QUESTION: Why is the Field of Blood so called? Don't Acts 1 and Matthew disagree?
Thanks for your time.
ANSWER: Several things in the Bible, including this example, don't necessarily contradict each other. Rather, they give information from two different viewpoints of two different people and thus, a second recounting of the same event often contains information either different or additional to the first accounting. This is common in the modern age, as well as in historical writings of the past.
Many times in the four gospels, for example, some words said by Jesus are reported by one author, while additional words in the same context and events are reported by another author. This doesn't represent contradiction but rather, it represents the recollections of different individuals. Many modern biographies contain information in one that is not included in the other, while in multiple biographies of MLK, John Kennedy and many other famous people of our time, often what they said and the general facts of a given situation are not exactly the same as told in different biographies.
This is because human beings, when recalling or otherwise relating a story, often omit some information while reporting other information based on their own personality, hearing, memory and preferences; various people perceive of and recall the same events differently than other people. This does not mean either one is fabricating a story but rather, it is because different people perceive of the same words and events in different ways. For example, if you and I were attending the same event where President Obama is speaking, you might write a story about this same event differently than I would. You might write about some things that happened while leaving other things out and, I might include some of the other things that you leave out, while not including some things that you write about.
People who are hung sometimes struggle considerably under their own weight for some time before dying. Judas could have hung himself from a high tree, a branch could have given way from him struggling under the weight and then he could have fallen down "headlong" with his insides bursting open after he fell, depending on how the branch gave way and how high he was from the ground. The account in Matthew simply says he hung himself. The rope he used or a branch of the tree he used could have broken under his weight, which then his body would have fallen down and then his entrails could have gushed out, as it says in Acts. If this story was commonly told among the early followers of Jesus, some may have heard he fell and his entrails gushed out, while others may have heard that he hung himself and, both of these could logically be true about the same event. The reason it is called the "Field of Blood" is because it is reported his body burst open and his insides gushed out.
As a modern example, a few years ago a large underground gas pipe burst in New York City and smoke started billowing high above the street. Because this happened shortly after 9/11, at first some people including network anchors initially thought the city might be under another terrorist attack. This occurred in the vicinity of where two different television networks have offices located and thus, two different network reporters were almost immediately at the scene. According to one reporter in real time as the event was unfolding, two people had already died and several had been taken to the hospital. While according to the other reporter from a different network reporting at the same time from the same real time event, no one had died and only two people were slightly injured. The reason I know about this is because I was watching TV and flipping channels at the time and, I heard these two conflicting accounts side by side reported a couple minutes apart from each other.
Modern trained reporters with cameras, computers and aids helping them, sometimes report very different information concerning the same event, even when it is unfolding right in front of their eyes. In this case, one reporter may have talked to a policeman who told him one thing, while the other reporter may have interviewed an emergency crew member who told him something else. It is not that either one was fabricating a story but rather, they either perceived the same event differently themselves or, they were given different information from two different sources. And both versions could have been true. For example, a police officer may have only known that two people were slightly injured, while an emergency crew member may have had access to more information and known that two had died and several were taken to the hospital. Although both versions seem to contradict each other, both versions could actually be true.
When various gospels and other writings in the New Testament have different versions of the same events, this does not mean they are made up stories or that they necessarily represent a contradiction, as I've tried to explain above. For example, the genealogy of Jesus in Luke appears to contradict the genealogy found in Matthew. However, historians are aware there was more than one method of tracing genealogies in the ancient world and, it has been demonstrated by scholars that both genealogies can be accurate as far as history knows, depending on which method the author was using--the same is true about various other seeming 'contradictions'; for example, Roman and Greek methods of keeping time were different than the Jewish method of keeping time. Some of the New Testament writings were written primarily for Jews and some were written primarily for Greeks and Romans and thus, this is why one author might choose to use a different method than another author for counting time. In the case of genealogies, there were at least two different methods used among by Jews, one method preferred by orthodox Jews and the other preferred by other less orthodox Jews--one method took into account brothers who raised up children for dying brothers, families with no surviving sons and foreigners coupled with Jews, while the other method ignores these and just passes over some along the family tree, as if they are not part of the genealogy. These are no more contradictions than saying military time contradicts the standard way of keeping time; in reality, they are just two different methods of tracking time.
