“Barabbas.” It is ironic that the “notorious” (or “well known”) prisoner was called “Barabbas,” because in Aramaic it means “son of [the] father,” from the Aramaic bar, “son” and abba, “father.” In releasing a prisoner, the people had a choice between a “son of a father” (Barabbas), or the “Son of the Father” (Jesus Christ). The bad choice they made was Barabbas, the revolutionary. There is no explanation in the text for why Pilate would have put only those two men before the crowd for consideration. It seems clear that Pilate was hopeful that the crowd would ask to set Jesus free. For example, when presenting Jesus he said, “Jesus who is called Christ” (Matt. 27:17), perhaps he was making an attempt to try to remind the people that even they were aware of the healings and miracles that Jesus had done and the possibility that he was the Messiah. In any case, his efforts were in vain.
In Matthew 27:17, there are a number of manuscripts that read, “Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” Although there are more manuscripts that read “Barabbas” than read “Jesus Barabbas,” there is good reason to believe that “Jesus Barabbas” was original. For one thing, “Jesus,” which is the same name as “Joshua,” was a very common name at that time so there would be no problem with both men being named “Jesus.” Also, textually, there seems to be no good reason any scribe would add the word “Jesus” to a manuscript of Matthew, whereas it can be easily seen that religious scribes zealous to protect Jesus’ name, would omit the name “Jesus” before Barabbas.