🔼The name Akeldama in the Bible
The name Akeldama (or Hakeldama or Aceldama as some translations have) belongs to a field outside Jerusalem, which was purchased with the thirty pieces of silver that Judas received for pointing Jesus out to his arresters. The name Akeldama occurs only once in the Bible, namely in Acts 1:19, but it is part of a hugely complex symbolic structure.
In Acts we learn from Peter that Judas Iscariot acquired a field with "the price of his wickedness," in which he somehow came to fall, and that in such a way that he burst open in the middle and spilled his guts. This became known to everybody in Jerusalem, because of which that field was called Akeldama, that is Field of Blood (χωριον αιματος). Peter explains all this by referring to Scriptures that tell of a man's abandoned house and office (Acts 1:20).
The gospel of Matthew, on the other hand, reports that Judas felt remorse for betraying "innocent blood" and brought his thirty pieces of silver back to the priests, after which he hanged himself at an undisclosed location. The priests too concluded that the Judas' money was blood money, and proceeded to buy the Potter's Field to serve as a burial place for foreigners. Matthew submits that this is the reason why this place was called αγρος αιματος (and note the different Greek word for field), and explains it by referring to texts that deal with the purchase of the Potter's Field for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3-10).
It's obvious that this broken symmetry points at more than meets the eye. Matthew refers to a prophecy of Jeremiah, but his wording seems to derive mostly from Zechariah 11:12-13. Jeremiah, however, does speak of a potter's house and many commentators link this to the Matthean text (Jeremiah 18:2 and on; see in particular 19:11), but here at Abarim Publications we're not convinced. We're guessing that modern Scripture theory has not yet reached the full depth of these paragraphs, but the only thing we can say about it right now is that even though Matthew and Luke appear to tell the same gospel, they really aren't (which is also the reason why their genealogies differ). In other words: we can't simply overlap the two accounts and augment one with the other.
🔼Etymology of the name Akeldama
The name Akeldama is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic phrase חקל דמא, which obviously consists of two elements. The first part is the noun חקל (hql), meaning field, which comes from a root חקל (hql), which means either to divide or apportion or else to be smooth or slippery. This same double meaning also occurs in the alternative spelling of חלק (hlq), which is rare but not unheard of. The process that brings these alternate versions about is called metathesis, and although it's widely recognized as a literary device, it's not at all understood why the ancients would engage in it.
In Hebrew the version חקל (hql) doesn't occur (maybe it once existed but it's not used in the Hebrew of the Bible) but the version חלק (heleq) is quite common:
The second part of our name, namely the Aramaic noun דמא (dm') occurs in Hebrew as the noun דם (dam), meaning blood:
So yes, the name Akeldama means Field Of Blood but with a hardly helping of footnotes. That the Jerusalemites used the Aramaic version is not so strange since the Hebrew language was pretty much dead at the time and folks spoke Aramaic rather than Hebrew. But why would the Jerusalemites use the reversed version of the word חלק (heleq)? And was the place called Field of Blood because it referred to Judas' guilty blood or to Jesus' innocent blood? And why all the mystery...?