A prisoner released instead of Jesus. The evangelists called him a robber (John 18:40), a murderer (Luke 23:19), insurrectionist (Mark 15:7), and a notorious prisoner (Matt 27:16). Barabbas, a Jewish rioter, having participated in an act of terror in which a person was murdered, was caught by the Romans and imprisoned (Mark 15:7). He was released by Pontius Pilate on the choice of the multitude, persuaded by the chief priests and elders (Matt 27:20; Mark 15:11; Luke 23:18). Pilate did this in accordance with the custom "that I should release someone to you at the Passover" (John 18:39). Barabbas was due to be crucified together with two other prisoners, but as the impending Feast of Passover brought thousands of pilgrims to Jerusalem, the Roman authorities thought it circumspect to wait until after the Feast. Although the chief priests and elders were in favour of crucifying Barabbas, they knew that the multitudes admired him as a freedom fighter. Consequently Barabbas was released when Pilate heard the crowd shouting "Away with this man and release to us Barabbas" (Luke 23:18). Some scholars suppose that Barabbas belonged to the group of Zealots – patriots who fought against foreign rule. In some early versions his first name is given as Jesus.
Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas (literally "son of the father" or "Jesus, son of the father" respectively) is a figure in the Christian narrative of the Passion of Christ, in which he is the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem.
The penalty for Barabbas' crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the four canonical gospels and the non-canonical Gospel of Peter there was a prevailing Passover custom in Jerusalem that allowed or required Pilate, the praefectus or governor of Judaea, to commute one prisoner's death sentence by popular acclaim, and the "crowd" (ochlos) — which has become "the Jews" and "the multitude" in some sources — were offered a choice of whether to have Barabbas or Jesus Christ released from Roman custody. According to the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the accounts in John and the Gospel of Peter, the crowd chose Barabbas to be released and Jesus of Nazareth to be crucified. A passage found only in the Gospel of Matthew has the crowd saying, "Let his blood be upon us and upon our children".
The story of Barabbas has special social significances, because it has historically been used to lay the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews, and to justify anti-Semitism—an interpretation, known as Jewish deicide, dismissed by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2011 book Jesus of Nazareth, in which he also questions the historicity of the passage in Matthew.
Matthew refers to Barabbas only as a "notorious prisoner". Mark and Luke further refer to Barabbas as one involved in a stasis, a riot. John 18:40 refers to Barabbas as a lēstēs ("bandit"), "the word Josephus always employs when talking about Revolutionaries", Robert Eisenman observes.
Three gospels state that there was a custom at Passover during which the Roman governor would release a prisoner of the crowd's choice: Mark 15:6; Matthew 27:15; and John 18:39. Later copies of Luke contain a corresponding verse (Luke 23:17), though it is not present in the earliest manuscripts, and may be a later gloss to bring Luke into conformity. The gospels differ on whether the custom was a Roman one or a Jewish one, as part of the Jubilee.
No custom of releasing prisoners in Jerusalem is recorded in any historical document other than the gospels. An Ancient Roman celebration called Lectisternium involved feasting and sometimes included a temporary removal of the chains from all prisoners. However, J. Blinzler associates Barabbas' release with a passage in the Mishna Peshahim 8,6 which says that the Passover lamb may be offered 'for one whom they have promised to bring out of prison'. (J. Blinzler, The Trial of Jesus, 1959, pp218ff.)
Barabbas's name appears as bar-Abbas in the Greek texts. It is derived ultimately from the Aramaic בר-אבא, Bar-abbâ, "son of the father". According to early Greek texts, Barabbas' full name was Jesus Barabbas. Later texts shorten his name to just Barabbas.
Abba has been found as a personal name in a 1st-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 AD 200–400. These findings support "Barabbas" being used to indicate the son of a person named Abba or Abbas (a patronymic).
Abba means "father" in Aramaic, and appears both translated and untranslated in the Gospels. A translation of Bar-Abbas would be son of the father. Jesus often referred to God as "father", and Jesus' use of the Aramaic word Abba survives untranslated in Mark 14:36 (in most English translations). This has led some authors (named below) to speculate that "bar-Abbâ" could actually be a reference to Jesus himself as "son of the father".
In his novel All Who Came Before, Biblical Scholar Simon Perry takes Bar-Abbas as a title meaning 'son of the father'. The central character is also the son of a rabbi (leading to a word-play with "Bar-Rabbas"). Bar-Abbas is a well intentioned believer whose actions in a Jewish resistance movement make him a kind of Dietrich Bonhoeffer figure. His heroics, and the type of resistance he sought, are what led the crowds to call for his release over the more passive resistance offered by Yeshua of Nazareth.
Benjamin Urrutia, co-author of The Logia of Yeshua: The Sayings of Jesus, agrees with Maccoby[who?] and others who say 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's Temple Mount. The story of this successful resistance is told by Josephus — who does not say who the leader was, but does tell of Pilate's crucifixion of Jesus just two paragraphs later in a passage whose authenticity is heavily disputed. 
This practice of releasing a prisoner is said by Magee[who?] and others 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.
Dennis R. MacDonald, in The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, notes that a similar episode to the one that occurs in Mark—of a crowd picking one figure over another figure similar to the other—occurred in The Odyssey, where Odysseus entered the palace disguised as a beggar and defeated his wife's suitors to reclaim his throne. MacDonald suggests Mark borrowed from this section of The Odyssey and used it to pen the Barabbas tale, only this time Jesus- the protagonist- loses to highlight the cruelty of Jesus' persecutors. However, this theory is rejected by other scholars.
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