Christian apologists have always tended to see Jesus fulfilling Scripture at practically every turn. The story of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas proves to be yet another example of it. In Matthew 27 we read the following:
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. They is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.
Notice that the fulfilled prophecy is claimed to have been that uttered by Jeremiah. Most Christian apologists, however, agree that the “prophecy” is that of Zechariah 11:12-13 instead:
I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.
Nevertheless, a cadre of apologists feel that the prophecy is that of Jeremiah’s and point to Jeremiah 32:6-10:
Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it. “Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.’
“I knew that this was the word of the Lord; so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales.
But as we can see, there is nothing in Jeremiah 32 that points to a betrayal of the Messiah, the death of the betrayer, or even a tossing of 30 pieces of silver into the Temple. Jeremiah 32:6-10 merely recounts the purchase by Jeremiah of property owned by his cousin Hanamel.
But what about the “prophecy” of Zechariah11:12-13? Does it not accurately describe 30 pieces of silver being thrown into the Temple? Yes, it does. But it is the only resemblance to the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus one finds. Zechariah 11:12-13 turns out to be a non-prophecy as well. In Zechariah 11 the prophet, shepherding flocks of sheep eventually grows weary of it. He quits and asks to be paid for his work. But Zechariah stipulates that if the sheep owners deem his work unsatisfactory, he’d be willing to forego his pay.
Zechariah is paid 30 pieces of silver, which, by the standards of the time, was considered a rather insignificant amount of money. It is the amount a slave owner was guaranteed if a slave of his was gored by an ox. Even God is insulted by what the prophet was paid and so tells Zechariah to throw the money “to the potter at the house of the Lord.” But is there any reference to a betrayal of the Messiah, the death of the betrayer, or the Temple priests buying a plot of land in Zechariah 11? The answer is a resounding No.