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, tolerance, and redemption. Jesus Barabbas (the "father" in his name meaning god) was a Christ of politics and war: 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.