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"Jesus Barabbas"

According to the United Bible Societies' text, Matthew 27:17 reads: "...whom will ye that I release unto you? Jesus Barabbas [Greek: Iesoun ton Barabban] or Jesus who is called Christ (Iesoun ton legomenon Christon)"?

Some early Syriac manuscripts of Matthew present Barabbas' name twice as Jesus bar Abbas: manuscripts in the Caesarean text-type— the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the Syriac lectionaries and some of the manuscripts used by Origen in the 3rd century— all support Barabbas' name as Jesus Barabbas. Origen consciously rejected the reading in the manuscript he was working with, and left out "Iesous" deliberately, for reverential considerations, certainly a strongly motivated omission. Origen did not want the name Jesus associated with anyone who was a sinner.[citation needed] While Origen was later declared a heretic, much of his theology and philosophy remained influential, and has, to some extent, been traced to the later St. Augustine , who remains one of the most influential church fathers. It is a point of contention how much influence Origen's edits of the text may have had.

Some scholars[attribution needed] believe that Mark's parallels between the two men, each a "Jesus, son of the Father," constructing a parable, may have been overplayed, as it does not conform to the modern mainstream concept of Jesus, but more closely parallels the Gnostic Jesus as depicted by earlier Christian texts.

"Barabbas", or "Bar-abbas", translates to "son of the father", which could be a surname. It is not common in any other Hebrew text. {Bar-abba is found in the story of Jesus Pandera but bears little relevance. Many scholars have speculated that Jesus was known as "bar-Abba", due to his custom of addressing God as father or 'Abba' in prayer, as well as referring to God as Abba in his preaching.

In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, written by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, there is an idea that Barabbas is son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. According to authors of the book, this explains why the crowd choose Barabbas to stay alive, because such act will save the dynasty.

The alternative possibility, that "Jesus" was unintentionally inserted twice before Barabbas' name, in verses 16 and 17, is unlikely, especially since Barabbas is mentioned first in each verse (thus, dittography is ruled out). It must be noted, however, that all surviving texts that include Barabbas' name as "Jesus" are Syriac translations of the original Greek.

Most modern translations of the New Testament do not contain "Iesous" as the name of Barabbas. Additionally, none of the New Testament compilations in the original Greek contain "Iesous" as the name of Barabbas, nor is there any evidence within the Greek grammatical forms that Barabbas was anything more than a proper name and not an epigraph.

  Barabbas' crime

John 18:40 refers to Barabbas as a lēstēs, "bandit;" Mark and Luke further refer to Barabbas as one involved in a stasis, a riot. Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19. Matthew refers to Barabbas only as a "notorious prisoner." Matthew 27:16. Some scholars[attribution needed] posit that Barabbas was a member of the sicarii, a militant Jewish movement that sought to overthrow the Roman occupiers of their land by force, noting that Mark (15:7) mentions that he had committed murder in an insurrection.

The sicarii and the ongoing revolt of Jews against foreign presence in Judea have been discussed by Robert Eisenman;[1] however, many historians maintain that the sicarii only arose in the 40s or 50s of the first century — after Jesus' execution.[2]

Various authors contend Barabbas's crime would translate today as terrorism.[3][4][5] He is called a terrorist in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.[6][7]

 Barrabbas in the gospels

Three gospels all state unequivocally that there was a custom at Passover during which the Roman governor would release a prisoner of the crowd's choice. Mark 15:6; Matt. 27:15; John 18:39> The corresponding verse in Luke (Luke 23:17) is not present in the earliest manuscripts and may be a later gloss to bring Luke into conformity)[8] The gospels differ on whether the custom was a Roman one or a Jewish one.

Such a release or custom of such a release is not recorded in any other historical document. Some[attributeeded] point to the perception of Pontius Pilate's disregard for Jewish sensibilities; the idea of him honouring Jewish Passover in any way may not fit with historical accounts of his character. However, other historians[attribution needed] take the opposite approach, arguing that Pilate showed careful regard to customs in order to avoid revolts in an unruly province, and this may be an example of Pilate creating a tradition ad hoc, in order to avoid a possibly explosive situation. The gospels, however, portray Pilate not as the one in control of the situation, and have him pleading with the crowd that they choose Jesus of Nazareth to be released, then reluctantly surrendering to their decision.

