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The ESV is typical in it's rendering of Barabbas' name:

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”—Matthew 27:15-23 (ESV)

The NRSV translation, however, says that his name is Jesus Barabbas:

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?’—Matthew 27:16-17 (NRSV)

The footnote reads:

Other ancient authorities lack Jesus

So was his name Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas?

  • 4
    Maybe the Christian English Bibles should all refactor all occurrences of Jesus to Joshua. – Cynthia Avishegnath Nov 22 '12 at 17:26
  • 2
    @Blessed Geek: You might be interested in the The Jewish New Testament which transliterates the name to Yeshua. (It also does a number of other things to remind us that he was, after all, a Jew living among Jews.) – Jon Ericson Nov 22 '12 at 17:31
  • very interesting question , this also lends support to the Islamic view that Jesus escaped crucufiction. Infact Quran clearly says that someone else replaced Jesus. The crucifiction happened but it could not be christ Jesus. Intending to write an answer for this. – bib Dec 12 '13 at 9:55
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The name Barabbas is clearly a patronymic (bar-Abbas or "son of the father") rather than a given name. As it turns out, a handful of manuscripts provide another name for that individual: Jesus. As the NET Bible points out:

Although the external evidence for the inclusion of “Jesus” before “Barabbas” (in vv. 16 and 17) is rather sparse, being restricted virtually to the Caesarean text (Θ Ë1 700* pc sys), the omission of the Lord’s name in apposition to “Barabbas” is such a strongly motivated reading that it can hardly be original. There is no good explanation for a scribe unintentionally adding ᾿Ιησοῦν (Ihsoun) before Βαραββᾶν (Barabban), especially since Barabbas is mentioned first in each verse (thus dittography is ruled out). Further, the addition of τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν (ton legomenon Criston, “who is called Christ”) to ᾿Ιησοῦν in v. 17 makes better sense if Barabbas is also called “Jesus” (otherwise, a mere “Jesus” would have been a sufficient appellation to distinguish the two).

Bruce Terry speculates:

The name "Jesus" before "Barabbas" in verses 16 and 17 is in brackets in the UBS text. Although the name "Jesus Barabbas" is found in only a few manuscripts, it is more likely to be original, because copyists would have been likely to have omitted the name "Jesus" from before "Barabbas" out of reverence, and there is no reason for it to have been added.

That seems possible, but my speculation is that the scribes removed the Barabbas's given name in order to reconcile Matthew with the other gospels, which all tell this story and do not mention his full name. It also might have been an attempt to simplify the story and remove the prospect that the crowd was confused over which Jesus Pilot was asking about.

Conclusion

As a student of the gospels, I would appreciate translations to, at the very least, mention this important textual variation in a footnote. The evidence also seems strong enough to include the variant in the text itself.

1

Peace.

Indeed, Barabbas (meaning “son of the father”) has the given name “Jesus” and this historical person has present-day implications as many come preaching “another Jesus” today….a “Jesus” that is the “son” of a church father …or maybe the son of the father of the lie (the devil)….and is not the true Son of the Father.

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 KJV (3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (4) For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

There are 2 Jesuses being presented here: Jesus Barabbas (the son of the father) and Jesus the one being called “Christ” ( Anointed) who is the Son of the Father in Heaven.

Matthew 27:16-17 KJV (16) And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. (17) Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

The choosing between the 2 called “Jesus” has not ceased today as there are many who come to us preaching “another Jesus” rather than the true Jesus who is called Christ and they want you to choose their “Jesus” that they are preaching and to “crucify” the true Jesus out of our own lives so that His eternal life never appears outwardly in our mortal flesh.

It was the “chief priests and elders” who wanted the multitude to choose the Barabbas…the son of the father… and destroy the Son (Jesus) who is called Christ. They used persuasive words (convincing words that seemed true to the multitude’s hearing) and still do today as they want us to choose their “Jesus” the son of their church father that they are preaching rather than THE Jesus the Son of God.

Matthew 27:20-22 KJV (20) But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. (21) The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. (22) Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified

Paul calls them the “very chiefest apostles” who come forth to us today to preach “another Jesus” than the One that the true apostles preach (THE Jesus). The true apostles preach THE Jesus and not a “Jesus” the son of a church father or scribe who wrote a handwriting of church dogmas for us to keep in order to serve their “son”.

Yet, people gladly receive those who come preaching another Jesus as they see themselves as "wise" .

2 Corinthians 11:4-5 KJV (4) For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. (5) For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

John calls them “antichrists” who deny that Jesus is the Christ as they preach that their Jesus is the true one and deny the true Jesus Christ who is the Son. Their “Jesus” is the son of their “father” and not the Son of the Father.

