on September 26, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Biblical
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We know precious little of the man called Barabbas, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth. He is variously described in the historical record as thief, murderer, rebel, and notable Roman prisoner. His release by the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate was part of the supernal plan for the Christ to offer himself as the ultimate blood sacrifice, but it’s doubtful Barabbas understood any of that at the time.Many have wondered what became of him, or rather, who he became after that fateful day. Someday we will know the answer, but in the meantime we can imagine that, like all of us, he too sought a path of personal redemption, imperfectly.
“My given name was Jesus. I never liked that name, even as a boy. It didn’t fit me somehow, and my later infamous connection to the son of Joseph the Carpenter made it unbearable. So, I chose another name.”
The first two lines of I Was Called Barabbas struck me and set the scene for the entire book right there. In the Bible, there is little we know about Barabbas other than he was a notorious thief and murderer. Anything else about him is complete speculation and that was the basis of almost this entire book.
The first two chapters completely focus on the life Barabbas lived up until he was released from prison in Jesus’ place. It tells the fictional accounts of his murders and why he became a murderer in the first place. These chapters set the tone for the type of man we all imagined him to be in real life. But then from chapter three and on, the author writes about the change in Barabbas and how he eventually becomes a follower of Christ.
I personally had a hard time with this story because I read a lot of biblical fiction but I don’t like when authors take a lot of liberties with characters. In I Was Called Barabbas, the author paints a picture of Barabbas as someone who learned about Christ, became friends with the apostle Paul and eventually became a follower. While this is a sweet thought for an ending, I just can’t picture Barabbas as this type of person.
None of us truly know what type of man Barabbas was or who he ended up being after he was released from prison. But in one other biblical fiction story I read, it showed Barabbas as the same murderer and thief when he was back on the streets. In that story, he ended up trying to kill a man and was murdered himself. That portrait of Barabbas was more feasible to me. From the way the Bible portrays him, he was a scoundrel and a criminal. I personally believe that is how he stayed until he died.
Overall, M.D. House’s I Was Called Barabbas, was a different portrait of Barabbas that I have never read before. If you prefer to stay closer to a more biblical view, this one might not suit you.