In the last Question and Answer I noticed that the Scripture that was said to be fulfilled in Matt. 27: 9 actually comes from Zechariah and not Jeremiah as Matthew states. Is not this a discrepancy?
Several solutions have been proposed to this puzzle. Most of them must be rejected because they cast doubt on the literal inspiration of the Scriptures. For example, Matt. 27: 9 is not an exact quotation from either the Hebrew or Greek (Septuagint) versions of Zech. 11: 13. Yet to use this fact to argue that Matthew was quoting from memory and, because he knew that Jeremiah spoke much about the potter (see Jer. 18: 1–4; 19: 1, 2), accuse him of somehow muddling up Jeremiah with Zechariah, is preposterous. Even on human grounds, to infer that Matthew did not know the location of the passage is absurd as he is the Gospel writer who more than any other abounds in the most profound and extensive use of the OT.
There is more than one example in the NT of combined quotation. Thus in Matt. 21: 13 the Lord says “It is written” and combines Is. 56: 7 with Jer. 7: 11, though without identifying either prophet. More interestingly, in Mark 1: 2, 3 we have “as it is written in [Isaiah] the prophet, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way. Voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of [the] Lord, make his paths straight”. This again is a combined quotation with the second part being from Is. 40: 3 but the first past being Mal. 3: 1—yet both being attributed to Isaiah! (The better manuscripts of Mark 1: 2 have “In Esaias the prophet” in the text—thus identifying the prophet.)
Now while we quote Scripture with chapter and verse, the Jewish mode of quotation was different. They divided the OT into the law (the Pentateuch), the prophets (further divided into the former prophets—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings—and the latter prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the ‘minor’ prophets), and the Psalms (the rest of the OT beginning with Psalms and ending with Daniel). In the NT the phrase “the law and the prophets” is sometimes used to cover the whole of the OT (for example Luke 16: 16). The expression “the law” also covers the whole (for example John 10: 34 where Ps. 82: 6 is quoted under the words “your law”). Again, while all the Psalms were not written by David, his name was often attached to the whole. Hence in Heb. 4: 7 we have “saying in David” though the quotation is from Ps. 95: 7–11 which is not actually said to be written by David. Scholars also tell us that it was a well–known Jewish method of citation to use the name of the first book as the title of a part of Scripture. It is said that in the time of Christ Jeremiah stood at the head of the latter prophets (which included Zechariah), just as Joshua headed the former prophets. Thus a quotation from the latter prophets could be made under the name of Jeremiah. Again, according to experts it was a common Jewish saying that the spirit of Jeremiah was in Zechariah. This would be a parallel to our understanding of the spirit of Elijah being in John the Baptist when the Lord made the identification “this is Elias” (Matt. 11: 14). All this may remove the difficulty of a possible discrepancy from some minds but would still not explain why Matthew’s quotation from Zechariah is not exact.
Matthew’s quotation is “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremias the prophet, saying, And I took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was set a price on, whom [they who were] of the sons of Israel had set a price on, and they gave them for the field of the potter, according as [the] Lord commanded me" ”Matt. 27: 9), 10). The Scripture from which this quotation is assumed to come reads “And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty silver–pieces and cast them to the potter in the house of Jehovah” (Zech. 11: 13). Now Matthew speaks of “the sons of Israel”, “the field of the potter” and “according as [the] Lord commanded me”, all of which are absent from Zechariah. Again, Zechariah speaks of “the house of Jehovah” though Matthew does not. Now some prophecies were written and not spoken, some were spoken and not written and others were both written and spoken. Strictly speaking, Matthew does not say that Jeremiah wrote this but that it was spoken by him. However, the only other quotation by Matthew from Jeremiah (Matt. 2: 17), does use the same phraseology (“that which was spoken”), despite clearly referring to a written prophecy (Jer. 31: 15), and so on its own this does not seem to be a satisfactory explanation. Nonetheless, coupled with what has been said before, it may be that Matthew was inspired to give that which had previously been spoken by Jeremiah (but not recorded in writing) which also embraced what Zechariah was later inspired to write.