In chapter 27, verses 9 to 10 of the gospel of Matthew; a fulfilment of a prophecy about Jesus being betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, it is quoted and attributed to prophet Jeremiah.
The problem arises when no mention of this event at all, it is found in the modern version of the book of Jeremiah; but instead, in slightly different manner, in the book of Zechariah 11:12-13.
Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
Then I told them, “If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” So, they weighed out my wages, thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—this magnificent price at which they valued me. So, I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD”
To solve this apparent contradiction, many hypotheses have been formulated. Among these, the two most important are the following:
1 – IT IS AN ERROR, of an early copyist. All best existing copies have the name of Jeremiah mentioned here, and only some later manuscripts have only the term ‘prophets’, but it is more likely that they are a fixture from later editors to avoid the contradiction.
2 – THAT JEREMIAH WAS THE FIRST OF THE BOOK OF PROPHETS in the original Hebrew canon, and therefore, a generic expression. This however has not been proven. Today prophet Isaiah heads the Nevi’im, later prophet’s section; and Matthew seems too eager to identify the author of this prophecy, to use generic language.
WHAT MOST PROBABLY HAPPENED
Taking into consideration:
1 - The low probability of these two major hypotheses and its variants.
2 - The explicit desire of the author of the book of Matthew to validate the fulfilment of the prophecy by mentioning the explicit name of the prophet and literal quotation.
3 - The inaccuracy of the words quoted by Matthew and the related words found in Zachariah.
4 – The fact that we do not have true originals of any of the books of the Tanakh.
5 – The mentioning in the Bible, so much in the OT as in the NT, of other prophecies (Judas 1:4; 2Samuel 1:18; Numbers 21:14) and books not found anywhere.
We sustain that those words existed somewhere in the original version of the book of Jeremiah, that later got lost in time; but remained in some way referred to in the later writings of Zachariah.
This would explain why Matthew quoted by name and words with all certainty the prophecy found in Jeremiah; and these do not match exactly the words of any version, either Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic of the related verses found in Zachariah, either.
Thus, the author of the gospel of Matthew, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quoted and knew in his time, of these words mentioned by prophet Jeremiah that existed in a series of manuscripts not found to these days yet.