1 John 2:22-27 KJV (22) Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

Those who deny the true Son (as they preach their “son” of their “father”) do not have the Father.

(23) Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. (24) Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

Their father does not promise us eternal life in this earth as the Father in Heaven does…and this promise of eternal life is for the here-and-now and exists in His Son…the true Son.

(25) And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

The antichrists seek to deceive us about these things.

(26) These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

They want us to deny the true anointing that we have received of Him and listen to their “teaching” of their son that leads us to our death in this earth without His appearing life.

(27) But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

The hidden life of the Jesus within us is to be made manifest in our outer mortal flesh giving us His eternal life in this earth. Their “Jesus” never comes and many continue to look for him and have looked for him to appear for the last 2000 years.

If we abide in Him...abiding in the true Son, then His life shall be made manifest in our mortal body. He comes quickly.

2 Corinthians 4:10-11 KJV (10) Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

His life shall be made manifest outwardly in our mortal flesh if we always keep the dying of the Lord Jesus in our mortal body. Yet, the breath of the antichrist denies that Jesus is coming in our mortal flesh and seeks to remove this keeping of His “daily” sacrifice out of our lives.

(11) For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus (the true Jesus) from the dead dwell in us, then He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also make alive our MORTAL bodies by His Spirit that dwells in us.

Romans 8:10-14 KJV (10) And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (11) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (12) Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

If through the Spirit do we deaden the deeds of the body, we shall live…in this earth with the eternal life of the true Jesus.

(13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

But those who deceive us are preventing His life from ever appearing in the mortal flesh as the “Jesus” that they are preaching does not have us deaden the deeds of the body so that the life of the true Jesus appears. Their "son" has us worshipping and serving their handwriting of ordinances and judging others according to them. Their "son" has us living after the flesh and not after the Spirit.

They do not confess (acknowledge in their preaching) that Jesus Christ is come (is coming) in the flesh…our mortal flesh ….to give our moral bodies His eternal life in this earth. They do not have this teaching of the Christ (the Anointed)…the doctrine of Christ…in any of their preaching.

We have to “die” and go to heaven (according to them) when the true Jesus died already for us so that we might have His eternal life now. The teachings of their “Jesus” does not confess this teaching of the Christ.

2 John 1:7-11 KJV (7) For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (8) Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. (9) Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (10) If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (11) For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

God has given to us eternal life (NOW) and this life is in His Son and not in their “son”….Jesus Barabbas. He that does not have the Son of God does not have His life.

1 John 5:11-13 KJV (11) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

We are to know that we have eternal life NOW…believing on the name (authority) of the Son of God.

(13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

God has ALREADY raised Jesus from the dead so that we may live His eternal life now.

Acts 3:13-17 KJV (13) The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

Why deny the Holy One and the Just One for their “Jesus”?

(14) But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;

Their “son” is a murderer as the Prince of life is being “killed” out of the lives of many as His life is being prevented from appearing in the mortal flesh of those who choose the “murderer” that the false prophets are preaching.

God has already raised THE Jesus….the Prince of Life… from the dead so that we might have His eternal life now in this earth.

(15) And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

Through faith in His name (and not the other “Jesus”) does He make our “man” strong….our mortal bodies…so that this world may see (through us) what it truly means to do His will.

(16) And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

In ignorance do we do it….as the rulers we choose to listen to do also.

(17) And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.

If the “rulers” of the churches….the “princes of this age”…the men who love to be first among the churches…..would know the wisdom of God, they would not crucify (now) the Lord of glory.

He is the Lord of glory for God has already raised Him up from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God. He is alive now….but His life is being prevented from ever appearing in this earth because of the ignorance of our church leaders.

1 Corinthians 2:7-8 KJV (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: (8) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

They do this for money. Jesus Barabbas was a “robber” also.

Also, we are our own worst enemy as we rely upon our own “wisdom” and choose “another Jesus” that the deceivers are preaching. We rely upon man’s wisdom and mentally side with it.

Our faith should not stand upon man’s wisdom. The Prince of life is crucified out of our own lives in the place of a skull….the head where the mind decides to receive the wisdom of men who are preaching “another Jesus”. We vote for Jesus Barabbas then as we number/reckon that the real Jesus is among the transgressors when He is not. Why seek the Living among those who are “dead” in trespasses and sins?

John 19:16-17 KJV (16) Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. (17) And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

When we do this, the life of the Jesus is extinguished out of our own lives so that His eternal life never appears in our outer mortal flesh.

If any man thinks (to himself) to be wise in this age, let him become a fool so that he may be truly wise.

1 Corinthians 3:18-20 KJV (18) Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

The wisdom of this world (especially the religious world) is foolishness with God. He captures the wise in their own craftiness….in their own estimation of their being “wise”.

