The Anachronistic Tale of Mark 2:26, Part 2
by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)
The following is a continuation of the Addendum section in the article New Testament Anachronism.
There are some additional points that were left out in the discussion above. To add further clarity to our case we will go through the primary solutions offered by exegetes in more detail. These solutions are obviously invented so that they may retain the belief that neither Jesus(of the NT) nor Mark committed any errors. We will prove that the most notable of conciliatory attempts is founded upon an egregious variant that is untenable.
The very reverend Harvey Goodwin who was Dean of Ely writes in his commentary regarding the verse:
“There is a difficulty in the words, the days of Abiathar the High Priest. In I. Sam. xxi. From which this account is taken, Ahimelech, is the high priest. There is however considerable confusions in the names about this part of the history : Ahimelech himself is called Abiah, I. Sam xiv. 3; and whereas (I. Sam. xxii. 20) Ahimelech has a son Abiathar, in II. Sam. viii. 17 Ahimelech is the son of Abiathar, and in I. Chron. Xviii. 16, Ahimelech. Amidst this variation we can hardly undertake to explain the difficulty in the text.” –ALFORD. Lightfoot has this note : “It is well enough known what is here said in defence of the purity of the text: namely, that Ahimelech the father was called Abiathar, and Abiathar the son was called also Ahimelech. But I suppose that something more was propounded by our Saviour in these words. For it was common to the Jews, under Abiathar, to understand the Urim and Thummim. Nor without good reason, when it appears, that under the father and the son, both of the name, the mention of inquiring by Urim and Thummim is more frequent than it is ever anywhere else ; and after Abiathar the son there is scarcely mention of it at all. Christ therefore very properly adds, in the days of Abiathar the High Priest, therein speaking according to a very received opinion in the nation : as though He had said, David eat the shew-bread given him by the High Priest, who had the oracle by Urim and Thummim present with him, and who acted by divine direction.”
Dr Wordsworth remarks that although S. Mark speaks of the event having happened in the days of Abiathar, his language “rather suggests that he was not the High Priest then, and the reference is made to him as a celebrated High Priest ; and indeed he is mentioned in the next chapter of the history, as the High Priest who followed David with the Urim and Thummim, when he was persecuted by Saul.” 
Two solutions are proposed in the above commentary:
- Ahimelech was called Abiathar and his son Abiathar was called Ahimelech.
- Mark speaks of the incident as happening in the life of Abiathar and not during his tenure as high priest.
Option number one which is rather popularly suggested in the classical literature has absolutely no foundation at all. Whatever confusion may exist in the OT literature regarding Ahimelech and Abiathar the context of 1 Samuel 21 is quite clear in that the priest in charge at that time was Ahimelech and not his son Abiathar who is introduced much later(one chapter later) in the 1 Samuel narrative after several events have taken place including the execution of Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub at the hands of Saul. It is evidently pronounced that Ahimelech the son of Ahitub was the one who gave the bread to David and not his son Abiathar son of Ahimelech as we see in 1 Samuel 22:12-13, “Saul said, “Listen now, son of Ahitub.” He answered, “Here I am, my lord.” Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, by giving him bread and a sword, and by inquiring of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as he is doing today?”” Should there be any doubt that according to 1 Samuel it was Ahimelech the son of Ahitub who was the individual who gave David the sacred bread? Abiathar is only introduced in verse twenty after the death of his father with the following description, “But one of the sons of Ahimelech son of Athitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David.” (1 Samuel 22:20) There is no evidence that Ahimelech who gave David the show bread was ever called Abiathar and vice versa. As the New Interpreter’s Study Bible succinctly states: “(1 Sam 21:1-6; ahimelech, not abiathar, was priest).”  Option one is therefore debunked.
Option two which finds support in several commentaries apart from the one above is equally untenable as we shall see. It is essentially founded upon the reading “in the days of Abiathar the High Priest” which in a way facilitates and provides some leeway for the interpretation that Abiathar is not being designated as the actual high priest who gave David the show bread, but rather as one(becoming the prominent high priest at the side of David later as the surviving descendant of Ahimelech) who was already present in those days when his father occupied the position of high priest. We have already dealt with this interpretation in the discussion prior to this addendum section which we shall not repeat here. Rather we will show that the basis upon which this understanding is built is completely erroneous. Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature in the Union Theological Seminary, New York Philip Schaff writes: “Some have therefore supposed that the title ‘high priest’ is given to him, because he afterwards held the office. But the original (according to the correct reading) is almost equivalent to: during the high-priesthood of Abiathar.” 
