The Meaning of Matthew 27:20 Explained

Matthew 27:20

KJV: But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

YLT: And the chief priests and the elders did persuade the multitudes that they might ask for themselves Barabbas, and might destroy Jesus;

Darby: But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should beg for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

ASV: Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

What does Matthew 27:20 Mean?

Context Summary

Matthew 27:11-21 - Barabbas Or Christ?
The vacillation of Pilate made him a criminal. Weakness becomes sin. At first he evidently meant to release Jesus, but instead of saying so outright, he strove to bring about His release by indirect means and without committing himself.
First, he sent Him to Herod, Luke 23:17, thinking that a Jew would view favorably the position of a fellow-Jew. Then he sought to touch the springs of pity by the anguish of scourging. Finally, he gave the people the choice between Barabbas and Christ, feeling sure that they must choose the liberation of a lover of men rather than that of an outlaw.
None of these expedients succeeded, and he drifted into the very act which his conscience had condemned from the first. He is a specimen of those weak men who want the right thing to be done, but will not adventure their own interests to get it done. There is no chance of such men coming out right. The one hope for us all is to declare ourselves for the right and true, at once and from the start. [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 27

1  Jesus is delivered bound to Pilate
3  Judas hangs himself
19  Pilate, admonished of his wife,
20  and being urged by the multitude, washes his hands, and releases Barabbas
27  Jesus is mocked and crowned with thorns;
33  crucified;
39  reviled;
50  dies, and is buried;
62  his tomb is sealed and watched

Greek Commentary for Matthew 27:20

Persuaded [επεισαν]
The chief priests (Sadducees) and elders (Pharisees) saw the peril of the situation and took no chances. While Pilate wavered in pressing the question, they used all their arts to get the people to “ask for themselves” (αιτησωνται — aitēsōntai indirect middle ingressive aorist subjunctive) and to choose Barabbas and not Jesus. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Matthew 27:20

Mark 15:11 Stirred up [ανεσεισαν]
Shook up like an earthquake Matthew 27:20 has a weaker word, “persuaded” Effective aorist indicative. The priests and scribes had amazing success. If one wonders why the crowd was fickle, he may recall that this was not yet the same people who followed him in triumphal entry and in the temple. That was the plan of Judas to get the thing over before those Galilean sympathizers waked up. “It was a case of regulars against an irregular, of priests against prophet” (Gould). “But Barabbas, as described by Mark, represented a popular passion, which was stronger than any sympathy they might have for so unworldly a character as Jesus - the passion for political liberty ” (Bruce). “What unprincipled characters they were! They accuse Jesus to Pilate of political ambition, and they recommend Barabbas to the people for the same reason” (Bruce). The Sanhedrin would say to the people that Jesus had already abdicated his kingly claims while to Pilate they went on accusing him of treason to Caesar. [source]

What do the individual words in Matthew 27:20 mean?

- And the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should ask for - Barabbas Jesus should destroy
Οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεισαν τοὺς ὄχλους ἵνα αἰτήσωνται τὸν Βαραββᾶν Ἰησοῦν ἀπολέσωσιν

Οἱ  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἀρχιερεῖς  the  chief  priests 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: ἀρχιερεύς  
Sense: chief priest, high priest.
πρεσβύτεροι  elders 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: πρεσβύτερος  
Sense: elder, of age,.
ἔπεισαν  persuaded 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: ἐπισείω 
Sense: persuade.
ὄχλους  crowds 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Plural
Root: ὄχλος  
Sense: a crowd.
ἵνα  that 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ἵνα  
Sense: that, in order that, so that.
αἰτήσωνται  they  should  ask  for 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Middle, 3rd Person Plural
Root: αἰτέω  
Sense: to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require.
τὸν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Βαραββᾶν  Barabbas 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Βαραββᾶς  
Sense: the captive robber whom the Jews begged Pilate to release instead of Christ.
Ἰησοῦν  Jesus 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰησοῦς  
Sense: Joshua was the famous captain of the Israelites, Moses’ successor.
ἀπολέσωσιν  should  destroy 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: ἀπόλλυμι  
Sense: to destroy.