From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

BARABBAS ( Aramaic Bar-Abba , ‘son of Abba’ or ‘son of father.’ There is very slight documentary authority for the reading Bar-Rabban , ‘son of a Rabbi,’ which is adopted by Ewald and Renan. On the other hand, if Bar-Abba = ‘son of father,’ it would hardly differ in meaning from Bar-Rabban  ; for in the time of Jesus ‘Abba’ was a common appellation of honour given to a Rabbi. But after all ‘Abba’ may have been a proper name; for though it is sometimes affirmed [ e.g. by Schmiedel in his article ‘Barabbas’ in Encye. Bibl. ] that it was not till after the time of our Lord that the word began to be used in this way, the authors of the corresponding article in the Jewish Encyclopedia assure us that ‘Abba is found as a prœnomen as early as Tannaitic times’).

Only one Barabbas meets us in the Gospels, the criminal whom Pilate released instead of Jesus at the demand of the people. All the four Evangelists relate the incident ( Matthew 27:15-26,  Mark 15:6-15,  Luke 23:17-25,  John 18:39-40), which is again referred to in Acts in the account of St. Peter’s sermon in the Temple portico ( Acts 3:14). From these narratives we gather that Barabbas was ‘a notable prisoner,’ ‘a robber,’ one who had taken part in ‘a certain insurrection made in the city,’ and who in this disturbance had ‘committed murder.’ It had probably been an old Jewish custom to release a prisoner at the Passover feast ( John 18:39). According to the Roman habit in such matters, the procurators of Judaea had accommodated themselves to the Jewish practice. In his desire to save Jesus, Pilate bethought himself of this custom as offering a loophole of escape from the dilemma in which he found himself between his own sense of justice and his unwillingness to give offence to the multitude. So he offered them the choice between the life of Jesus and the life of Barabbas, probably never doubting that to Jesus the preference would be given. The fact that he seems to have expected this precludes the view which some have held that Barabbas was a pseudo-Messiah, and even the notion that he was no vulgar bandit, but the leader of a party of Zealots, since popular sympathy might have been anticipated on behalf of a bold Zealot or insurrectionary Messiah. The probability accordingly is that Barabbas was simply a criminal of the lowest type, a hater of the Romans it may be, but at the same time a pest to society at large. And unless we are to suppose, on the ground of the possible etymology, ‘son of father’ = ‘son of teacher,’ and the ‘ filius magistri eorum ’ which Jerome quotes from the account of the incident in the Gospel of the Hebrews , that he was popular among the people because he was the son of a Rabbi, we have no reason to think that either the Jewish leaders or the multitude had any ground for preferring him to Jesus except their passionate hatred of the latter.

According to an old reading of  Matthew 27:16-17, the name ‘Jesus’ in both verses is prefixed to Barabbas, so that Pilate’s question runs, ‘Whom will ye that I release unto you? Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?’ If this reading were accepted, Barabbas would not have the force of a proper name (like Bartimaeus ), but would be only a patronymic added for the sake of distinction (cf. ‘Simon Bar-jona ’). In his exposition of the passage, Origen refers to this reading, which is favoured by some cursive MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] and by the Armenian and Jerusalem Syriac Versions, and has been defended by Ewald, Lange, Meyer, and others, who have supposed that the accidental similarity of the name may have helped to suggest to Pilate the alternative which he presented to the Jews. Olshausen not only adopts this view, but finds a mournful significance in both of the (supposed) names of the condemned criminal—‘Jesus’ and ‘son of the father,’ and in the fact that the nation preferred this caricature of Jesus to the heavenly reality. Both dramatically and homiletically, no doubt, these ideas are tempting—the meeting of the two Jesuses, the irony of the popular choice, the sense of a Divine ‘lusus’ in human affairs. But the truth remains that the grounds on which this construction rests are very inadequate. There is ingenuity certainly in the suggestion, first made by Origen (who, however, prefers the ordinary reading), that ‘Jesus’ may have been dropped out of the early MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] of Matthew after the name had become a sacred one, because it appeared unseemly that it should be borne by a murderer; but it is of too hypothetical a kind to counterbalance the immense weight of the documentary evidence against the presence of the name ‘Jesus’ at all. The fact that, even in the scanty MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] and VSS [Note: SS Versions.] in which ‘Jesus Barabbas’ is found in  Matthew 27:16-17, ‘Barabbas’ and ‘Jesus’ are set in direct antithesis in  Matthew 27:20 tells strongly against the reading, as well as the circumstance that no trace of it is found in any MS of the other three Gospels. There is much to be said for the suggestion of Tregelles, by way of explaining the appearance of the ‘Jesus’ in some copies of Matthew, that at a very early date a careless transcriber repeated the last two letters of ὑμῖν ( Matthew 27:17), and that the in was afterwards taken to be the familiar abbreviation of Ἰησοῦν.