The interpretation that is forwarded by Wordsworth and others that run on a similar thread are ultimately reliant on that reading which is found in the King James Version. Biblical scholars and textual critics have determined that that particular reading is a later modification of the text. Thus citing Lightfoot’s commentary which correlates to Wordsworth’s Biblical scholar and theologian Geo Clark writes:
“Lightfoot says that he was named rather than his father, because he brought the Ephod to David, and by him inquiry was made by Urim and Thummim by Abiathar; and hence to say that the thing was done under Abiathar, showed that it was done by divine direction. But the most approved text reads, when Abiathar was high priest…” 
What is clearly implied by Clark is that with the acceptance of the most reliable reading the idea that Abiathar could be named simply because he was already around during his father’s tenure as high priest is rejected.
Nestle-Aland’s Greek-English New Testament containing the translation of the NRSV by a committee of Biblical scholars headed by Bruce Metzger clearly renders the text as follows:
“how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest. And ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?””  (emphasis added)
The New Living Translation is even more emphatic in its translation:
“He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.”  (emphasis added)
The obvious and clear meaning discerned from the above two translations indicate that Abiathar was the high priest at the time when David went into the temple and ate the sacred bread. This means that according to Mark 2:26 it was Abiathar, not Ahimelech who gave David the bread which is in clear conflict with the original story in 1 Samuel 21. Perhaps we should proffer an illustration so as to make the point much clearer:
“On 17th January 1991 at the behest of George W. Bush American troops went to war with Saddam Hussein in a conflict called the Gulf War.”
Is the above a correct description of what actually happened? To some Biblicists it is yes because George W. Bush the son of George W. H. Bush was the one with grater fame. He was already around when the event transpired and of course later after his father’s presidency he did become president twice so it is alright to say that it was George W. Bush. Can you not see how ridiculous that is? Whatever George W. Bush’s level of fame may be it is completely anachronous to place him in the above example when we know very well that it was not George W. Bush but his father who led America to war with Saddam in the Gulf War.
Henry Alford who was Dean of Canterbury, a noted theologian, and Biblical scholar refutes Wordsworth in the following:
26.] έπί Άβ. άρχ. during the high-priesthood of Abiathar. But in 1 Sam. xxi., from which this account is taken, Ahimelech not Abiathar, is the high-priest. There is however considerable confusion in the names about this part of the history : Ahimelech himself is called Ahiah, 1 Sam. xiv. 3 ; and whereas ( 1 Sam. xxii. 20) Ahimelech has a son Abiathar, in 2 Sam. viii. 17, Ahimelech is the son of Abiathar, and in 1 Chron. Xviii. 16, Ahimelech. Amidst this variation, we can hardly undertake to explain the difficulty in the text. The insertion of the art. Before ___. has been apparently done to give the words the sense ‘ In the time of Abiathar the High-priest,’ so that the difficulty might be avoided by understanding the event to have happened in the time of (but not necessarily during the high-priesthood of) Abiathar (who was afterwards) the High-priest. But supposing the reading to be so, what author would in an ordinary narrative think of designating an event thus? Who for instance would speak of the defeat of the Philistines at Ephesdammim, Where Goliath fell, as happening έπί Δαυείδ τον βασιλίως? Who would ever understand έρί Έλισσαίον τον προφήτον’ in the time of Eliseus the prophet,’ as importing, in matter of fact, any other period than that of the prophetic course of Elisha? ( The ἐγέννησεν Δαβὶδ τὸν βασιλέα of Matt. i. 6 is not a case in point.) Yet this is the way in which the difficulties of the Gospels have been attempted to be healed over. (See Middleton on the article, in loc.) With the restoration of the true reading, even this resource fails. [I am sorry to see that Dr. Wordsw. writes, “έπί Άβιάθαρ άρχιερέως intimates indeed that it rather suggests that he was not the High-priest then:” comparing έπί άρχιερέως Αννα, Luke iii. 2. But surely Dr. W. must know, that such a rendering is ungrammatical : that άρχιερέως without the article must be simply predicatory, whether it precedes or follows the proper name ; “ when Abiathar was High-priest,”- and cannot be titular. The expression in 1 Macc. Xiii. 42, which he quotes as similar, is not a case in point, as any reader may judge…” 
