Judas Iscariot, How did he die? We have two separate accountings of how the life of the betrayer of Christ ended. Matthew tells of a suicide by hanging. Peter tells of a rather graphic and grotesque “burst”. What actually happened to Judas?
“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 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: 1-5
The Peter Accounting
“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty, 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. 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: 15-19
Matthew says that Judas, “hanged himself”. Peter says, “falling headlong, he burst asunder”. Which is correct? Actually, both!
The word “hanged” is transliterated from the Greek word, “apagch?” with a primary meaning to strangle or throttle. It is derived from the word meaning to choke. The intent is to remove someone by killing them through strangulation. A secondary meaning for the word apagcho is to hang.
John Lightfoot (1602 –1675), Minister, a rabbinical scholar and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge has an interesting perspective if not best understanding of the matter.
“After Judas had thrown down the money, the price of his treason, in the Temple, and was now returning again to his mates, the devil, who dwelt in him, caught him up on high, strangled him, and threw him down headlong; so that dashing upon the ground, he burst in the midst, and his guts issued out, and the devil went out in so horrid an exit. This certainly agrees very well with the words of Peter now mentioned, and also with those that follow, “This was known to all that dwelt at Jerusalem.” It agrees also very well with the deserts of the wicked wretch, and with the title of Iscariot. The wickedness he had committed was above all example, and the punishment he suffered was beyond all precedent,” John Lightfoot.
What Lightfoot is saying is that the devil caught Judas by the throat, lifted him up into the air and threw him down to the ground with a splatter. In the Peter accounting he said that Judas, “burst asunder” which literally means that he cracked open. Hanging suffocates. Falling from a great height and smacking the ground causes the body to burst asunder as Peter proclaims.
The title “Iscariot” that Judas had by definition means, “men of Kerioth”. But Lightfoot expounds upon the moniker.
If Judas obtained the name Iscariot while he was alive it is possible the name is derived from the word “Iskortja”, which is a tanner’s garment or apron fitted with a purse. “And hence, it may be, Judas had that title of the purse-bearer, as he was called Judas with the apron,” supposes Lightfoot.
“But if he (Judas Iscariot) were not branded with this title till after his death, I should suppose it derived from Iscara: which word what it signifies, let the Gemarists (expert on Talmud) speak: “Nine hundred and three kinds of death were created in the world….Iscara is the roughest death.”
“The Iscara is like to branches of thorns in a fleece of wool; which if a man shake violently behind, it is impossible but the wool will be pulled off by them.” It is thus defined in the Gloss, ‘The Iscara’ begins in the bowels, and ends in the throat,” concludes Lightfoot.
It would seem from Peter’s accounting, meanings of terms and names and even the suppositions and research of Lightfoot would all draw the same conclusions. Judas was caught by the devil, grabbed by the throat, lifted up into the air and then thrown down to the ground thus disemboweling him. It also gives a little more meaning to the term “field of blood” used in Matthew and Acts
“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
“Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.” Matthew 27:8
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