Jesus Barabbas and Jesus the Nazorean

Before the attested crucifixion of Jesus, the Roman governor Pilate gave the Jewish people a choice between releasing two characters, the first one was Barabbas, and the second was Jesus who is called the Messiah or the king of Jews. However, early Greece manuscripts of the Matthew Gospel mention the first name of Barabbas; the name is also Jesus.

New American Bible:

Matthew 27:”

16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called (Jesus) Barabbas.

17 So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?”

We notice how the name “Jesus” is bracketed, the reason they do that is for the uncertainty of the reading itself as the NAB theologians claim. However, they also mention that the omission was probably done to remove the confusion; such an omission could only be explained for such reasons.

Anyway, there is no reason to dismiss the name Jesus Barabbas for just not existing in some early manuscripts, the reason for such omission in the first place is rather obvious, and those readings that contained the name “Jesus Barabbas” are rather more probable. Also, the reader should be aware of the fact that the name “Barabbas” means “son of Father”.

In addition, the Word “Messiah” simply means anointed, such a title was also given to other characters in the Bible, such as the pagan emperor of Persia Cyrus.

According to the gospels, it was customary for the Romans to release a Jewish prisoner during the Passover festival. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate tried to use this custom as an excuse to release Jesus. But a crowd in the courtyard demanded that a prisoner named Barabbas be freed instead.

Mark 15:7, which says that he was in prison because he had taken part in a recent uprising. In fact, some biblical scholars think that he was an important rebel leader. If so, this would explain why the crowd shouted for his release, because any leader in the fight against the hated Romans would be very popular with the common people.

But Jesus was also very popular with the common people. When he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he was greeted by large excited crowds. Many people believed that he was the long-awaited Messiah, who with God’s help would overthrow all oppressive rulers and establish a new eternal Kingdom of God.

But if Jesus and Barabbas were both very popular, why did the crowd call for Jesus to be crucified and Barabbas to be released? because Jesus was arrested late at night and brought before Pilate early the next morning, most of his followers probably didn’t know where he was, or what was happening to him. And his closest followers had apparently gone into hiding out of fear of arrest.

Mark 15:11, which says that the “chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.” Bar abbas, meaning son of father, which was a word jesus used for himself all the time, “son of man” or “son of father” or “son of God”…..many of the common people believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and this made him a threat to their authority.

The Mystery of Barabbas
The so-called “mystery of Barabbas” refers to some puzzling similarities between the released prisoner and Jesus himself. The most striking similarity concerns their names. Some ancient Syriac copies of Matthew, and a few other ancient sources, call the freed prisoner “Jesus bar Abbas”. The name Barabbas can be obtained from this by dropping the name “Jesus” and changing “bar Abbas” to “Barabbas”. Furthermore, the phrase “bar Abbas” can be translated as “son of the Father”, which could possibly be applied to Jesus himself, since he sometimes used the word “Abba” (father) in referring to God.

From this evidence, many scholars have concluded that Barabbas’ original name was “Jesus bar Abbas”. Other evidence indicates that this name was intentionally altered by later Christian writers. One well-documented case involves the scholar Origen, who reportedly promoted the change for reverential reasons, because he didn’t want the name “Jesus” to be associated with a criminal.

Another similarity between the two men relates to their possible roles as rebel leaders. The gospel of Mark says that Barabbas had been imprisoned for taking part in a revolt, and his popularity with the crowd suggests that he had been one of its leaders. But from the viewpoint of the Romans, Jesus could have also appeared to be a rebel leader. Many people were calling him the Messiah, a title which implied that he would overthrow the existing government. He had a large number of followers, many of whom might be easily swayed into taking part in a revolt. In fact, his earlier attack on the temple merchants could be regarded as a “mini-revolt”.

Thus, both men may have had the same name, and both of them could have appeared to be rebel leaders, at least from the Romans’ viewpoint. These similarities are known as the “mystery of Barabbas”. Some people think that the similarities are too close to be accidental and have looked for another way to explain them.

What we are concerned with if Bar abbas was released, could that not Jesus himself?

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