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QUESTION: Thanks very much for your reply. It was very interesting,and I appreciate your time, but you didn't actually answer the question about the disagreement regarding the name.
In fact, what you do say seems completely illogical, and with all due respect, it casts into doubt the integrity of apologists. "If this story was commonly told among the early followers of Jesus, some may have heard he fell and his entrails gushed out, while others may have heard that he hung himself and, both of these could logically be true about the same event." No, if this story was commonly told, who would have told a story about a hanging gone wrong without mentioning the hanging? How does the story begin in mid-air after he hung himself and the rope/branch broke? Actually the story begins with the buying of the field, then he goes there and falls, with the central event of the hanging simply cut out of the story. NOBODY tells a story like that. And if he fell headfirst after the rope broke, could you please explain how that happened, other than that he hung himself by his feet? Aren't you just desperately trying to avoid admitting the obvious fact--there is an irreconcilable contradiction here?
In any case, what I asked about is the Field of Blood. As you say, "The reason it is called the "Field of Blood" is because it is reported his body burst open and his insides gushed out." Yet if you read Matthew, you will see that it is called that because of a completely different reason.
And of course in Acts, Judas falls in the field he had already purchased, yet in Matthew, he gives the money back and some time after his death, the priests buy the field.
Why can't Christians just be honest enough to say, "Ok, these versions cannot be reconciled; the Bible was written by men without divine guidance...at least not by a god who cared about facts."
ANSWER: You assume things about me that aren't true. I am one of the leading critics of Christianity and I am not trying to defend it, nor am I a biblical apologist, nor do I believe that God needs anybody to apologize for him. You seem to be on some mission to prove the Bible is wrong, which is a rather dubious and perilous undertaking for someone who isn't familiar with the historical and cultural reality of First Century Palestine.
You apparently misunderstand a few things about the historical cultural reality of the times. According to Matthew, Judas tries to give the money back to the priests but they refuse to accept it and so he throws it on the ground. Based on their culture, the priests would have viewed this money as belonging to Judas and not their money and they would have viewed it as being tainted and sinful because blood was shed because of how it was used. So, instead of putting the money in the temple treasury, the priests purchased a field with it to bury strangers, that is, they used it for charity rather than keeping it. The reason why the priests wouldn't have kept it for the temple treasury is because it was used to purchase the blood of Jesus and therefore, they would have viewed it as defiling the temple if they had kept it. So instead of keeping it, they used it for charity, to purchase a field to bury strangers. This is a common historical practice, for people to use tainted money for charity, rather than keeping it.
It was then called "the field of blood", because the money had been accepted by Judas to shed blood, that is, the money was tainted by the blood of Jesus, as well as the blood of Judas was shed in the field by his own hand--this makes historical sense, that the field was commonly seen as being cursed and thus, like it says in both Matthew and Acts, it became known as the field of blood. The field would have been viewed as being doubly cursed, because of both the blood of Jesus and the blood of Judas shed by his own hand.
In Acts, it says ". . . this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity. . ." This is correct from the view of a First Century Jew. The field was purchased by money that belonged to Judas and thus, Judas would have been viewed as the one who purchased the field, regardless of whether he did it himself or the priests did it using money that belonged to him. The buyer in their eyes and sometimes still today, is the person who the money belongs to. Sometimes even today, wealthy people hire other people to purchase property for them, yet it is the wealthy people who are the actual legal "purchasers" of the property; at art auctions for example, often a representative of a wealthy art collector is the one who actually purchases the art and yet, it is reported in the media that the collector himself, not the representative, is the one who purchased the art. In particular in the Jewish culture, because the priests didn't accept the money into the treasury, it would have been viewed as belonging to Judas and, not to the priests and therefore, it was Judas who was the purchaser of the field.
