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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 insurgent, Barabbas (15:6–15).   I did a quick search to see if this was an attested practice in the Roman Empire and couldn’t’ find any relevant information.  So, I have two questions:  Do you think this detail is accurate?  Is there any evidence that Roman officials actually freed condemned prisoners at certain local festival times?

 

RESPONSE:

This was an issue I worked on while writing my book Jesus Before the Gospels.  After doing my research I came to a definite conclusion, that I state rather strongly (!).  Here is what I say about the matter there:

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Mark’s Gospel indicates that it was Pilate’s custom to release a prisoner guilty of a capital crime to the Jewish crowd in honor of the Passover festival.  He asks if they would like him to release Jesus, but they urge him to release for them Barabbas instead, a man in prison for committing murder during an insurrection.   Pilate appears to feel that his hand is forced, and so he sets Barabbas free but orders Jesus to be crucified (Mark 15:6-15).

This Barabbas episode was firmly set in the early Christian memory of Jesus’ trial – it is found, with variations, in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 27:15-23; Luke 23:17-23; John 18:39-40).   I do not see how it can be historically right, however; it appears to be a distorted memory.

For starters, what evidence is there that Pilate ever released a prisoner to the Jewish crowd because they wanted him to do so, or because he wanted to behave kindly toward them during their festival?   Apart from the Gospels, there is none at all.   In part that is because we do not have a huge number of sources for the governorship of Pilate over Judea, just some highly negative remarks in the writings of a Jewish intellectual of his day, Philo of Alexandria, and a couple of stories in the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus.   These are enough, though, to show us the basic character of Pilate, his attitude to the Jews that he ruled, and his basic approach to Jewish sensitivities.  The short story is that he was a brutal, ruthless ruler with no concerns at all for what the people he governed thought about him or his policies.  He was violent, mean-spirited, and hard-headed.   He used his soldiers as thugs to beat the people into submission, and he ruled Judea with an iron fist.

Is Pilate the sort of person who would kindly accede to the requests of his Jewish subjects in light of their religious sensitivities?   In fact he was just the opposite kind of person.  Not only do we have no record of him releasing prisoners to them once a year, or ever.  Knowing what we know about him, it seems completely implausible.   I should point out that we don’t have any evidence of any Roman governor, anywhere, in any of the provinces, having any such policy.

And thinking about the alleged facts of the case for a second, how could there be such a policy?  Barabbas in this account is not just a murderer, he is an insurrectionist.  If he was involved with an insurrection, that means he engaged in an armed attempt to overthrow Roman rule.   If he murdered during the insurrection, he almost certainly would have murdered a Roman soldier or someone who collaborated with the Romans.   Are we supposed to believe that the ruthless, iron-fisted Pilate would release a dangerous enemy of the state because the Jewish crowd would have liked him to do so?   What did Romans do with insurrectionists?  Did they set them free so they could engage in more armed guerilla warfare?  Would any ruling authority do this?  Of course not.  Would the Romans?  Actually we know what they did with insurrectionists.  They crucified them.

I don’t think the Barabbas episode can be a historical recollection of what really happened.  It’s a distorted memory.  But where did such an incredible story come from?

We need to remember what I stressed earlier, that these accounts of Jesus’ trial repeatedly emphasize that Pilate was the innocent party.  It was those awful Jews who were responsible for Jesus’ death.  For the Christian storytellers, in killing Jesus, the Jews killed their own messiah.  That’s how wicked and foolish they were.  They preferred to kill rather than revere the one God had sent to them.   That is one key to understanding the Barabbas episode.  The Jews preferred a violent, murdering, insurrectionist to the Son of God.

There is even more to it than that.   We have no evidence outside these Gospel accounts that any such person as Barabbas existed.   It is interesting to think about the name of this apparently non-existent person.   In Aramaic, the language of Palestine, the name Bar-abbas literally means “son of the father.”   And so, in a very poignant way, the story of the release of Barabbas is a story about which kind of “son of the father” the Jewish people preferred.  Do they prefer the one who is a political insurgent, who believed that the solution to Israel’s problems was a violent overthrow of the ruling authorities?  Or do they prefer the loving “Son of the Father” who was willing to give his life for others?   In these Christian recollections, the Jewish people preferred the murdering insurrectionist to the self-sacrificing savior.

