Barabbas and The Bible

I agree with you Mervin.However i see a danger lurking behind.Anything we tend not to have facts for (yet)or simply dont understand fully we tend to sumbolize it,categorize it as an allegory,or anything but literal.Im not talking abou Genesis which is easy to understand it aint as it is ,im talking about the New Testament .Now ive heard before in the thread the Barabass story had a theological meaning since we dont have any historical facts for his existance.But im wondering whats next?Is Jesus ressurection symbolical?Is there a depp meanijng into it?Now thats the danger.Categorizing everything the bible has to offer as anything but literal .Because if thats the case theres no reason to believe in a loving God

I can’t remember which Sparks book I recommended.
Was it the ANE texts book? If so, it’s a literary book,
not a book on apologetics and miracles.

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Oh … sorry! I wasn’t speaking of miracles at all. Perhaps we were talking entirely past each other then. I was speaking about how appropriate (or not) it might be to be hermeneutically preoccupied with historicity in everything.

Yep. That danger is real. Orthodoxy that most of us here would recognize as such would never allow that such things like the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Jesus life and teachings generally could ever be rooted apart from their historicity. Indeed the Gospel accounts and later Pauline thoughts work to make that clear, while at the same time making liberal use of metaphor and narrative to help drive home spiritual points too.

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My apologies Mervin. I agree. Historicity is bunk!

Also considering Barabass. @Vinnie We use the word of “thief” here in Greece as only a criminal that steals(κλεφτης,ληστης).So now that i think about it could Barabass just be a local thief that stole from people and thus he was awaiting trial and Pilate just put him against Jesus?

Not always! I’m only pointing out that it isn’t the “end-all” of all hermeneutics. It still must occupy its necessary place in our understandings - just don’t let it dominate everything!

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I jested on a theme of Henry Ford. Again, I agree of course Mervin.

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You cannot understand the NT without understanding the theology of the NT. Jesus lived .the Torah even though He did not have to as the Son so He could be the Jewish Lamb of God without spot or blemish. He kept and fulfilled the Law so we who are in Him do not have to.

However much of the NT is based on conflict over the Law, esp. the Sabbath. The Sermon on the Mount is about Jesus the new Moses giving the new law. Jesus gave only two commandments, to love God and to love others. That may be a “summary of the Torah,” but it is not the Torah. Jesus’ most active opponents were the Pharisees who were teachers of the Law. That is not just an accident.

Paul follows Jesus in teaching the new Law of Love and not the Torah. Paul had Timothy circumcised because his mother was ethnically Jewish, so he was too, so he was not against circumcision per se.

Sorry–“God’s Word in Human Words.” @Daniel_Fisher rightly was concerned that higher criticism would follow a de facto bias against miracles and prophetic predictions. Sparks in contrast, does not discount miracles or prophecies at all. In fact, he notes that high quality criticism does not do this. His purpose, like that of a Christian scientist who accepts evolution, seems to me to produce an apologetic to honestly look at historical evidence, while accepting God’s word and miracles.

So near yet so far, that’s virtually all of historical Jesus scholarship. But a story from, at a maximum, the second half of the first century is generically on better grounds than a 4th century addition to the Gospels. Then the question of who created this and why also has to play a role. I don’t see any really good reasons to imagine it was created.

Barabbas does not work as history as the account stands. I maintained that from the beginning. Is there history in there somewhere? Could a robber have been released? Sure. A Jew involved in murder and an attempt to overthrow Roman occupation of Israel? Not remotely likely. I outlined the problems above. I have not seen a credible solution aside from Daniel trying to apologetically imagine how it could be logically possible. Historical or not, the account as it stands, is not just an incidental detail. It has theological meaning.

I mean when Jesus dies the temple veil tears in two. Maybe it is historical or maybe it is not. Either way, the meaning of it is quote obvious. God has abandoned the temple.

“From a narrative point of view, Jerusalem is defined by its Temple. . . [and] . . . an ancient audience well-attuned to portents of disaster attached to breaking or defiling something regarded as sacred would recognize the symbolism implied. God has deserted this temple and those associated with it. Juxtaposing the Temple emptied of God’s presence with the empty tomb story just a few verses later presents Mark’s reader with another layer of ambiguity. If the two empty spaces are in some sense equivalent , then Jerusalem has no sacred significance for the followers of Jesus either. The risen One has abandoned it for Galilee. His disciples are to do likewise (16:7).” Pheme Perkins Intro to the Synoptic Gospels pg. 137

Yet we keep trying to harmonize those resurrection narratives…


What do you think of this one?

to the specific matter of the “Passover pardon,” I do not find it intrinsically implausible; and methinks that the haste of so many Christian scholars to dismiss the story, and to turn a blind eye to supporting evidence, derives largely from the fact that they saw it as an embarrassment and were alarmed by the suffering it has caused to Jews over the ages.

