How (and Where) Did Judas Really Die?

I’ve been writing intermittently about some of the alleged Gospel contradictions skeptics cite when arguing against the reliability of the New Testament. When two or more eyewitness accounts appear to disagree, we’ve either encountered an error on the part of one of the witnesses, are somehow misreading (or misinterpreting) the accounts, or have insufficient information to reconcile the descriptions. The death of Judas, as recorded in two places in the New Testament, appears to present us with a contradiction:

Matthew 27:3-10
Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.”

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The Vatican

Attending mass at 7 a.m. is not usually a big deal, but this past week, I managed to be at an early mass at  the altar of transfiguration inside the Basilica on St. Peter's Square. In other words, at the Vatican. 

Taking a brief tour with the priest afterwards, he pointed out various interesting facts about St. Peter's and the fact that this is the largest church structure in the world. HIstorical statues intersected wtih tourists who intersected with church history and before 8 a.m., we had walked, talked, prayed, and been duly humbled by a place unlike any other church on the planet.

As we walked outside, construction had started on the new showers being put in for the homeless, as ordered by Pope Francis. My new friend pointed up toward the window where the Pope regularly appears and mentioned that this particular Pope is known to simply show up for mass or suddenly appear for prayer--unexpectedly and without much fanfare. And then, one turns back to the showers being constructed for the down-and-out of Rome.

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Talk Like TED or Move Like Martin?

I have been doing research on what makes a good speech, mainly because I have been asked to speak at a Biola University Chapel. I enjoy speaking, but usually I’m in front of a class or a Bible study or a group of little kids, where excessive hand motions and a few jokes sprinkled throughout are enough to hold interest.

Speaking in front of a group of several hundred college students, whose attention span is usually limited to 140 characters, will require more than those limited skills. I will need to develop a different strategy. So I’ve been studying how to give a talk like they do at those TED conferences.

If you don’t know TED, you should. TED is an organization that showcases experts in various fields (Technology, Entertainment, Design—TED) talking on fascinating topics successful people find interesting. TED hosts live conferences throughout the country, but most people access the talks for free through More than a million people a day watch TED Talks online.

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Florence, Italy

It’s not uncommon for skeptics of Christianity to point to differences between the New Testament Gospel accounts as evidence of corruption or unreliability. I’ve discussed many of these alleged contradictions in my talks around the country, and I’ve written about many of them here at One example sometimes offered by critics is the sign posted above the cross of Jesus. The simple, brief message of this sign is recorded by all four Gospel authors, yet none of them record precisely the same words. How could these four men fail to record the same sign, given the importance of the moment and the brevity of the message? Look at the variations offered by the Gospel authors:

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I have been to Monaco once and was there a couple days.
The whole time I was homeless.
Meaning this: I didn't have the money for hotels and I slept outside, in parks, alleys, out of sight, but out in the elements. The pictures I have are quite fun; the reality, though, is a stark reminder as I start a new year. The reminder is this: it's possible to be in a place of beauty, but not belong to it. It's possible to be able to take photos, but never close the distance between photo and reality.
And I am more and more convinced that closing the distance is a big part of what it means to be engaged culturally and what it means to love another person relationally. Do you draw closer to those you care for or do you keep them at a distance? And if you're at a distance, do you refrain from being anyone's critic, because you're just too far away to see clearly?
Now, let's go to the other part of my experience in Monaco. I didn't belong. That was obvious by how I was dressed, by what was in my wallet, by a host of things. And scores of people in our world are wondering daily where they belong.
David Whyte, in his poem "House of Belonging" instructs us with this:
"This is the bright home
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