When Judas Hanged Himself
* This teaching is an Advanced study from The Bible Tells Me So published by The American Christian Press in 1973.
The topic of when Judas hanged himself is worthy of research because of the common teaching that Judas hanged himself before Jesus' crucifixion. God's Word teaches that Judas Iscariot not only was alive at the time of the crucifixion, but he saw the resurrected Christ and was also an eyewitness of Christ's ascension. One of the reasons for this teaching is to rightly divide God’s Word concerning an important occurrence that is often misunderstood in many religions and the secular world. Also, we will touch on some small, but important details concerning how Judas ‘hanged’ himself and what it meant to ‘hang oneself’ back in Biblical times.
To understand the accuracy of God's Word regarding the activities of Judas after his betrayal of Jesus, let us begin our research in I Corinthians.
I Corinthians 15: 3, 4, 5:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he [Christ] was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures;
And that he was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve: -- I Corinthians 15: 3, 4, 5
If the resurrected Christ was seen of the twelve as verse 5 states, then Judas had to be alive during the appearances of Jesus.
Proceeding to search The Word regarding all of Christ's appearances, let us consider the accounts recorded in the Gospels of Luke and John. We need to establish first of all that the accounts in these two Gospels are identical. It is on this occasion which was Jesus' first appearance to his apostles that Jesus showed the apostles his scars. It is inconceivable that Jesus, after he had once shown them his hands, side and feet, would upon another occasion deem it necessary to show them again. The day and the time of that day when this singular event took place is clearly stated. The time of this appearance is the first day of the week, after the resurrection, toward evening. In the following Scriptures and throughout this teaching, pay particular attention to the underlined sections of the verses.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. -- John 20: 19 [emphasis added]
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices they had prepared, and certain others with them. -- Luke 24: 1 [emphasis added]
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. -- Luke 24: 29 [emphasis added]
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them. -- Luke 24: 33
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. -- Luke 24: 36
There were eleven of the apostles gathered together, and those who were with them, when Jesus stood in the midst of them.
John 20: 24 gives the same account only this time the record states the name of the absent disciple.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. -- John 20: 24
Thomas was absent; the other eleven apostles assembled when Jesus came; thus Judas Iscariot had to have been living and present.
John 20: 26 tells us that "after eight days again his disciples were within”. These are the same apostles as were gathered at the first appearance in Luke 24.
And they rose up the same hour, and they came to Jerusalem, and found the eleven [without Thomas] gathered together, and them that were with them. -- Luke 24: 33
The time that Jesus was seen of the twelve, then, is specifically stated in John 20.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them [eleven and Thomas made the count twelve]: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. -- John 20: 26 [emphasis added]
Jesus came and stood in the midst of the twelve, confirming the information in I Corinthians.
And he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. -- I Corinthians 15: 5 [emphasis added]
Matthew 27 records the events of Judas' life after he betrayed Jesus.
And he [Judas Iscariot] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. -- Matthew 27: 5
This account does not say that these events happened in quick succession. This simply summarizes Judas' life. How wonderful the Word of God is and how plain when once we understand it.
Another account also confirms that Judas was alive after the resurrection.
The former treatise have I made, 0 Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: -- Acts 1: 1, 2
Luke 6: 13 tells us that Jesus had chosen twelve, not eleven, and Acts 1: 2 says He gave "commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen [the twelve].”
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; -- Acts 1: 3 [emphasis added]
"To whom" refers back to the apostles (of verse 2) whom He had chosen. To the twelve apostles he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them - the twelve apostles - forty days.
In order to accurately divide The Word on the rest of Acts 1, it is important to establish that eleven of the apostles were Galileans, but the one named Judas Iscariot was a Judean. He was from the town of Kerioth in southern Judea. "Iscariot" is commonly thought to be from the Hebrew Ish Kerioth, that is "a man of Kerioth."
