One Gospel narrative whose interpretation has undergone significant change over the centuries is the episode regarding Barabbas. Brittanica
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Historically, the release of Barabbas at the crowd’s behest, and their subsequent demands to crucify Jesus, have been used to justify anti-Semitism. Many have placed blame for Christ’s death on the Jews, commonly citing Matthew 27:25, in which the crowd shouts, “His blood be on us and on our children!” However, numerous modern Christian scholars and leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, have explicitly denounced this position, claiming that the crowd on that fateful day consisted of Jewish Temple authorities and Barabbas’s supporters, not of the entire Jewish people. They have also maintained that, in the light of the New Testament as a whole, the crowd can be understood as comprising all of humanity and Jesus’ blood as effecting reconciliation between humanity and God, not as crying out for retribution.
During the Easter season many denominations, including the Episcopal Church, read aloud the events of Holy Week ("the Passion of Jesus Christ
"). While individuals are assigned parts in the drama (Pontius Pilate, Jesus, Peter, etc.), "Crucify him!" is said by the entire congregation. Everyone
was complicit in Christ's death, not just the Jews on the scene. The violent criminal Barabbas was freed, and good, innocent Jesus was executed.
The blood lust of the mob, and the fear that it engendered in Pontius Pilate, had seemed like an anachronism in Sunday School. Of course, individual people still behave emotionally, but society had progressed in matters that counted. The fiction that we grew up with, for example TV's Perry Mason and "To Kill a Mockingbird"
, promulgated the myth that sweet reason would prevail eventually. Those works turned out to be aspirational and far from reality.
This weekend's trashing of boys from Covington Catholic High School showed how quickly knowledgable, educated adults
could form the 21st-century version of a Southern lynch mob. The results weren't as murderous, but not for want of trying. Celebrities and "journalists" called for violence against a particular boy because he was "white, male, Christian, [wore a] MAGA hat" and appeared to smirk in an edited video.
His accuser, one Nathan Phillips, checked the good-victim boxes--Native American, Vietnam war vet--and the media elevated him and piled on the boy.
Other, longer videos and accounts revealed that the confrontation was more complicated and involved a third group, the Black Hebrew Israelites, who insulted the Covington tour group with prolonged profanity. Then Nathan Phillips, who was not part of the Black Israelites, walked up to the boys and also tried to provoke them.
The real story turned out to be nearly the opposite of the original narrative. The Covington students were remarkably restrained, and Mr. Phillips repeatedly changed his story. No, the boys aren't Jesus, and Mr. Phillips is not as bad as Barabbas, but the crowd was as mistaken--deliberately or not--as it was 2,000 years ago.
Many of the Catholic boys' vilifiers dismiss Christianity as irrelevant. They would have a stronger argument if human nature was improved from Biblical times, but they are living proof that it isn't.