Who Was Barabbas in the Bible?

Barabbas is a figure we’ve all likely heard about but may not fully understand. In the New Testament, he is the notorious prisoner mentioned in all four Gospels. Barabbas was a rebel and a murderer who was set free by Pilate instead of Jesus Christ. This decision was made during a customary pardon before Passover, where Pilate offered to release one prisoner to the crowd.

His Role in the Crucifixion
His Role in the Crucifixion

The most striking detail about Barabbas is the stark contrast between his life and that of Jesus. Pilate’s offer presented the people with a choice: they could release Jesus, the Son of God, or Barabbas, a man involved in rebellion and murder. The crowd chose Barabbas, leading to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Barabbas’ story highlights the deeper spiritual and moral contrasts between choosing justice and mercy. It’s intriguing to ponder why the people chose him over Jesus, shedding light on human nature and societal influence. Let’s dive deeper into who Barabbas was and the significance of his release during Passover.

Biblical Narratives of Barabbas

Barabbas appears in the New Testament during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Each Gospel gives a slightly different account of his role and the events surrounding his release.

The Synoptic Gospels’ Account

Matthew, Mark, and Luke—known as the Synoptic Gospels—present Barabbas as a notorious prisoner. In Matthew 27:16-17, Barabbas is referred to as a “notorious prisoner” whom Pontius Pilate offers to release instead of Jesus. Pilate gives the crowd a choice between Jesus called the Messiah and Jesus Barabbas. The crowd chooses to release Barabbas.

In Mark 15:7-15, Barabbas is described as a rebel involved in an uprising and murder. Pilate again offers the crowd a choice, and they demand Barabbas’ release.

Luke 23:18-19 echoes this narrative, emphasizing Barabbas’ role in rebellion and murder. Pilate appears unwilling to condemn Jesus, perhaps hoping the crowd would choose to free him. Instead, they insist on freeing Barabbas.

John’s Gospel on Barabbas

In John 18:40, Barabbas is mentioned in the context of being a bandit. John’s account highlights the stark contrast between Jesus and Barabbas, indicating that the people chose a known criminal over the innocent Jesus.

Pilate’s interaction with the crowd is also noted, showing his hesitance to sentence Jesus. The mob, encouraged by religious leaders, vehemently opts for Barabbas’ release.

This Gospel is distinct in underlining the social and political tensions, as well as Pontius Pilate’s indecisiveness, which ultimately led to Barabbas’ freedom during the Passover festival.

Historical and Theological Significance

Barabbas is a significant figure in the Bible, whose story intersects with major events in Christian theology and history. His release instead of Jesus has deep implications for our understanding of Jesus’ crucifixion and the choices made by the Jewish people under Roman rule.

Barabbas in Historical Context

Barabbas was a prisoner held by the Romans in Jerusalem around the time of Jesus’ trial. According to Matthew 27:16, he was a notorious criminal, and Mark 15:7 notes that he participated in an insurrection and committed murder.

The crowd’s choice to release Barabbas instead of Jesus reflects the complex political tensions of the period. The Jewish people, under Roman domination, had varied allegiances and hopes for a messiah. Barabbas, perhaps seen as a freedom fighter, represented a more immediate, earthly form of rebellion compared to the spiritual salvation offered by Jesus Christ.

Theological Interpretations

Theologically, Barabbas’ release is powerful. Some early manuscripts, like those referred to in Matthew 27:16-17, call him “Jesus Barabbas,” meaning “Jesus, son of the Father.” This presents a profound contrast between two figures named Jesus: one an insurrectionist, the other the Son of God.

Pilate’s choice to present Barabbas or Jesus highlights the choice between a criminal and the Messiah. It underscores the nature of Jesus’ mission and the concept of salvation in Christian theology. Jesus’ crucifixion, chosen over Barabbas’ freedom, is seen as a pivotal moment of sacrifice and redemption, central to our faith.

Barabbas’s Identity and Character

Barabbas's Identity and Character
Barabbas’s Identity and Character

Barabbas was a significant figure during the events leading to Jesus’s crucifixion. He had a notorious background that illuminated the gravity of the choice made by the people.

Criminal Profile

Barabbas was known as a notorious prisoner. He had been jailed for serious crimes including insurrection, murder, and robbery. According to Matthew 27:16, he was held at the same time as Jesus.

In Mark 15:7, it states that Barabbas had been imprisoned with insurrectionists who committed murder during a rebellion. This highlights his role as a significant rebel, someone who fought against the Roman authority. These acts made him a dangerous criminal in the eyes of the public and authority.

