Prophecy Concerning Potter’s Field in Jeremiah

Question:

I had a quick question in Matthew 27:9 it says the prophecy of that the prophecy about the 30 pieces of silver and the purchase of the potter’s field is found Jeremiah. In the old testament is found in the prophet Zechariah.
How do we reconcile that from a Jewish perspective?

The only thing I can think of is that Jeremiah is the first book in the section of the prophets. Not sure if there is another explanation.

Answer:

Matthew 27 fulfills two prophetic predictions in one prophecy , both of which are typological. Zechariah 11 focuses on the amount the field was sold for (30 pieces of silver are also found in Exodus), while Jeremiah 32 however focuses on the purchase of the field itself, not its cost. The text is focused on the latter but you are fixed on the former.

As you are aware, the First & Second century Jews and the Apostolic church both associated Rome with Babylon and the Romans with the Chaldeans. The rejection of Christ by the sin of the religious and national leaders brought a destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans demonstrated by the purchase of the field by the Sanhedrin just as the rejection of Jeremiah resulted in Jerusalem’s destruction by the Chaldeans demonstrated by the purchase of the field. Because Matthew was written to Jews he puts the emphasis on the coming destruction to dove-tail with the Daniel 9 prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction reiterated by Jesus in the opening verses of Matthew 24 Olivet Discourse earlier in the gospel at the onset of Matthew’s passion narrative. In other words the entire passion narrative from the close of chapt. 23 onward to chapter 28 is meant to be read as a literary unit.  Matthew 27:8-10 needs to be read in light of what preceeds it (eg. Matthew 24).

Matthew 27:8-10 must be read as one single prophecy and is mainly a prophecy of the field in verses 8 &10. You are rather concentrating on it as a prophecy of  the price of the field in verse 9 instead of the field itself.  The price was used for purchasing the field if you read the verses together from 8 through 10 as a single prophecy how- be -it containing two predictions (one of field, one of price of the field). As we see in The Book of Acts, to the Apostles like Matthew it was the field that was the main point, not the amount (eg. Acts 1:19), because of what it represented prophetically.

It is also worth briefly mentioning that it is not unlikely that in Acts 1 the apostles compared themselves under the Romans in a Jerusalem destined for doom once Christ was rejected to Baruch, Gedaliah and the disciples of Jeremiah after he was rejected in a Jerusalem under the Chaldeans likewise destined for destruction.  Because it is about Judas moreover it also has future eschatological aspects concerning the anti christ.

Having said all of this, you are of course correct to state the 30 pieces of silver from Zechariah and Exodus also prophetically foreshadow the price Christ was betrayed for. But the formula citation (the “this is that” quotation from the Old Testament in the gospel) you cite is mainly about the field, not about the amount. It is a case where you are correct in what you observe but needing to take heed of what you are not observing, but that is hinted at (this is called Remes).

I won’t bore you with it, but in academic theology this issue you raise is what is known in scholarly and seminary circles as “Matthean Formula Citations” and is a recurrent feature in Matthew’s Formula citations and must be exegeted in that context. For instance, in the Nativity Narratives in Matthew in Matthew 2:23 ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’. There is no such verse in the prophets as Matthew states. Rather we have a Hebraic Word play of the Hebrew term ‘Netzer’ (branch) which sounds like ‘Nezer’  in the prophecy Isaiah 11:1-4 (I explain this on ‘The Vow of The Nazerite’ recording). You are already familiar with the peshet interpretation of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15 ‘Out of Egypt…”. What you see in the Formula Citation of Matthew 27 is consistent with Matthew’s other formula citations. Matthew intentionally quotes something that does not appear to add up or jibe as a device to make us seek the deeper doctrinal point he is trying to make theologically. In midrash this is again called
‘Remes’ and is fully consistent with the manner Jews handled the scriptures at the time. But lets not go there right now. Grasping the Jewish hermeneutics of the day that the New Testament authors were inspired to use however, provides us the ammunition to refute the liberal and higher critical claims of alleged scribal error and of the text not being divinely inspired because it contains errors which when properly understood in the context of the Sitz in Leben of Second Temple Judaism are not errors at all.

With respect to two conservative Evangelical commentators who address these verses in Matthew 27 the late R.T. France (one of my own lecturers whom I liked very much) and Craig Blohmberg (whom I once liked but no longer do due to his playing footsie with Mormonism), neither were sufficiently familiar with the Jewish background of the gospels to explain the question beyond a limited point. Although both raised valid consideration (as did Dr. Moo), the basic answer is what I told you.

I have not checked Alfred Edersheim, Arnold Fruchtenbaum or any Messianic Jewish sources. But I would urge others to do so.