The money belonged to Judas, not to the priests, so it is reported accurately in Acts, that Judas was the purchaser of the field. Even if the priests were the ones who took the money and purchased the field, Judas would have been viewed as the purchaser, because it was his money and it did not belong to the priests--there is a very logical historical reason why they didn't just keep the money, because doing that to them would have been a grave sin, because the money had been used to shed the blood of Jesus.
Regarding the hanging of Judas, the Bible doesn't say how Judas was hanged, only that he hanged himself. As I noted in the previous email, it is realistically possible that Judas both hanged himself and fell headlong and then his guts opened. Neither Acts or Matthew describes how Judas hanged himself or how he fell headlong or from how high such a fall was and thus, we don't know. What is translated as "headlong" is rather ambiguous and could refer to falling head first. Someone hanging from a high tree, if the rope or a branch breaks, can cause the body to crash into a lower branch of the tree that twists them around so the rest of their fall is head first. People who hang themselves don't necessarily use a short rope or a short tree. One method of hanging one's self is to jump or dive head first from a bridge, cliff or high rock with a rope attached that is shorter than the fall. Judas may have hung himself by jumping headfirst from a high tree, cliff, rock or something else. Or he may have just fell "headlong" from a tree or cliff after attaching a rope to his neck. People in a suicidal state don't necessarily act very rationally.
As far as the actual story being passed around, in the First Century there was no paper, no pencils and most people didn't know how to write. Writing was a trade practiced by "scribes" and otherwise, few records were kept of common people, in particular of non-Roman common people. The "scribes and Pharisees" viewed Jesus as their enemy and would not logically have written down his life and teachings. The Romans didn't keep records of the words and deeds of common people they had subjected. Rather, keeping records of common conquered peoples was usually left up to their own leaders as they saw fit. There are many people for example, who were crucified by the Romans, while the Romans often made no record of who they were or when or why they were crucified. This is probably why there is little mention of Jesus outside of the four gospels themselves. It would be surprising if there were Jewish or Roman records outside of the Bible because the Romans didn't keep records of the lives of common conquered peoples and, the Jewish authorities viewed Jesus as their enemy and would not logically have kept a written record of his words and deeds. The gospels themselves report that his resurrection was deliberately hushed up by the Jewish authorities, which makes sense based on the story of Jesus, because he was viewed by the Jewish leaders as their enemy.
Thus, the words and deeds of Jesus were left for either his original followers or subsequent followers to record. It is very understandable, based on my own experience, that stories spread around often leave out parts while keeping other parts of the same story, depending on who is telling the story. For example, one person might say to a friend, "did you hear that Judas hanged himself?". And, another person might say, "did you hear that Judas fell headfirst into the field of blood and his guts gushed out?".
You seem to have a problem with the reality of First Century Palestine, a reality with no newspapers, reporters, pens, paper, handy reference volumes, electronic devices and other things we take for granted today. Most common people in that time didn't know how to either read or write. The four gospels, like historian Will Durant pointed out and like Albert Einstein also pointed out and like Thomas Jefferson also pointed out, represent the teachings of "a singular highly advanced mind", quoting Durant, who went on to say that Jesus was by far the smartest person in history and nobody else remotely comes close, which opinion is also shared by Einstein, Jefferson and many others. What is surprising is how much the Bible agrees with itself, based on the cultural reality of the times.
And finally, many 'scholars' today arbitrarily assume that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts, even though three of the four may well be. Luke doesn't claim to be written by an eyewitness, but the other three may well have been. Jesus was "about thirty" when he began to teach and, many of his followers were likely up to ten years or more younger than him. Several of them could have lived to longer than 90 AD (55-60 years after Jesus was crucified, making them 75-85 years old) and thus, it is very possible that Matthew, Mark and John are actual eyewitness accounts. So-called 'scholars' who pretend otherwise either don't know how to do basic math or as is more likely the case, they are fraudulently trying to discredit the Bible with no sound historical evidence or basis.