Some scholars like Craig Blomberg in his Historical Reliability of the Gospels propose that the preposition epi points towards location(quasilocative) rather than being a temporal designation, hence the verse should be understood as “[David] entered the house of God in the passage of scripture concerning Abiathar the high priest.”  N. C. Croy rejects this interpretation and says that the verse favours a “temporal sense” when it is taken in its proper context. Croy also points to the fact that it contravenes the primary meaning of the preposition used in Mark 2:26 as defined by Danker and Bauer’s A Greek-English Lexicon :
“marker of temporal associations, in the time of, at, on, for – w. gen., time within which an event or condition takes place (Hom.+) in the time of, under (kings or other rulers): in the time of Elisha Lk 4:27 (cp. Just., D. 46, 6 έ. Ήλίου). έ. τής μετοικεσίας at the time of the exile Mt 1:11. Under = during the administration of (Hes., Op. 111; Hdt. 6, 98 al.; OGI 90, 15; PAmh 43, 2 [173 BC]; UPZ 162 V, 5 [117 BC]; 1 Esdr 2:12; 1 Macc 13:42; 2 Macc 15:22; Jos., Ant. 12, 156 ” έ. Άβιάθαρ άρχιερέως under, in the time of, Abiathar the high priest Mk 2:26…”  (underline emphasis added)
Notice that the above agrees with our position in identifying Mark 2:26 as an instance of the use of the preposition which posits the meaning of under/during the administration of Abiathar as High Priest. Mark 2:26 is cited as the first NT example of the preposition which carries the meaning of “under=during the administration of.” (See also Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 232 which essentially provides the same definition)
Blomberg’s proposition is also unsupported by available translations of the Bible. None of the published Bible translations in English renders the verse in that sense.
Biblical scholar Dr. J. A. Alexander in his commentary on Mark 2:26 on the solutions offered to solve the apparent problem writes the following:
“The least probable of these solutions is the one which instead of in the days of Abiathar understands the Greek phrase (έπί Άβιάθαρ) to mean in the passage of the sacred history of which Abiathar is the subject, as a like phrase in two other places is now commonly explained in that way. (See below , on 12, 26, and compare Rom. 11,2.) Even admitting the correctness of the explanation there, which is disputed, it is here forbidden by the position of the words, which ought to have come after did ye never read, whereas they follow they entered, and by the obvious consideration that the passage cited is not and could not be with any propriety called by the name of Abiathar.” 
In order to facilitate the understanding that the incident took place at the time of Abiathar and not specifically during his tenure as high priest some scribes blatantly added του before άρχιερέως as Metzger points out whom we will cite in due course.
Keith Thompson(came under the nick name “Christian.” He was refuted on a number of issues and eventually ran from the discussion. You may refer to the comment section to read our exchanges here) in his clumsy treatment on the subject in an attempt to refute this article cites the Biblical scholar William Lane who was New Testament Professor at Gordon-Conwell. The full picture of what Lane writes is wanting in Thompson’s citation. He merely references Lane’s listing of the relevant manuscript evidence and turns a blind eye to Lane’s exposition on the verse itself. We shall now fill in the gaps for our respected readers:
“The chief problem in the allusion to David’s act is the reference to Abiathar the high priest. If the meaning is that David received the five loaves of holy bread at the time when Abiathar was high priest the reference is incorrect.”  (emphasis added)
Before continuing with the quotation we should pause for a moment and refer to the italicised phrase ‘the time when’ which is footnoted:
“Gr. Έπί cum genitive, on which see Bl-D-F 234.8 (p. 123). This is the most common understanding of the phrase in this context, and finds support from the idiom in I Macc. 13:42; Lk. 3:2; Acts 11:28.” 