It is interesting to note that in some manuscripts of Matthew’s account of the Barabbas episode there is an important addition.  In these manuscripts – which may well represent what the Gospel writer originally wrote – Barabbas is actually named “Jesus Barabbas.”  Now the contrast is even more explicit: which kind of Jesus do the Jews want?   Which Jesus, the son of the Father, is to be preferred?   In this account, of course, the Jews are remembered as preferring the wrong one.  But for the Gospel writers that’s because the Jews are always doing the wrong thing and always opposing the true ways of God.

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Did Jesus Pray “Father Forgive Them” from the Cross?
Do Any Ancient Jewish Sources Mention Jesus? Weekly Mailbag

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    gavriel  March 17, 2019

    1. Is it possible to establish with certainty that Jesus was seized by the temple authorities and next delivered to Pilate?
    2. If the answer to 1 is yes, do you think the temple authorities intended to have Jesus killed, knowing full well what kind of person Pilate was and what Pilate most likely would do?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      I really don’t know the answer to either one. I used to think the answer to both questions was yes. Then I thought the first was yes and the second was no. Now … I don’t know for sure. My *guess* is that the Jewish authorities reported on a trouble maker to Pilate, especially after having learned that he was calling himself the messiah. That was enough to get Pilate’s attention. Who actually did the arrest? I’m not sure. Did the Jewish leaders want him actually executed? Or just punished and released? I don’t think we have any way of knowing.

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  March 19, 2019

        Dr Ehrman – curious what led you to change your mind on (or at least loosen your conviction in) the historicity of the arrest by the temple authorities? Thanks!

        • Bart
          Bart  March 20, 2019

          I’ve just wondered (a) if it’s plausible: don’t Romans normally arrest troublemakers on their own? and (b) if the story might have been inspired by hatred of “the Jews” by early Christian story tellers who wanted to blame *them* instead of the Romans.

          • Avatar
            Hngerhman  March 20, 2019

            Got it, thank you!

          • Avatar
            Iskander Robertson  March 20, 2019

            When you say “on their own” could that mean they could send their own infiltrators to infiltrate movement and takeout the leader?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 22, 2019

            Do you mean the Romans? Yes, I suppose that could happen. But I mean if the Roman authorities had heard there is a trouble maker, they would just send their soldiers to arrest him.

  2. Avatar
    ajh22  March 17, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman, could this story of Barabbas be an allegory representing Yom Kippur, thus making Jesus the ultimate sacrificial lamb? (This in my opinion is one of many examples that support the theory that the gospels are religious literature and are not meant to be historical)

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Yes, it’s part of that motif, brought out even more strongly in the Gospel of John.

      • Avatar
        ajh22  March 18, 2019

        If this story is fiction and used as allegory, then how can we be sure that most of or all of the gospel stories are not fiction/allegory? Also, what do you think of Randel Helms’ book Gospel Fictions if you’ve read it? Thanks!

        • Bart
          Bart  March 19, 2019

          We have to evaluate each story individually, carefully, looking at all the historical criteria to help us decide what is probalby historical and what not.

          Yup, read it many years ago and rather liked it. Not sure what I’d make of it today!

    • fefferdan
      fefferdan  March 19, 2019

      Not Yom Kippur, though, but Pesach. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement not Passover. No feast, but fasting!Unless you are referring to the scapegoat, rather than the paschal lamb. And by Jesus’ time there was no scapegoat either, but a bull was sacrificed.

  3. Avatar
    flshrP  March 17, 2019

    I think you’re right about Barabbas and Pilate. The most famous insurrection in Roman history, that of Spartacus, occurred in 73-71 BCE, about 100 years before the trial of Jesus. That event was sufficiently recent and notorious to have been a cautionary tale for any Roman official responsible for controlling a conquered population. No leniency for insurrection or sedition ever. Crucifixion was the automatic sentence. Hundreds of those earlier insurrectionists were crucified along the Appian Way. Given what we know about Pilate, your conclusion is the most probable. The Barabbas story is complete fantasy.

