If 1st century Israel had phone books Jesus wasn’t listed, he didn’t qualify for a last name

As Easter nears, I think about two men – one who died, and one who didn’t. Jesus died; Barabbas didn’t. Or maybe it’s the other way around, in the long term.

If 1st century Israel had telephone books, Jesus could not have been listed. He didn’t qualify for a last name. Although he is commonly called Jesus Christ, Christ was not his family name. In fact, it’s not a name at all. It’s a title, an honorific, like “Reverend” or “President.” Christ – Christos in Greek – is the term used for the Messiah, the anointed one, the chosen one.

In his culture, sons were identified by their father’s name. The prefix “Bar” meant “son of,” just like “Mac” or “Mc” for the Scots, and “O” for the Irish.

The earliest biblical texts describe Jesus only as the son of Mary – making him a no-count illegitimate. Later versions legitimize him by providing a human father – Joseph, son of Jacob, a descendant of the legendary King David. But Jesus is never, never, described as Jesus Bar-Joseph.

And Jesus himself never refers to Joseph as his father.

He reserves the term “Father” – in Aramaic, “abba,” better translated by our familiar “Daddy” – for his relationship with God. John’s gospel regularly pairs Jesus with a divine father. Jesus spends almost two chapters of that gospel exploring the intimacy of his relationship with his Father, meaning God.

By a cruel irony, when governor Pontius Pilate offers to free Jesus as a goodwill gesture for the Jewish Passover, an angry crowd demands that he release, instead, a thief and murderer named “Barabbas.” Barabbas — “the son of the father”.

And so the man who said “The Father and I are one” was executed on a trumped-up charge of claiming to be King of the Jews, while the man named “Son of the Father” was set free. The coincidence is so keen, it almost demands further exploration.

Did the freed Barabbas go to Golgotha, to the hill of many skulls, to watch his stand-in die?

What did it do to him, to know that he was alive only because an innocent person took his place? Was he haunted by guilt? Did it change his life? Or did he grab his unexpected freedom with both hands and scamper out of Jerusalem, away from the unholy liaison between Temple and Rome, to resume his career of crime?

At least one writer has felt inspired to look at life through the eyes of the man who didn’t get executed. Par Lagerkvist wrote a 1950 novel called Barabbas.

A commentary describes the novel as founded on thesis and antithesis – similarities and contrasts. Jesus dies first; Barabbas dies later. Jesus is crucified in Jerusalem; Barabbas, in Rome. Jesus talks to God; Barabbas, to darkness. Barabbas is, in many ways, a modern person. He says he wants to believe, but can’t accept the exalted beliefs of early Christians about Resurrection and the Second Coming. What he really believes in is the “opaque and remorseless void that surrounds his life.”

He is a fatalist. Where others find meaning, Barabbas finds only meaninglessness.

Perhaps the novel’s central antithesis is that because Barabbas has never known love, he can never understand someone who embodied love.

Author Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country: rewrite@shaw.ca

Just Posted

Bed and Breakfast won’t return to Lake Country

After burning down in July, the owners are selling the A&S Lakeview property

Holiday bears off to new homes

Annual Morning Star December giveaway draws crowd on cold Saturday morning

West Kelowna restaurant makes Top 100 list

Quails Gate has made the cut

Kelowna council defers decision on homeless development

BC Housing is revisiting original plan after concerns from local businesses

Okanagan robbery suspect sought

RCMP are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying a suspect in an… Continue reading

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Hwy. 1 avalanche improvements promise less delays

B.C.’s new remote avalanche-control systems near Revelstoke are ready for avalanche season

Swinging with the Stars gets underway

Swinging with the Stars marks a decade of fundraising for the Central Okanagan Hospice Association

Repairs made to creek at Sagmoen farm

Areas dug up during police search being fixed to comply with fisheries rules

2017 word of the year: Feminism

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017: ‘Feminism’

200 Russians to compete in Olympics as neutrals

The Russian Olympic Committee expects 200 to compete in South Korea

Researchers claim the ‘man flu’ does exist

Review of scientific studies suggests ‘man flu’ may be more intense: researcher

Trudeau appoints Supreme Court chief justice

Prime Minister Trudeau appoints Richard Wagner as Supreme Court chief justice

Liberal Hogg wins South Surrey-White Rock byelection over Conservative Findlay

B.C. riding to be represented by non-conservative for first time in decades

Most Read