As Lane concedes if the text does indeed say that David received the bread during the high priesthood of Abiathar then the reference is wrong. The data given in the footnote have already been addressed by Alford above. Lane continues further:
“The incident occurred when Ahimelech was high priest, and it was he who gave David the bread. Abiathar was a son of Ahimelech who escaped the massacre of the high priestly family, and who enters the record for the first time a chapter later (1 Sam. 22:20). Because he served as high priest and was better known in association with David than his father, it is commonly assumed a primitive error entered the tradition before it came into Mark’s hands or an early marginal gloss which was in error moved into the text. The difficulty was early felt and is reflected in the manuscript tradition.”  (emphasis added)
Let us once again pause for a moment and refer to a footnote to the last sentence which is the citation made by Thompson (which he does not even cite in full hence restricting the real sense of what Lane actually conveys):
“The words έπί Άβιάθαρ άρχιερέως are absent from D W 271 a b e ff I r1 sysin and the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke. In A C θ λ φ and other MSS the article του is inserted before άρχιερέως. By this change the phrase could mean “in the days of Abiathar (who later became) the High Priest.” Both variants may be due to a sense of historical difficulty in the text as it stands.”  (emphasis added)
It is clear that Lane agrees that Matthew, Luke and the scribes who all amended the text did so because of “the difficulty” and/or “a sense of historical difficulty.” He continues:
“An attractive proposal is that Mark’s intention has been misunderstood in the translation of the passage. The same grammatical construction occurs in Ch. 12:26, where it must be translated “have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage concerning the Bush, how God spoke unto him…?” The construction is designed to call attention to the section of a biblical book where the reference is found, in the above instance Ex. 3:1 ff. In Ch. 2:26 Mark may have inserted the reference to Abiathar to indicate the section of the Samuel scroll in which the incident could be located.” 
In a footnote to the above containing the critique to “the attractive proposal” he writes:
“J. W. Wenham, “Mark 2, 26,” JThS n.s. 1 (1950), p. 156. The objections that may be raised against this proposal are that έπί Άβιάθαρ is considerably separated from “have you not read,” unlike Ch. 12:26; that Abiathar is by no means the central element in this section of 1 Samuel; that the introduction of Abiathar first in Ch. 22 constitutes it unlikely that his name would be given to the section; and that numerous instances in Tannaitic documents indicate that a section was usually designated by a term which occurs early, not late, in the section. The strongest argument for this proposal is the undoubted use of έπί cum genitive in Ch. 12:26 to indicate a section of scripture.” 
The critique against comparing the use of έπί in Mark 2:26 and in Mark 12:26 is evidently sound as we see in the above. Notwithstanding Lane’s apparent praise of the “attractive” proposal the critique which he supplies negates his own praise. Earlier we have already cited several scholars such as Alford, Dr. Alexander and Croy who all reject the so called “attractive” interpretation.
Refusing the recourse proffered by Blomberg, Wenham and others, Reverend Professor Alexander Balmain Bruce who was Professor of Apologetics at Free Church College, Glasgow writes “έπί taken in the sense it bears in Mk. Xii. 26 (επι βατου) –in the passage about Abiathar – not a satisfactory suggestion.”  (emphasis added)
Similarly Theologian John Broadus lists some of the popular solutions available, but concludes that they are all unsatisfactory:
“When Abiathar was high priest, and yet 1 Sam. 21:1,8 makes Ahimelech the high priest, whose son Abiathar afterward succeeded him. Abiathar became a famous man and may perhaps on that account be taken as representing that period. Others have supposed that Abiathar was traditionally represented as assisting his father on that occasion; others that the father also was named Abiathar (2 Samuel 8:17). These explanations are possible but not very satisfactory.”  (emphasis added)
In the end he recommends keeping quiet and allowing the problem to remain unsolved which is essentially the same sentiment that we saw in F. F. Bruce’s own candid admission. Thus he says the following:
“If a preacher or teacher cannot explain in such a case, let him say quietly that he cannot and go on to something he can explain.” 
