Dear Editor, my question regards Jesus comments in Mark 2:26. Here Jesus apparently gets His history wrong when He says Abiathar was high priest. The passage in the Old Testament states Ahimelech was high priest. Many Christian apologists (like Norman Geisler) explain it away by saying the verse says “in the time of”. The implication being that Abiathar was alive at the time described, and therefore Jesus was not in error. But why would Jesus just not say in the time of Ahimelech?
Thanks for writing, David.
This is a question that has been bothering Christians, both layman and scholars alike, for years. I’d like to begin by laying out some hermeneutical principles that I highlight in my academic paper, Inerrancy and Bible Contradictions (it is not yet published yet):
- There is only a contradiction when the claims made in a passage of scripture results in two mutually exclusive claims in the same time and sense.
- Second, the Bible should have primacy over any extra-biblical source.
- Third, resolutions to contradictions should rely upon the propositions of scripture and what can be validly deduced from them.
If you look at Mark 2:26 and 1 Samuel 21:1-6, there is no contradiction so the first principle is applicable to your question. Jesus did not say that Abiathar was the high priest at the time that David came in seeking food while he was on the run from Saul. Because of this, we should not look at this comparison as an issue of resolving a contradiction.
That being said, your question is a matter of detail rather than an issue that challenges the authority of the Bible and Christ’s knowledge of Biblical history. Concerning why Jesus didn’t mention Ahimelech instead of Abiathar, my opinion is that Jesus mentions Abiathar instead because Abiathar was high priest while David was king. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure because the Bible does not tell us why Jesus said, “In the time of Abiathar,” instead of “In the time of Ahimelech.” We can only speculate. Nevertheless, it should not be a pressing issue for Christians because the two highlighted passages do not contradict one another.