There are two difficulties connected with these scriptures
I. The two purchases recorded in Matt. 27:6-8, and Acts 1:18, 19, respectively; and
II. The fulfillment of the prophecy connected with the former purchase (Matt. 27:9, 10).
For there were two. One by "the chief priests", recorded in Matt. 27:6; and the other by Judas Iscariot recorded in Acts 1:18. The proofs are as follows: -
1. The purchase of Judas was made some time before that of the chief priests; for there would have been no time to arrange and carry this out between the betrayal and the condemnation.
The purchase of the chief priests was made after Judas had returned the money.
2. What the chief priests bought was "a field" (Gr. agros).
What Judas had acquired (see 3, below) was what in English we call a "Place" (Gr. chorion = a farm, or small property.)
The two are quite distinct, and the difference is preserved both in the Greek text and in the Syriac version (See note 3, p. 136).
3. The verbs also are different. In Matt. 27:7 the verb is agorazo = to buy in the open market (from agora = a market place); while in Acts 1:18, the verb is ktaomai = to acquire possession of (See Luke 18:12; 21:19; Acts 22:28), and is rendered "provide" in Matt. 10:9. Its noun, ktema = a possession (Occ. Matt. 19:22. Mark 10:22. Acts 2:45; 5:1).
4. How and when Judas had become possessed of this "place" we are not told in so many words; but we are left in no doubt, from the plain statement in John 12:6 that "he was a thief, and had the bag". The "place" was bought with this stolen money, "the reward (or wages) of iniquity". This is a Hebrew idiom (like our Eng. "money ill-got"), used for money obtained by unrighteousness (Ap. 128. VII. 1; cp. Num. 22:7. 2Pet. 2:15). This stolen money is wrongly assumed to be the same as the "thirty pieces of silver".
5. The two places had different names. The "field" purchased by the chief priests was originally known as "the potter's field", but was afterward called "agros haimatos" = the field of blood; i.e. a field bought with the price of blood ("blood" being put by the Fig. Metonymy (of the Subject), Ap. 6, for murder or blood-guiltiness).
The "possession" which Judas had acquired bore an Aramaic name, "Hakal
dema" (see Ap. 94. (III.) 3,
p. 135), which is transliterated Akeldama, or according to some Akeldamach, or Hacheldamach = "place" (Gr. chorion) of blood" : a similar meaning but from a different reason : viz. Judas' suicide. It is thus shown that there is no discrepancy between Matt. 27:6-8 and Acts 1:18, 19.
Many solutions have been proposed to meet the two difficulties connected with Matt 27:9, 10.
i. As to the first difficulty, the words quoted from Jeremiah are not found in his written prophecy : and it has been suggested
1. That "Matthew quoted from memory" (Augustine and others).
2. That the passage was originally in Jeremiah, but the Jews cut it out (Eusebius and others); though no evidence for this is produced.
3. That it was contained in another writing by Jeremiah, which is now lost (Origen and others).
4. That Jeremiah is put for the whole body of the prophets (Bishop Lightfoot and others), though no such words can be found in the other prophets.
5. That it was "a slip of the pen" on the part of Matthew (Dean Alford).
6. That the mistake was allowed by the Holy Spirit on purpose that we may not trouble ourselves as to who the writers were, but receive all prophecy as direct from God, Who spake by them (Bishop Wordsworth).
7. That some annotator wrote "Jeremiah" in the margin and it "crept" into the text (Smith's Bible Dictionary).
These suggestions only create difficulties much more grave than the one which they attempt to remove. But all of them are met and answered by the simple fact that Matthew does not say it was written by Jeremiah, but that it was "spoken" by him.
This makes all the difference : for some prophecies were spoken (and not written), some were written (and not spoken), while others were both spoken and written.
Of course, by the Fig. Metonymy (of cause, Ap. 6), one may be
said to "say" what he has written; but we need not go out of our way to
use this figure, if by so doing we create the very difficulty we
are seeking to solve. There is all the difference in the world between
to rhethen ( = that which was spoken), and ho gegraptai (
= that which stands written).
ii. As to the second difficulty : that the prophecy attributed to Jeremiah is really written in Zechariah 11:10-13, it is created by the suggestion contained in the margin of the Authorized Version.
That this cannot be the solution may be shown from the following reasons : --
1. Zech. 11:10-13 contains no reference either to a "field" or to its purchase. Indeed, the word "field" (shadah) does not occur in the whole of Zechariah except in 10:1, which has nothing to do with the subject at all.
2. As to the "thirty pieces of silver", Zechariah speaks of them with approval, while in Matthew they are not so spoken of. "A goodly price" ('eder hayekar) denotes amplitude, sufficiency, while the Verb yakar means to be priced, prized, precious and there is not the slightest evidence that Zechariah spoke of the amount as being paltry, or that the offer of it was, in any sense and insult. But this latter is the sense in Matt. 27:9, 10.
