Jesus was A Jew ?
by Ray LeRoux
According to the Gospel of Cecil B. DeMille, the Hollywood bible epic film producer, the image of Barabbas has been forever indelibly etched in many peoples minds with that of the actor Anthony Quinn – a drooling, menacing, unintelligible, violent killer.
Give us Barabbas, the people shouted, preferring this wreck of humanity over Jesus.
Unfortunately, the real story is quite different. Different than the film epic portrays and more important quite different than most English language bibles portray.
It begins with the names and the place and the time and the circumstances.
Israel in the time of Jesus was occupied by Rome. The Roman government overtaxed the people. It impressed men into the army. It sold government and even religious positions to the highest bidder. Tax collection went to the highest bidders in Rome and the winners passed their winning bids along to those taxed. Ditto with their employees, who paid to work, and also passed along their costs (and profits). Many office holders, including in the Jewish “church” did the same as the tax collectors. All were universally despised as Quislings, traitors, colloborators. For decades and even more than a century, the Jewish people simmered under this yoke and actively fomented rebellion, even armed uprising against Rome. Nowhere was this stronger than in the Gallilee where Jesus lived and worked. The opposers were called zealots and Jesus' followers and disciples included former if not current zealots.
The Jewish people in the time of Jesus were actively looking for a saviour, a redeemer, the messiah, who would come, overthrow Rome (and any other occupier) and right then and there restore the Kingdom as it was in the time of King David – a land, as the Bible promised, from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates in Babylon, just down the road from current day Bagdad in Iraq, from the Mediterranean to the Saudi Arabian desert. Freedom now was their dream, their hope, their desire, their promise.
This is the political turmoil that Jesus walked in the midst of. His message was a spiritual message. The Jews were looking for a worldly revival.
Jesus name in Israel was not Jesus and Christ was not his family name. Neither was Barabbas the Jewish name of the “criminal” set free in the English language bibles or the DeMille film.
Jesus is the Greek translation for Yeshua. Christ is the Greek translation for saviour or messiah, a title not a surname. Yeshua was called Yeshua ben Yosef, Jesus the son of Joseph (his stepfather). He was also known as Yeshua ha Nazrit, Jesus from Nazareth. He was also known as Rabbi Yeshua.
Barabbas Jewish name WAS ALSO Yeshua. Yeshua bar Abba or Jesus son of the father. The original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts use the correct names – changed or altered in our English texts.
The original texts also label Yeshua bar Abba as “a revolutionary”. So we find Barabbas was a revolutionary much in the same manner that George Washington was an American “revolutionary”, a criminal to the occupying forces but a hero to his fellow citizens.
Before the Jewish people, as the Word of God tells us, chose between Yeshua ha Nazrit and Yeshua bar Abba, between the country, untrained itinerant rabbi/teacher, and the heroic revolutionary, there is more to the story.
Both Yeshuas (Christ and Barabbas) were well known, both had followers. When Yeshua ha Nazrit entered Jerusalem that fateful week, he rode in on the colt of a donkey. He came to a fork in the road. Up until then, the people, really hopeful he WAS the promised messiah, praised him, applauded, waved branches, laid out the welcome mat. Save us NOW, they cried. At the fork in the road, the right fork went to the Temple. The left fork went to the Roman government headquarters. The people wanted and expected Jesus to go to the government building, overthrow it, throw the rascals out, restore the Jewish people. Not an unreasonable desire. Instead, Jesus turned right, went to the Temple, His Temple, and immediately threw the rascals out. Instead of throwing out the government rascals, Jesus threw out the religious rascals.
Now we should remind ourselves that scripture always puts the things of God on the right hand and the nasty things of the world on the left. When Jesus comes again, He will separate saints and sinners, the saints going to the RIGHT and the sinners to the LEFT. It is always so in scripture and immediately this is clear to anyone raised or reared in the Middle East. The right hand is used for eating (the word of god as well as food). The left hand is used for bodily or dirty functions, a reference to sin. See brothers and sisters, the temple on the right is to be holy, worldly government on the left can hardly be free from sin (as we all are sinners).
So when Yeshua ha Nazrit turned RIGHT, the people (of this world) were disappointed. This was not what THEY wanted. Jesus, really Yeshua ha Nazrit (the Hebrew root of Nazrit is Netzer or “the one set apart") turned the way His Father wanted. And therein lies the tale of all Scripture.
The same people who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, those who were disappointed at the turn of events, were easily swayed by the religious “leaders” spinmasters.
We fast forward. Jesus, Yeshua ha Nazrit, the preacher, is arrested. Barabbas, Yeshua bar Abba, the revolutionary, has already been arrested.
As a sop to the oppressed and occupied Jews, the Romans annually, on the highest Jewish holiday, freed a Jewish prisoner. Pilate offered the Judeans the choice between two Yeshuas. Which Yeshua do you want, your preacher or your revolutionary, he asked.
The Judeans who really didn't need to be whipped up into a frenzy by contemporary public relations experts, quite naturally chose the way of the world now over the harder way of God. Remember Satan had, then as now, control over the world.
We in the English speaking west have become so accustomed to the concept of a blond haired, blue eyed Jesus, a Paul Newman lookalike, and the vision of the swarthy unclean visage of Anthony Quinn as Barabbas that we have become confused. What happened is not what you saw in the DeMille film(s). Sadly, it is often much more subtle than portrayed in our English bible texts. Many of our popular texts are, if not filled with anti semitic sentiments, almost totally ignorant of the life and times of Jesus Christ in His country in that time. As a result we see and are taught and repeat things totally out of context.
These few brief insights into “Barabbas” are but one example.
A Murder of Crows Salvation Download the first chapter by clicking on here