An alternate reading of the events involving Barrabbas can also be made, however. Given that Barrabbas was described by some to be a revolutionary or a terrorist, it stands to reason that his acts of terror and revolt would have been directed against the Romans. In this case, it would be logical to assume that Barrabbas might have been viewed by the people as something of a folk hero, in modern terms a freedom fighter or insurgent taking the fight to the Roman occupiers. When Barrabbas is seen through this lens, it appears that Pilate's choice to the people was not much of a choice at all. If Pilate were to offer a local hero to the people as an alternative to Jesus, they would most certainly choose to free the hero. Thus, Pilate could bring about the execution of a dangerous man of God without seeming to actually be responsible for his death.

This argument is also supported in the events of Luke 23:6-12. Pilate claims no jurisdiction over Jesus because he is from Galillee (Jerusalem was in Judea) and passes him along to Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, to be sentenced. Despite having ordered the death of John the Baptist, Herod's reaction is to ridicule Jesus for a time, and then to pass him right back to Pilate. The result of Herod's apparent assent to Pilate's jurisdiction over Jesus is said to have brought about a truce between the two men in Luke 23:12.

This event, along with the "vote" between Barrabbas and Jesus, and taken with the fact that it was the Jewish Sanhedrin who had brought Jesus before Pilate in the first place, would seem to illustrate that Jesus was something of a political hot potato whom everyone from the leaders of the Temple hierarchy, to the Romans, to the Hebrew aristocracy would just as soon be rid of, but whom no one wanted to take the actual responsibility for killing. When seen in this light, it appears that everyone involved, and therefore no one group or person in particular, is responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.

If Pilate did not offer a choice between Jesus and another person, several possible explanations for the origin of such a story have been offered by a number of scholars.

 Were Barabbas and Jesus the same person?

The name Barabbas is composed of two elements: bar, meaning "son of", and Abba.

Abba has been found as a personal name in a first century burial at Giv'at ha-Mivtar and Abba also appears as a personal name frequently in the Gemara section of the Talmud, dating from 200-400.[9] This would mean that Barabbas was the son of one named Abba.

Abba also means "father" in Aramaic. Jesus sometimes referred to God as "father;" Jesus' use of the Aramaic word Abba survives untranslated (in most English translations) in Mark 14:36. In the gospels, Jesus rarely refers to himself as "son of God" and never refers to himself as "son of the father."[10]. However, some[attribution needed] speculate that "bar-Abbâ" could refer to Jesus himself as "son of the father".

Hyam Maccoby and some other scholars have averred that Jesus was known as "bar-Abba", because of his custom of addressing God as 'Abba' in prayer, and referring to God as Abba in his preaching. It follows that when the Jewish crowd clamored before Pontius Pilate to "free Bar Abba" they could have meant Jesus. Anti-Semitic elements in the Christian church, the argument goes, altered the narrative to make it appear that the demand was for the freedom of somebody else (a brigand or insurrectionist) named "Barabbas". This was in, the theory goes, part of the tendency to shift the blame for the Crucifixion towards the Jews and away from the Romans. (See Hyam Maccoby, Revolution in Judea.)

Maccoby identifies Paul of Tarsus for this shifting of blame in The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention Of Christianity, which explains extensively why it was necessary to appease Roman sentiment prior to Constantine I's Edict of Milan (Edict of Tolerance) in 313, which legalized Christianity.

The appeasing of Roman sentiment was, Maccoby suggests, confined to the matters of the blame for Crucifixion and over Jesus' "true" mission in life. Maccoby argues that Jesus was an anti-Roman revolutionary and that Paul, who had never met Jesus during his life-time, disagreed strongly with Jesus' actual followers over what Jesus' mission was.

In his self-appointed proselytising role of Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul absolved Rome of any blame for the crucifixion so that new Roman converts could more easily accept the miracle of Jesus' resurrection with no guilt for the murder that made it possible. For a Roman convert to accept that Jesus was the messiah he would also be accepting that Rome killed God's only son - so Paul shifted the blame on to the Jews, and the Barabbas/Pilate story and, more famously, the Judas myth, were used as blame shifting tactics to get new recruits to Paul's newly formed religion.

Benjamin Urrutia, co-author with Guy Davenport of The Logia of Yeshua: The Sayings of Jesus agrees with Maccoby and others who aver that Yeshua Bar Abba or Jesus Barabbas must be none other than Jesus of Nazareth, and that the choice between two prisoners is a fiction. However, Urrutia opposes the notion that Jesus may have either led or planned a violent insurrection. Jesus was a strong advocate of "turning the other cheek" - which means not submission but strong and courageous, though nonviolent, defiance and resistance. Jesus, in this view, must have been the planner and leader of the Jewish nonviolent resistance to Pilate's plan to set up Roman Eagle standards on Jerusalem'sTemple Mount. The story of this successful resistance is told by Josephus — who, curiously, does not say who was the leader, but does tell of Pilate's crucifixion of Jesus just two paragraphs later in a passage whose authenticity is heavily disputed. (See article Josephus on Jesus, in particular the section "Arabic Version." This version seems to be free of the postulated Christian interpolations, but still makes it clear that Pilate ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.)

