Pilate Released Barabbas. Really??

I received recently the following question, which deals with an issue I had long puzzled over.  It involves the episode in the Gospels where Pilate offers to release a prisoner to the crowds at Passover, hoping they will choose Jesus.  But instead they choose a Jewish insurrectionist and murderer, Barabbas.  Could that have happened?

Here’s the Question and my Response:

 

QUESTION:

Pilate condemns Jesus to execution for treason against Rome. Pilate gives the Jewish crowds the option of releasing Jesus or a Jewish ...

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Do Any Ancient Jewish Sources Mention Jesus? Weekly Mailbag

I recently received a succinct but very important question about whether Jesus is ever mentioned by any Jewish sources of the first century.

The premise behind the question is that if Jesus was the miracle-working son of God who was healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead – wouldn’t everyone be talking about him, all the time?  It turns out, the answer is – we don’t know!  We have hardly any Jewish writings from his time and place.

At ...

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A Return to the Historical Jesus

One of the most interesting developments within New Testament studies happened in the 1950s.  To set the development in context, I need to remind you that the long “quest” of the historical Jesus – trying to determined what Jesus said and did historically – was evidently put to rest by the work of Wrede and Schweitzer fifty years earlier, and not a whole lot was being done in that field, as scholars *either* thought that our sources were basically reliable ...

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A New Way of Looking at the Gospels

In this long and complicated answer to the “messianic secret” in Mark I have explained how 19th century scholars were interested in “source criticism” — the attempt to figure out what the sources of the Gospels were, and in particular, how to explain the “synoptic problem,” that is, the problem of explaining how Matthew, Mark, and Luke have so many similarities, in terms of the stories they tell, often in the same sequence, and even at numerous points in precisely ...

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Non-Christian Sources for Jesus: An Interview with History.com

I have recently had a written interview about the historical Jesus with Christopher Klein, correspondent with History.com, the web site of the History Channel.  I’m not sure what the title of the article will be; it should be appearing relatively soon, as a lead up to Easter.

He has graciously allowed me to post the questions and answers from the interview.  They all deal with the non-Christian evidence we have for the life of Jesus.

 

QUESTION:

Can you say a few words about ...

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If the Quest for the Historical Jesus Failed… What Then?

In response to a question about the Messianic Secret in Mark, I have now shown how scholars (most signficiantly William Wrede) came to realize that not even the Gospel of Mark was a straightforward historical account of what actually happened in the life of Jesus. Some five years ago on the blog I talked about what happened next, in the scholarship on the New Testament.  It’s a crucial element of the history of biblical scholarship.  Here is what I said.

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The Death Knell for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Once Wrede convincingly showed that the Gospel of Mark was not a literal, factual description of what Jesus said and did, in his 1901 book The Messianic Secret (but that it, like the other Gospels, had incorporated its own literary and theological concerns into its account), the cottage industry of Historical Jesus books pretty much collapsed.  Its entire foundation had for decades been built on the assumption that even if the other Gospels were not completely historical, but theologically biased, ...

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Wrede’s Revolutionary Claim about the “Messianic Secret”

Yesterday I pointed out all the passages in the Gospel of Mark that repeat, time and again, the idea that Jesus tried to keep his messiahship a secret.  He doesn’t allow the demons to identify him when he casts them out; when he heals people he strictly instructs them not to tell anyone; he teaches his disciples the “secret of the Kingdom” privately when no one else is around; he teaches the crowds only using parables precisely (Mark indicates) so ...

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Is It Plausible that Jesus Kept the Whole Thing a Secret??

Back to the Messianic Secret in Mark.  As we have seen, 19th century scholars by and large determined that Mark’s Gospel was the first to be written, and from that they concluded that it was a straightforward factual description of what actually happened in the life of Jesus.  In their view, unlike the other Gospels, Mark had not invested his story with any (or many) literary touches – i.e. fictionalized any of it – and he hadn’t imposed his own ...

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Who CARES if Mark was the First Gospel Written?

When I teach students in my Introduction to the New Testament class about the Synoptic Problem, it becomes a bit like pulling teeth.  To be sure, at the very outset, students are intrigued.  When I set it up, it’s kind of like a detective story – who copied whom, and how would we know?  I make it as interesting and intriguing as I can: how can we figure this out?

But then I have to get into the weeds to explain ...

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