3. The givers were "the poor of the flock". This enhanced the value. "The worth of the price" was accepted as "goodly" on that account, as in Mark 12:43, 44. 2Cor. 8:12.
4. The waiting of "the poor of the flock" was not hostile, but friendly, as in Prov. 27:18. Out of above 450 occurrences of the Heb. shamar, less than fourteen are in a hostile sense.
5. In the disposal of the silver, the sense of the Verb "cast" is to be determined by the context (not by the Verb itself). In Zech. 11, the context shows it to be in a good sense, as in Ex. 15:25. 1Kings 19:19. 2Kings 2:21; 4:41; 6:6. 2Chron. 24:10, 11.
6. The "potter" is the fashioner and his work was not necessarily confined to fashioning "clay", but it extended to metals. Cp. Gen. 2:7, 8. Ps. 33:15; 94:9. Isa. 43:1, 6, 10, 21; 44:2, 9-12, 21, 24; 45:6, 7; 54:16, 17. Out of the sixty-two occurrences of the Verb (yazar), more than three-fouths have nothing whatever to do with the work of a "potter"
7. A "potter" in connection with the Temple, or its service, is unknown to fact, or to Scriptures.
8. The material, "silver", would be useless to a "potter" but necessary to a fashioner of metallic vessels, or for the payment of artizans who wrought them (2Kings 12:11-16; 22:4-7. 2Chron. 24:11-13). One might as well cast clay to a silversmith as silver to a potter.
9. The prophecy of Zechariah is rich in reference to metals; and only the books of Numbers (31:22) and Ezekiel name as many. In Zechariah we find six named: Gold, six times (4:2, 12; 6:11; 13:9; 14:14). Fine gold, once (9:3). Silver, six times, (6:11; 9:3; 11:12, 13; 13:9; 14:14). Brass, once (6:1, marg.). Lead, twice (5:7, 8). Tin, once (4:10, marg.). Seventeen references in all.
10. Zechariah is full of refs to what the prophet saw and said but there are only two refs. to what he did; and both of these have references to "silver" (6:11; 11:13).
11. The Septuagint, and its revision by Symmachus, read "cast them (i.e. the thirty pieces of silver) into the furnace (Gr. eis to choneuterion), showing that, before Matthew was written, yotzer was interpreted as referring not to a "potter" but to a fashioner of metals.
12. The persons are also different. In Matthew we have "they took", "they gave", "the price of him"; in Zechariah we read "I took", "I cast", "I was valued".
13. In Matthew the money was given "for the field", and in Zechariah it was cast "unto the fashioner"
14. Matthew names three parties as being concerned in the transaction; Zechariah names only one.
15. Matthew not only quotes Jeremiah's spoken words, but names him as the speaker. This is in keeping with Matt. 2:17, 18. Jeremiah is likewise named in Matt. 16:14; but nowhere else in all the New Test.
iii. The conclusion. From all this we gather that the passage in Matthew (27:9, 10) cannot have any reference to Zech. 11:10-13.
1. If Jeremiah's spoken words have anything to do with what is recorded in Jer. 32:6-9, 43, 44, then in the reference to them other words are interjected by way of parenthetical explanation. These are not to be confused with the quoted words. They may be combined thus: --
"Then was fulfilled that which was SPOKEN by Jeremiah the prophet saying; 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver [the price of him who was priced, whom they of the sons of Israel did price], and they gave them for the potter's field, as the LORD appointed me.'"
Thus Matthew quotes that which was "SPOKEN" by Jeremiah the prophet and combines with the actual quotation a parenthetical reference to the price at which the prophet Zechariah had been priced.
2. Had the sum of money been twenty pieces of silver instead of thirty, a similar remark might well have been interjected thus: --
"Then was fulfilled that which was SPOKEN by Jeremiah the prophet saying; 'And they took the twenty pieces of silver [the price of him whom his brethren sold into Egypt], and they gave them for the potter's field'", &c.
3. Or, had the reference been to the compensation for an injury done to another man's servant, as in Ex. 21:32, a similar parenthetical remark might have been introduced thus: --
"Then was fulfilled that which was SPOKEN by Jeremiah the prophet, saying : 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver [the price given in Israel to the master whose servant had been injured by an ox], and they gave them for the potter's field'" , &c.
A designed parenthetical insertion by the inspired Evangelist of a reference to Zechariah, in a direct quotation from the prophet Jeremiah, is very different from a "mistake" or "a slip of the pen", "a lapse of memory" or a "corruption of the text", which need an apology.
The quotation itself, as well as the parenthetical reference are both