Damien F. Mackey
In my apocalyptic articles on the rebel, Barabbas, e.g. Portrait of an Antichrist: http://apocalypsenoworthen.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/portrait-of-antichrist.htmlI proposed that Barabbas might even have been the Jewish hero, Bar Kochba. In a conventional context this is, of course, quite impossible, with Bar Kochba dated to the 130’s AD. But in my revised scheme, as discussed in those articles, with the First and Second Jewish revolts against Rome merged as one, then it is not quite so outlandish. Former Pope Benedict XVI certainly recognised that at least “the form of the names Barabbas and Bar Kochba [Kokhba] “is the same, and it stands for the same intention”. This is a quote from his brilliant book, Jesus of Nazareth (Vol. I, p.41), the first in a trilogy that really needs to be read.
Here Benedict XVI presents Barabbas as “a messianic figure” standing “in opposition” to Jesus. But Bar Cochba was also a messianic figure (pp.40-41):
At the culmination of Jesus’ trial, Pilate presents the people with a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. One of the two will be released. But who was Barabbas? It is initially the words of John’s Gospel that come to mind here: “Barabbas was a robber” (Jn. 18:40) But the Greek word for “robber” had acquired a specific meaning in the political situation that obtained at the time in Palestine. It had become a synonym for resistance fighter. Barabbas had taken part in an uprising (cf. Mk. 15:7), and furthermore – in that context – had been accused of murder (cf. Lk. 23:19, 25). When Matthew remarks that Barabbas was “a notorious prisoner” (Mt. 27:16), this is evidence that he was one of the prominent resistance fighters, in fact probably the leader of that uprising. In other words, Barabbas was a messianic figure. The choice of Jesus versus Barabbas is not accidental; two messianic figures, two forms of messianic belief stand in opposition. This becomes even clearer when we consider that the name Bar-Abbas means "son of the father". This is a typically messianic appellation, the cultic name of a prominent leader of the messianic movement. The last great Jewish messianic war was fought in the year 132 [?] by Bar-Kokhba, “son of the star”. The form of the name is the same, and it stands for the same intention.
[Mackey’s comment: And I suspect that it also stands for the same person].
Origen, a Father of the Church, provides us with another interesting detail. Up until the third century, many manuscripts of the Gospel referred to the man in question as “Jesus Barabbas” – “Jesus son of the father”. Barabbas figures here as a sort of alter ego of Jesus, who makes the same claim but understands it in a completely different way. So the choice is between a messiah who leads an armed struggle, promises freedom and a kingdom of one's own, and this mysterious Jesus who proclaims that losing oneself is the way to life. Is it any wonder that the crowds prefer Barabbas? For a fuller discussion of this point, see Vittorio Messori’s important book, Patì sotto Ponzio Pilato?[Turin, 1992], pp. 52-62).
Soloviev attributes to the Antichrist a book entitled The Open Way to World Peace and Welfare. This book becomes something of a new Bible, whose real message is the worship of well-being and rational planning.
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Yep, that's the Pope, in his book, Jesus of Nazareth. Benedict is adamant that Jesus is not about worldly power at all:
The Lord… declares that the concept of the Messiah has to be understood in terms of the entirety of the message of the Prophets – it means not worldly power, but the Cross, and the radically different community that comes into being through the Cross. But that is not what Peter has understood: "Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, 'God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you'" (Mt 16:22). Only when we read these words against the backdrop of the temptation scene – as its recurrence at the decisive moment [Peter's confession of Jesus as Son of God] – do we understand Jesus's unbelievably harsh answer: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Mt 16:23).