Matthew 27:16

16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas.

Matthew 27:16 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 27:16

And they had then a notable prisoner
The Vulgate Latin reads, "he had"; that is, Pilate, who had committed him to prison, and under whose power he was: for the Jews had lost all authority of this kind, at least in capital cases. This prisoner is called a "notable" one; that is, a famous, or rather an infamous one: he was a thief, and a robber, and had been guilty of sedition; had made, or joined with others in an insurrection, and had committed murder in it; and so, on more accounts than one, was deserving of death: nor could it be otherwise expected by himself, or others, but that he should die: his name was

called Barabbas;
that is, as the Syriac version reads it, (aba rb) , which signifies "the son of a father": a father's child that was spoiled and ruined, and a child of his father the devil. This was a name common among the Jews. Frequent mention is made of R. Abba F8, and Bar Abba is the son of Abba: hence we read of Abba Bar Abba F9, and of R. Samuel Bar Abba F11 and of R. Simeon Bar Abba F12, and of R. Chijah Bar Abba F13. In Munster's Hebrew Gospel it is read (hbr) (rb) , "Bar Rabbah, the son of a master"; and so Jerom says, that in the Gospel according to the Hebrews it is interpreted, "the son of their master"; but the former is the right name, and the true sense of the word. The Ethiopic version adds, "the prince", or "chief of robbers, and all knew him"; and the Arabic, instead of a "prisoner", reads, a "thief", as he was.


F8 Juchasin, fol. 70. 1
F9 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 18. 2. & Hieros Pesachim, fol. 32. 1. & Juchasin, fol. 104. 1.
F11 T. Hieros. Pesachim, fol. 32. 1.
F12 T. Hieros. Succa, fol. 53. 3. Juchasin, fol. 105. 1.
F13 T. Hieros. Succa, fol, 55. 3. Juchasin, fol. 91. 2.

Matthew 27:16 In-Context

14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted.
16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas.
17 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?"
18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Other ancient authorities lack [Jesus]
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.