Who Bought the Potters Field?
by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
The description of Judas’ death is not the only problem skeptics have with Acts 1:18. Since Matthew 27:5-6 says the chief priests used the betrayal money that Judas threw on the temple floor to purchase the potter’s field, critics contend that a contradiction exists because Acts 1:18 indicates that Judas purchased the field with the blood money. Obviously, Judas could not have purchased the field because he gave the 30 pieces of silver back to the priests before hanging himself. Thus, to say that Judas bought the potter’s field is incorrect…right? Not so fast.
If one believes it is wrong to say a father bought a car for his son, when in actuality the son purchased the car with $5,000 his father gave him, then I suppose that Acts 1:18 and Matthew 27:5-6 are contradictory. If one believes that it is wrong to say an employer purchased a meal for his staff, when it really was one of the employees who handed the money to the waiter, then the events recorded in Acts 1:18 could be considered fictitious. But what reasonable person would reach such conclusions as these?
Acts 1:18 simply informs us that Judas furnished the means of purchasing the field. One is not forced to conclude that Judas personally bought the potter’s field. As in modern-day writings and speeches, it is very common for the Scriptures to represent a man as doing a thing when, in fact, he merely supplies the means for doing it. For example, Joseph spoke of his brothers as selling him into Egypt (Genesis 45:4-5; cf. Acts 7:9), when actually they sold him to the Ishmaelites (who then sold him into Egypt). John mentions that “the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)” (John 4:1-3). And when the Bible says, “Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him” (John 19:1), most people understand that he simply ordered Jesus to be scourged, not that he actually did the scourging himself. The same principle is recognized in law in the well-known Latin maxim, “Qui facit per alium, facit per se” (“he who acts through another is deemed in law to do it himself”).
Whether one says that Judas “purchased a field with the wages of iniquity” (Acts 1:18), or that the chief priests “bought with them the potter’s field” (Matthew 27:7), he has stated the same truth, only in different ways.