Criss-Cross Gospel

Interesting play on words:

Οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεισαν τοὺς ὄχλους ἵνα αἰτήσωνται τὸν Βαραββᾶν τὸν δὲ Ἰησοῦν ἀπολέσωσιν. 21 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ ἡγεμὼν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Τίνα θέλετε ἀπὸ τῶν δύο ἀπολύσω ὑμῖν; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· Τὸν Βαραββᾶν. (Matt. 27:20-21)

Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

The crowd requests to destroy (ἀπόλλυμι) Jesus and release (ἀπολύω) Barabbas. Both verbs are in the aorist subjunctive. It’s totally twisted and backwards.

It’s reinforced by a previous play on words earlier in the text, assuming the textual variant is original:

συνηγμένων οὖν αὐτῶν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Πιλᾶτος· Τίνα θέλετε ἀπολύσω ὑμῖν, Ἰησοῦν τὸν Βαραββᾶν ἢ Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον χριστόν; (v. 17)

Therefore, when they had gathered together Pilate said to them, “Which do you want me to release to you? [Jesus] Barabbas or Jesus the one called Christ?”

Which Jesus will be destroyed, and which Jesus will be released? Of course, the crowd gets it backwards, but so does the Gospel. The Gospel is like Jacob crossing his arms when he blesses Joseph’s sons.

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About Evan May

Evan May is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and a pastor at Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans.
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