The record of Judas from Kerioth is found in two of the oldest codices. We need only Acts 2: 7 to prove that the other eleven apostles were Galileans. On the day of Pentecost the multitude at the Temple said, " ... Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?" referring to the eleven apostles (without Judas Iscariot) plus Matthias. Whenever any reference is made to men of Galilee or Galileans, Judas is left out for he was a Judean.
Now, we must continue following the pronouns in the first chapter of Acts very carefully.
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them [referring back to verse two, apostles whom He had chosen which were twelve] that they [twelve apostles] should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. -- Acts 1: 4
In verse 5, the "ye" refers to the twelve apostles.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. – Acts 1: 5
When they [the twelve] therefore were come together, they [the twelve] asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? -- Acts 1: 6
In verse 7 "them" refers to the twelve apostles, while the "ye" in verse 8 refers to the twelve apostles.
Acts: 1: 9 through 11 continue the account.
And when he [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they [the twelve apostles] beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their [the twelve apostles'] sight. -- Acts 1: 9
And while they [the twelve apostles] looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them [the twelve apostles] in white apparel; -- Acts 1: 10
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. – Acts 1: 11 [emphasis added]
In verse eleven the "two men" addressed their remarks to "men of Galilee," the eleven apostles - not to Judas, the Judean. Note the time of verse ten, when the two men stood by them (the twelve), and verse eleven when the two men spoke to men of Galilee (the eleven).
Judas Iscariot departed the scene at this time. There is a passing of time between verses ten and eleven which allows for this departure, so verse eleven could well begin a new paragraph. Note that verse eleven does not say, "Which also said unto them." Had it read "unto them," the pronoun "them" would have referred back to the twelve (the same as verse ten) and this would be inaccurate for the "two men" spoke to only eleven apostles from Galilee: “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee . . . “ This change from using pronouns through verse ten to "men of Galilee” in verse eleven is certainly no accident. How wonderfully accurate the Word of God is.
Then returned they [the eleven] unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. -- Acts 1: 12 [emphasis added]
They, the "men of Galilee" (without Judas, the Judean) returned unto Jerusalem.
And when they [the men of Galilee] were come in, they [eleven apostles] went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter and James, and John . . . . . [See rest of the verse which reads 11 men of Galilee] -- Acts 1: 13a [emphasis added]
Eleven men of Galilee are then all named one by one. Judas Iscariot is never heard of again. Peter tells what happened to Judas in verse 18.
Now this man [Judas Iscariot] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. -- Acts 1: 18
Choosing a replacement for Judas then followed in short order. It was very fitting that this should take place so close to the ascension, and yet before Pentecost. A replacement was not chosen earlier because Judas was still alive.
Now we have the whole story of Judas Iscariot who betrayed the Son of God and then regained apparent fellowship with the other eleven after the crucifixion for he was with them during Christ's several appearances. Finally Judas was found at the scene of the ascension. Afterwards he departed and hanged himself.
The term "hanged himself" implies to the Western mind that he took his own life by suspending himself from the neck. This however is not the case according to Eastern custom. We read of King Saul falling upon his own sword. This was the method of hanging for government or military personnel. Judas was not in this category. Being a common man, he fell upon a stake. The term "hanging" is used for this type of suicide because the victims suspended themselves on pointed objects. By such action the abdomen was punctured and the bowels gushed out, as is described.
In order to note the so-called discrepancy regarding Judas' death as recorded in Matthew 27: 3-10 and Acts 1: 15-20, let us note the Word of God accurately and see for ourselves that there is no discrepancy whatsoever in these two accounts.
And in those days [the days between the ascension and the day of Pentecost] Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty). – Act: 1: 15
Note that this is not the day of Pentecost, but this is in the days before Pentecost. How long before Pentecost we do not know but we do know that it was after the ascension and before the day of Pentecost. On this occasion before Pentecost, the names together were about one hundred and twenty.
It was at this time that Peter stood up among the disciples and led the meeting to elect someone to replace Judas Iscariot who had hanged himself after the ascension.