The problem is in the evangelical mind this whole debate, as with resolving Bible contradictions, stems from the presumption of correctness in their eyes. Stating that an account is not historically implausible is in no way the same thing as providing positive evidence that it is actual history. Material that is created can be fantastical and implausible or simply or historically plausible (stated in the positive). It is not a historian’s job to demonstrate the scene is not true. The burden of proof is on all parties in historical investigation. There are enough questions surrounding the Gospel of Mark and this particular incident to warrant a modicum of skepticism here.

I would much like to see his Mishnah reference. At the same time, the author even undercuts any arguments for historicity of the Gospel scene:

It is hard to dispute the view that the verbal exchange between Pilate and the Jewish mob—with or without the part about their accepting the guilt for Jesus’s blood—is nothing more than a malicious fiction. Indeed, this would apply to any description of a large crowd—especially Jewish crowd!—conducting conversations in a unified, coherent voice (although such conversations were a beloved literary convention of ancient historians).

So the conversation between Pilate and the crowd looks fabricated but the other detail about the release is true? While possible, this is a slippery slope. He also argues with much of what I am arguing in here:

The later Gospels are even more outspoken about presenting the Jewish role in a diabolical light. Mark situates Barabbas “in prison with the insurrectionists,” though he himself is not explicitly identified as one of those insurrectionists; but other traditions state more explicitly that he was a murderer. Whereas for Mark the mob is being manipulated by the leaders of the priesthood (who were especially threatened by Jesus’s disruptions of the Jerusalem Temple), later texts place the responsibility more directly on the collective shoulders of the malicious populace who are crying out together—not so much to set Barabbas free as to crucify the blameless Jesus.

So maybe Barabbas was not a murderer and later Gospel authors were incorrect? I don’t see this. Mark lumps them all together for reason. Is it possible this is Mark’s creation? A person may have been released at passover (we have examples of this type of behavior) and it evolved into Mark’s scene as we have it today? I have never suggested otherwise. Only that the account as portrayed in the Gospels is not historical, it is theological.

The story’s dire implications are spelled out most clearly in an alarming addition that is found only in the Gospel according to Matthew, in which Pilate’s ostensible concerns about executing the innocent Jesus are answered by “all the Jews” with the words: “His blood is on us and on our children!” That declaration has inspired innumerable pogroms over the centuries.

He also writes:

A key factor behind this skeptical assessment of the passage’s veracity is the absence of any tangible evidence of similar practices either in Palestine or in any other province of the Roman empire. Indeed, scholars scoured the legal and narrative records of Rome, Greece, Babylonia, Egypt, Assyria and beyond in order to locate examples of rulers who released prisoners, if only temporarily, on holy days or other celebrations. Although they found some precedents for lenient bending of the laws on festive occasions, such a policy was deemed to be unthinkable for the obdurate colonial administration of rebellious Judea or the notoriously inflexible Pontius Pilate.

The only evidence he can cite for the reference is the Mishnah and I would love to see the actual quote. I asked @Daniel_Fisher for quotes from Josephus that he alluded to but he is yet to provide them. I cited one where Josephus indicates the opposite. People could be released for petty crimes, not capital ones. For those they were summarily executed.

The author writes: “It has therefore been suggested that the pre-holiday pardon was instituted by the (often unpopular) Hasmonean rulers in order to ingratiate themselves among the populace, after which it came to be regarded as a right that could even be demanded from foreign rulers.”

Yet the only evidence of this is 200 years later in the Mishnah? And it refers to the Hasmoneans, not Pilate and the Romans. There was also quite a bit of civil unrest in this time period, despite what Tactics might hint at. Josephus and Philo seem to make this clear. Releasing insurrectionists is a no-go.

How is vaguely citing questionable evidence supposed to help authenticate questionable evidence? How it is going to support Rome in the 30’s releasing a man lumped in with murderous insurrectionists? I can only leave you with a question. How is saying something “is not impossible” or “is not intrinsically unlikely” even close to the same as saying something is “historically probable?”


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Very thorough! I appreciate your review.

Maybe Barabbass was a simple thief?

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