  4. Avatar
    AstaKask  March 17, 2019

    I read that this was the Yom Kippur ceremony in symbolic form. One goat was released into the desert, taking the people’s sins with them (this is Barabbas, and the sin of the people is insurrection against God). The other goat was sacrificed as atonement (this is Jesus Christ). Is that not true? Have I been living a lie?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      I’m not sure about your personal life…. But yes, that may be behind the story — and it is brought out with particular clarity in John’s account.

  5. Avatar
    Seeker1952  March 17, 2019

    I don’t disagree–and the anti-Semitic point if the story is quite clear–but it does seem like a pretty elaborate story to simply be created out of nothing. Are there analogous stories–say from the Hebrew Bible–that it could have been based on? Or are there other clearly non-historical New Testament stories of comparable elaborateness?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Oh yes, plenty of stories in the early Christian tradition are very elaborate but almost certainly not historical. Think, at the very beginning, of the journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth in Luke’s birth narrative; or the visit of the wise men in Matthew’s; or … it’s a long list!

  6. Avatar
    JohnKesler  March 17, 2019

    “This Barabbas episode was firmly set in the early Christian memory of Jesus’ trial – it is found, with variations, in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 27:15-23; Luke 23:17-23; John 18:39-40). I do not see how it can be historically right, however; it appears to be a distorted memory.”

    Since you don’t think that John knew the Synoptic Gospels, John’s account of the custom to release a prisoner means that the custom is multiply attested (assuming that Mark is the source for Matthew and Luke). How could John and Mark independently arrive at the same “distorted memory,” whose source you later say is the desire to blame the Jews for Jesus’ murder? It seems like a big coincidence that two writers independent of one another decided to invent a custom to release a prisoner as the vehicle to blame the Jews.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Because the story was in wide circulation for years, decades, before either Mark or John heard it. Not a coincidence at all — it goes back to an oral tradition.

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      • Avatar
        JohnKesler  March 18, 2019

        This seems to render moot, then, the criterion of multiple attestation, because if one can retreat to common oral tradition to explain similarities between putative independent sources, of what value is the criterion?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 19, 2019

          None of the criteria is decisive in and of itself. Each case has to be looked at individually in light of *all* the evidence. It’s not simply a matter of seeing whether a tradition is found in more than one independent source and then concluding that it therefore must have happened. Multiple attestation is a slice, not the whole pie.

  7. Avatar
    JohnKesler  March 17, 2019

    ” In Aramaic, the language of Palestine, the name Bar-abbas literally means ‘son of the father.'”

    Does it mean “son of THE father” or “son of father”? Is the definite article present?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Often the article in English is provided for ancient languages even when not present there. The *name* would not use a definite article (think: “Christ” is the name; “the Christ” is a title)

      • Avatar
        JohnKesler  March 18, 2019

        The “Christ” comparison seems to beg the question that an article *should* precede “Barabbas.” How was it decided that the definite, rather than indefinite, article should precede Barabbas’ name? Or that any article should precede it at all?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 19, 2019

          There is no indefinite article in Greek. Sometimes names have the (definite) article and sometimes not. Depends on the context.

          • Avatar
            JohnKesler  March 19, 2019

            You said previously, with my emphasis: “Often the article in English is provided for ancient languages even when not present there.” Why should an article, in English, precede Barabbas’ name, other than that doing so makes for an interesting contrast with Jesus? Or is this the sole reason?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 20, 2019

            The article would never be used in English before a name. Only in Greek.

  8. Avatar
    rdrstarbase@gmail.com  March 17, 2019

    It’s amazing that Bart can draw such an iron clad conclusion (about Barabbas) with so little historical evidence. Even though I read his books and appreciate his views, it makes me question some of his other conclusions about more important matters.

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    • Avatar
      godspell  March 21, 2019

      There’s zero evidence any insurrectionary in Palestine was ever released, let alone because a crowd of Jews asked for it. (That’s not even a good system in theory–a mob gathered outside a building isn’t a representative sampling of the populace).

      We don’t have to assume anything, but without any evidence other than stories written down a lifetime later, of events we can be damned sure none of Jesus’ followers would have witnessed (because they wouldn’t have survived the witnessing), it seems foolish to assume we have a good account of what did happen.

