We all know what happened next. Jesus was crucified. But what happened to Judas?
The New Testament has two quite different accounts.
Here is what happened according to the author of the Gospel of Matthew.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (NIV)
Here is what happened according to the author of the Gospel of Luke.
With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. (NIV)
Two quite different and seemingly contradictory accounts.
Big problem for the biblical inerrantists! They’ve got some explaining to do.
There are two possible ways to reconcile the verses:
- Luke’s purpose in Acts may have been simply to report what Peter said at a point in time when the apostles’ information on Judas’s death may well have been sketchy. After some of the Temple priests converted (cf. Acts 6:7), they may have given further details on Judas’s death that were later incorporated into the Gospel accounts.
- It is also possible that after Judas hanged himself the rope broke and he fell onto rocks that disemboweled him postmortem. Matthew’s emphasis then would have been Judas’s actions in taking his own life, while Peter’s emphasis was on what happened to him after his suicide.
Whoever happened to suffer that bizarre disemboweling experience, it most likely wasn’t Judas Iscariot.
Inerrantists rightly point out that there is no logical contradiction between the two accounts of Judas’s death. The two can be harmonised and the traditional resolution of the seeming contradiction is a combined account, according to which “Judas hanged himself in the field, and the rope eventually snapped and the fall burst his body open.” Or perhaps the noose tightened on the corpse’s rotting neck, severing the head (which then “fell headlong”) from the body (which upon hitting the ground “burst open and all his intestines spilled out”).
Cool story. But hardly plausible.
Of course, the obvious explanation is that at least one account of Judas’s death has been embellished or entirely fabricated. But this obvious explanation isn’t available to the biblical inerrantist, who must do whatever is necessary to force-fit the recalcitrant facts to preserve intact the doctrine that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching” or, at least, that “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.”
Nothing wrong with a bit of ad hockery, or is there? There’s a lot wrong with a lot of ad hockery, and the simple fact of the matter is that the Bible is a mass of apparent contradictions and assorted anomalies.
I’ll be blunt. There’s a fine line between ad hockery and intellectual dishonesty, and biblical inerrantists are way over on the wrong side of it. (What if I told you all those Bible contradictions are there for a reason?)
So how did Judas really die? Disembowelment, of course. Keep it metal! 🙂