Acts 1:19

Thursday, 14 October 2021

And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) Acts 1:19

Note: You can listen to today’s introduction courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

In the previous verse, the final note concerning the gruesome disposition of Judas was noted. Of that explosive event, Luke next says, “And it became known.”

What happened to Judas was over the Passover. It was also over a Sabbath. It was also suicide. Such things as this would be long remembered by any who heard it. And the word would have gone out like wildfire for everyone to consider. If there were a town crier who called out the day’s news, it would have been one of the main stories for all to hear as it was passed on.

In contrast to that, this is said of Jesus’ resurrection –

“Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, ‘Tell them, “His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.” 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.’ 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” Matthew 28:11-15

Two deaths had occurred within the same circle. Jesus was openly crucified and then buried. Despite His resurrection, the leaders did what they could to hide this. Although not entirely successful, what was passed on was sufficient to convince many Jews, even to this day, that the lie they told the soldiers was the true end of His story.

Judas’ death was locally notable, being explained by Luke as going out “to all those dwelling in Jerusalem.” Unlike the story of the resurrection that was covered up by the leaders, this was openly passed on.

What is ironic is that the news about Judas filled the city, while the news about Jesus was secreted away as much as possible. And yet, in the larger picture, the knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection has filled the entire world, but the death of Judas, along with its surrounding events, make a mere footnote in Scripture.

Despite being a footnote now, at the time it was such big news that the place where it occurred was actually given a name by the people as a memorial to the event. As Luke next says, “so that field is called.”

The naming of the field is memorialized by the event. Hence, anytime someone would pass by it, the event would be called to mind. Fathers would tell their children, friends would tell their visitors, maybe pilgrims and tourists would be taken by to remember the macabre event. To this day, it is still a known location where there is little doubt about its identity. Those who go there will take pictures and film videos, witnessing to the tragedy that occurred at that time.

Luke next makes a statement that should clear up the confusion that many have concerning the language of the time in Jerusalem, saying “in their own language.”

The word used is dialektos. This is the first of six times it will be seen in the New Testament. All six of them will be found in Acts. It means “dialect.” Luke explicitly tells us what the dialect of Jerusalem at that time was, confirming what can already be inferred from the gospels. He does this by saying that they named the field in their own (meaning Jerusalem’s own) dialect. The name is “Akel Dama.”

A more literal transliteration from the Greek is “Hakeldamakh.” It is a compound Aramaic word corresponding to the cognate Hebrew words cheleq (portion, lot, tract, territory) and dam (blood). Thus, the meaning is then given by Luke, saying, “that is, Field of Blood.”

The name is given based on the event. But it is also based on what occurred in Matthew 27 where the field was named based on the blood money which the chief priests used to purchase the field. Thus, there is the irony of both events converging on this one spot of land. This is explained by The Expositor’s Greek Testament –

“It is true that the two accounts in St. Matthew and St. Luke give two reasons for the name Field of Blood. But why should there not be two reasons? If the traitor in the agony of his remorse rushed from the Temple into the valley of Hinnom, and across the valley to “the potter’s field” of Jeremiah, the old name of the potter’s field might easily become changed in the popular language into that of “field of blood,” whilst the reason given by St. Matthew for the name might still hold good, since the blood-money, which by a fiction of law was still considered to belong to Judas, was employed for the purchase of the accursed spot as a burial ground for strangers. See Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, ii., 574, 575.”

If this is correct, and it appears likely based on the nature of the event, then the price of betraying the blood (meaning the life) of Christ Jesus is witness to the naming of the field just as the ghastly death of Judas is. The latter event cannot erase the magnitude of the former event. Rather, it highlights it.

Life application: There is often argument over what language the New Testament was originally written in. It is not a sound argument, but it is one that never seems to be settled as presuppositions, biases, and even pride step in.

The obvious main choices are Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Other ridiculous choices are Latin, King James English (yes, you read that right), and so on.

A secondary argument is, “What predominant language was spoken in Israel at the time of Jesus?” The main choices are Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

The answer to the question concerning the original New Testament language is “Greek.” We can know this because the gospels, Acts, and even the epistles translate words from either Hebrew or Aramaic into Greek. A few of many such examples are –

“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23

Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Mark 5:41

“Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’
They said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), ‘where are You staying?’” John 1:38

“And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)” Acts 1:19

“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace.’” Hebrews 7:1, 2

If either Hebrew or Aramaic was the original language of the New Testament, the word “translated” would be superfluous. It is evident from the context that Greek was the original language in which the New Testament was penned.

As far as the language spoken at the time, it is evidently Aramaic. This can be discerned in the same way from the gospels and Acts. Matthew relies heavily on Hebrew words, which is not unsurprising as his gospel is directed to the Hebrew people with the idea that Jesus is the King of Israel. However, the other gospels pretty clearly indicate that the words conveyed by the people were generally Aramaic, even if many Hebrew words are either translated or transliterated into the Greek. The languages are cognate, but the use of Aramaic at the time of Jesus is quite evident. Further, it is explicitly noted by Luke in Acts 1:19.

These aren’t points that need to be argued over, but it happens for various reasons. In the end, the use of a variety of languages in the Bible tells us that God’s word does not need to be read in only one language to get a proper understanding of what is being conveyed. It is acceptable for the Bible to be translated into any and every language on the planet, and yet, it will also reward those who study what was penned in the original languages as well.

Be sure to read your Bible daily and be sure to cherish this marvelous gift of God that has gone forth, and continues to go forth, in languages throughout the world.

Lord God, it is so wonderful to know that Your word is available to people all around the world in their own languages. Today, we pray for those who are diligently translating the Bible into the remaining languages where it does not yet exist. Give these people wisdom in their efforts and the ability to overcome all obstacles so that Your word will be available to people everywhere. Amen.