(19) For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

The “thoughts”…..the internal accounting….of the “wise” are empty. They vote in their own “wisdom” for the other Jesus…the one that the adversaries are preaching…and in doing so they crucify Jesus out of their own lives. They receive the authority of other men in their own estimation that the wisdom of the religious world is true.

(20) And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

There is a way that seems right unto a man…

Proverbs 14:12 KJV (12) There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

There is hope though as it is all done in ignorance of the Truth and we are shown mercy. We are to take up our cross and follow Him.

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The comments of Dean John William Burgon in his book, The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels chapter 4 section 6, offers a very good explanation that it was not the real name of Barabbas, but a scribal mistake.

I have reserved for the last a specimen which is second to none in suggestiveness. ‘Whom will ye that I release unto you?’ asked Pilate on a memorable occasion32: and we all remember how his enquiry proceeds. But the discovery is made that, in an early age there existed copies of the Gospel which proceeded thus,—‘Jesus [who is called33] Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ Origen so quotes the place, but ‘In many copies,’ he proceeds, ‘mention is not made that Barabbas was also called Jesus: and those copies may perhaps be right,—else would the name of Jesus belong to one of the wicked,—of which no instance occurs in any part of the Bible: nor is it fitting that the name of Jesus should like Judas have been borne by saint and sinner alike. ‘I think,’ Origen adds, ‘something of this sort must have been an interpolation of the heretics34.’ From this we are clearly intended to infer that ‘Jesus Barabbas’ was the prevailing reading of St. Mat 27:17 in the time of Origen, a circumstance which—besides that a multitude of copies existed as well as those of Origen—for the best of reasons, we take leave to pronounce incredible35. The sum of the matter is probably this:—Some inattentive second century copyist [probably a Western Translator into Syriac who was an indifferent Greek scholar] mistook the final syllable of ‘unto you’ (ΥΜΙΝ) for the word ‘Jesus’ (ῙΝ̄): in other words, carelessly reduplicated the last two letters of ΥΜΙΝ,—from which, strange to say, results the form of inquiry noticed at the outset. Origen caught sight of the extravagance, and condemned it though he fancied it to be prevalent, and the thing slept for 1500 years. Then about just fifty years ago Drs. Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles began to construct that ‘fabric of Textual Criticism’ which has been the cause of the present treatise [though indeed Tischendorf does not adopt the suggestion of those few aberrant cursives which is supported by no surviving uncial, and in fact advocates the very origin of the mischief which has been just described]. But, as every one must see, such things as these are not ‘readings’ at all, nor even the work of ‘the heretics;’ but simply transcriptional mistakes. How Dr. Hort, admitting the blunder, yet pleads that ‘this remarkable reading is attractive by the new and interesting fact which it seems to attest, and by the antithetic force which it seems to add to the question in Mat 27:17,’ [is more than we can understand. To us the expression seems most repulsive. No ‘antithetic force’ can outweigh our dislike to the idea that Barabbas was our Saviour’s namesake! We prefer Origen’s account, though he mistook the cause, to that of the modern critic.]

And of course the footnotes refered to in the above text:

  1. St. Mat 27:17.
  2. Cf. ὁ λεγόμενος Βαραββᾶς. St. Mar 15:7.
  3. Int. iii. 918 c d.
  4. On the two other occasions when Origen quotes St. Mat 27:17 (i. 316 a and ii. 245 a) nothing is said about ‘Jesus Barabbas.’—Alluding to the place, he elsewhere (iii. 853 d) merely says that ‘Secundum quosdam Barabbas dicebatter et Jesus.’—-The author of a well-known scholion, ascribed to Anastasius, Bp. of Antioch, but query, for see Migne, vol. lxxxix. p. 1352 b c (= Galland. xii. 253 c), and 1604 a, declares that he had found the same statement ‘in very early copies.’ The scholion in question is first cited by Birch (Varr. Lectt. p. 110) from the following MSS.:—S, 108, 129, 137, 138, 143, 146, 181, 186, 195, 197, 199 or 200, 209, 210, 221, 222: to which Scholz adds 41, 237, 238, 253, 259, 299: Tischendorf adds 1, 118. In Gallandius (Bibl. P. P. xiv. 81 d e, Append.), the scholion may be seen more fully given than by Birch,—from whom Tregelles and Tischendorf copy it. Theophylact (p. 156 a) must have seen the place as quoted by Gallandius. The only evidence, so far as I can find, for reading ‘Jesus Barabbas’ (in St. Mat 27:16-17) are five disreputable Evangelia 1, 118, 209, 241, 299,—the Armenian Version, the Jerusalem Syriac, [and the Sinai Syriac]; (see Adler, pp. 172-3).
-1
  1. Barabbas doesn't mean son of the father. Instead, it is a patronimic or another nickname.

