      If it’s okay, I’d like to respond to the stuff on John in the other thread, where that was brought up (though I’ll be sure to link back to your post, here, when doing so).

        Latias wrote:
        «I don’t understand how being hanged to death would result in one’s guts spilling out.»

      It wouldn’t necessarily. Moreover, I don’t think the relevant bursting happened during the hanging; rather, as I alluded to in a previous comment on this blog entry, I would read the text as meaning that he became or was made prostrate (i.e. wound up laying on his face, perhaps due to someone else placing him there). Whatever the case, during the putrefaction process, bodies do sometimes burst. Consider, for example, the following (emphasis added by me):

        Putrefaction is associated with a marked shift from aerobic bacterial species, which require oxygen to grow, to anaerobic ones, which do not. These then feed on the body tissues, fermenting the sugars in them to produce gaseous by-products such as methane, hydrogen sulphide and ammonia, which accumulate within the body, inflating (or ‘bloating’) the abdomen and sometimes other body parts, too.


        As the gas pressure continues to build up inside the body, it causes blisters to appear all over the skin surface, and then loosening, followed by ‘slippage,’ of large sheets of skin, which remain barely attached to the deteriorating frame underneath. Eventually, the gases and liquefied tissues purge from the body, usually leaking from the anus and other orifices, and often also from ripped skin in other parts of the body. Sometimes, the pressure is so great that the abdomen bursts open.

      [There’s also a particularly graphic video of such happening to a whale.]

      Even without such information, we could imagine God simply caused his body to burst, or a stab wound from some angry person helped it along, or it happened during a particularly rough placing (or tossing?) of the rotting corpses into the field, et cetera… In short, we don’t know what, precisely, caused the bursting, but it is not implausible.



  1. Hmm perplexing.. | kokicat

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