Literature.—The Commentaries of Meyer, Alford, and Olshausen; Ewald, History of Israel , vol. vi.; Lange’s and Renan’s Life of Christ  ; art. ‘Barabbas’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , Encyc. Bibl. , and Jewish Encycl.  ; Merkel, ‘Die Begnadigung am Passahfeste’ in ZNT W [Note: NTW Zeitschrift für die Neutest. Wissen. schaft.] , 1905, p. 293 ff.

J. C. Lambert.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

BARABBAS (  Matthew 27:15-23 =   Mark 15:6-14 =   Luke 23:18-23 =   John 18:39-40 ). A brigand, probably one of those who infested the Ascent of Blood (wh. see). He had taken part in one of the insurrections so frequent during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate; and, having been caught red-handed, was awaiting sentence when Jesus was arraigned. It was customary for the procurator, by way of gratifying the Jews, to release a prisoner at the Passover season, letting the people choose whom they would; and Pilate, reluctant to condemn an innocent man, yet afraid to withstand the clamour of the rulers, saw here a way to save Jesus. His artifice would probably have succeeded had not the malignant priests and elders incited the people to choose Barabbas.

Barabbas , like Bartholomew and BartimÅ“us , is a patronymic, possibly = ‘the son of the father’ ( i.e. the Rabbi). According to an ancient reading of   Matthew 27:17 , the brigand’s name was Jesus . If so, there is a dramatic adroitness in Pilate’s presentation of the alternative to the multitude: ‘Which of the two do ye wish me to release to you Jesus the bar-Abba or Jesus that is called Messiah?’

David Smith.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

One described as a 'robber' in  John 18:40; 'a notable prisoner' in  Matthew 27:16-26 : he had made an insurrection and had committed murder.  Mark 15:7-15 . Yet the Jews, led by the chief priests and elders, requested the release of this man rather than the release of the Lord Jesus. Why they petitioned for this particularprisoner is not known; but it manifests in the most decided manner their ungodliness that they could choose such a notoriously wicked man in preference to the Lord of life and glory, their Messiah.  Luke 23:18 . Peter did not fail to charge this home upon the Jews, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you."  Acts 3:14 .

People's Dictionary of the Bible [4]

Barabbas ( Bär-Ăb'Bas ), Son Of Abba. A noted criminal at Jerusalem who was in prison for sedition and murder when Christ was condemned.  Matthew 27:16. It was a custom of the Romans to release one prisoner at the time of the Jewish Passover. The Jews were permitted to name any prisoner whose release they desired; and when the choice lay between Barabbas and Christ, they chose the robber.  Matthew 27:21;  Mark 15:6-11;  Luke 23:18;  John 18:40;  Acts 3:14. Pilate was anxious to save Christ, but at last released Barabbas.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [5]

("son of the father.") A contrast to the true Son of the Father! The Jews asked the murderous taker of life to be given as a favor to them (it being customary to release one prisoner at the passover), and killed the Prince of life! ( Acts 3:14-15.) A robber ( John 18:40) who had committed murder in an insurrection ( Mark 15:7) and was cast into prison (compare  Matthew 27:15-26). (See Pilate for the probable reason of the Jews' keenness for his release.)

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

 Mark 15:17

According to Origen, supported by a relatively small number of late manuscripts at  Matthew 27:16 , Barabbas was named “Jesus Barabbas.” Though not well attested, the reading is possible. If it is correct, Pilate's question to the crowd in  Matthew 27:17 would have added poignancy. See Christ; Cross; Crucifixion.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Barab'bas. (Son Of Abba). A robber,  John 18:40, who had committed murder in an insurrection,  Mark 15:7;  Luke 28:18, in Jerusalem and was lying in prison, at the time of the trial of Jesus , before Pilate.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

A noted robber in Christ's time, who was imprisoned and awaiting death for the crimes of sedition and murder. It was a custom of the Roman government, for the sake of conciliating the Jews, to release one Jewish prisoner, whom they might choose, at the yearly Passover. Pilate desired thus to release Jesus, but the Jews demanded Barabbas,  Matthew 27:16-26 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 John 18:40 Mark 15:7 Luke 23:19 Matthew 27:16-26 Acts 3:14