Nobody knows when the story of Jesus was first written down, but elements of the Jesus story are mentioned by Paul in First Corinthians, dated at 54 AD and considered authentic by virtually all scholars. Thus, it is well established that the story of Jesus existed in some form prior to 54 AD and most likely, prior to 49 AD when the first of Paul's letters is dated. Paul was a contemporary of Jesus in the same way I am a contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr.; I was born about 15 years after MLK and Paul was born about 15 years after Jesus. All four gospels and the rest of the New Testament writings make no effort to prove the existence of Jesus, which to any legitimate historian indicates the existence of Jesus was commonly known and common knowledge of his time, the same as today modern biographies of MLK make no effort to prove his existence, because MLK's existence is common knowledge to my generation. The fact the four gospels make no effort to prove the existence of Jesus alone overwhelmingly demonstrates that he did and, his teachings alone overwhelmingly demonstrate his teachings are authentic, as like Durant, Einstein and Jefferson agree, they are far superior to any other known historical mind. To pretend that common fisherman and farmers invented the words and deeds of Jesus, is to plainly lie.
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QUESTION: Thanks again. I disagree with what you say, and even argue that you are not making sense, but I do appreciate your input.
“You assume things about me that aren't true.” Sorry I made incorrect assumptions. You do seem to be in some sense a biblical apologist, even if you don’t like Christianity. I think the bible can be proved wrong, which may provide an escape hatch for those stuck in Christianity.
The story about the use of tainted money for buying a field is a red herring. It still comes back to the fact that one account says Judas died in the field he bought. The other says that he gave the money back, he went and hung himself, then the priests bought the field. I don’t have to be an expert in the culture to see that there is a contradiction here. Nor do I have to be an expert to see that you have changed your story. “Why was it called the Field of Blood?” Well, now instead of picking one reason or the other, you pick both! Now sure...that could happen, but the point is that the “inerrant” bible doesn’t say both. One version says one reason, the other version says the other reason. That is a contradiction you can’t fix by changing your story.
The examples you use of a person purchasing a field by proxy underscore the problem with the purchase story. Judas did NOT authorize the purchase of the field. In Matthew he was dead when the field was purchased and had no intent, directive, or even awareness of what was done. In Acts 1 he died in the field he had already purchased. If the field was purchased in his name after his death...then why say he was the purchaser? That is not how anybody tells a story and most importantly we get two completely different views of Judas. In one he is contrite, gives the money back, and kills himself in remorse. In the other, he uses his money to buy himself something and dies because of an accident. Thus you cannot deny that one version or the other is giving us some very wrong information about Judas.
Did the priests give Judas the money with the intent of getting Jesus killed? If so, why would they be too moral to take the money back?
“Someone hanging from a high tree, if the rope or a branch breaks, can cause the body to crash into a lower branch of the tree that twists them around so the rest of their fall is head first.” So it is important to say that the fall was headfirst, but not give the spectacularly unlikely reason why that happened? “One method of hanging one's self is to jump or dive head first from a bridge, cliff or high rock with a rope attached that is shorter than the fall.” At the end of such a fall, the body pivots over the neck and if the rope breaks, the body continues feet first.
As you say, the lack of contemporary records proves nothing, but “ the words and deeds of Jesus were left for either his original followers or subsequent followers to record.” So how reliable would they be?
You say, “One person might say to a friend, ‘did you hear that Judas hanged himself?’. And, another person might say, ‘did you hear that Judas fell headfirst into the field of blood and his guts gushed out?’". No. A story about a hanging always includes the hanging.
Some Jesus fans may say that “Jesus was by far the smartest person in history and nobody else remotely comes close.” Others would disagree that this is established by the evidence...and others would add that the evidence does not actually even establish that he existed. Maybe the woman who wrote the first draft of the story was the smart one, or the collector and conflator of stories about various smart people. “What is surprising is how much the Bible agrees with itself, based on the cultural reality of the times.” Ok, so I guess we agree that it was not written, or overseen by an inerrant god.
