When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
I was reading a post today on the blog of Classics scholar Matthew Ferguson regarding the historicity of the burial of Jesus in the rock tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Ferguson points out that the Bible itself indicates that not all Jews in Jesus’ day were buried in rock tombs. The Gospel of Matthew states that the Jewish authorities used the “blood money” returned by Judas Iscariot to purchase the Potter’s field for the purpose of burying “foreigners”. If the burial plot is a “field”, the graves will be in dirt, not rock caves. And Bible scholars believe that the meaning of the Greek word translated as “foreigners” in this passage is not restricted to foreign Gentiles. It could also refer to Jews from outside the area who happened to die (or be executed) in Jerusalem.
Jesus was a Jew from outside the area (Galilee).
Why did the Sanhedrin need to purchase a field in which to bury “foreigners” right at that moment in time? Even though they could not put the money back into the Treasury, they surely could have done something else with it. Why did they need a burial plot? Was the present “foreigner plot” full?? Or…was the Potter’s field purchased (with ‘blood money’) to bury the person for whom the ‘blood money’ had been spent???
Was Jesus buried, on purpose, in a location that would earn the reputation as the burial grounds of the poor and of criminals? Did the Sanhedrin bury Jesus in this location as a last insult to the man they so hated? If so, the excavation team of Emperor Constantine, who in the fourth century excavated beneath a Roman temple and claimed to have dug up and found the empty tomb of Jesus…were…to quote a famous line from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”…digging in the wrong place”!
Is it possible, that out of embarrassment, anonymous Christians writing gospels in foreign lands, decades later, attempted to conceal the humiliating burial of their “Savior” and “King of Kings” by inventing, out of thin air, a burial fit for a Jewish king…in the expensive rock tomb of a wealthy member of the Jewish upper class…and the story of the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was born!