13. Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, 26:1-28:20
vii] Judas commits suicideSynopsis
In a short note, Matthew mentions the gathering of the Sanhedrin to ratify the decision to have Jesus executed, followed by the transfer of Jesus to the secular authorities. Matthew then records the response of Judas to the morning's events. First, Judas recognizes his sin and attempts to return the thirty pieces of silver because he has "betrayed innocent blood." The religious authorities want nothing of it and so Judas throws the silver at them and goes out and hangs himself. The chief priest then, in fulfillment of prophecy, collect the money and with it buy a field to burry foreigners.
For the hopeless there always remains hope.
i] Context: See 26:1-16.
ii] Background: The Roman governor of Judea, Samaria and Idumea at the time of Jesus' trial and crucifixion was Pontus Pilate. He was the fifth Procurator, and served from AD 26 to 36. Records of the time imply that he was corrupt, and that he lacked any consideration for Jewish sensibilities. From the moment of his appointment, he had the local population offside.
iii] Structure: Judas Commits Suicide:
Jesus is delivered to Pilate, v1-2;
Blood Acre, v3-10:
Judas' remorse, v3-5;
The purchase of Blood Acre, v6-8;
Prophetic allusions, v9-10.
The pre-trial investigation led by Caiaphas the high priest in the home of Anna (so John) has concluded and so Jesus is led away to stand before a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin in the temple complex. The charge of blasphemy stands as the primary charge against Jesus, but it is not going to carry much weight with the secular authorities. So, it was necessary to develop a case of sedition against Jesus. Luke tells us that they came up with a threefold charge against Jesus: seditious teaching, opposition to taxation, and a claim to temporal authority - kingship. Having assembled the charges against Jesus, the religious authorities send Jesus bound to Pilate the governor.
When Judas hears what has happened, he metamelhqeiV, "repents", or as the NIV has it, "was seized with remorse." The sense of the word here is a matter of some debate. The word is not as strong as metanoew, "to repent", but Judas does act as if he has recognized the gravity of his sinful behavior, and this because he returns the money and publicly announces that he has "betrayed innocent blood." We know that Judas loved money because he helped himself to the common purse, so returning it is not done lightly. In fact, when the chief priests and elders declare the matter closed, he rJiyaV, "hurls" the money eiV ton naon, "into the temple." Matthew has used a very strong verb to describe Judas' actions. So, the actions of Judas do seem like those of a repentant person. He then goes out and hangs himself. Given the gravity of the offense, it is not hard to understand his motivations. How could any person live with the burden of such betrayal?
The religious authorities don't let the silver go to waste. Having just presided over a travesty of justice, their religious sensibilities don't let them put this "blood money" into the temple treasury. So, it is used to purchase the Potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. Matthew tells us that, given its association with Judas' betrayal, it was soon called in Arimaic Hakeldama, "Field of Blood / Blood Acre." Matthew goes on to point out that this serves to fulfill a prophecy by Jeremiah, although the text is more like Zechariah 11:12-13 with allusions to Jeremiah 18:2-3, 32:6-15. What we actually have is a collection of elements from the prophets which are fulfilled by the actions of Judas, eg., Jeremiah is told to go to the potter's house, then later to buy a field. In Zechariah, the prophet is paid 30 pieces of silver and later throws it into the temple. All serve as prompts to the fulfillment of prophecy. As Mounce notes, it is "a method of exegesis that falls strangely on the ears of a modern interpreter."
Matthew tells us that Judas hung himself, while Luke tells us that he fell face down on the ground and his intestines spilled out, Acts 1:18. Both accounts mention the purchase of "Blood Acre" with the 30 pieces of silver. Harmonizing the two accounts is a little difficult, but it is generally argued that Judas hung himself and in the process his body fell to the ground and he was disemboweled. As a matter of interest, the account of Judas' death by Papias has a wagon running over him (so Judas hung himself, but the rope broke and he fell to the ground and was disemboweled when a wagon accidentally ran over him? We might call this a bad hair day, a day when everything goes wrong!!!). This is one of those occasion when it is hard to argue that either Matthew used Luke (Acts 1:18-19), or Luke used Matthew. Both seem to be working off an independent tradition, probably oral, with the prophetic allusions attaching to the tradition over time (rather than the story developing around the prophetic allusions). Matthew's record of the tradition adds the following elements:
Driven by metamelhqeiV, "repentance / remorse", Judas returns the thirty pieces of silver;
The weight of his crime ("I have betrayed innocent blood") drives Judas to hang himself;
Blood Acre is purchased by the religious officials from the 30 pieces of silver (Luke has Judas purchasing the field);
Blood Acre is originally known as "the Potter's Field";
The field is purchased for use as a cemetery for foreigners.
