Saturday, November 02, 2019

Peter Williams on the death of Judas

Read the whole thread:


  1. In the recent discussion panel which included Rob Bowman, Craig Keener, Mike Licona and Bart Ehrman, Mike said that he looked at the word Luke used for falling headlong and how it is used in Hellenistic literature and saw that it's sometimes used in the sense we might nowadays say, "His career took a dive...". Afterwards Bart agrees that that word does have that meaning at times, but that it's usually literal when it's attached to a description that's physical (as we find it in Luke). Mike and Bart say that HERE [already cued up].

    I tend to think that it's Matthew that was being figurative in describing Judas' suicide as a "hanging" in order to compare his downfall and death to the literal hanging and suicide of Ahithophel when he betrayed David the type of the Messiah (just Judas betrayed Jesus the antitype). Other apologists have come to similar conclusions HERE. So, apparently one or both Matthew and Luke could have been using a figure of speech to describe Judas' death. Along with a possible literal harmonization that even Bart admits is possible (though, believes is implausible/unlikely). Given all these possibilities, Judas' death should no longer pose a problem for Biblical inerrancy.

    BTW, it was HILARIOUS when Williams pinned Bart on a "self-contradiction" when Bart said there are some things you can't reconcile, and then later saying you can reconcile anything. And it was on the topic of CONTRADICTIONS! [grin] Williams makes that funny comment HERE.

    1. I'm inclined to think the whole "career took a dive" theory is really strained. It's funny how people think ordinary harmonizations are strained but not that more indirect theories are strained. But at least that theory is (as far as it goes) one of actual figure of speech in the words themselves, not of (as many of Licona's theories) trying to make it appear that something happened contrary to fact--an important distinction. I think it's a highly implausible theory about an alleged figure of speech, though, and arises in the end from an aversion to doing more ordinary harmonizations such as Williams discusses. It's weird that anyone thinks this obsession of Bart's is any kind of issue or requires anything other than common sense to respond to.

    2. In the last blog where we interacted I responded to your comment, but the blogpost got old enough that it automatically required approval for the comment to be seen. Here's essentially what I posted:

      [You wrote:]

      //I was joking recently that maybe I should create a big scarlet letter (E, perhaps?) and wear it on all occasions so that Kurt Jaros and others will not go around implying that I'm hiding something.//

      Well, Halloween is tomorrow. That gives you less than 24 hours to find 17th century garb. OR find some of your old 70s digs to match the late 70s when the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was drafted. Kidding of course.

      That Fernandes interview was great. Though, the audio could have been better.

      Regarding Matthew's version of the centurion story, I'm open (even lean toward) a literary device that's based on the Jewish shaliach principle. Writing primarily to Jews, Matthew could reasonably expect his fellow Jews to understand that a sent agent "is as himself". While there's some truth of its application to Christ, I think the principle is abused by Unitarians to exclude the concept that Jesus is also fully God. But I think its perfectly acceptable for Matthew to use it to condense and shorten his version of the story to save scroll space for the other things he wanted to record.

    3. Btw, I wanted to add concerning the death of Judas that people's intestines don't usually fall out when their careers take a dive--when they "fall" only metaphorically. So that's a definite argument against that interpretation.

      On the Fernandes interview, we did re-record parts 2-4 with better audio (we just did it as one more section). I mean, we did all of those interview questions all over again. Don't know if you've seen it since then. If you watched it when it first went up, the audio on parts 2-4 was really awful, but I think the new version is better. But your mileage may vary.

      Yes, what you give concerning the centurion is the most common harmonization. And it *is* a harmonization, not a "literary device" in the Licona sense. That is to say, it is stating that Matthew was not trying to write realistically as if things happened in a way contrary to fact. That's why nowadays I don't use "literary device" to refer to such things, because Licona has more or less taken the term. The most common harmonization is that this is a manner of speaking that could merely *accidentally* give the incorrect impression that the centurion was personally present.

      There are some problems with that interpretation, though, which I imagine Licona himself is picking up on. Probably the most pointed of them is that at the end when Jesus says "to the centurion" (Matthew 8:13), "Go. Let it be done to you as you would," the Greek is singular.

      If the centurion never came in person but his servants were just acting "as" the centurion, Jesus would have been speaking to the servants in the plural, telling them to go back to the house. And he would not have told the centurion to "go" at all, since the centurion was back at the house anyway and had never come there at all.

      (But remember, Lydia is unqualified to discuss these matters because she is ignorant of Greek. But y'know, here I am, giving an argument from "the Greek" that Licona himself could use to support his position. As I said, I merely take the commonsense view that if Matthew *does* portray the centurion as personally present, he believed that himself rather than trying to portray something untrue.)

  2. Be sure to read Bejon's follow-up Twitter thread on this if you haven't.

    1. It looks like Bejon re-worked all his tweets and turned them into a single pdf document:

  3. Lita Cosner suggests another possible explanation here:

    Here's the relevant section:
    "What about how Judas died? Did he hang himself, or did he fall headlong and his bowels come out? Once again, if we look back to how people have read these two accounts side by side, we can find an answer. Judas hanged himself, but no one took him down, because they didn’t want to make themselves ceremonially unclean by coming into contact with a dead body. So his body hung until it fell by itself, and when it fell the bowels came out. We can also note that the bowels coming out is a detail that makes more sense if Judas had been dead for a while and decomposition had already started before he fell, because bowels coming out wouldn’t normally happen if a person just happened to fall and die.

    The explanation in the previous paragraph works well enough for the English translation that we have, but there is an even more intriguing possibility if we look at the Greek. A colleague who saw a draft of my response noted that some skeptics make a big deal of Judas “falling headlong”—a body that drops from hanging can’t really normally be described as “falling headlong”. I suspected that the answer lay in looking more closely at the underlying Greek phrase, which is transliterated “prenes genomenos” the participle genomenos is not normally translated “falling”, but “becoming”, though “falling” is not out of the question; it simply wouldn’t be my first instinct upon encountering ginomai. So what does prenes mean? Most lexicons have the primary meaning as “prostrate” or “headlong”, but several allow the meaning “swollen”. A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament has it meaning “swollen up, inflamed” as a technical medical term in Greek. This especially makes sense since Luke, a physician, is the author of Acts, and he is known to use medical terminology in other instances. BDAG notes that in this case it would be derived from pimpremi, which would be “linguistically questionable”, and it would be unusual. But it also makes a lot of sense and is worth noting."