This entry is part 23 of 44 in the series: Troublesome texts
- ‘I will bless those who bless you’
- Genesis 6:1f – Who were ‘the sons of God’?
- Genesis 6-8 – A worldwide flood?
- Genesis 22 – “Abraham, kill your son”
- Matthew 1:23 – “The virgin will conceive”?
- Matthew 2:1 – ‘Magi from the east?’
- Matthew 2:2 – The star of Bethlehem
- Matthew 2:8f – Can God speak through astrology?
- Colossians 1:19f – Universal reconciliation?
- Matthew 5:21f – Did Jesus reject the Old Testament?
- Matthew 8:5/Luke 7:3 – Who asked Jesus to help?
- Matthew 8:5 – Son? Servant? Male lover?
- Matthew 8:28 – Gadara or Gerasa?
- Matthew 10:23 – ‘Before the Son of Man comes’?
- Matthew 11:12 – Forceful entry, or violent opposition, to the kingdom?
- The Parable of the Sower – return from exile?
- Matthew 18:10 – What about ‘guardian angels’?
- Matthew 18:20 – ‘Where two or three are gathered…’
- Matthew 16:18 – Peter the rock?
- Matthew 21:7 – One animal or two?
- Matthew 25:40 – Who are ‘these brothers of mine’?
- Matthew 27:52f – Many bodies raised?
- Mark 2:25f – ‘When Abiathar was high priest’?
- Luke 2:1f – Quirinius and ‘the first registration’
- Luke 2:7 – No room at the inn?
- Luke 2:8 – Shepherds: a despised class?
- Luke 4:16-19 – An incomplete quotation?
- John 1:1 – ‘The Word was God’?
- John 2:6 – symbol or history?
- John 2:12 – Did Mary bear other children?
- When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?
- John 3:16f – What is meant by ‘the world’?
- John 4:44 – ‘His own country’?
- John 20:21 – “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
- Romans 1:5 – ‘The obedience of faith’
- Rom 3:22; Gal 2:16 – faith in, or faithfulness of Christ?
- Romans 11:26a – ‘And so all Israel will be saved’
- Galatians 3:17 – How much later?
- Galatians 6:2 – ‘The law of Christ’
- Galatians 6:16 – The Israel of God
- 1 Timothy 2:15 – Saved through child-bearing?
- 1 Timothy 4:10 – the Saviour of all people?
- Hebrews 6:4-6 – Who are these people?
- Hebrews 12:1 – Who are these witnesses?
Mark 2:25f – “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry—2:26 how he entered the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the sacred bread…?”
According to 1 Sam 21:1-6, Ahimelech was high priest at this time. His son, Abiathar, became high priest shortly afterwards. Various attempts at reconciling this apparent discrepancy have been made:-
(a) Some think that Mark is plainly mistaken. For Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who moved from conservative evangelicalism to agnosticism, this text was instrumental in undermining his belief in the truthfulness of Scripture. As a student, he had written an extensive essay defending the accuracy of the text. His tutor, however, raised the question, “Perhaps Mark simply made a mistake.” It is remarkable that this had such an effect on Ehrman, given that there are many Christians who would allow for the presence of minor inexactitudes in the Bible while still accepting its overall trustworthiness in matters of faith and practice. For John Byron, this same text raised similar questions about the Bible’s historical value, although with less devastating effects on his personal faith.
(b) Others think that Mark originally wrote ‘Ahimelech’, but this was changed by early copyists to ‘Abiathar’.
(c) According to Cranfield, ‘in the days of Abiathar the High Priest’ need not imply that he was actually High Priest at the time. He suggests that there may be some confusion between Ahimelech and Abiathar in the OT itself – citing 1 Sam 22:20 with 2 Sam 8:17; 1 Chron 18:16; 24:6.
(d) Blomberg (Historical Reliability) notes that ‘in the days of’ translates the Gk. word ‘epi‘. Following John Wenham, he suggests that Mark means, ‘In the passage about Abiathar‘ (Abiathar, mentioned in 1 Sam 22, was the better-known of the two, and note the similar construction in Mk 12:26). Blomberg has also posted on this question here.
The last of these explanations seems the most likely. The problem is, of course, fairly trivial, except for those who feel the need to defend the inerrancy of the Bible in every detail, and those whose faith is too flimsy to withstand any uncertainty. There is some indication that Matthew and Luke recognised that there was a problem here, because both Matthew 12:4 and Luke 6:4 drop the offending name.