Text - 27:1
i] Jesus is delivered to Pilate, v1-2. The legal proceedings by which Jesus is condemned are not overly clear. Mark 15:1 seems to be a recapitulation of the legal proceedings against Jesus rather than a second trial, but Matthew 27:1 can be read as a reference to a formal convening of the Sanhedrin to confirm the findings of the pre-trial investigation held by Caiaphas the high priest; contra D&A who think it is "the continuation of 26:68", so also Brown in Death of the Messiah. This meeting is probably legal, according Mishnaic regulations, as long as the pre-trial is not regarded as a formal gathering of the Sanhedrin - meetings must be a day apart.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative / a new paragraph.
genomenhV (ginomai) gen. aor. mid. part. "[early] in [the morning]" - [early morning] becoming. The genitive participle, with the genitive noun "early morning", forms a genitive absolute construction, best treated as temporal; "When morning came", ESV. The noun "early morning" here probably means "dawn, daylight"
tou laou (oV) gen. "[the elders] of the people" - [all the chief priests and the elders] of the people. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "the elders who ruled over the people."
kata + gen. "-" - [took counsel] against [jesus]. Here expressing opposition.
wJste + inf. "to [have Jesus executed]" - in order to [to put to death him]. This construction servers to introduce a final clause expressing purpose; "so as to have him put to death."
dhsanteV (dew) aor. part. "they bound [him]" - [and] having bound [him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to lead away"; "they bound him and led him away", ESV.
Pilatw/ (oV) "to Pilate" - [they led away Jesus] to pilate [the governor]. Dative of indirect object. The dative "the governor" stands in apposition to "Pilate".
ii] Blood Acre, v3-10: a) Judas' remorse, v3-5. It is unclear exactly when Judas regrets his actions and admits his part in shedding ai|ma aqwon, "innocent blood", an action which puts him under a curse, cf., Deut.27:25. Of course, the authorities are similarly under a curse, but reject the notion with "What's that to us?" If we follow the order of Matthew's narrative, Judes is probably trying to halt proceedings as Jesus is arraigned before the formal gathering of the Sanhedrin in the Temple complex, and having failed, he throws the money eiV ton naon, "into the temple", possibly into the council chambers - the chamber of hewn stone. It is even less clear when Judas hangs himself, but sometime after Jesus' crucifixion is likely.
tote adv. "-" - then. Transitional use of the temporal adverb, indicating a temporal step in the narrative; "Then Judas his betrayer", Moffatt.
idwn (oJraw) aor. part. "when [Judas ....] saw" - [judas, the one having betrayed him], having seen [that]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.
oJ paradidouV (paradidwmi) pres. part. "who had betrayed [him]" - the one having betrayed [him]. The participle may be adjectival, attributive, limiting "Judas", as NIV, or serve as a substantive standing in apposition to Judas, "Judas his betrayer", Moffatt.
oJti "that" - that [Jesus was condemned, sentenced to death]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Judas came to realize.
metamelhqeiV (metamelomai) aor. pas. part. "he was seized with remorse" - having repented, regret, remorse, sorrow. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to return", as NIV; "He felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver", Berkeley. Olmstead suggests it is causal, Judas returned the money because ....; "moved by remorse he returned the thirty pieces of silver." It is generally argued that the verb metanoein (metanoew) would be used if intended "with more positive connotations", Hagner, ie., with the sense "to repent", rather than "to regret" (remorse without suggesting salvation), so Chrysostom, ...., Calvin, ...., France, Morris, Schweizer, Hill, Hendriksen, Blomberg, Filson, Fenton - see BDAG. Yet, in Matthew 21:28-32 the verb metamelomai, not metanoew, is used in a positive sense for "repentance", and it is likely that Matthew wants us to recognize that what others would not do, Judas did. According to Matthew, Judas' actions are a response to Jesus' sentencing to death, they repudiate his greed (he returns the money - with force!), and they demonstrate a heart-felt confession ("I have sinned because I have betrayed innocent blood" - note how the people in 27:25 take upon themselves the curse of innocent blood, a curse Judas seeks lifted). These are not the actions of a man just feeling sorry for himself. The case against Judas repentance often rests on his suicide, but there is no Biblical command against suicide. The unworthiness of suicide does not make it an unforgivable sin. There are times in human history when an act of suicide equates with glory, eg., Masada. In Christian tradition, a person having committed suicide was not allowed to be buried in a Christian cemetery. Of course, tradition is not the determinate of an unforgivable sin. Jesus describes such a sin as a sin against the Holy Spirit, which, in the context, amounts to a determined rejection of Jesus as Gods Messiah, cf., 12:22-32. All sins are forgivable, other than the sin of an ongoing rejection of Jesus as savior. Given the many negative references to Judas in the scriptures, it is clear the apostles never forgave him (they always rub it in with "the one who betrayed him", whereas Peter doesn't get, "the one who denied him"; esp. Jn.17:12, oiJoV thV apwleiaV, " the son perdition / destined to perish", an identifier used by Paul for Satan, but probably used by Jesus in a prophetic sense), but if his repentance is genuine, does not mercy apply? Cf., Ps.130:4. "The final acts of his life express his repentance and the depth of his sorrow and regret", Nolland, so also Luz, Patte. See D&A p561-3 for a full discussion on the issue.