You wrote, “many 'scholars' today arbitrarily assume that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts, even though three of the four may well be.” Do you put scholars in quotes because you disagree with their research? “So-called 'scholars' who pretend otherwise either don't know how to do basic math or as is more likely the case, they are fraudulently trying to discredit the Bible with no sound historical evidence or basis.” No, I think it is probably a math problem...you know how schools are these days.
“Elements of the Jesus story are mentioned by Paul in First Corinthians, dated at 54 AD” Yeah... “elements.” Other elements are much older and associated with other characters. Virgin birth was hardly original.
“The fact the four gospels make no effort to prove the existence of Jesus alone overwhelmingly demonstrates that he did.” You do know that this theory proves that Harry Potter is real? “His teachings alone overwhelmingly demonstrate his teachings are authentic.” Why couldn’t the teachings be from another source? “To pretend that common fisherman and farmers invented the words and deeds of Jesus, is to plainly lie.” How is that? Was recycling an existing story about turning water into wine beyond the capacity of any storyteller living then? What are the words of Jesus that are so brilliant and which are necessarily the words of Jesus and not just an accumulation of existing philosophy put into the mouth of a fictional or composite character?
These objections to your thinking seem nakedly obvious, yet a smart guy like you just sees the emperor’s new clothes and even helps try to darn any holes that start to appear. I find this mysterious and fascinating and I wish you could tell me more about how that happens.
I clearly explained to you that in First Century Jewish culture, the person who actually owns the money was most likely viewed as the "purchaser". You are pretending that you can just yank a story out of First Century Palestine and it will match the culture of the 21st Century United States, which any and every historian knows is completely wrong. Very likely in the eyes of the Jewish author of Acts, Judas would have been the purchaser of the field because the money legally belonged to him and not to the priests, who refused to accept the money from Judas. You need to accept the well known fact that not every culture views things the same as our modern culture in the U.S. and even in our modern U.S. culture, wealthy people often have someone else who actually purchases stuff for them, yet they themselves are referred to as the buyer and owner in various contracts, even though they didn't literally buy the stuff themselves.
You are arguing against well known established facts that are still occurring in our own society and most likely have occurred in most all societies. As a different example, many ancient stories talk about a wealthy King doing something, when in fact he probably didn't personally do it but rather, a servant or military officer did the actual deed--many cultures have differences in how they customarily relate facts in a story based on their own customs and, you are pretending this is not true, even though any historian will verify that it is true. Just as in the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, which are quite different from each other. You can search Google and find scholars who have taken years tracing both of them using two distinct methods known to be in use by Jews in the First Century and, they are both accurate, depending on which method is used. I've researched this myself on the web, so I know the information can be found.
What you are doing is like trying to pick toothpicks out of a tree and then claiming there is something wrong with one of the toothpicks, which can easily be chalked up to translation error or cultural custom and language differences. It is not clear what the word "headlong" refers to in Acts, nor is it clear this is the best translation from Greek, which Acts was written in. Words in languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin and English often don't translate easily from one language to the other and, many words in every language have multiple meanings and thus, a translator is often left guessing which word and which meaning best fits. For example, the same Hebrew word translated as meaning the entire earth in the story of Noah, is translated as referring to the general region of Ur in the story of Abraham--the exact same Hebrew word. This is because the word in Hebrew has more than one meaning and thus, the KJV translator just arbitrarily chose one meaning over the other. It is well established there was a great flood in the greater Fertile Crescent region around the same time as Noah and thus, this story is accurate as far as history knows. Several cultures have a similar story of a man putting animals in a large boat to save them from this flood, thus making this very likely a true story--multiple cultures rarely if ever invent the same myth and thus, it is far more likely the story of Noah is based on a real person, rather than being a myth.