Conservative textual critic Daniel Wallace in his article on the verse in question citing Lane and referring to Middleton who is referenced by Alford above shows the inadequacies of Blomberg’s proposal:
“The second possible hermeneutical solution is that ejpiV jAbiaqaVr ajrcierevw could possibly be translated “in the days of Abiathar the high priest.” This was the view of Grotius, Wetstein, Wordsworth, Scholz, and many others. It is the wording of the KJV as well, though the KJV is based on a different text here (which has tou’ before ajrcierevw). Thomas Fanshaw Middleton, in his still unexcelled treatment of the article in the Greek NT, spends much time on this interpretation, but he bases his views on the articular reading.Indeed, Middleton provides the basis for this view’s rejection: “That reading [the one without the article which is adopted in NA]… would indeed mean, that Abiathar was actually High Priest at the period in question.Middleton cites several classical references to back up his statement. In grammatical terms, we could say ejpiV jAbiaqaVr ajrcierevw involves a predicate genitive (“when Abiathar was high priest”) while ejpiV jAbiaqaVr tou’ ajrcierevw involves an appositive to jAbiaqavr (“in the time of Abiathar the high priest”)” 
The fact of the matter is the verse correctly reads as “when Abiathar was high priest” hence demolishing the position propelled by Wordsworth, Blomberg, Wenham etc.
There are those who would suggest that perhaps Abiathar was present at the scene together with his father Ahimelech and in fact the verse could mean “in the presence of Abiathar.” Regarding this Dr. J. A. Alexander writes “Another explanation of the discrepancy is that the Greek phrase means in the presence of Abiathar, although Ahimelech performed the act. But even if the act were so, which is assumed without the slightest proof, why should a person merely present have been named, when the act in question is performed by another?” 
It should be noted that J. A. Alexander in his commentary suggests that the “nearest approach to a satisfactory solution” is the suggested interchangeability between the names Ahimelech and Abiathar which we have already refuted earlier. Notice the humble concession that it is nearest to a satisfactory solution and not that it is indeed a satisfactory solution. In fact this solution which he seems to favour ultimately is not satisfactory enough as he concludes his comments by saying “Of this there is no direct proof; if there were , the exegetical dispute would cease; but in a choice of difficulties, such as here presents itself, the hypothesis suggested is at least as probable as gross mistake and contradiction. It is best, however, as in all such cases, to leave the discrepancy unsolved rather than to solve it by unnatural and forced constructions.” 
In addition, he describes all such attempts at solving the difficulty as a path that “can only bring discredit on the Scriptures…” There are some important points to note from Alexander’s concluding remarks:
- The probability that Ahimelech was known as Abiathar is as probable as the option that it is a gross error. (Which means that the text may very well be a gross mistake after all! However, the probability tilts in favour of error because there is direct and clear evidence that the father and not the son named Ahimelech who was there and served David as opposed to the Markan narrative which places the son Abiathar as the figure who served David)
- There is no direct proof for number one.
- Number one is an unnatural forced construction.
- Therefore, it is best to leave the problem unsolved.
It is clear that upon further probing even the most conservative scholars would have to admit that the problem is insurmountable as per the sentiments echoed by F. F. Bruce, John Broadus and J. A. Alexander. Hence for them remaining silent and declaring it unsolved is the best option! However, other scholars after evaluating the best available evidence have had to concede that there is indeed a clear error in Mark 2:26.
Do we know for a fact that Matthew and Luke amended their version of the incident due to the realisation that Mark’s report is anachronous? Daniel Wallace readily admits:
“Except for a few stylistic changes between Mark 2.26 and the parallels in Matt 12.4 and Luke 6.4, the only difference is the omission of Mark’s “when Abiathar was high priest” (ejpiV jAbiaqaVr ajrcierevw) by both Matthew and Luke. It is hard to resist the notion that Matthew and Luke deliberately expunged this line from their respective copies of Mark so as not to impugn the character of Jesus.”  (emphasis added)
Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Lamar Williamson writes:
“Matthew and Luke, perhaps noticing that the name “Abiathar” (2:26) is incorrect, omitted it. The presence of this lapse of memory or slip of tongue in Mark may be some consolation to preachers and teachers embarrassed by their own occassional inexactitudes.”  (emphasis added)
The late minister and theologian, William Davies who was Edward Robinson Professor of Biblical Theology at Union Theological Seminary and Dale Allison who is Errett M. Grable Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christianity at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary commenting on Matthew’s version of the Sabbath incident in their commentary on Matthew they write:
“how he entered the house of God. This agrees with Mk. 2:26, except that Mark has these words at the end: ‘when Abiathar was high priest’. Lk 6:4 also omits the remark about Abiathar. Probably both the First and Third Evangelists recognized Mark’s error. The high priest in question was Abiathar’s son, the lesser known Ahimelech (See 1 Sam21.1).”  (underline emphasis added)
Were the changes made by the scribes motivated by the recognition of the erroneous reference?