toiV arciereusin (uV ewV) dat. "to the chief priests" - [he returned the thirty pieces of silver] to the chief priests [and elders]. Dative of indirect object.
legwn (legw) pres. part. "he said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to return", "he returned the thirty pieces of silver to ........ and said", but it may also be treated as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the action of returning the money, "he returned ........ saying ....", as ESV.
paradouV (paradidwmi) aor. part. "for I have betrayed" - [i sinned] having delivered over = betrayed [innocent blood]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as instrumental, means, "by betraying innocent blood", or causal, "because I betrayed innocent blood." The TEV "by betraying an innocent man to death", instrumental, is simple to understand, but looses the allusion to Deut.27:25, of the curse upon a person who receives money to facilitate the death of an innocent person.
de "-" - but/and [they said]. Transitional, indicating a step to a new speaker. The plural article oiJ serves as a personal pronoun, subject of the sentence; "They said ......."
proV + acc. "to [us]" - [what] toward [us]? - Adverbial used of the preposition, expressing reference / respect, or better concern; "Why does that concern us?"
su pro. "[that's] your [responsibility]" - you [will see to that]. Emphatic by position. The clause is again elliptical with the future tense "to see" probably imperatival; "You see to that yourself." "What do we care? That's your problem!", Peterson.
kai "so" - and. The NIV takes the conjunction here as consecutive, "consequently / with the result that"; "So, as a result, he departed and ....."
rJiyaV (rJiptw) aor. part. "threw [the money]" - having thrown [the silver into the temple he departed]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to depart"; "He flung down the silver into the temple and withdrew", Berkeley.
apelqwn (apercoma) aor. part. "then he went away" - [and] having gone away [he hanged himself]. Possibly temporal, as NIV, or attendant circumstance; "and he went and hanged himself", ESV. Judas leaves the temple precinct and, some time later, goes off and hangs himself.
b) The purchase of Blood Acre, v6-8. By collecting the money, the chief priests take its curse onto themselves, and then, ironically, they express their concern over an issue of ritual purity. Since the money is unclean, the religious authorities use it for an unclean purpose, a place to bury the dead, a cemetery for visitors to Jerusalem, strangers. The land is known as the Potter's field, probably because it is a source of clay for potting. It was likely situated at the foot of the valley of Hinnom just outside of Jerusalem, a valley which served as a rubbish dump, a place for dead offal, always smoldering, always smelly. So, the land soon acquired a rather unsavory title, "Blood Acre".
de "So" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.
labonteV (lambanw) aor. part. "picked up [the coins and said]" - [the chief priests] having taken [the silver said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say", as NIV.
balein (ballw) aor. inf. "[it is against the law] to put" - to throw = put [these into the temple treasury is not possible = allowed]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the negated impersonal verb "it is not possible" = "it is not lawful."
ton korbanan (a aV) "the treasury" - It is unclear whether Matthew intends a play on words here between the transliteration of the Aramaic korbanas, used for the actual treasury funds, with "potter" (v7) , rendered in Zechariah 11:13 "treasury" in the Syriac version. The word play may serve to prepare us for the prophetic allusions in v9-10.
epei "since" - because. Causal conjunction serving to introduce a causal clause.
aimatoV (a atoV) gen. "blood [money]" - [it is the price] of blood. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / identification; "the price (= money) which is paid out for blood (= a person's life)" - "the price paid for a human life", Casirer, ie., "blood money." "It is very obvious that the hypocrites, by pursuing the outward form, are making a gross mockery of God", Calvin.