      I don’t believe Jesus was crucified because the crowd asked for Barabbas. That is, in essence, a way of blaming the Jews, instead of the Romans. Obviously there was a group within the Jewish leadership who wanted him out of the way, but most Jews didn’t even know he existed, and were not consulted as to whether he should live or not. Neither were most Romans. It was a handful of men in Jerusalem, Jews and Romans, who decided the safest option was to get him out of the way. And this decision would have in no way rested on whether they let someone else go.

      It’s symbolic, but we don’t have enough context to understand exactly what is being symbolized. We can guess, and Bart’s guess is more educated than the average, is all.

  9. Avatar
    dennislk1  March 17, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    As always, an excellent explanation of how you reached your conclusion!

    Off topic question: Which modern translation of the Bible (I think you mentioned NIV at some point) do you feel does the best job (is your favorite) in terms of staying as true as possible to the original meaning of the Greek manuscripts (as you understand them)?

    Thank you,

    Dennis Keister

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      My preferred translation is the New Revised Standard Version, which I especially like in an annotated edition, such as the HarperCollins Study Bible.

  10. Avatar
    godspell  March 17, 2019

    Maybe somebody was pardoned at around the same time Jesus was crucified, and was some kind of criminal, maybe with some connections to Jewish nationalism, but hadn’t really engaged in insurrectionary activity, or killed any Romans.

    Maybe he had some pull, somebody put a word in for him, and really, that’s not hard to believe. We know that very often, in our own time, innocent people get condemned for minor (or even nonexistent) offenses, and guilty people go scot-free. Justice is never all that consistent, in any society. You can’t talk about what does or doesn’t make sense, because so much of what happens in real-life makes no sense at all until you go into the fine details of how the system works–which we will never have in this case.

    So they took a real story and shaped it to have a suitable moral, when the real moral is “Get a good lawyer (or whatever the equivalent was in Roman times), and for the love of God, don’t represent yourself” Nobody could remember his name, so they made one up, for the reasons you describe.

    Make sense that they’d say he was a zealot, because most Jews saw the Messiah as someone who would violently overthrow Roman rule. Jesus clearly had no intention of doing that. The desire to emphasize this difference in how they saw the Messiah (and to make Pilate more sympathetic) would grow all the stronger after the great insurrection that led to so much death and destruction. They wanted the Romans to understand they had no part in this–and so they increasingly distanced themselves from both Judaism and Jews.

    And the roots of one of history’s great tragedies came into being.

  11. Avatar
    Matt2239  March 17, 2019

    About 40 years later, Rome had to entirely, completely crush the Jewish rebellion in Judea and destroy the temple. We have objective proof, in addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Jews were looking for a messiah who would lead an uprising. In contrast, Jesus of Nazareth told Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this world” — in addition to saying “render unto Caesar,” go the extra mile, and “turn the other cheek.” The crowd certainly had no use for that.

    • Rick
      Rick  March 20, 2019

      I used to read Prof Ellis Rivkin on Jewish history. According to Rivkin “render unto Ceaser” was nothing clever dreamed up by Jesus. Rather, it was the one thing the three divisions of 1st Century Judaism agreed onbecause it was the foundation of the Jews special deal with Rome. That is the Jews would pay the tax but not recognize Ceaser as a God.

      As an appovolyptic, would Jesus have said my kingdom is not of this world?

      • Bart
        Bart  March 22, 2019

        That statement is only in the Gospel of John, and given its non- or rather anti-apocalyptic tone, it seems not to be something Jesus would have said.

  12. Avatar
    Pattylt  March 17, 2019

    Do you give any credence to the theory that it is a complete fabrication and retelling of the two goats of Yom Kippur? Two perfect goats are brought to the temple where one is released into the wilderness and the other sacrificed for the sins of the people? The parallelism is striking. Thoughts or problems?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Yes, it may be tied to that; the connection is especially clear in the version found in John.

  13. Avatar
    Pegill7  March 17, 2019

    While I agree with what you say, just to play the Devil’s Advocate for a moment, might not the belief that Barabbas was an insurrectionist appeal to the Jews since they hated the Romans and their oppressive rule–to them he would be a hero. Of course, that is all more the reason that Pilate would not have released him.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Yes, that’s part of the point. Jews prefer an insurrectionist to the true Son of God.

