Acts recalls the death of Judas in gruesome detail: “Falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his innards poured out” (1:18). Whereas Matthew states that Judas hangs himself (27:5), Acts presents its own picture of his demise in order to highlight an important theological truth. The death of Judas anticipates the giving of the Holy Spirit and emphasizes God’s mission to restore Israel through Jesus.
The name “Judas” comes into English based on the way it appears in the Greek New Testament, Ἰούδας (Ioúdas), and is a transliteration of the Hebrew “Judah” (יהודה; Yehudah)—the wayward disciple is named after the Israelite tribe of which Jesus is a part. Luke, the writer of Acts, uses a favorite catchword to describe the death of Judas/Judah, noting that his insides are “poured out” (ἐκχέω; ekchéo). This initial reference to the former disciple’s “pouring out” constitutes the destruction of one whose name recalls the people of Judah.
Yet, Luke responds to Judas/Judah’s destructive outpouring with the Holy Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost—or Shavuot (שׁבועות), the Jewish Feast of Weeks. Addressing the “men of Judah” (ἄνδρες Ἰουδαῖοι; Acts 2:14), Peter cites the prophet Joel: “In the last days… I will pour out (ἐκχέω; ekchéo) my Spirit upon all flesh…. I will pour out (ἐκχέω) my Spirit and they shall prophesy” (2:17-18; cf. Joel 2:28-29). Peter follows his citation by telling those in Judah that God has “poured out (ἐκχέω)… the promise of the Holy Spirit [so that] you both see and hear” (2:33). Judas/Judah ends his life by being poured out and Acts follows this tragic event with the outpouring of the Spirit, which brings new life to the people celebrating Shavuot in Judah. In the wake of Judas’s demise, the Holy Spirit arrives as the antidote to destruction and death. The rest of Acts affirms God’s life-giving goal by showing how the Lord “pours out (ἐκχέω) the gift of the Holy Spirit” (10:45) from Judea to the ends of the earth.
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