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

A well-known name, rendered memorable from being preferred by the Jews to the Lord Jesus Christ, though a murderer and a thief. His name signifies; son of the father, from Bar, son; and Ab, father.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

ba - rab´as ( Βαραββᾶς , Barabbā́s ): For Aramaic Bar-abba = literally, "son of the father," i.e. of the master or teacher. Abba in the time of Jesus was perhaps a title of honor ( Matthew 23:9 ), but became later a proper name. The variant Barrabban found in the Harclean Syriac would mean "son of the rabbi or teacher." Origen knew and does not absolutely condemn a reading of  Matthew 27:16 ,  Matthew 27:17 , which gave the name "Jesus Barabbas," but although it is also found in a few cursives and in the Aramaic and the Jerusalem Syriac versions in this place only, it is probably due to a scribe's error in transcription (Westcott-Hort, App., 19-20). If the name was simply Barabbas or Barrabban, it may still have meant that the man was a rabbi's son, or it may have been a purely conventional proper name, signifying nothing. He was the criminal chosen by the Jerusalem mob, at the instigation of the priests, in preference to Jesus Christ, for Pilate to release on the feast of Passover ( Mark 15:15;  Matthew 27:20 ,  Matthew 27:21;  Luke 23:18;  John 18:40 ). Matthew calls him "a notable (i.e. notorious) prisoner" ( Matthew 27:16 ). Mk says that he was "bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder" ( Mark 15:7 ). Luke states that he was cast into prison "for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder" ( Luke 23:19; compare  Acts 3:14 ). John calls him a "robber" or "brigand" ( John 18:40 ). Nothing further is known of him, nor of the insurrection in which he took part. Luke's statement that he was a murderer is probably a deduction from Mark's more circumstantial statement, that he was only one of a gang, who in a rising had committed murder. Whether robbery was the motive of his crime, as Jn suggests, or whether he was "a man who had raised a revolt against the Roman power" (Gould) cannot be decided. But it seems equally improbable that the priests (the pro-Roman party) would urge the release of a political prisoner and that Pilate would grant it, especially when the former were urging, and the latter could not resist, the execution of Jesus on a political charge ( Luke 23:2 ). The insurrection may have been a notorious case of brigandage. To say that the Jews would not be interested in the release of such a prisoner, is to forget the history of mobs. The custom referred to of releasing a prisoner on the Passover is otherwise unknown. "What Matthew (and John) represents as brought about by Pilate, Mark makes to appear as if it were suggested by the people themselves. An unessential variation" (Meyer). For a view of the incident as semi-legendary growth, see Schmiedel in Encyclopedia Biblica . See also Allen, Matthew , and Gould, Mark , at the place, and article "Barabbas" by Plummer in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes).

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

( Βαραββας , for the Chald. בִּר אִבָּא , Son Of Abba, Simonis, Onom. N.T. p. 38; a common name in the Talmud, Lightfoot, Hor. Hebrews p. 489), a robber ( Λῃστής ,  John 18:40) who had committed murder in an insurrection ( Mark 15:7;  Luke 23:19) in Jerusalem, and was lying in prison at the time of the trial of Jesus before Pilate, A.D. 29. The procurator, in his anxiety to save Jesus, proposed to release him to the people, in accordance with their demand that he should release one prisoner to them at the Passover. As a rebel, he was subject to the punishment laid down by the Roman law for such political offenses, while as a murderer he could not escape death even by the civil code of the Jews. But the latter were so bent on the death of Jesus that, of the two, they preferred pardoning this double criminal ( Matthew 27:16-26;  Mark 15:7-15;  Luke 23:18-25;  John 18:40), who was accordingly set free ( Acts 3:14). There appears to have been a usage in Jerusalem, at the paschal feast, for the governor to release to the people a prisoner whom they might particularly desire. This custom does not appear to have been ancient; it was probably derived either from the Syrians or from the Greeks and Romans, the former of whom had such a custom at their Thesmophoriae, the latter at their Lectisternia. Some think the policy of this provision was obviously to conciliate the favor of the Jews toward the Roman government. (See Passover).

Origen says that in many copies Barabbas was also called Jesus ( Ι᾿Ησοῦν Βαραββᾶν ; see the Darmst. Lit. Bl. 1843, p. 538). The Armenian Version has the same reading: "Whom will you that I shall deliver unto you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ?" Griesbach, in his Comment., considers this as an interpolation, while Fritzsche has adopted it in his text (so also Tischendorf in  Matthew 27:16-17, but not his last ed.). We can certainly conceive that a name afterward so sacred may have been thrown out of the text by some bigoted transcriber. On the other hand, the contrast in  Matthew 27:20, "that they should ask Barabbas and destroy Jesus," seems fatal to its original position in the text. (See Jesus).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Barab´bas, a person who had forfeited his life for sedition and murder ( Mark 15:7;  Luke 23:25). As a rebel, he was subject to the punishment laid down by the Roman law for such political offences; while, as a murderer, he could not escape death even by the civil code of the Jews. But the latter were so bent on the death of Jesus, that, of the two, they preferred pardoning this double criminal ( Matthew 27:16-26;  Mark 15:7-15;  Luke 23:18-25;  John 18:40).