Barabbas, bar-Abbas

Meaning: son of Abba or of a father

Barabbas was a notorious robber whom Pilate proposed to condemn to death instead of Jesus, whom he wished to release, in accordance with the Roman custom (John 18:40; Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19). But many Jewish leaders and their followers were so bent on the death of Jesus that they demanded that Barabbas should be pardoned (Matthew 27:16-26; Acts 3:14). This Pilate did.

He was also known as Jesus bar-Abbas, according to the New Revised Standard Version, based on a Greek textual variant of Matthew 27:15-18 found in a few manuscripts.

“At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’” (NRSV).

It is thought by some that the criminal’s full name was “Jesus Barabbas,” but that some later copyists dropped the “Jesus” in his name out of respect for our Lord Jesus Christ. “Jesus” was the name of five biblical men (including Jesus Christ) and is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. However, the King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New American Standard Bible (NASB) all use the consensus of most manuscripts, showing the name as simply “Barabbas.”

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