  2. The name Jesus followed by Barabbas in Matthew 27:16-17 can be found in some versions of the Greeg Bible. It is reported in the Novum Testamentum Graece in brackets because it is not considered true for certain. It could be caused by a copier's mistake.

  3. It is possible that there was no mistake, but the name Jesus followed by Barabbas wasn't uncommon in Palestine and wasn't a problem for Eastern Christians who knew the Jewish culture.

  4. Later, other Christians, who didn't know Jewish culture well, had the word Jesus removed from Barabbas as a form of respect towards Jesus Christ.

What I have written is reported in a scientific report 74 pages long about the name Barabbas. It can be found on internet at this address: http://digilander.libero.it/Hard_Rain/Barabba.pdf

It is written in Italian so I’ll report the translation of the some of the most relevant parts of this report (“Note relative al nome Barabba”) and the original quotation from the Novum Testamentum Graece:

16 εἶχον δὲ τότε δέσμιον ἐπίσημον λεγόμενον [Ἰησοῦν] Βαραββᾶν ([Jesus] Barabbas). 17συνηγμένων οὖν αὐτῶν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Πιλᾶτος• τίνα θέλετε ἀπολύσω ὑμῖν, [Ἰησοῦν τὸν] Βαραββᾶν ([Jesus the] Barabbas) ἢ Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον χριστόν;

P 11 Now, the term bar Abba, בר אבא, is so common in Jewish literature that anyone who meets it immediately think of a patronymic, not tied to God as Father, but to a person's name. Bar Abba understood as a child of God, called "Father" as a title or proper name, is in fact an expression totally unknown in Judaism. It is possible to call God Abba, but never would anybody call someone a "son of the Father" and even "son of God".

P 13, footnote 49 It is allowed to invoke God in Aramaic as "abba" in the first person, as in the case of Jesus, although the use is limited.

P 13, footnote 49 In Judaism we do not have cases of use of the word of "abba" as the title of God

P17 If there is no literary attestation that "bar Abba" or derived forms may mean son of the Father in the honorific sense of "son of God", even in terms of simple Aramaic grammar this solution is to be discarded.

P 18 if you wanted to say "Son of the Father" in Aramaic should say: בריה דאבא (berè deAbba), or "son-of-his Father," an expression that provides a greek word transliteration incompatible with Barabbas / n. Moreover, this expression is never understood in the sense of "son of God", but as the son of the rabbi, the teacher.

P11 In the Talmud Abba is a name of a person and bar Abba is a patronymic , in the Seder has Dorot are cited dozens of rabbis who are called Abba , we also have mention of a Yeshua bar Abba , of course this is not purely and simply identified with Barabbas in the gospel ( whose name was Jesus , according to some manuscripts of Matthew's Gospel ), but it illustrates how the combination in Aramaic of Jesus with patronymic bar Abba is certainly not a fact that gave anybody some sort of perplexity.

P 18 It is possible, if not likely, that both Mark and Matthew have meant reporting what was not a patronymic form, which could only correspond to the "son of Abba " , but a nickname, a nom de guerre of what in effect is defined as brigand , a bandit who was in prison .

P 72 Barabbas can be interpreted as a patronymic (son of Abba), or as a nickname (in a similar way to bar Kokhba), this gives us an interpretation of this character consistent with the Jewish culture and the environment.

P 9-10 It is possible, on the one hand, that the lesson Jesus Barabbas originated from an accident in the manuscript transmission but it is also possible that the lesson is genuine and has survived only in codes of "Palestinian" tradition and in Origen because the expression did not cause any inconvenience or theological embarrassment to an audience of the Palestinian geographical origin and mentality, as opposed to other geographic regions where censorship began to operate very soon.

P 72 It is possible to conjecture that the name "Jesus" suffixed to Barabbas was known in the Palestinian traditions and were part of the older editions of the Gospel of Matthew; it was later censured for deference to Jesus Christ and the tradition was lost

  • PLEASE DO NOT SHOUT WITH ALL-CAPS. Also, was the name "Jesus" really uncommon in the First Century? Please see Colossians 4:11. There we find an associate of Paul, whose name was "Jesus." Thanks! – Joseph May 9 '14 at 22:51
  • Abba as a name for God was actually used in Judaism. It appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Talmudic literature. bt Taan 23b tells of Abba Chilkiah who prayed God would send rain for some schoolchildren who had asked him (Abba, the wrong Abba) to make rain. He prayed answer the prayer of these children who cannot tell the difference in "the Abba who can give rain and the Abba who cannot give rain." – Frank Luke May 15 '14 at 18:38

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