    • Avatar
      turbopro  March 19, 2019

      >> the Jews … hated the Romans and their oppressive rule …

      If I may please: but did the Jews hate the Romans?

      As far as I recall, from my go-to historical resource, “The Life of Brian”:

      Reg (of the People’s Front of Judea): “Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, and public health: what have the Romans ever done for us?!”

      –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ozEZxOsanY

      • Avatar
        mwbaugh  March 21, 2019

        The Jews seem to have hated the Romans more than most client stats did. IIRC, Judea was such a trouble spot that it needed a garrison. The Romans seldom placed garrisons in the nations they ruled; only if they needed that to preserve the peace. Judea was also known for political assassinations. There were Jewish extremists known for suicide knifing attacks on Roman officials. The Romans called them sicarii (dagger men) because of their technique. There were several violent Jewish uprisings against the Romans that were handled brutally.

        Plus, (and I have this on good authority) the Jews incurred Pilate’s hatred by their constant mocking of his speech impediment (he couldn’t pronounce the sound “R”).

        • Avatar
          Eric  March 25, 2019

          And they snickered at his friend Biggus’ full name, too.

          • Bart
            Bart  March 26, 2019

            Now *that’s* a scene that could never be filmed in our day! It’s culturally very interesting how the offensive parts of the film when it came out are really not so much any more, and the parts that the vast majority of people didn’t think were offensive at the time shock viewers today. (I’m not referring to his name — which was offensive at the time — but the mockery of speech impediments — which for the general population then was not)

  14. Avatar
    anthonygale  March 17, 2019

    If the main sources on Pilate are Jewish, might they be inclined to portray him in a negative light? Is Pilate portrayed as worse than other governors? I’m not asking because I think the Barabbas story is likely true, just wondering if the negative portrayal is what you’d expect and should be taken with a grain of salt.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Yes, there were lots of other extremely harsh governors. They too wouldn’t be releasing insurrectionists!

  15. Avatar
    Stephen  March 17, 2019

    In the story of Barabbas do you detect any implied commentary on he part of the author of Mark about the first Jewish Revolt?

    Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      It’s sometimes been read that way, to suggest that the Jewish people love insurrectionists.

  16. Avatar
    crt112@gmail.com  March 17, 2019

    I’m confused. I thought your theory is that in Mark Pilate is seen as the ultimate authority respoinsible for Jesus’ death – but responsibility is shifted more towards the Jews in Matthew then Luke then John, until Pilate bears no responsibility at all. But this article suggests that Mark was exonerating Pilate right from the start.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      Yes, my view is that this is there at the get-go, and it gets considerably heightened over time. In Mark Pilate yields to the crowds. IN the later Gospels he is more and more and more resistant.

  17. Avatar
    brenmcg  March 18, 2019

    The idea that this is an invention to show the Jews choosing an insurrectionist of the true messiah works best if *Jesus* Barabbas was the original form.

    This also works best in Matthew’s presentation where the choice is given as 27:17 “who should I release, Jesus he of Barabbas or Jesus he who is called the Messiah. For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus to him.” Here Matthew’s Pilate is saying Jesus’s only crime is being called the Messiah which makes the chief priests jealous.

    Mark has instead “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? asked Pilate knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him”. The “envy” line however no longer makes sense in Mark’s form.

    Isn’t this good evidence for Matthew being first? Mark’s editing out of ‘Jesus’ Barabbas in his gospel matching later scribes editing it out of Matthew’s.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      It’s usually understood that Matthew is making explicit a possible implicit meaning of Mark, a common editorial move.

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  March 20, 2019

        But mark’s not being implicit – the chief priests are explicitly jealous of jesus being king of the jews. Claiming to be king of the jews would be a crime though and jesus couldnt have been said to have been handed over out of jealousy.

    • Robert
      Robert  March 20, 2019

      There is a good reasons for Matthew to heighten the parallel in his account (typical emulation) as well as a good reason for a later, pious scribe to object to or be confused by Barabbas being given the name Jesus, which would not apply so well to Mark. Furthermore, Mark’s account does make sense. Pilate refers to Jesus as the king of the Jews to anger the high priests whom he knew were already jealous of Jesus.