The late eminent Biblical textual critic from Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Buce Metzger in his textual commentary on the verse writes:
“2.26 έπί Άβιάθαρ άρχιερέως
According to 1 Sm 21 it was Ahimelech, not Abiathar, who was high priest when
David ate the bread of the Presence. In order to avoid the historical difficulty, D W al omit έπί Άβιάθαρ άρχιερέως, thereby conforming the text to Mt 12.4 and Lk 6.4. Otherwitnesses, reluctant to go so far as to delete the phrase, inserted του before άρχιερέως (or ίερέως) in order to permit the interpretation that the event happened in the time of (but not necessarily during the high-priesthood of) Abiathar (who, was afterward) the high priest.” 
From the above one may discern that Metzger agrees that the scribes who handled the said manuscripts omitted the offending phrase so as to avoid the historical difficulty. We also learn that not only were there scribes who simply omitted the whole reference, but there were less radical yet equally perturbed scribes who sought to resolve the problem by adding the article του so that the text can be understood in the way that Wordsworth understands it i.e. took place in the time of Abiathar, but not specifically during his tenure as high priest.
Agreeing with Metzger on the total omission of the reference to Abiathar, Wallace writes:
“As a sidenote, it is interesting that the Western scribes expunge the wording here. In the least, this seems to be evidence that they were concerned about protecting the Lord’s reputation when citing scripture. It is texts such as this (and there are hundreds of them, and in all text-types) that reveal early scribal piety across the board, suggesting that Dean Burgon’s condemnation of the early uncials as products of wicked men was unfounded.”  (emphasis added)
As for the addition of the article του in some other manuscripts in order to allow the interpretation forwarded by Wordsworth and others Wallace writes:
“A C Q P S F 074 1 131 209 f13 and many others add tou’ before ajrcierevw. The significance of the article is that it turns ajrcierevw into an appositive, while the anarthrous noun remains a predicate genitive to jAbiaqavr. (This will be discussed in some detail later.) The addition of the article gives the meaning “in the days of Abiathar the high priest,” suggesting a more general time-frame.This reading thus has a mixture of some Byzantine, Caesarean, and even semi-Alexandrian support. Neither reading has significant external support and both are obviously motivated by scribal piety toward the text.”  (emphasis added)
Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Seminary, Dr. C. Clifton Black in his commentary on Mark writes:
“A detail in Jesus’ recital of David’s story is incorrect: not Abiathar (1 Sam 22:20) but Ahimelech was the chief priest of Nob (1 Sam 21:1). This mistake discomfited Mark’s copyists, most of whom modified the wording of verse 26 either by suggesting the event’s occurrence during Abiathar’s lifetime (if not his high priesthood) or by excising reference to the high priest altogether (following Matt 12:4 and Luke 6:4; see Swanson 1995. 34-35).”  (emphasis on whole text added)
We have also cited the conservative scholar Craig Evans in New Testament Anachronism (Part 1) who agrees that the problem motivated later writers and scribes to modify Mark’s text as he writes:
“Very early on, the presence of the phrase was perceived to be a problem and early Christian interpreters attempted either to correct the text or to find a plausible explanation for the text as it stands. Assuming Markan priority, then in all probability the evangelists Matthew (cf. 12:4) and Luke (cf. 6:4) were the first Christian interpreters who attempted to solve the problem and this they did by omitting the problematic phrase. Some Christian scribes followed the lead of the later evangelists and elected to drop the phrase from Mark’s gospel itself (cf. D W 1009 1546 [uncorrected] and some of the Italian and Syriac mss). Some copyists (cf. Α C Θ Π 074 33, several minuscules, Sahidic and Boharic Coptic versions, and Chrysostom) add the article του (i.e., ἐπὶ Ἀβιάθαρ του ἀρχιερέως), perhaps in order to create a new sense: “in the days of Abiathar [one who would eventually become] high priest” Other mss (cf. Δ itf goth) read ιερέως instead of ἀρχιερέως, which would have the effect of harmonizing the Markan text with 1 Samuel since Abiathar, though not yet high priest, was at the time a priest (cf. 1 Sam 2:11, 17-18).” 
Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina, Wayne Kannaday supplies an excellent overview on the role played by Matthew, Luke and the scribes to resolve the problem:
“Another factual error appears in Mark 2:26 where Jesus is said to have recounted David’s act of commandeering the bread of presence as occurring during the high priesthood of Abiathar, despite the fact that 1 Sam 21:1-7 clearly states that Ahimelech was high priest when this happened. The scribal tradition shows an awareness of and an apparent concern for this factual error. Craig Evans, assuming Marcan priority, adduces Matthew and Luke as the first Christian interpreters who worked to resolve this problem. In their parallel accounts, Matt 12:4 and Lk 6:4, both evangelists manage the error by simply removing the troublesome phrase altogether. Conforming to the precedent established by the synoptic redactors of Mark, Codex Bezae, the Freer manuscript, 1009, 1546*, and several of the Old Latin and Syriac versional witnesses similarly omit the temporal phrase έπί Άβιάθαρ άρχιερέως, and with it the problem. Others, as Metzger explains, place an article into the verse in such a way that allows one to understand that the event occurred in the time of Abiathar, but not necessarily when he was high priest. Evans recalls that a few witnesses (Δ f goth) read “priest” (ιερέως) instead of “high priest” (άρχιερέως), thereby bringing the Marcan text into factual agreement with the Samuel narrative, since Abiathar, though having not yet succeeded his father as “high priest” was already “a priest.” 
In his “rebuttal” Thompson also makes an innocuous appeal to Scott Hahn thinking that he will help his case. Unfortunately, Scott Hahn will prove to be an inadequate resource for him as well. In Letter and Spirit in which Hahn is one of the contributing authors and chief editors Joseph Atkinson cites their late superior the Austrian cardinal Franz Konig who forwarded the position of “limited inerrancy” and to that effect appealed to Mark 2:26 as one of the examples of the fact that not the whole of the Bible is safeguarded from error. To be sure, Atkinson disagrees with Konig and assumes the worn out solution that έπί could refer to a period of time which may not necessarily point to Abiathar’s high priesthood. He in fact specifically cites Lane in his footnote to the proferred solution. We have already gone through Lane and the critique that he himself supplied to the favoured solution as well as others’ comments on the preposition. There is no need for redundancy by repeating them here. We have clearly proven that such an interpretation is unfounded and clearly against the natural sense of the sentence construction. What is even more amazing is that Keith Thompson actually believes that Catholics and the Church that they preach and represent are not truly Christian (in fact they are false Christians) as he clearly illustrated in the discussion that we had in the comment section under Does Allah Pray? If yes then who does He pray to?. Why would he appeal to a false Christian namely Scott Hahn but reject a liberal Christian/Catholic namely Raymond Brown? Is that not completely disingenuous? In fact none of what is contained in Brown’s literature (An Introduction to New Testament Christology) including his remarks on Mark 2:26 can be regarded as anti-Catholic or false by Hahn who is himself a Catholic yet of the laity as opposed to Brown who was an ordained priest. The reason for this is that almost every one of Brown’s published work if not all of them bear the “nihil obstat” and “imprimatur” seals of the Catholic Church. What are those? “The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.” That is the standard definition of those seals. Hahn’s own website furnishes material from yet another major superior who concedes that Mark 2:26 is in error which Matthew and Luke realised and removed from their respective writings:
“Thus it is not surprising that according to a practically irrefutable consensus of historians there definitely are mistakes and errors in the Bible in profane matters of no relevance for what Scripture properly intends to affirm. One can point out small matters, like the fact that Mark speaks of the High Priest Abiathar (Mk 2:26) instead of his father, Ahimelech, an error which Matthew and Luke correct in their accounts.” 
The above quotation is from none other than Professor Joseph Ratzinger who is currently Pope Benedict XVI to whom Scott Hahn owes allegiance (or religious assent). Thus an appeal to Hahn does not negate our appeal to Brown.
