When I asked that question on Twitter today, I had a few people tell me “Wodewick” or “Woger”. Oh and in typical Christian fashion, I was also called “an asshole” by @Griffmiester for asking the question.

But I learned something interesting today, another twist in the New Testament that I wasn’t previously aware of.

Most versions of the NT say that the man that Pilate released (it was apparently a custom for the the praefectus or governor of Judaea to commute one prisoner’s death sentence by popular acclaim) was a criminal called Barabbas.

For example, in the New International Version of the NT, in Matthew 27:16 it reads:

At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”


If we look instead at the Contemporary English Version, the same passage reads:

At that time a well-known terrorist named Jesus Barabbas was in jail. So when the crowd came together, Pilate asked them, “Which prisoner do you want me to set free? Do you want Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

Apparently some of the oldest versions of the NT, including the Syriac Sinaiticus, have the name of the prisoner as “Yeshua bar Abbas” but the “Yeshua” was dropped from later versions – yet another example of early Christian authorities editing the manuscripts to suit their agenda.

In Amaraic (and in Latin), “bar Abbas” translates as “Son of the Father”.

So the crowd was given a choice of “Jesus, Son Of The Father” or “Jesus, who is called The Messiah”. Don’t they sound like the same person to you?

What was Yeshua bar Abbas’ crime? In the different gospels, he is referred to in a variety of ways: a “notorious prisoner”, a “bandit”, an “insurrectionist” and a “murderer”.

When Pilate asked the crowd which prisoner he should release, they said “bar Abbas!” (The Son of the Father!).

What do you think? Confusing?