Interpreting the Bible: Even in despair, suicide is never the solution


Judas Iscariot was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. He and the others were sent to all of Israel to announce “… The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.” (Matthew 10:7-8, English Standard Version used throughout). He saw Jesus change water to wine, walk on water, and heal all who were sick.

He was the disciple who complained when Mary, the sister of resurrected Lazarus, poured expensive ointment on the feet of Jesus. “But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put in it.” (John 12:5-6). When Jesus was arrested, all of his disciples abandoned him. Three times Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. No disciple carried his cross. They let him die without a friend, mocked and abused by his enemies. Then Judas took his own life.

The New Testament has different accounts of Judas’ suicide. In Matthew, he shows remorse and returns the thirty pieces of silver to the Jewish priests and leaders: “…I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’…throwing down the pieces of sliver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:4-5). However, Luke writes of Judas, “…Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.” (Acts 1:18-19).

One college professor of religion saw these discrepancies as reason to abandon the trustworthiness of the Bible. His dismissal of the Bible’s authority failed to consider a fact omitted in the two stories. Neither story specifies the passage of time. The events could have happened as follows: Judas returns the money to the high priests and hangs himself. The Jewish priests take the money and they decide, “…It is not lawful for them to put the money into the treasury, since it is blood money.” (Matthew 27:6). They use that money to buy the field in Judas Iscariot’s name and where he hung himself, which would conceal their direct involvement in the death of Jesus. His body hangs several days, decomposes, and is cut down. Or they could have had his body cut down and thrown into the field. Luke, the physician, gives the gory details of his swollen body splitting open.

Judas solved nothing by his suicide. The other 11, great sinners and grieving also, lived to see the resurrected Jesus. He forgave them and their lives were transformed with hope of eternal life. Judas didn’t wait. He made a terrible choice in despair. Suicide is never a solution, no matter the difficulty.

July 6, 1949, thirty-three-year-old Iva Toguri D’Aquino sat in a San Francisco courtroom accused of being Tokyo Rose, the sweet-talking American traitor on the radio in World War II who attempted to demoralize American soldiers with lies of unfaithful wives, lost battleships and no hope for victory. Iva was innocent. Newsmen scapegoated her. There was no solid evidence. The prosecutor, Thomas DeWolfe, used dishonest witnesses. She was convicted of treason, had her citizenship revoked, and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. In a note citing illness, prosecutor DeWolfe committed suicide June 20, 1959. A lesser woman than Iva Toguri D’Aquino might have also taken her life, but she endured the injustice. In 1977, President Gerald Ford granted her a full and unconditional pardon. Her American citizenship was restored. She died in 2006, at age 90.

David Carlson Pastor (yes, that is his last name, not his profession) is a Polk County resident and graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in Minnesota (M.Div., M.Th.)



1. Twelve
12 months, two 12 hour units per day, twelve tribes, when the new temple is built it will have 12 entrances, 12 disciples, and so on.

2. Three
The trinity, a symbol found in mystery teachings from Egypt to India to Scotland to Mexico, part of the 7 number along with the 4 (cross, earth, cube, square, four corners of the earth). Of the 3 comes the 4th.
If one wants to know the symbolism of NT numbers, study gematria.

3. You received without paying, give without pay. Sounds like Rome is sending a message about the Jews in Judea not wanting to pay the exorbitant taxes Rome imposed.

4. Differing stories in the Gospels
The Gospels were written at different times by Roman men. Christianity did not take hold for 200-300 years after the Jewish War of 70CE. The whole Bible has been altered over the past 1800 years. Nothing in it is reliable as fact. Bart Ehrman expresses it best: "The Bible is unreliable and unstable."

5. "Traitor", "sinners"
"Judgment is mine, sayeth the Lord."

and so on


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