Modified & Updated: 23 Sep 2023


Barabbas, a name reverberating with intrigue and enigma, has captivated biblical scholars, theologians, and the collective imagination of the populace for centuries. Known primarily as the prisoner released instead of Jesus Christ, this biblical figure remains steeped in mystery. Let’s delve into ten interesting insights that bring us closer to understanding the character of Barabbas.

Table of Contents

Barabbas Was Released Instead of Jesus Christ

In one of the most poignant moments in the New Testament, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, presented a crowd with a choice: to pardon Jesus Christ, a man accused of inciting rebellion against Rome, or Barabbas, a known insurrectionist and murderer. The crowd chose Barabbas, leading to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Barabbas Was Known as an Insurrectionist

Barabbas was not just an ordinary prisoner; he was a notorious insurrectionist. He was known for participating in a rebellion against the Roman Empire, a revolt that led to murder. This background paints a picture of a man embroiled in the violent political turmoil of the era.

The Meaning of the Name ‘Barabbas’

The name ‘Barabbas’ comes from Aramaic, where ‘Bar’ means ‘son of’, and ‘Abbas’ means ‘the father’. So, Barabbas translates to ‘son of the father’. Some biblical scholars find significance in this, noting the symbolic connection between Barabbas, a criminal, and Jesus Christ, often referred to as the ‘Son of the Father’.

Barabbas Might Have Been His Surname

There’s a fascinating twist to the name ‘Barabbas’. Some early manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel refer to him as ‘Jesus Barabbas’. If these texts are accurate, ‘Barabbas’ might have been his surname. The prospect of two men named Jesus standing before the crowd adds another layer of intrigue to the story.

The Release of Barabbas Was a Passover Custom

The choice presented by Pontius Pilate wasn’t random. It was a custom during the Passover feast for the Roman governor to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. This tradition provided the backdrop for the pivotal choice between Jesus and Barabbas.

Barabbas in bible

Barabbas’ Fate After His Release Is Unknown

The Bible doesn’t reveal what happened to Barabbas after his release. His fate has been the subject of speculation and creative exploration. Various works of fiction portray different paths – from him becoming a follower of Jesus to meeting a violent end.

Barabbas Is a Central Figure in Various Works of Fiction

Barabbas’ enigmatic persona has made him a popular character in literature, theatre, and film. His character is explored in Nobel laureate Pär Lagerkvist’s novel ‘Barabbas’, which was later adapted into a movie. These works delve into the psychological and spiritual journey of Barabbas post his release.

Different Gospels Provide Slightly Varied Accounts

The accounts of Barabbas in the four Gospels offer slightly different perspectives. While all Gospels agree he was released instead of Jesus, they differ on certain details. Mark and Luke label him as a murderer, Matthew refers to him as a ‘notorious prisoner’, while John describes him as a bandit.

Barabbas’ Story Has Been Used for Theological Discussions

The story of Barabbas is sometimes used as a metaphor for the theological concept of substitutionary atonement – the idea that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of humanity. Barabbas, deserving of punishment, was set free, while Jesus, innocent, was crucified.

The Historical Authenticity of Barabbas Is Debated

Like many biblical narratives, the historical authenticity of Barabbas is debated among scholars. Some see the narrative as historical, while others view it as a parable constructed by early Christians. Regardless of historical certainty, the figure of Barabbas continues to provoke thought and interpretation.


Unraveling the enigma of Barabbas opens up profound discussions about justice, mercy, and the complexity of historical-biblical narratives. These ten insights illuminate the mystery of Barabbas, bringing us a step closer to understanding this intriguing figure from a time long past.