The earth in this area is composed of rich clay and was formerly used by potters. For this reason the field was known as the Potter's Field. The clay had a strong red colour, which may be the origin of the modern name. More recently it was used as a burial place for non-Jews. It was used for this purpose up to the first quarter of the 19th century.
Christian tradition connects the place with Judas Iscariot, who is said to have betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. According to the Acts of the Apostles (1:18–19) Judas "acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. This became known to all who lived in Jerusalem, so that in their own language they called that field Hakeldama, that is, 'Field of Blood.'" The Gospel of Matthew has a different account: Judas returned the money to the Temple authorities before hanging himself. Deeming it as blood money, and therefore illegal to put into their treasury, they used it instead to buy the field as a burial ground for foreigners: thus the place gained the name "the Field of Blood". The implication here is that the name refers to the blood of Jesus, whereas in Acts the name is said to refer to the blood of Judas. Lindars holds the Acts narrative to be prior, and that although the incident is not created out of the Old Testament passages the text of Zechariah 11:12ff is "freely used to fill up the gaps in the story ... to the early Christian exegetes a perfectly legitimate hermeneutical procedure".
According to Howard-Marshall, Acts may be recording the (inaccurate) story as told within Jerusalem.
The Akeldama (Hakl-ed-damm) today is a large, square sepulchre, of which the southern half is excavated in the rock, the remainder being built of massive masonry. In the center stands a huge pillar, constructed partly of rough blocks and partly of polished stones. Much of its clay was taken away by Empress Helena and other prominent Christians, to make sarcophagi. It lies on a narrow, level terrace on the south face of the valley of Hinnom.
In his Onomasticon (ed. Klostermann, p. 102, 16), Eusebius says the "field of Haceldama" lies nearer to "Thafeth of the Valley of Ennom". But under the word "Haceldama" (p. 38, 20) he says that this field was pointed out as being "north of Mount Sion". St. Jerome changed this to "south of Mount Sion" (p. 39, 27).
In the 12th century, the crusaders erected beyond the field, on the south side of the valley of Hinnom, a large building now in a ruined condition, measuring seventy-eight feet in length from east to west, fifty-eight feet in width and thirty in height on the north. It is roofed and covers towards the southern end several natural grottoes, which were once used as sepulchres of the Jewish type, and a ditch is hollowed out at the northern end which is sixty-eight feet long, twenty-one feet wide and thirty feet deep. It is estimated that the bones and rubbish accumulated there form a bed from ten to fifteen feet thick. Akeldama has been the property of the non-United Armenians since the 16th century.
In 1892 the Greek Orthodox Church built a monastery at the site, named after Saint Onuphrius. Many burial caves have been identified in and around the monastery.
- Adrian J. Boas, Archaeology of the military orders, (Taylor & Francis, 2006) page 49.
- (27:7, and possibly with allusions to Zechariah 11:12–13 and Jeremiah 18:2–3 and 32:6–15)
- Arie W. Zwiep, Judas and the choice of Matthias: a study on context and concern of Acts 1:15–26 (Mohr Siebeck, 2004) page 150.
- B Lindars,New Testament Apologetic, London, 1961, p122
- I Howard–Marshall Acts, Tyndale, 1980, pp 64–65
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "article name needed". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Haceldama". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 
- Jewish Encyclopedia (1906) entry on Aceldama
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