googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: What's in a Name?

Friday, November 19, 2010

What's in a Name?

I first published this about three years ago. Recently, I was looking over some of my older blogs and came across it again. I think it's a wonderful message if I may say so and decided to republish it.

The gospels tell of the man named Barabbas (Matthew 27:16, Mark 15:7, John 18:40, Luke 23:18). He is described as a “notable prisoner” who committed insurrection, murder, and robbery. Here was as guilty a man as you’ll ever find and he was sentenced to be crucified for his crimes. However, it was the custom of the Romans to release a prisoner to the Jews at the time of the Passover (John 18:39). Now, Pilate wanted to release Jesus because he felt Jesus was not guilty of any crime but the crowd cried out for the release of Barabbas (Matthew 27:24). Therefore, Jesus (the innocent man) was sentenced to die and Barabbas (the guilty man) was set free. Jesus literally died in his place.

I’ve often wondered how Barabbas might have felt about this. Certainly he would have been relieved he did not have to die. I wonder if he felt thankful to Jesus who bore the cross for his sake? I wonder if he might have accepted Christ because of it. What a wretched man Barabbas would have been if he watched an innocent man die for the sake of his sins and did not even care.

But there’s something very interesting about the name, “Barabbas”:

“Bar” is a Hebrew word meaning, “son of.” In Matthew 16:17, Jesus calls Peter, “Simon Barjona.” This means, “Simon, son of Jonas.” See also John 21:15-17, where Jesus refers to Peter as, “Simon, son of Jonas.”

“Abba” is a Hebrew word meaning, “Father” or “Daddy” (Mark 14:36, et al).

So, “Bar-abbas” literally means, “a son of a father.” When you think about it, every man is “a son of a father.” Indeed every one of us is a child of a father. So Barabbas could have been anyone – he is a “generic man.”

This paints a wonderful picture of the substitutionary death of Jesus. Each one of us is a Barabbas: all guilty of many sins and all sentenced to die. But we don’t have to die. Jesus – the innocent man who knew no sin – has died in our place. He went to the cross and we were set free.

As you read the account of Barabbas, think about his name. He’s the “anyone” man. Try reading it again and inserting your own name instead of Barabbas’. Now, how do you feel about it? Have you accepted Jesus’ death as the payment of your sins? Are you grateful to Jesus because of it? Or do you not even care?


Dianne said...

I just read your comment and while it is years after the fact, just wanted to correct an inaccurate statement you made, for your future benefit. "Bar" is not the Hebrew word for son, but rather the Aramaic word for son. While "bar" is used 4 times in the Bible in Hebrew for son (Psalm 2:12 and Proverbs 31:2 [where it is used 3 times in the one verse]), its primary meaning is "purity". The usual Hebrew word for son is "ben". "Ben" is used 4,906 times in 3,654 verses.

RKBentley said...


Thank you for your comment. While I’m fairly comfortable with Greek, obviously my Hebrew needs some work. I researched a little and realized Bar is the Aramaic word for son. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, many 1st century Jews spoke Aramaic as their primary language. Here’s a quote from

“bar (prefix):

Aramaic for the Hebrew ben, "son." Compare Aramaic sections of Ezra and Daniel. In the Old Testament the word is found three times in Proverbs 31:2 and once in Syriac Psalms 2:12 (Hier. translates "pure"). In the New Testament "Bar" is frequently employed as prefix to names of persons. Compare Barabbas; Bar-Jesus; Bar-Jonah; Barnabas; Barsabbas; Bartholomew; Bartimeus.”

I should make a correction to my post. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. Please keep visiting and commenting. God bless!!