"The unclean money buys an unclean place", D&A.
labontyeV (lambanw) aor. part. "so they decided" - having received [council, consultation (a Latinism referring to a reached agreement or plan, a consilium, sumboulion, cf., v1)]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "After reaching an agreement about what to do with the money." "After a further consultation", Phillips.
ex (ek) + gen. "-" - [they bought] from [them]. An unusual adverbial use of the preposition in place of a genitive of price; "they bought with them = with the silver coins / money."
tou keramewV (uV wV) "[the] potter's [field]" - [the field] of the potter. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV, or attributive, idiomatic; "the field which supplies clay for the potter" / "A field which was once used as a quarry for potter's clay."
eiV "as" - to = for [a burial place, cemetery]. Here used to express purpose, "in order to provide a burial place for strangers"; "to serve as a burying-ground for strangers", Barclay.
xenoiV (oV) adj. "for foreigners" - to strangers. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage.
Nolland suggests that the name "Blood Acre" may "have owed something to the idea that those buried there had met an untimely end."
dio "that is why" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.
aimatoV (a atoV) gen. "Field of Blood" - [that field was called field] of blood. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / identification; "the field which is known as Blood Acre."
eJwV + gen. "to [this day]" - until [the day]. Temporal preposition expressing time up to, "up to today"; "And it bears that that name to-day", Rieu.
c) Prophetic allusions, v9-10. Matthew tells us that what has transpired fulfills prophecy. The problem we face is that his prophetic allusions come primarily from Zechariah. In Zechariah 11:13 the Shepherd doomed for slaughter is valued at thirty pieces ("shekels") of silver and is told to throw the money to "the potter"; in the LXX it is "the foundry", and in the Syriac version it is "the treasury." The dominant role of "the potter" in Jeremiah 18:1-12, and the buying of a field in 32:6-9, and a slight alignment of the allusions with 19:1-13, may be responsible for the conflating of Zechariah with Jeremiah during the period of oral transmission. Of course, Matthew himself may be responsible for the fulfillment quotation. It is worth noting that the prophet Jeremiah stands at the head of some lists of canonical books and so "Jeremiah" is possibly being used to reference the prophets in general, given that the prophetic allusions cover more than one prophetic book. Beare is somewhat harsh when he says of the fulfillment quotation, "Matthew botched it badly." Against this somewhat negative view, D&A call it a "free quotation"; it aligns with the methodology of Jewish Targums where "paraphrasing and interpolating was common." The prophetic allusions are typological; "Matthew sees in Jeremiah 19 and Zechariah 11 not merely a number of verbal and thematic parallels to Jesus' betrayal, but a pattern of apostasy and rejection that must find its ultimate fulfillment in the rejection of Jesus", Carson.
tote adv. "then" - then. Temporal adverb; "At that time was fulfilled", Quarles.
to rJhqen (legw) aor. pas. part. "what was spoken" - the thing having been spoken [through jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled]. The participle serves as a substantive, introducing a noun clause nominative subject of the verb "was fulfilled."
dia + gen. "by [Jeremiah]" - through, by means of [jeremiah the prophet]. Instrumental, expressing agency. The genitive "the prophet" stands in apposition to "Jeremiah".
legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "-" - saying. The participle is adjectival, limiting "Jeremiah"; "Jeremiah the prophet who said"
tou tetimhmenou (timaw) gen. perf. mid. part. "[the price] set on him" - [and they took the thirty silver coins, the price] of the one having been valued. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the price", idiomatic / identification, "the price which was set on him who had been valued"; "The price of him on whom a price had been set by the sons of Israel", Barclay = "The amount the people of Israel had agreed to pay for him", TEV.
apo + gen. "by [the people of Israel]" - [which they valued, estimated] from [the sons of israel]. The NIV has opted for a rare instrumental use of the preposition expressing agency, "by the sons of Israel", Barclay, etc., but Nolland argues that since the participle "having been valued" is obviously middle voice, then "apo must have a partitive force"; "on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price", NRSV.
Zechariah 11:13, "...... threw it to the potter ...... cast into the house of the Lord, into the potter .....", aligns with the first part of the verse, while the second part is typical of "the Lord said to me", eg., Zech.11:3a.
edwkan (didwmi) aor. "they used [them]" - [and] they gave [them (= the silver coins)]. A variant singular exists edwken. Olmstead argues that it is likely to be original; "and I gave them for the potter's field."
eiV + acc. "to [buy]" - [and they gave them] to [the field of (belonging to) the potter]. Here used to express purpose, goal, end-view; "and they used the silver coins to pay for the potter's field", TH.
kaqa "as" - just as. Here serving to introduce a comparative clause. "This was just what the Lord had ordered me to do", Cassirer.
moi dat. pro. "[commanded] me" - [the lord commanded] me. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to instruct, command."