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10+ Best Facts About Barabbas

Barabbas, a biblical character and a Jewish rebel (c. 30 C.E.). In all four gospels of the New Testament, Barabbas is mentioned. Pontius Pilate released him before the Passover feast in Jerusalem because the Jewish crowd preferred him to Jesus Christ.

Barabbas could be Aramaic for “son of the father” (“bar abba”) or “son of teacher” (“bar Rabban”), which suggests that Barabbas could have had a Jewish father. One of many biblical scholars, Origen, suggested that Barabbas may have been called “Yeshua Barabbas” or “Jesus Barabbas.”

Matthew 27.16 refers to Barabbas being a “notorious prisoner.” Mark 15:7 and Luke 23.19 suggest that he was imprisoned alongside rebels who were held for rebellion and murder during the insurrection against the Roman forces. John 18.40 indicates that he was a bandit.

His background is not mentioned in any story.


His Story

  • Scholars believe that Barabbas was more than a robber. He was also a leader of a group that had been involved in violent acts against the Roman authorities. Some believe that he was part of the Zealots, or the Sicarii (or Dagger-men), which were militant Jews who wanted to expel the Roman occupiers.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was also held as a traitor. Jesus of Nazareth had entered the temple before his arrest. There, he overthrew the money changers’ tables and stopped the trade in sacrificial offerings for Passover.
  • The high priest’s followers bribed one of Jesus’s disciples to betray him. Then, he was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane. The high priest was then arrested and handed to Rome.
  • Barabbas was already in prison along with other rebels at that time. Jesus was taken to the Rome governor’s home in Jerusalem and tied up. Both Barabbas, as well as Jesus were sentenced to death. This could only be done by Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, or praefectus, depending on the choice of the crowd.
  • According to the four gospels, Pontius Pilate was required by Jerusalem’s Passover custom to commute the death sentence of a prisoner at the request of the people. According to some sources, the “crowd” or “ochlos,” “the Jews,” or “the multitude” were responsible for either Barabbas’ or Jesus’ release from Roman custody.
  • According to the gospels, the crowd wanted Barabbas released so that Jesus of Nazareth could be executed. Pilate had to reluctantly release Barabbas. The Gospel of Matthew describes how the crowd spoke of Jesus: “Let his blood fall upon us and upon all our children.” We don’t know much about Barabbas’ fate after his release.
  • The story was first found in three gospels: Mark 15:6 and Matthew 27:15John 18:39 also included it. Later, Luke’s copies showed a similar verse, Luke 23,17. However, it wasn’t in the original manuscripts.
  • The “Paschal Pardon” was the ritual of releasing Jerusalem prisoners at Passover. It was also known as the “Paschal Pardon.” There is some confusion in the gospels about whether this custom was Jewish or Roman.

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Other Interpretations

  • Scholars believe that the story about the crowd choosing Barabbas for release was used to justify antisemitism so that Jews could be blamed for the dead Jesus.
  • The Gospel of John refers to the crowd as “the Jews,” and Matthew also blames the Jews. However, the composition of the crowd is still debatable. According to the gospels, Jesus’ disciples abandoned him at the time he was arrested. Barabbas would have been more likely to have supporters for his release. Many believe that Jesus’ disciples could have also been part of the group who demanded Barabbas be released to satisfy the high priest.
  • Max Dimont, a Jewish historian, stated that Barabbas’s story was not credible from both the Jewish and Roman points of view. According to the story, Pontius Pilate was a Roman governor who a small unarmed group of civilians forced into releasing a murder suspect.
  • He could have done the execution of a Roman governor for doing this. Dimont also claimed that the tradition of “the privileges of Passover,” in which a criminal was freed, is not mentioned in the gospels. The same is not mentioned in any other scriptures or texts.
  • Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov created a more credible Pilate in his novel The Master and Margarita (1940). The novel portrays Pilate as a harassed official who, a high priest, threatens to execute Jesus.
  • Matthew 27.16-17 refers to Barabbas in ancient versions as “Jesus Barabbas.” Origen stated that a bandit couldn’t have been called Jesus, so the name “Jesus” was likely added to Barabbas by a later heretic.
  • Others suggest that the scribes might have removed the “Jesus” bit from the original “Jesus Barabbas” to avoid disrespecting Jesus Christ’s name.
Harrison Jones
Harrison Jones
Harrison has been a freelance financial reporter for the past 6 years. He knows the major trends in the financial world. Jones’ experience and useful tips help people manage their budgets wisely.


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