Symbolism and Representations

Barabbas’s release over Jesus represents deeper theological themes. The choice between Jesus, a righteous man, and Barabbas, a criminal, is seen as a stark contrast. According to some texts, “Barabbas” means “Son of the Father”, which created a symbolic choice between two sons: Jesus, the Son of God, and Barabbas, the son of a human father.

Barabbas is also depicted as representing the people who chose rebellion and immediate deliverance over spiritual salvation. His story underscores the concept of salvation and sacrifice, as Jesus took the place of Barabbas, highlighting Jesus’s role in taking on the punishment meant for others.

Through Barabbas, we can see a vivid representation of human nature, rebellion, and the ultimate need for redemption. His life and actions are essential in understanding the context of Jesus’s crucifixion and the choices faced by humanity.

The Release of Barabbas

The release of Barabbas is a pivotal moment described in all four Gospels. Pontius Pilate offered to free either Jesus or Barabbas, following a custom of pardoning a prisoner during the Passover Feast.

Customs and Practices

During the Passover Feast, it was customary for the Roman Governor to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. This practice allowed the Romans to show leniency and maintain peace during a significant festival.

Pontius Pilate, aware of the Chief Priests’ influence over the crowd, offered them a choice. They could choose to release Jesus, who was innocent, or Barabbas, who was guilty of insurrection and murder. The crowd, swayed by the Chief Priests, shouted for Barabbas to be freed and demanded Jesus be crucified.

Pilate’s decision to follow the custom and release Barabbas, despite knowing Jesus was innocent, highlighted the political pressures and complexities of Roman rule. This practice demonstrated the crowd’s power in determining the fate of prisoners during significant Jewish festivities.

Linguistic Notes and Etymology

Linguistic Notes and Etymology
Linguistic Notes and Etymology

The name Barabbas is of Aramaic origin. The name is a patronymic, meaning “son of,” combined with “Abba,” which translates to “father” or “teacher.”

In some manuscripts, Barabbas is referred to as “Jesus Barabbas,” which would mean “Jesus, son of the father.” This makes the choice presented by Pontius Pilate even more significant.

The name Abba was a common term of respect during Jesus’s time, often used to address rabbis. This linguistic aspect adds another layer to the character’s story.

Biblical scholar Joseph Allen suggests that the name Barabbas may have been a proper name or a title, highlighting the duality of the choice between Jesus, the Son of God, and Jesus, the son of a father.

Origen, an early Christian theologian, also referenced the name Barabbas in his writings. He believed that the dual name highlighted the crowd’s loaded decision.

The etymology and linguistic background of Barabbas give us deeper insight into the narrative found in the New Testament. It also provides a richer context for understanding the events that unfolded during the trial of Jesus.

For more detailed information, visit Barabbas on Wikipedia or Abarim Publications’ page on Barabbas.

Frequently Asked Questions

who was barabbas in the bible
Frequently Asked Questions

In exploring who Barabbas was, we will address various perspectives on his actions, the nature of his interaction with Pontius Pilate, and the symbolic significance of his release. We will also touch on modern interpretations and the fate of Barabbas after his release, as well as how different Bible translations depict him.

What are some interpretations of the actions of Barabbas in the Bible?

Barabbas is often seen as a figure of rebellion and violence. According to some accounts, he was a notorious prisoner involved in an insurrection and committed murder. This portrayal marks a stark contrast to Jesus, who was peaceful and innocent.

How is the interaction between Pontius Pilate and Barabbas described?

The Gospels describe Pilate offering the crowd a choice: to release either Jesus or Barabbas. Pilate’s interaction with the crowd is marked by his repeated questioning of Jesus’s guilt and his apparent reluctance to condemn him. Yet, the crowd chose Barabbas, leading to Jesus’s crucifixion.

What does the release of Barabbas signify in biblical context?

The release of Barabbas can be seen as a representation of human choice. Faced with two figures—one symbolizing violence and rebellion, the other embodying peace and salvation—the people chose Barabbas. This decision reflects a deeper moral and spiritual crisis within society at that time.

In what ways does Barabbas’ story provide lessons for modern readers?

The story of Barabbas serves as a reminder of the consequences of choices. It prompts us to reflect on the nature of justice, the influence of public opinion, and the complexities of leadership. It is a call to consider the values we uphold and the decisions we make in our own lives.

What is known about the ultimate fate of Barabbas after his release?

The Bible does not provide details about what happened to Barabbas after his release. Some traditions suggest various outcomes, but none are confirmed by the scriptural texts. His disappearance from the narrative leaves an open question about his later life and actions.

How do different biblical translations handle the characterization of Barabbas?

Various Bible translations offer slight differences in how they portray Barabbas. Some texts emphasize his notoriety and criminal actions more than others. These differences can affect the reader’s perception of his character and the events surrounding his release.

For a detailed account, refer to the discussion on Barabbas’ crimes and character.

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