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  March 24, 2019

        Mark’s difference to Matthew is in the same direction as later pious scribes copying matthew. This points towards Mark being later.

        The line “for he knew it was out of envy they handed him over” follows on neatly for Matthew. In Mark the reading must be forced. Claiming to be king of the jews is insurrectionist and the chief priests wouldnt be handing him over purely out of jealousy.
        For Matthew its clear Pilate and Rome have no problem with jesus claiming to be the messiah only the chief priests do.
        Forced readings point towards secondary editions.

    • Avatar
      godspell  March 24, 2019

      No, still not seeing it.

      I don’t think Mark would have seen Barabbas as an anti-Jesus, per se. It’s interesting to me that he says Barabbas was imprisoned with insurrectionists who had murdered–not that Barabbas himself was guilty of such crimes. (Using the NRSV translation).

      The authorities would have scooped up a lot of people after a rebellion (round up the usual suspects, or just anybody who looks suspicious), and many if not most are going to be guiltless, or at least not guilty of capital offenses.

      So no, makes no sense Pilate would release somebody who was known to be guilty of a physical rebellion against Rome, no matter who asked. But suppose Barabbas’ guilt was more ambiguous? And Jesus’, of course, was likewise hard to pin down, since he’d done nothing but talk and turn over a few tables.

      So you have two people whose case could go either way–Pilate will lose no sleep over crucifying both, but neither is he particularly concerned about repercussions if one goes free. There’s no real evidence against either.

      This feels like a real story that got re-interpreted by later generations. And Mark’s account feels closer to the original story (as is usually the case with him).

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  March 25, 2019

        The point of the blog post was that the story is unlikely to be historical and more likely to be an allegory for a Jewish rejection of the real Messiah.
        In Matthew’s version Barabbas is just a notorious prisoner rather than Mark’s insurrectionist. If the Barabbas story is historical Matthew’s notorious prisoner is more likely to be released by Pilate than Mark’s insurrectionist.
        If the story is an allegorical then Matthew’s version of a choice between Jesus he of Barabbas and Jesus he who is called the Messiah is more likely to be the original. Matthew’s is the only version which presents it as a choice of two options.
        Regardless of whether its historical or allegorical the line “For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus to him.” works better in Matthew’s version than Mark’s (Jesus being the Messiah is the chief priests concern not Rome’s).
        Also by removing Barabbas from the choice presented by Matthew’s Pilate Mark’s version has the Barabbas character introduced a few lines too early. Like Luke’s version the introduction to Barabbas is only needed when the crowd call for his release. Mark’s placement of the introduction indicates he’s following Matthew here.

  18. Avatar
    Alexandre Ferreira  March 18, 2019

    There a strange thing in that biblical narrative which has intrigue me: there was no a prisioner on jail who could be competing agains Jesus for your own freedom? The roman would risk putting an insurgent in freedom?

    Good morning from Brazil. I’m very glad for opportunity that I have of read and learn with your written, Drº Ehrman.

    Thanks so much.

  19. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 18, 2019

    This is a very convincing argument. For those new to the blog, I strongly recommend Ehrman’s “Jesus Before the Gospels” which is one of my favorite Ehrman books. I got sidetracked a bit at the first of this book because I struggled with “my” definition of “memories,” which was far too narrow, but I get it now. “Memories” include, not only individual memories, but also “stories” or “traditions” that got passed down and changed and embellished before they were finally written down. So, sure individual memories of Jesus got changed, but so did the stories and traditions about Jesus for decades before they were written down. I found this to be very important and it is well documented in Ehrman’s book. I especially like the anthropological evidence in the book documenting how stories get changed in various cultures. How could it be otherwise, especially in “oral” cultures without magazines, books, newspapers, etc ?

  20. Avatar
    nbraith1975  March 18, 2019

    Bart – Do you believe without its collusion with Rome (It’s emperors) that Christianity would have probably not gotten off the ground?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2019

      That’s the very subject I address in my book Triumph of Christianity, where I argue at some length that Christianity would probalby have taken over the Empire even if Constantine had not converted (contrary to what I used to think!). But I think the reasons/evidence are overwhelming (they are not ones I came up with myself!!)

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