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Sorry, it’s taken a while to get round to this.

Agreed about violent zeal. But Josephus’ Zealot party may only have appeared somewhat later in the years before the war, I believe; and “Simon the Zealot” may only have been “Simon the zealous”. In Matthew and Mark he is “Simon the Cananaean,” oddly.

As far as the story goes, the pressure on Pilate to condemn Jesus in place of Barabbas comes from the leadership and from the crowd. I don’t see any gap or flaw in the narrative that encourages us to invent a conspiracy between Jesus and Pilate.

Is there any reason to think that the call to the whole nation to repent had revolt specifically in mind? Isn’t it just a general call to Torah-based righteousness, summed up by the two commandments, love God, love neighbour?

I understand your problem with theories of atonement. As you point out, the substitution of Jesus for Barabbas amounts to penal substitution. If we then call that “atonement,” we are not adding a more meaningful theological or metaphysical layer to the account—except insofar as God chose to forgive on the strength of Jesus’ action. It is the historical event that was decisive and transformative, though the “event” cannot be isolated from what happened next—resurrection, exaltation, and crucially the overwhelming experience of the prophet-messianic Spirit a few weeks later. No theory of atonement is needed. It’s all a matter of what happened—what Jesus did, what God did, what the followers of Jesus experienced.

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