Does Matthew craft a typological correspondence between Jesus and Barabbas and the two goats of Yom Kippur? As on the Day of Atonement—the one day on the Jewish calendar when lots were cast over two goats, one goat “for the Lord” and one goat “for Azazel” (Lev 16:7–10, 15–22)—so it seems to be in Matt 27:15–26. Two figures identical in appearance yet starkly juxtaposed, Jesus Barabbas and Jesus the Messiah, are presented to the crowd. Jesus Barabbas, the scapegoat, is released living, and Jesus the Messiah, the immolated goat, is put to death. But there are several problems with this interpretation. First, it is unclear how Barabbas functions as a scapegoat in this typology. Second, it is uncertain how this Yom Kippur narrative relates to Matthew’s innocent-blood discourse, which climaxes in the proclamation, “His blood on us and on our children” (27:25). Third, the function of Pilate’s hand washing (27:24) in the typology is ambiguous. To solve these riddles, I submit that, in his context of intra-Jewish sectarian conflict, Matthew inverts the Day of Atonement ritual for polemical effect, extending Barabbas’s role as scapegoat to the populace gathered before Pilate in a satirical rendition of the Yom Kippur ritual. Matthew has the gentile governor transfer the pollutant of bloodguilt off his hands and onto the people, who, with their children, are destined to bear a curse, suffer exile, and inhabit a new wilderness in 70 CE.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.