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Answering The Atheist
October 13, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 41

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Jesus refers to David eating the consecrated bread in the time of Abithar (Mark 2:25-26). In fact, David ate the consecrated bread in the time of Ahimelech (1 Samuel 21:1-6). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Let us consider what the texts in question say:

Mark 2:25-26
But He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?"

1 Samuel 21:1-6
Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, "Why are you alone, and no one is with you?" So David said to Ahimelech the priest, "The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place. Now therefore, what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be found." And the priest answered David and said, "There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread, if the young men have at least kept themselves from women." Then David answered the priest, and said to him, "Truly, women have been kept from us about three days since I came out. And the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was sanctified in the vessel this day." So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread which had been taken from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away.

There are various means by which this supposed contradiction fades away. Some English translations omit the phrase "...the high priest...", as it does not appear in some manuscripts. Perhaps the error is that of a transcriber, who in error, penned Abiathar rather than Abimelech. Or, perhaps Abiathar is mentioned as high priest, as he was contemporary with David and in Jewish thought, no doubt inseparably associated with David, as he was with David throughout the calamities of his life, leading to and through his reign. Abiathar was the son of Abimelech, and was to become High Priest after his father.

Abimelech and Abiathar are not the only case where both a father and son are referred to as being the High Priest. Around the time of Christ, both Caiaphas (John 18:24) and his father Annas (Acts 4:6). The fact is, they both did serve in that capacity and to name both as "high priest" is in no way a contradiction. There is likewise no reason to consider it to be contradictory in the case of Abiathar and Abimelech.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible