Matthias Replaces Judas

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Although I risk being called a heretic, I must confess that I differ with many highly-respected Christian theologians on some common biblical interpretations. I don’t call them false teachers and hope they will be kind enough to try convincing me of error before condemning me to burning at the stake. I have always welcomed criticism and correction whether offered in love or contempt. That is how I learned some of life's greatest lessons -- like speaking German.

I recently saw two advertisements for health products that made me laugh.  In order to make the sales pitch sound sophisticated, they used a German word commonly known to English speakers:

Advertisement for supplemental pills: "Ingredients that destroy or limit gesundheits..."
Best Buy advertisement for an air purifier: “Say good-by to gesundheits.”

When someone sneezes, we often say, "gesundheit!" The person who wrote up these ads, reasoned that a sneeze is unhealthy and "gesundheit" must be the German word for germs (makes sense, or?).

The word “germ” has no relationship to “German” and German speakers all know that "gesundheit" means "health." When you sneeze, a German wishes you health! The German word “gesundheit” and its English equivalent, “health” are always used in the singular. I doubt if anyone would buy medicine or an air purifier to get rid of “healths.”

The Twelfth Apostle Replaced (Acts 1:16-26)
Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus instructed his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. They obeyed. While they were waiting, they also prayed. That was not part of the Lord’s command, but certainly a good way to spend their time.

At some point, Peter stopped praying and concentrating on the Lord and his Word. Instead of looking ahead for the coming of the Holy Spirit, he looked back on the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. He decided that they needed to choose someone to replace Judas so that there would once again be twelve apostles.

Theologians are divided over whether this was proper. I belong to those who think they should have continued praying and waiting. Jesus himself chose the original twelve and he chose Judas, knowing that he would betray him. What would the man of their choosing be like? If it had been crucial for his kingdom that there be twelve apostles, I think Christ would have personally chosen a replacement for Judas before his ascension into heaven or at least given the eleven clear instructions.  I sincerely doubt that Jesus would have expected them to choose a replacement for Judas before they had received the Holy Spirit. And it wouldn't sound like something Christ would have suggested: for the eleven to appoint two candidates and then cast lots to decide which one should become an apostle.

There are numerous places in the Old Testament where casting of lots is mentioned. Some of these are acts of godless men (Joel 3:3 and Obediah 1:11 for example). Where God's chosen leaders used lots, it was usually (always?) to show impartiality.  Examples: choosing which goat would be the scapegoat, dividing the land among the tribes, deciding which Levites were to carry wood for offerings at various times, choosing who should dwell in Jerusalem and other cities after the people returned from Babylon. The choice was not important, so casting lots was a way to choose without showing prejudice or favoritism.

Saul ordered lots to be cast between himself and his son, Jonathan. Although the Bible doesn't say, Joshua may have cast lots to discover who had transgressed during "Operation Jericho." It was narrowed down to Achan and he was publicly executed.

In the New Testament, all four gospels and Acts report on the Roman soldiers casting lots for the garments of Jesus, but only in Acts 1:26 do believers cast lots.

I am aware of arguments in defense of the eleven choosing a replacement for Judas. I am always ready to alter my opinion if convinced, however, such arguments have not answered many questions that arise. 

Here is the text:

Acts 1:16-26:  Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.  For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.  Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.  And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,  That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.  And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Scriptural integrity is of course primary, but I don't know of any theologian who would argue that everything recorded in the Bible is true. Beginning in Genesis one, inaccurate or untrue statements are recorded in our Bible. The untrue statements of wicked people and of Satan are recorded in the Bible but also false statements of believers. Just because Peter was one of the disciples does not make him inerrant in his interpretation and understanding of scripture.  Peter refers to a prophecy in Psalm 109:9 which he says refers to Judas. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Verse 17 fits Peter better! As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.

Peter says, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled and he then tells the others how to do it. Peter said that they must choose a replacement by casting lots.  I cannot think of any other prophetical word of God that was fulfilled in such a manner. If a prophecy is truly from God, we could expect that God himself would fulfill it, and he would not need human help or casting of lots.

For those who still argue that whatever Peter said had to be true because it is in the Bible, please allow me to make one more comment in support of my position. Peter said in this passage that Judas purchased the burial lot according to a prophetical passage in Psalms. Matthew 27:6-10, however, tells a different story and claims that it was in fulfillment of a prophecy of Jeremiah.  Unlike Matthew, Peter makes no mention of Judas hanging himself, but speaks of him falling – apparently from a cliff.  Those who believe Peter was infallible, argue that the rope broke on which Judas hung himself.

Some of these arguments border on Roman Catholic teachings that claim Peter was the first Pope and that Popes are infallible when they speak ex cathedra.  The New Apostles Church and Mormons argue for a historical succession of Apostles, but Catholics only allow this for Popes based on the words of Peter in Acts 1. Some theologians argue that Judas will be one of the twelve apostles ruling the 144,000 based on Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 7:4. 

I am convinced that Luke gives us an accurate depiction of what occurred in the upper room while the eleven waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The occurrence is nowhere else mentioned or reaffirmed in scripture. Nowhere else in the New Testament do we find Christians drawing straws or casting lots to make a decision. What became of Matthias? Neither is mentioned again in scriptures. Furthermore, the other eleven Apostles died and were not replaced. Why not?

In Acts 6, the apostles chose seven deacons to care for the physical needs of believers.  Stephen and Philip are later found engaged in evangelism, but there is no report of any of the seven performing the ministry to which they were chosen. I still believe that it was good and proper for the disciples to choose men for this ministry.  They did not make any claims that this was demanded by God, however.

I believe that many of us make the mistake of interpreting God's Word in the light of current events and/or circumstances instead of concentrating on what God says. When Peter focused on Jesus, he was able to walk on water, but when he looked at the waves, he floundered. He was human and so are we.

Ralph V Harvey