A different interpretation is that the story derives from the Jewish crowd (many of whom may have been among those who had hailed Jesus as a king perhaps less than a week earlier) calling out for the freedom of the man who referred to the Jewish God as "father" and referred to himself as "son-of the father" (bar-Abba in Aramaic) — namely, Jesus himself. Pilate refused their pleas (and likely would have been disciplined by his superiors in Rome, if he did not punish both insurrectionists and those who claimed to be king of the Jews). Later, when people who did not understand Aramaic retold the story, they still included the petition for freedom, but bar-Abbas became a separate person - incidentally thus making the Romans less culpable, and the Jews more so.[citation needed]

Further interpretations[attribution needed] along these same lines raise questions about how much difference there was between Jesus and an insurrectionist. In the gospels, shortly after being hailed as a king by the Jews, Jesus caused a commotion in the Jewish temple by overturning tables and swinging a lash (mentioned only in John) at people. Soon afterwards and just shortly before his arrest, the gospels have Jesus telling his apostles to sell their cloaks and buy swords(Luke 22:36) — and at least one sword turns up in the hands of Peter (named only in John) in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Arthur Drews, a German Hegelian philosopher, in his books Christ Myth (1924) and Legend of Peter (1924), argued that first-century Christianity was a social ethical movement which needed no founder to explain its rise. A long standing feature of the Semitic world was an annual sacrifice of a "Son of the Father" — Barabbas, originally called Jesus Barabbas.[citation needed] Of course, in the Hebrew Bible and in Judaism in general, human sacrifice is strongly condemned. Because of this and many other aspects of Drews' research, including the discrediting of Christianity in favor of a national Germanic religion (around the same time as the rise of the Nazi party), most of Drews' research and views are held suspect by the academic community, though he remains a significant source among some of those who argue that Jesus was a mythical creation as opposed to an historical figure.

A possible parable

This practice of releasing a prisoner is said by some analysts[attribution needed] to be an element in a literary creation of Mark, who needed to have a contrast to the true "son of the father" in order to set up an edifying contest, in a form of parable. An interpretation, using modern reader response theory, suggests no petition for the release of Barabbas need ever have happened at all, and that the contrast between Barabbas and Jesus is a parable meant to draw the reader (or hearer) of the gospel into the narrative so that they must choose whose revolution, the violent insurgency of Barabbas or the challenging gospel of Jesus, is truly from the Father.[citation needed]

If this interpretation is true, it means that the fictitious division of Yeshua Bar Abba (Jesus Barabbas) into two different people was already made in the hypothesized Aramaic texts, before the Greek Gospels were written.[citation needed]

A critical analysis of possibly fictive elements in Mark's series of ironic parallels, and a comparison with Homer's contest between the beggars for the approval of the suitors in the Odyssey, is laid out in detail in Dennis R. MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark.[11]

However, this theory too is rejected by mainstream scholars. [12]

It has also been suggested that Barabbas was an allegory for humanity. In this theory, the freeing of Barabbas represents the redemption of humanity from the original sin of Adam, "Son of the Father," through the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If this is correct, it might suggest that the appellation "Jesus Barabbas" was simply an error made by a scribe who was ignorant of the actual allegorical significance of the narrative.[1]

References - see wiki -

Other uses of "Barabbas"

  • Barabbas (1928): Play by avant-garde Belgian dramatist Michel De Ghelderode.
  • Barabbas (1950): A novel by Swedish author Pär Lagerkvist for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1951.
  • Barabbas (1962): Epic film starring Anthony Quinn, based on Lagerkvist's book.
  • Monty Python's film Life of Brian (1979) features a comic scene with Pontius Pilate having a speech impediment, and asking the crowd if they want him, instead of "Bwian", to "Welease... Woger".
  • The Passion of the Christ (2004): In this controversial film, written, produced and directed by Mel Gibson, Barabbas is described by Pontius Pilate as a "notorious murderer," for which there is little evidence in text. Matthew 27:16 describes Barabbas simply as "notorious," and Luke 23: 19 even implies that his crimes may have been political (noting that he "had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)". He is further portrayed as mad, for which there is no textual evidence whatsoever. Collectively, these editorial choices on the part of the film maker have the net effect of making Barabbas' release more craven than text would support.
  •  External links

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