Barabbas (whose name ironically means "son of the father") was a robber
or a rebel
involved in an insurrection who was imprisoned during the same time Jesus
was being tried by Herod
and Pontius Pilate
. When Pontius Pilate
went before the crowds to release Jesus
, they demanded that Barabbas be released instead.
There is a great deal of mystery surrounding Barabbas, such as what exactly he was in prison for, what happened to him after he was released, and why he had such a strange name (Barabbas was not a common name at all; it is, in fact, quite an unusual one). Theories abound on all accounts. The very most interesting conjectures are of the last. Tradition has it that Barabbas' first name was, of all things, Jesus
. Various theories about what was happening go as follows.
In one version, the crowd's choice is a symbolic one: Jesus Christ
was a savior of a spiritual nature: he preached nonviolence
, and redemption
. Jesus Barabbas (the "father" in his name meaning god) was a Christ
: he was an insurrectionist who came to save the people through battle and bloodshed. The implications of this are up to interpretation, of course.
Another version has it that Pontius Pilate
fooled the crowds by offering a choice between Jesus son-of-god (Christ) and Jesus son-of-god (Barabbas). When they said Jesus son-of-god as in Barabbas, Pilate
, who genuinely wanted to let Jesus Christ
go, pretended to think they meant Jesus Christ
and not Jesus Barabbas, and so he let Jesus Christ
go and he really crucified Barabbas. That makes the whole crucifixion
bit a hoax. Again, the implications are left up to the reader to decide.