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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(Ἀκελδαμά, from the Syro-Chaldaic חקִל דְּמָא , chakal' dema', field of the blood, as it is explained in the text, ἀγρὸς αἵματος, see Critica Biblica, 2, 447), the field purchased with the money for which Judas betrayed Christ, and which was appropriated as a place of burial for strangers that is, such of the numerous visitors at Jerusalem as might die during their stay, while attending the festivals (Matthew 27:8; Acts 1:19; the slight discrepancy between these passages has been unduly magnified by Alford, Comment. in loc. post.; see Olshausen,: Comment. 3, 61, Am. ed.). It was previously "a potter's field." The field now shown as Aceldama lies on the slope of the hills beyond the valley of Hinnom, south of Mount Zion. This is obviously the spot which Jerome points out (Onomast. s.v. Acheldamach) as lying on the south (Eusebius, on the north) of Zion, and which has since been mentioned (although with some variation) by almost every one who has described Jerusalem. Sandys describes it (Relation of a Journey, p. 187), and relates the common story that the Empress Helena caused 270 ship-loads of its flesh-consuming mold to be taken to Rome, to form the soil of the Campo Santo, to which the same virtue is ascribed. Castela affirms that great quantities of the wondrous mold were removed by divers Christian princes in the time of the Crusades, and to this source assigns the similar sarcophagic properties claimed not only by the Campo Santo at Rome, but by the cemetery of St. Innocents at Paris, by the cemetery at Naples (Le Sainct Voyage de Hierusalem, 1603, p. 150; also Roger, p. 160), and by that of the Campo Santo at Pisa. This plot seems to have been early set apart by the Latins, as well as by the Crusaders, for a place of burial for pilgrims (Jac. de Vitriaco, p. 64).

The charnel-house is mentioned by Maundeville (Travels, 1822, p. 175, Bohn's ed.) as belonging to the Knights Hospitallers. Sandys shows that, early in the seventeenth century, it was in the possession of the Armenians. Roger (La Terre Saincte, p. 161) states that they bought it for the burial of their own pilgrims, and ascribes the erection of the charnel- house to them. They still possessed it in the time of Maundrell, or, rather, rented it, at a sequin a day, from the Turks. Corpses were still deposited there; and the traveler observes that they were in various stages of decay, from which he conjectures that the grave did not make that quick dispatch with the bodies committed to it which had been reported. "The earth, hereabouts," he observes, "is of a chalky substance; the plot of ground was not above thirty yards long by fifteen wide; and a moiety of it was occupied by the charnel-house, which was twelve yards high" (Journey, p. 136). Richardson (Travels, p. 567) affirms that bodies were thrown in as late as 1818; but Dr. Robinson alleges that it has the appearance of having been for a much longer time abandoned: "The field or plat is not now marked by any boundary to distinguish it from the rest of the hill-side; and the former charnel-house, now a ruin, is all that remains to point out the site . . . . An opening at each end enabled us to look in; but the bottom was empty and dry, excepting a few bones much decayed" (Biblical Researches, 1, 524; comp. Wilde's Shores of the Mediterranean, 1844; Barclay's City of the Great King, p. 207). Its modern name is Hak ed-damm. It is separated by no enclosure; a few venerable olive-trees (see Salzmann's photograph, "Champ du sang") occupy part of it, and the rest is covered by the "charnel-house," a ruined square edifice half built, half excavated perhaps originally a church (Pauli, Cod. Diplom. 1, 23), but which the latest conjectures (Schultz, Williams, and Barclay) propose to identify with the tomb of Ananus (Joseph. War, 5, 12, 2). It is said (Kraft, Topogr. p. 193) to contain the graves of several German pilgrims; but the intimation (Ritter, Erdk. 15, 463) that a pottery still exists near this spot does not seem to be borne out by other testimony. (See, on the subject generally, Schlegel, De agro Sanguinis, Hamb. 1705; Worger, Hakeldama, in Meneltici Thesaur. p. 222.) (See POTTER'S FIELD).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Aceldama'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​a/aceldama.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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