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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Price of Blood

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PRICE OF BLOOD (τιμὴ αἴματος, Matthew 27:6).—An expression used by the priests of the Temple in reference to the money Judas Iscariot had received for the betrayal of his Master. The thirty pieces of silver were the price of a traitor’s service, and so ultimately the price of a man’s head; and though the priests were willing to take advantage of the dastardly deed by putting the betrayed Man to death, they still regarded with feelings of disgust and abhorrence the money paid for His betrayal. It had been soiled by the hands of a traitor, and associated with blood-guiltiness of a kind that they had no desire to share. They would neither accept it for themselves, when Judas offered to restore it, nor, when flung down in the sanctuary, did they regard it as fit for the holy uses of the Temple. An appropriate use was found for it in the purchase of ground outside the walls for the burial of strangers to Jerusalem. (For the story of Judas’ end, and the divergent account in Acts 1:18-19, see Akeldama, Judas Iscariot).

The reasoning of the Temple priests here has been usually condemned as a piece of pious hypocrisy, implying a display of honourable diffidence that stands in suspicious contrast with their previous dealings with the traitor. If the money was soiled, who was responsible, if not those who had taken it (perhaps directly from the Temple-treasury) and sent it on its dastardly mission? Why should they, who had paid the price of blood, scruple about taking it back? ‘If it was sinful to put back the price of blood in the sacred treasury, how was it any more permissible to take it out?’ (Calvin, NT Com.). This is rather a one-sided judgment. It is true, their manifestation of scrupulous feeling was somewhat belated: it would have become them better to have no dealings whatever with Judas. But we may still give them the credit for the wish to be as little as possible involved in the crime of treachery. In point of fact, people will make use of a traitor who have no love for traitors. In this case the compact made with Judas was very much more dishonourable on his side than on theirs; for they were sworn enemies of Christ, he a professed friend. The priests might believe the money was well spent on their part, though ill gotten on his. The curse of treachery was now associated with it, and would help to intensify their loathing when they spoke of it as the price of blood. It was unhallowed gain; and they could use it only for some purpose less sacred than those connected with the Temple, and in which they themselves had no profit. We may compare with this scruple of the priests the similar feeling manifested by David in a contrasted case (2 Samuel 23:14-17). When the three mighty men at the risk of their lives brought the king a draught of water from the well of Bethlehem, he scrupled to drink it, because it was so closely associated with the blood of the men who had risked their lives to procure it. It had been procured at the price of blood, and he could not use it in the common way. It was hallowed by the sacrifice associated with it, just as the blood-money in Judas’ hands was tainted and defiled by a betrayal equivalent to murder.

Literature.—See under Judas Iscariot, but esp. Ker, Serm. i. 293.

J. Dick Fleming.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Price of Blood'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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