Discrepancy Surrounding Judas’ Death
An important point that actually serves greatly to authenticate the New Testament as a valid account of the life of Jesus Christ is the difference in testimony between Matthew and Peter’s narrative of Judas suicide. Matthew describes Judas as hanging himself in a tree after his betrayal of Jesus. Peter, in Acts chapter 1, describes Judas—falling head first into a field—with his intestines spilling out. Some critics of the Bible see this difference in the description of Judas death as a discrepancy that casts doubt on the reliability of the New Testament.
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. —Matthew 27:3-5
Then Judas Fell Head First Into the Field, His Stomach Bursting Open.
And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) —Acts 1:15-19
- Matthew says that Judas, “Hanged himself”. • Peter says that Judas “falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out…” We must remember that the words of the New Testament are the eye witness accounts of those who were either there when the events took place, or were recorded by others from the testimony of those who saw the events take place.
The accounts of Matthew and Peter do not conflict with each other, they are the record of the events which took place, as each of these men described different parts of the same event. Matthew recounts how Judas hanged himself. Peter describes further details of this event where the rope that was used, apparently snapped and Judas fell into the rocks of the field below. This fall ruptured his stomach area, spilling out his intestines onto the ground. This is the reason the field was later called the “Field of Blood.”
When people are at the scene of an incident, they will often remember different details of the same event. It is common for a person who is interviewing eyewitnesses to hear added details that others who were present did not think of or say. These differences are understood by experts as consistent with the true events which took place.
As we observe this phenomenon in Matthew and Peter’s descriptions of Judas death, we understand that this brings great internal evidence to their testimony as valid and authentic accounts of the same event. There are no discrepancies between these two narratives; there are simply additional details given by Peter, which Matthew did not mention. If the story was a fabrication, those who wrote the fabrication would be careful to make sure that the accounts of all witnesses were the same, so as to remove any doubts about their authenticity.