January 13, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 2
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Who prophesied about the potter's field? Matthew 27:9-10 mentions Jeremiah as the prophet, however, no such prophecy is found in Jeremiah. The prophecy is found in Zechariah 11:12-13.
Is there a contradiction?
Indeed, this would seem to be a perplexing text. The questioner is correct, the prophet referenced is Jeremiah, and yet the text referenced is from Zechariah. A few possible explanations:
According to Jewish writers, Jeremiah was the first of the prophets appearing in the Book of the Prophets, and it is perhaps on that basis Jeremiah's name was given to refer to the whole book of prophecy.
Some have supposed that the words were spoken by Jeremiah, and Zechariah also, but that only the writing of Zechariah was of the inspired record.
It is quite possible that the reference to Jeremiah rather than Zechariah is a transcribers' error. Barnes notes, "...it is observed that this might be done by the change of only a single letter. It was often the custom to abridge words in writing them, thus, instead of writing the name Jeremiah in full, it would be written in Greek Iriou. So Zechariah would be written Zriou. By the mere change of Z into I, therefore, the mistake might easily be made."
Some have supposed that Matthew did not include the name of the prophet, but that Jeremiah was added by some subsequent copyist. There are some manuscripts which have been found which omit the name of the prophet. It is noteworthy that Matthew does frequently omit the name of prophets he quotes (see 1:22; 2:5, 15; 13:35; 21:4).
Which of these is the correct explanation? I cannot say. However, it is evident that a possible explanation can be found for the discrepancy.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible, but original article is no longer listed