The Purchase of
"The Potters Field"
(Matthew 27:
6-8, and Acts 1:18, 19)
and the Fulfilment of the Prophecy
(Matthew 27:
9, 10).
This Is Appendix 161 From The Companion Bible.

   There are two difficulties connected with these scriptures:

  1. The two purchases recorded in Matthew 27:6 - 8, and Acts 1:18, 19, respectively; and
  2. The fulfilment of the prophecy connected with the former purchase (Matthew 27:9, 10.

  2.    For there were two. One by "the chief priests", recorded in Matthew 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" (Greek agros).

         What Judas had acquired (see 3, below) was what in English we call "Place" (Greek 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 1 below).

    3. The verbs also are different. In Matthew 27:7 the verbs 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 Matthew 10:9. Its noun, ktema = a possession (occurs Matthew 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 English "money ill-got"), used for money obtained unrighteousness (Appendix 128. VII. 1; compare Numbers 22:7. 2Peter 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; that is to say, a field bought with the price of blood ("blood" being part by Figure of Speech Metonymy (of the Subject), Appendix 6, for murder, or blood-guiltiness).

         The "possession" which Judas had acquired bore an Aramaic name, "Hakal dema' " (see Appendix 94 (III.) 3), which is transliterated Akeldama, or according to some Akeldamach, or Hacheldamach = "place (Greek chorion) of blood": a similar meaning but from a different reason: videlicet, Judas's suicide. It is thus shown that there is no discrepancy between Matthew 27:6 - 8 and Acts 1: 18, 19.

  3. THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROPHECY (Matthew 27:9, 10.)
  4.    Many solutions have been proposed to meet the two difficulties connected with Matthew 27:9, 10.

    1. 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 Figure of speech, Metonymy (of Cause, Appendix 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).

    2. 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. Zechariah 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, an insult. But this latter is the sense in Matthew 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. 2 Corinthians 8:12.

      4. The waiting of the "poor of the flock" was not hostile, but friendly, as in Proverbs 27:18. Out of above 450 occurrences of the Hebrew 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 Zechariah 11, the context shows it to be in a good sense, as in Exodus 15:25. 1 Kings 19:19. 2 Kings 2:21; 4:41; 6:6. 2 Chronicles 24:10, 11.

      6. The "potter" is the fashioner, and his work was not necessarily confined to fashioning "clay", but it extended to metals. Compare Genesis 2:7, 8. Psalms 33:15; 94:9. Isaiah 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-fourths 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 Scripture.

      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 (2 Kings 12:11 - 16; 22:4 - 7. 2 Chronicles 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, 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, margin). Lead, twice (5:7, 8). Tin, once (4:10, margin). Seventeen references in all.

      10. Zechariah is full of references to what the prophet saw and said; but there are only two references to what he did; and both of these have reference to "silver" (6:11; 11:13).

      11. The Septuagint, and its revision by Symmachus, read "cast them (that is to say, the thirty pieces of silver) into the furnace" (Greek 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, also, are 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 Matthew 2:17, 18. Jeremiah is likewise named in Matthew 16:14; but nowhere else in all the New Testament.

    3. The conclusion. From all this we gather that the passage is Matthew (27:9, 10) cannot have any reference to Zechariah 11:10 - 13.

       (1) If Jeremiah's spoken words have anything to do with what is recorded in Jeremiah 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' ", etc.

       (3) Or, had the reference been to the compensation for an injury done to another man's servant, as in Exodus 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' ", etc.

       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 similarly exact.


   1 Of these, the Aramaic (or Syriac), that is to say, the Peshitto, is the most important, ranking as superior in authority to the oldest Greek manuscripts, and dating from as early as A.D. 170.
   Though the Syrian Church was divided by the Third and Fourth General Councils in the fifth century, into three, and eventually into yet more, hostile communions, which have lasted for 1,400 years with all their bitter controversies, yet the same version is ready to-day in the rival churches. Their manuscripts have flowed into the libraries of the West. "yet they all exhibit a text in every important respect the same." Peshitto means a version simple and plain, without the addition of allegorical or mystical glosses.
   Hence we have given this authority, where needed throughout our notes, as being of more value than the modern critical Greek texts; and have noted (for the most part) only those "various readings" with which the Syriac agrees.



Jeremiah 1