The Bible by and in large is accurate as far as I am aware. I am not a biblical apologist but rather, I try to go by the evidence. What an old book claims is just as likely to be true or even more likely to be true than what a modern book claims. What matters is what the evidence dictates, regardless of what book it is in or how old the book is.
You are correct, you don't have to agree with or answer to me. But we both have to answer to God and, you have to be honest regarding the known evidence, rather than in regards to either your prejudice or my prejudice. You have to consider the great many claims in the Bible that are known today to be accurate, rather than a few twigs that may be translation errors or differences in cultural customs. Here is a short list of a great many things the Bible claims that were unknown by scientists prior to the 20th Century:
1) According to both Jesus and modern behavioral science evidence, what causes greed, slavery, war and other human oppression arises from what is deep within all people. You must ask yourself fairly, how did Jesus know this when modern science didn't now this until after Freud and Jung?
2) God defines himself in the story of Moses as "I AM" and Jesus later said, "before Abraham was, I AM". This rationally explains our existence and the existence of the larger universal reality, whereas modern science can't rationally explain our existence in any other way. And, this remains the only known concept of God in the ancient world that remains rational and accurate today based on the current evidence. You must ask yourself how can this be if there is no God or if God is not behind the Bible?
3) The Bible refers to the "circle of the earth" long before the Greeks knew the earth is round and you must ask yourself, how can this be? The Bible says the stars are without number and compares them to the grains of sand on earth. A modern scientist recently stated that the number of stars are best described as being "beyond number" and, this is just the known universe. We have no idea how large the universe may be or how many other universes there may be. According to the Bible, there are multiple heavens--how did the Bible know what no scientist believed until the last half of the 20th Century?
4) The word translated in Genesis as "firmament" in Hebrew literally means "expansion". How did the author of Genesis know the universe is an expansion, which was unknown to science prior to the 20th Century?
5) According to Jesus, in the future the earth will lose a significant amount of green plant life, which is exactly what modern global warming computer models predict. How did Jesus know this 2000 years ago? Also according to Jesus, during this time human civilization will go through a worse time than any time previously in civilization history. This is what several modern scientists have stated, that the people on earth are heading for a worse time of anarchy, war, famine, disease and natural disaster than has ever been known previously, which is exactly what the book of Revelation likewise predicts.
6) According to the Bible, in the future a large object from space will strike the earth and a something like a large "burning mountain" will be cast into the sea. This will cause the sun, moon and stars to not give their light and a great famine on the earth and, will also cause many fresh water supplies to turn bitter. This is exactly what modern science believes, that both a large volcanic eruption and a large asteroid strike are overdue and could occur at any time and, if an asteroid strikes in the wrong place, it could pollute several large rivers that over a billion people depend on for water--a large volcanic eruption could cause a global nuclear winter, where light from the sun and stars is blocked out, which would cause a significant global famine, exactly as the Bible predicts. How does the Bible accurately predict what science didn't know until the 20th Century?
7) According to modern scientists, a certain type of black hole is located in dark regions of space where there are no stars and inside of this type of black hole is a large sea of fire containing the remnants of stars it has consumed. According to many different science sources, including both the Britannica and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, black holes are quite literally a "bottomless pit", their words, not mine. According to the Bible, God has prepared a place called "hell" that is located in outer darkness, is a bottomless pit from which no one can escape and, it contains a "lake of fire". How did the Bible describe a certain type of black hole exactly accurately when this particular type of black hole was unknown to science until after 1990?
8) According to both the Bible and modern science evidence since the decoding of the human genome, all Europeans alive today share a recent common ancestor no older than 1000 years ago and, all people alive on earth apparently share a recent common ancestor no older than 6,000 years ago and possibly considerably younger. The scientific evidence for this is linked at the link below.
There is a long list of other places where modern science and the Bible agree, which can be found at this link: http://freedomtracks.com/theory.html
In order to remain honest, you must ask yourself, how can this be if there is no God or, if God is not behind the Bible?