Did Judas Commit Suicide?
By Jonathan Mitchell
The NT texts concerning Judas can be rendered differently than has been done in the common versions. The Gospel of Mark says nothing more about him after he kissed Jesus in Gethsemane. From this account we know nothing further about Judas. Luke, likewise, ends his comments concerning Judas at the same point as Mark's Gospel. John ends Judas' story at the same place, and last speaks of him as being with the band of men who fell to the ground (Jn. 18:6).
The "supposed" death of Judas is first found in Mat. 27:3-5,
3. At that time, upon seeing that He was correspondingly judged against (or: condemned), Judah (or: Judas) - the person turning Him in - after changing his judgment and concern on the matter so as to be regretting and caring differently, returned the thirty silver [coins] (or: pieces of silver) to the chief (ranking) priests and elders,
4. while saying, "I made a mistake (erred; failed to hit the target; sinned; fail to attain the goal) in commending, committing and giving-over just and innocent (rightwised and equitable) blood." But those men said, "What [does this mean] to us? You, yourself, will proceed seeing!"
5. And so, upon hurling the silver [coins; pieces] into the inner Temple (shrine; = the holy place) he withdrew, and then going off, he hugged and compressed himself away [as in grief] (or: choked himself off; strangled himself; perhaps: hanged himself).
Notice the ambiguity of the meaning of the verb in the final clause in vs. 5. Since the word "betray" is not the only way, and indeed not the best way, to render the verb that is used to describe his actions, let us consider that he endeavored to undo what he had done. He returned the money, after changing his judgment and concern on the matter so as to be regretting and caring differently (vs. 3, above). He realized that he made a mistake in commending, committing and giving-over just and innocent (rightwised and equitable) blood (vs. 4).
What 5b tells us is that:
a) he hugged and compressed himself away [as in grief], or,
b) he choked himself off - i.e., put his hands to his throat, as in despair or wishing that he could die, or,
c) he strangled himself, which could have ended in his death, or just in his falling unconscious, or,
d) he actually hanged himself.
The other account that seems to speak of his death, in common renderings, is found in Acts 1:18,
18. - This man, indeed therefore, acquired a small parcel of ground (a farm; an estate; a freehold: a place not subject to allotment which could be bought or sold) from out of wages of injustice (that which is contrary to solidarity and the Way pointed out; inequity; unfairness), and so, having come to be flat on his face (prostrate), [his] heart (the core of his being in the midst of him) broke and his deep feeling and affections were poured forth (or, literally: mid-section ruptured and all his intestines were poured out).
19. And it came to be known to (or: by; among) all those normally inhabiting Jerusalem, so that small parcel of ground (freehold) came to be called "Akeldama." In their language (or: dialect [of Aramaic]) this is "a bloody piece of ground (or: Field or Freehold of Blood)" -
In 18b we read that, having come to be flat on his face (prostrate), [his] heart (the core of his being in the midst of him) broke and his deep feeling and affections were poured forth (or, literally: mid-section ruptured and all his intestines were poured out). Once again, we have a verb with ambiguous meanings. The parenthetical expansion gives a literal rendering. But the verse does not say that he fell or in any way hit the ground so that his body would literally rupture. Scripture repeatedly uses internal organs of the body to represent a person's inner feelings, or one's emotions. My bold rendering expresses a metaphorical meaning of the Greek terms that are used: "the core of his being, or, his heart, broke, and his deep feelings and affections were poured forth" - unto God? in venting his emotions? in regret?
The account in Acts is certainly not a suicide, and the only other account (in Mat. 27, above) can show physical expressions of grief, sorrow, regret - and the text expresses repentance: a complete change of mind. If we read Mat's. account as "hanging himself," then we have a contradiction with the other account here in Acts. Physical expression of sad emotions, whether in wrapping one's arms or hands around oneself and squeezing, or in prostrating oneself and pouring out extreme emotions from a broken heart, seem to reasonable satisfy both of these texts. Neither of them necessarily speak of the death of Judas.
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