Apostles had an important role in biblical history, Judas Iscariot included, but for all the wrong reasons. Though he and the others cast out demons and preached the kingdom of God (Mark 6:7–13), he is never recorded in a positive light when his name is explicitly mentioned in Scripture.
Of the 44 uses of the Greek Ioudas (Judas), this name is used 22 times to refer to Judas Iscariot. In 12 of these 22 uses, they involve some form of the word betray—he is the one “who would betray him,” “was going to betray him,” was about to betray him,” did so, and was thus “his betrayer,” “a traitor,” and the one “who betrayed him” (Matt 10:4; 26:25; 27:3; Mark 3:19; 14:10; Luke 6:16; 22:48; John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2; 18:2, 5). 3 of these 12 uses are found in three of the four lists of the apostles’ names in which he is always last and described as the one who betrayed Jesus (Matt 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16). In the fourth of these lists (Acts 1:13), it is after the resurrection when Judas is absent because he committed suicide.
In the other 10 uses of his name, Judas is described in these verses as somehow going about the act of his betrayal—he was possessed by Satan, went to the chief priests to sell Jesus out, came with a great crowd to arrest Jesus, was identified as the betrayer, or was described as having turned aside to go to his own place, which was no less than eternal destruction (Matt 26:14, 47; Mark 14:43; Luke 22:3, 47; John 13:26, 29; 18:3; Acts 1:16, 25).
Adding insult to injury, of the 34 times that the apostles are referred to as “the twelve,” 9 of these times are used with reference to Judas to highlight just how sinful it was for him to betray our Lord (Matt 26:14, 47; Mark 14:10, 20, 43; Luke 22:3, 47; John 6:70, 71). After the Lord’s resurrection, the reader of Scripture would have thus easily thought who the missing twelfth was when the disciples were called “the eleven” 5 times after the suicide of Judas (Matt 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9, 33; Acts 1:26).
Yet worse, Jesus Himself called Judas “the son of destruction” who was “lost,” which meant in context that Judas was not kept by Jesus in the Father’s name, had not been given by the Father to Jesus, and was not guarded by the Savior for eternal life, something he never had (John 17:12).
How painful it is to read of Judas from the lips of Jesus, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matt 26:24). May we take heed that, unlike him, we are truly born again who will live forever with the Savior to whom we were faithful.
In Matthew 27:8 and Acts 1:18–19, a Field of Blood is identified with an explanation for its name. However, the passages differ in how they explain the origin of the name.
Speaking of Judas, Acts 1:18–19 records this:
Acts 1:18–19 (ESV)
18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
Describing how Judas returned the money received for betraying Jesus and what the Jewish leaders did with that money, Matthew 27:5–8 records this:
Matthew 27:5–8 (ESV)
5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Judas returned his thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders out of guilt for having betrayed Jesus, who was innocent and shed His blood in His death on the cross (Matt 27:3–5a). Because the money was paid to Judas for this betrayal, the priests bought the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers (Matt 27:6–7). The field was thus called the Field of Blood with reference to the blood of Jesus (Matt 27:8; cf. 27:4).
In Acts 1:18–19, Judas is said to be the one to have acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness (Acts 1:18a). Perhaps the Jewish leaders purchased the field in his name. However it came into his possession, if we assume that Matthew’s account of Judas’s suicide in Matt 27:5b could have happened after the purchase of the field, the field was in the possession of Judas in Acts 1:18. According to Matthew 27:5b, Judas hanged himself and died. Acts 1:18–19 tells the story further. Assuming his body became swollen while decomposing, somehow fell and burst open, the blood of Judas was spilled on the field. The field became known as the Field of Blood for this reason as well—it was where the blood of the dead Judas spilled out.
Comparing Scripture to Scripture, we see that both passages are correct and that Matthew and Luke focused on one aspect of the story or another for their respective purposes in writing. The Field of Blood refers to the blood of two men—it was purchased with money used to betray the innocent blood of Jesus, and it was sullied with the blood of Judas who betrayed Him.
Acts 1:8 is key to understanding and outlining Acts: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV).
With this verse in mind, we better understand as Acts goes on—the Spirit came, about 3,000 people were saved in Jerusalem, and multitudes in the city came to Christ thereafter (cf. Acts 2; 4:31; 5:14; 6:1, 7). Through persecution, these believers “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” and “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1, 4). Then, Saul (later Paul; cf. Acts 13:9), the instigator of this persecution (cf. Acts 7:58; 8:1; 9:1–3), was personally confronted, converted, and called by Christ in Acts 9. He then took the gospel to the Gentiles, all the way to Rome (Acts 9–28). He characterized his ministry as obeying Isaiah 49:6, echoing the end of Acts 1:8—to “bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47 ESV).
So, a snapshot outline of the book of Acts from Acts 1:8 could be a record of the gospel’s spread to Jerusalem (Acts 1–7), Judea and Samaria (Acts 8), and to the end of the earth (Acts 9–28).
As to when Luke wrote Acts, he ended with a record of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, which may have been in AD 60–62. Luke does not tell us of Paul’s later travels, second Roman imprisonment (cf. 2 Timothy), or death, which may have been in AD 66. Thus, Luke certainly wrote Acts after Paul’s first imprisonment and sometime before Paul’s death, probably in the early 60s.
As to how Luke wrote Acts, while we can assume Luke wrote without error by virtue of the Spirit’s inspiration of Scripture, we can be further assured of the accuracy of Acts through Luke’s words in his gospel. Just as he carefully investigated the events recorded in Luke (cf. Luke 1:2–3), so also we can assume he did so for Acts. In fact, not only did he personally know many of the people in Acts, he was sometimes a part of the narrative himself (cf. Acts 16:8–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:16).
As to why Luke wrote Acts, Acts 1:1–3 addressed the same Theophilus found in Luke 1:1–4. Luke summarized his gospel as “all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up” (Acts 1:1–2 ESV), which he wrote to give Theophilus “certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4 ESV). By connecting Acts to Luke, and by not giving another purpose statement in Acts, we can assume Luke’s intent for Theophilus (and all Christians) with Acts was just the same--to give him certainty about what was recorded in Acts, that is, the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the end of the earth.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.