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"A notorious prisoner," Matthew described him (Matthew 27:16-17). John called him "a brigand" (John 18:40-41). Mark and Luke both said that he was in prison as a rioter and murderer (Mark 15:7-15; Luke 23:19-25). When Pilate questioned Jesus at his trial and could find him guilty of nothing, he offered the people the choice of freeing Christ or Barabbas, hoping that the latter's notorious reputation would induce them to release Christ. But, whipped into fury by their chief priests, they insisted that the guilty man be freed and the innocent die. (Etym. Aramaic bar' abba, son of the father.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.