Acts 1: 16, 17, 18:
[Peter said,] Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. – Acts 1: 16, 17, 18
The word "purchased" is the word "provided." It is the same word used in Matthew 10: 9 where it states, "Provide neither gold .... " Judas purchased or provided for himself " ... a field with the reward of iniquity” .... The word "field" in this verse is the Greek word chorion meaning "property." Judas provided for himself a property which he purchased " ... with the reward of iniquity." Most people believe that his reward of iniquity was the thirty pieces of silver, which cannot be true because he cast them down in the temple. *
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. -- *Matthew 27: 5
In John 12: 6 we are told that Judas "was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." Judas was the treasurer or the caretaker of the money of the apostles. It also instructs us that he "was a thief." Judas stole money from the bag, and with this stolen money, which is called the "reward of iniquity," he provided for himself a property.
After the ascension, as we have traced earlier in this study, Judas returned to his own purchased property which he had acquired with money stolen from the bag "... and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." It plainly states that he hanged himself on his own property sometime after the ascension and before Pentecost because the "about a hundred and twenty" elected someone to replace Judas, as we noted in verse fifteen, "in those days" before the day of Pentecost.
And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. -- Acts 1: 19
Note very carefully that in this verse the property which Judas purchased or provided for himself is called Aceldama, the field of blood. It could not have been called "the field of blood" when he purchased it or provided it for himself, but it was called this later because he hanged himself on his own property.
Matthew 27 gives the following account of Judas.
Matthew 27: 3, 4, 5:
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. -- Matthew 27: 3, 4, 5
Those chief priests and elders couldn’t care less about Judas or the pain he was feeling. You have to be almost completely out of control of your thoughts to commit suicide. You suffer what is called today as clinical depression where you can’t seem to control your own actions. Remember, I worked in a large State Hospital and I’m familiar with this type of behavior in some patients. It’s horrible to even see, let alone experience.
People have inferred from verse five that as soon as Judas had cast the thirty pieces of silver back into the temple, he immediately went and hanged himself. This cannot be true as we have seen from our study of the Word of God. Verse five is just a summary of what occurred later; it simply telescopes time.
Verse six of Matthew 27 gives us some interesting information regarding what the chief priests did with the thirty pieces of silver that Judas returned and cast back in the temple.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. -- Matthew 27: 6
The chief priests said that these thirty pieces of silver were "the price of blood," the price of blood that the chief priests had paid Judas to betray the Lord Jesus Christ and to deliver him to them. After Judas had done this, the priests had Jesus crucified.
And they [the chief priests] took counsel [They got together in a discussion as to what to do with the thirty pieces of silver since it was not lawful for them to' be put back into the treasury, because they were the price of blood.], and bought [purchased in the open market place where the sales of properties and fields were made] with them [the thirty pieces of silver] the potter's field, to bury strangers in. -- Matthew 27: 7
The word "field" in Matthew 27: 7 is not the same word chorion as the word "field" in Acts 1: 18, which we have discussed. The word "field" in Matthew is the Greek word agros meaning a larger area than the chorion, property, purchased by Judas.
The chief priests, after due consideration and counsel, purposely decided to go to the open market and there to buy a potter's field. They did not buy the property on which Judas hanged himself for that was Judas' own property. The chief priests took the thirty pieces of silver and deliberately purchased a field in which to bury strangers - meaning the poor people, criminals and those who had no other place to be buried. This field was called "the potter's field.”
Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. -- Matthew 27: 8
When the chief priests went to the market place to buy the potter's field, they did not go out to buy a field called "the field of blood"; but it was called thus by the people later because the priests had purchased it with the thirty pieces of silver. The word "field" in this verse, again, is the word agros in the Greek, and the word "blood" is the word haimatos in the Greek. This is an entirely different field from the one referred to in Acts. In the latter it was a property, and the property was "the property of blood" using the word Aceldama, while in Matthew it is called "the field of blood," namely, agros haimatos.
Thus, there is no contradiction between the records of Acts and Matthew. As a matter of fact, a very careful study of these facts makes the record detailed and real. It thrills our hearts when we see the great accuracy of the wonderful Word of God.