A man called Barabbas was in prison, with the rioters who had committed murder during a riot.
every father’s son
carries a patriarch’s choice
to overthrow a thwarting
by sabotage or violence
whether through legal means
or those not licit
abba father is reduced
to murder of soul and body
like son like father
a net is cast to catch
freedom’s choice to step aside
beyond controlling addiction
Mark introduces us to a head-scratcher with this new character, Barabbas.
At its simplest, “Bar” means “son” and “abba” means “father”—“son of the father”.
This, of course, is also a designation of Jesus’ relationship with G*D.
Barabbas does not appear as an active character in Mark’s narrative, but his name is used by “high priests” as the one to be released when they “stir up the crowd” in order to demand the crucifixion of Jesus.
…the statement in some manuscripts…that Barabbas was also named “Jesus” generates an element of irony or even slapstick in the story: Jesus the son of the father (“abba”) is condemned while Jesus the son of the father (“Barabbas”) is released…. The political insurgent becomes a mock double of the Galilean preacher who has been arrested “as if [he] were a highwayman”(Mark 14:48).
Mark does use irony, but it seems particularly out of place here. Mann637–639 suggests the “Jesus Barabbas” that shows up in some manuscripts had the “Jesus” excised in by scribes in the copying process. He concludes:
“All in all, we are unlikely to solve the puzzle of the prisoner with the startling appellation; and, short of some new and dramatic discovery, we must deal with the text as we find it.”
There are difficulties whenever Readers—original (ancient) or subsequent (contemporary)—attempt to wrestle with a text. LaVerdiere2279helps keep us from getting mired in the details:
When Mark is interested in the etymology of a name, he explains it. That is what he did with Bartimaeus….
In the end, Jesus’ uprising is the same and different than the uprising Barabbas was involved with. Quite the puzzle, intended or not.