Session 2                               THE DEATH OF JUDAS

DISPOSING OF THE PAPIAS ACCOUNT—version #3

Papias had no reinvigorated chickens in his version of the death of Judas.  You may, however, find this version equally disingenuous and lacking a certain je ne sais quoi!

Papias is known as an “Apostolic Church Father,” meaning that he was actually living during the time of some of the Apostles and was taught directly by them.  Very specifically, he was supposedly friends with the Apostle John who lived in Ephesus.  Papias was the Bishop of Hierapolis, a city in Turkey to the east of Ephesus, and much of what Papias wrote was dated around 90 to 110 A.D., near the presumed time of the Apostle John’s death. 

One difficulty with Papias’ writings is that while he reportedly wrote extensively, we have only fragments of what he wrote.  Most of these fragments are forwarded to us by the Church Historian Eusebius, who lived and wrote around 300 A.D.  The actual books of Papias we do not have!  What is worse is that the “story of Judas’ death” which Eusebius claims comes from Papias doesn’t really come from Papias, but is instead something which Apollinaris of Laodicea CLAIMS that Papias told him about Judas.  And thus we have a “he said that she said that he said…” situation.  Apollinaris’ words:

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Judas did not die by hanging but lived on, having been cut down before he choked to death. Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles makes this clear: “Falling headlong he burst open in the middle and his intestines spilled out.”  Papias, the disciple of John, recounts this more clearly in the fourth book of the Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, as follows: “Judas was a terrible, walking example of ungodliness in this world, his flesh so full of dropsy that he was not able to pass through a place where a wagon passes easily, not even his swollen head by itself.  For the lids of his eyes, they say, were so enlarged that he could not see light, and his own eyes could not be seen, not even by a physician with optical instruments, such depth had they from the outer apparent surface. And his genitalia appeared more disgusting and greater than all formlessness, and through his genitals pus and worms flowed out from his whole body, and to his shame these things alone were forcibly excreted.  And after many tortures and torments, they claim that when he had come to his end on his property, from the place became deserted and uninhabited until now from the stench, but not even to this day can anyone go by that place unless they pinch their nostrils with their hands, so great did the outflow from his body spread out upon the earth.”

The Greek text can be seen at Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum, Kurt Aland editor, 1964 Stuttgart:  Württembergische Bibelanstalt, p. 531.  See also Fragment III, 1-3 in F.S. Funk and K. Bihlmeyer, 

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 OK—I get it!  There was such a hatred in the Early Church for Judas the Betrayer that his rotten body stunk up the ground permanently.  Really?  This may be interesting reading, but not very believable.  I think we can dispose of this version with some certainty.

THE TWO BIBLICAL ACCOUNTS OF JUDAS’ DEATH

Matthew and Luke (Acts) have two separate accounts of the death of Judas.  Since these are both “Biblical Accounts” of the death of Judas, we should have no trouble believing them.  But there’s a problem:  they don’t seem to agree with one another!  And we have an example of Bible passages which provide cannon fodder for those who want to holler “See!  The Bible can’t be trusted!”

Before we jump to the conclusion that one of them must be wrong, let us take a close look at these verses:

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MATTHEW 27:3-10 

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, 

he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders,

 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

ACTS 1:15-20

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
    and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and  “‘Let another take his office.’

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 You can see that I have highlighted the phrase “Field of Blood” which appears in both of these passages.  Can you see anything else which these two readings share?  Can a comparison be made about the intention of each reading?  What point do you think Matthew is making and what point do you think Luke is making in writing their individual renditions?  Are there details which seem to disagree with the other “version?”  We will try to tackle at least a couple of these issues in the coming sessions.