Question from shelly on 3/17/2008:
I read or heard on the radio that the Roman tradition of releasing a prisoner(like Barabas) was not really a tradition at all and not found any place else except in the story of Christ's crucifixion. Is this true? Was Barabas a hero of sorts to the Jews because he was a militant who opposed Roman rule?
Thank you for your time and for clearing this up for me.
Answer by Fr. John Echert on 3/17/2008:
The release of a prisoner on the occasion of a special feast or celebration is consistent with Roman practice, and for that matter, a rather common practice even the present, I suspect. It would fit with what we know of the circumstances:
1. Pilate did not want to be responsible for the execution of Christ
2. There was a major Jewish festival taking place at the time
3. It was within the power of Pilate to release a prisoner
4. It would have been a good solution to the problem, except that Pilate underestimated the depth of hatred and resolve of the Jewish leadership, which quickly incited the crowd to call for an absolute scoundrel instead.
Sadly, some modernist "scholars" assume that if they cannot prove something biblical by a secular source, they are free to reject the testimony of the Word of God--in this case, multiple testimony of the Gospel writers and Christian tradition.