Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Supposed Judas Contradiction – “Hanging” vs “Fell headlong”



According to the Gospel of Matthew after Judas had betrayed Jesus he hanged himself.

Matthew 27:5 “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”

However according to the book of Acts Judas demise came from falling headlong and his intestines spilling out.

Acts 1: 18 "(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.”

This apparent contradiction is one that skeptics have brought up a number of times. After searching online I found some articles written on this such as http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2009/05/25/contradictions-how-did-judas-die  and http://carm.org/bible-difficulties/matthew-mark/how-did-judas-die-hanging-or-falling-down that reconciled the verses but still left me wondering exactly what happened.

It’s important to realise that these verses are not mutually contradictory. The obvious answer is that both of these happened to him. 
But another answer I suspected could be the case is that the meaning of the word “hanged” back then also had a second meaning that is different from the hanging we think of today. After a bit of a hunt I found that that is exactly the case – as is explained below in the NIV Study Bible.
NIV Study Bible Notes for Matthew 27:5

Mt 27:5 reports that Judas hanged himself. It appears that when the body finally fell, either because of decay or because someone cut it down, it was in a decomposed condition and so broke open in the middle. Another possibility is that “hanged” in Mt 27:5 means “impaled” (See NIV text note on Est 2:23) and that the gruesome results of Judas’s suicide are described here.



Esther 2:23 “And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows…” (NIV Footnote - Or were hung (or impaled) on poles; similarly elsewhere in Esther)
NIV Study Bible Notes for Esther 2:23

Among the Persians this form of execution was impalement, as is confirmed in pictures and statues from the ancient Near East and in the comments of the Greek historian Herodotus (3.125, 129; 4.43). According to Herodotus (3.159) Darius I impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he took Babylon, an act that Darius himself recorded in his Behistun (Bisitun) inscription. In Israelite and Canaanite practice, hanging was an exhibition of the corpse and not the means of execution itself (Dt 21:22-23; Jos 8:29; 10:26; 1 Sa 31:8-10; 2 Sa 4:12; 21:9-10). The execution of a chamberlain in the Joseph narrative also appears to have been by impalement (Ge 40:19).
 
Another possibility not yet mentioned is that Judas fell with a noose around his neck but the rope was long enough for him to fall headlong, and then at a later time his body rotted and fell to the ground splitting his stomach open.

Or perhaps in attempting to hang himself the branch or rope broke and he subsequently fell and impaled himself.

So there are many possibilities that easily reconcile this supposed contradiction.

For those who don’t believe in the Bible, here’s a challenging question – what is your basis for appealing to the absolute law of non-contradiction from within your own worldview? In the biblical worldview laws of logic make sense. But they make no sense without God.

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