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Judas' Death

   The Word of God "supposedly" contains two records of the death of Judas Iscariot.  One record is in the Gospel of Matthew and would put the death of Judas before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  This contradicts other records in God's Word in which Judas is present after the resurrection of Jesus.  The second record is in the book of Acts and places the time of Judas' death shortly after the ascension of Jesus Christ and before the day of Pentecost.  A close study of the Gospel record reveals that it is not a description of the death of Judas.  Without this singular Gospel account in Matthew, the record of Judas' death in Acts is clearly a post ascension incident.

Matthew 27:3-5
   Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
   Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.  And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
   And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

   The Greek word translated "hanged himself" is the word apanchomai which is used in Greek literature to mean choking or squeezing one's self as with great emotion or grief.  In English we have a similar expression when we say that someone is "all choked up."  We do not mean that they have died.  We mean that they are overcome with emotion.  Judas cast down the pieces of silver in the temple and left doubling himself over with grief.  Perhaps Judas had hoped that his betrayal of Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver would result in action to re-establish the kingdom under leadership of the Christ.  When he saw that Jesus Christ was condemned to death he was overwhelmed with emotional hurt and he came and threw the thirty pieces of silver down in the temple and left doubled over with grief.

Matthew 27:6-8
   And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
   And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
   Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

   The chief priests did not want to put the money paid for the betrayal of Jesus back into the temple treasury as it was "blood money."  So they bought an "agros:" a field to bury strangers in.  Because blood money was used to purchase the field it was called "the field [agros] of blood."  This is different than the property [chorion] that Judas purchased himself referred to in Acts Chapter 1.

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.

   After Jesus Christ was raised from the dead he made a number of post resurrection appearances to the apostles and disciples.  He showed himself to eleven of the apostles after talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  The record in John tells us that the missing apostle at this meeting was Thomas - not Judas.  Judas was present after the resurrection of Christ and had opportunity to see and believe just as the others did.  1 Corinthians 15:5 and 7 confirm this truth.

1 Corinthians 15:5,7
   And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
   And after that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

   When the record in Matthew is understood as referring to being "choked with grief" as opposed to a record of the death of Judas, the rest of the Word of God is clear.  There is no "Gospel" record of his death.  Judas had witnessed the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and according to Acts 1:17 he was numbered with the apostles and had "obtained part of this ministry."  Judas had been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ and would have received the gift of holy spirit on the day of Pentecost just as the other apostles did.  The gift ministry of an apostle is, as are all gifts and callings of God, "without repentance" which means God does not take back a gift once given.  Judas was forgiven and given the opportunity to receive all that Jesus Christ made available.  He was with the apostles after the resurrection of Christ and, as we will see in Acts Chapter 1, up until the ascension of Christ.

Acts 1:1-3
   The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.
   Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
   To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
   And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

  Judas was one of the apostles whom Jesus Christ had chosen.  He was with the others during the forty days after the resurrection and before the ascension of Christ as we saw in 1 Corinthians 15 and he had seen the "infallible proofs."  He was with them here on the day of the ascension and he witnessed Jesus Christ "taken up."  All the pronouns ("them & they") used in this record refer back to the apostles whom he, Jesus Christ, had chosen which included Judas.

Acts 1:10-11a
   And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel:
   Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, . . .

   The record in God's Word pin points the time of the departure of Judas as being at the point where Jesus Christ ascended.  He was with the other apostles and received instructions to "wait for the promise of the Father" just as they had.  Then as the others stood looking steadfastly toward heaven, Judas left.  The record now changes and the message from the angels is directed toward "men of Galilee."  Eleven of the apostles were of Galilee.  Judas was the only "non-Galilean" among the twelve.  By changing from "the apostles whom he had chosen" in verse 2 to "men of Galilee" in verse 11, the Word of God tells us that Judas has left the scene.

   Now, during the ten days between the ascension of Jesus Christ and the day of Pentecost the eleven were living in an upper room as noted in Acts 1:13.  Each are listed and Judas is absent from the list.  Clearly he is no longer among the apostles.
   It is during this ten day period that Peter gets the believers together (about 120) and asks them to select a "replacement" for Judas.  This is highly significant.  If Judas had killed himself before the crucifixion, and if it was important for there to be twelve apostles to receive on Pentecost, then Jesus Christ himself would have selected the replacement for Judas during the forty days that he was with them between the resurrection and the ascension.  If it was not important for there to be twelve apostles on the day of Pentecost and the instruction to "wait for the promise of the Father" given by Jesus Christ on the day of the ascension had only been given to the eleven, then Peter would not have felt it necessary to replace Judas before receiving.  In fact, he would have been "waiting for the promise" before doing anything as Jesus Christ had instructed.  It is clear that Judas was numbered with them, had obtained part of this ministry, and was expected to receive on Pentecost.  It is only because Judas at this point kills himself that the other apostles feel it necessary to replace him before the promise arrives.

Acts 1:16-18
   Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
   For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
   Now this man purchased a field [property - chorion] with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

   Judas was numbered with the apostles and had obtained part of this ministry.  He was expected to be present on the day of Pentecost.
   Judas purchased a property [chorion] not a field [agros].  The chief priests had purchased the field in Matthew using the thirty pieces of silver they had taken from the temple treasury to pay Judas.  Judas himself purchased this property for himself with the "reward of iniquity."  John 12:6b - "he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein."  Judas was the treasurer for the apostles.  He kept the bag of money and he also was a thief.  He had been stealing from the apostles and used this money to buy his own property.  This is the "reward of iniquity" the Word of God is talking about - not the thirty pieces of silver.
   Following the ascension of Jesus Christ Judas was overwhelmed with internal turmoil and he killed himself by going to his own property and throwing himself upon a sword or sharp stake.  This was a common method of suicide.  He did not "hang himself" as some have gathered from the misunderstood record in Matthew.

Acts 1:19-22,25
   And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field [property - chorion] is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field [property - chorion] of blood.
   For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
   Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
   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. . . .
   That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

   The property which Judas had purchased and at which he had killed himself became known as the "property of blood" because Judas had gone "to his own place" to commit suicide and his blood was spilled there.  The field purchased by the chief priests in Matthew was known as "the field of blood" because it was purchased with blood money.  Although similar they are not the same places nor did they receive their "names" for the same reason.

   The criteria for replacing Judas was that the person had to have been with Jesus and the apostles from the Baptism of John until the day Jesus Christ ascended.  Here is one last indication that Judas was present at the ascension.

    When you closely study it, the Word of God fits together without contradiction.  Judas had been forgiven and obtained part of this ministry.  He would have received on the day of Pentecost along with the other apostles if he could have forgiven himself as Jesus Christ had forgiven him.  What a tremendous record of the grace and love of God and the inadequacy of man.

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© Copyright April 2000 Michael Cortright