Catholic theologian Dr. Mary Healy who is Associate Professor of Sacred Literature at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in her commentary on the verse writes:
“The phrase when Abiathar was high priest is apparently incorrect, since it was not Abiathar but his father, Ahimelech, who was high priest at the time. A possible solution to the discrepancy is that sometimes a section of a biblical scroll was named for a prominent individual or event in that section (as in Mark 12:26). The phrase which is literally “concerning Abiathar the high priest,” was then intended to locate the relevant section of 1 Samuel, in a way similar to modern biblical chapter division. See Lane, Gospel of Mark, 115-16.”  (underline emphasis added)
The possible solution which is suggested above with reference to Mark 12:26 has already been shown to be invalid. We have proven that the phrase literally means “when Abiathar was high priest” and not “concerning Abiathar the high priest.” The appeal made to Lane has already been discussed and it clearly fails. The admission seen in the above quotation at the beginning, that is, “The phrase when Abiathar was high priest is apparently incorrect” is right on the mark. Therefore we can add Dr. Mary Healy as yet another prominent Catholic theologian who agrees that the text as it stands is in error. Incidentally Dr. Healy is a senior fellow at Scott Hahn’s Saint Paul’s Center for Biblical Theology.
We reaffirm our conclusion stated prior to the addendum that the Markan text as it stands is indeed anachronistically against the original story in 1 Samuel 21.
Dr. Melanchthon W. Jacobus who was Dean of the Faculty and Hosmer Professor of New Testament Exegesis at Hartford Theological Seminary under Mark 2:26 writes:
“Abiathar – an error for Ahimelech, possibly influenced by the near relationship of the two, regarding whichever, however, there appears to be confusion in the Old Testament itself (cf. I Sam. 22:20; II Sam. 8:17; I Chron. 18:16).”  (underline emphasis added)
Notable New Testament scholar Professor Bernhard Weiss of the University of Berlin in his commentary writes:
“Mark, however, is mistaken when he mentions Abiathar, who according to Sam. Xxii. 20, sqq. Was on friendly terms with David, while the episode here recorded, according to Sam. Xxi. 2, happened under his father Ahimelech.”  (emphasis added)
Dr. Harvei Branscomb who was Professor of New Testament at Duke University, Durham in his commentary on the verse writes:
“In answer to the criticism, Jesus turned to an incident in the life of David – the story of how he came to Nob fleeing from Saul, and ate the Holy bread which only the priests were allowed to eat. The reference to Abiathar may be a textual corruption. Although Matthew and Luke both follow Mark’s wording closely for this story, neither has the words stating the name of the priest. In any case Abiathar is an error. The priest’s name was Ahimelech (I Sam. xxi. 1-7).”  (emphasis added)
Professor Emeritus of Religion at Middlebury College and ordained Episcopal priest John P. Keenan writes:
“Yet Jesus’ answer is hardly to the point. He presents a case of David’s men eating what is forbidden. But, their eating of the forbidden loaves is an emergency, while Jesus and his group are merely taking a walk! To add to the confusion, Jesus misidentifies the high priest as Abiathar, while 1 Samuel 21:1-6 identifies him as Ahimelech, Abiathar’s father.”  (emphasis added)
Earlier in the article we pointed out what the textual critic and James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Prof. Bart Ehrman writes about Mark 2:26 in his Misquoting Jesus. Elsewhere in his Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament making the same point he writes:
“Jesus omniscience is safeguarded in other ways in yet other passages. A fairly obvious example occurs in Mark 2:26, in which Jesus wrongly claims that Abiathar was the high priest when David entered into the temple with his companions to eat the showbread. The incident is recorded in 1 Sam 21, and it is quite clear that it was not Abiathar, but his father Ahimelech, who was high priest at the time. As one might expect, scribes have modified the text to remove Jesus’ mistake; the reference to Abiathar is excised in several of our earlier manuscripts.” 
Victor Hamilton who was professor of Bible and theology at Asbury University writes:
“Most interesting is Mark’s identification of of the priest as Abiathar (Mk 2:26), who is the son of Ahimelech (and maybe the reason why neither Matthew nor Luke mentions any priest’s name). Either Mark is incorrect, or else something like “the father of” [Abiathar] has been accidentally omitted from the text.” 
In the absence of any textual evidence for the suggestion that there was an accidental omission of the phrase “the father of” and the fact that scribes often harmonised scripture rather than create further problems we conclude that the former is the only plausible option in the two alternatives given by Hamilton.
Protestant theologian Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer in his commentary on the verse writes as follows:
“Ver. 26 έπί Άβιάθαρ του άρχιερ.] tempore Abiatharis pontifics maximi, i.e., under the pontificate of Abiathar. Comp. Luke iii. 2; Matt. i. 11. According to 1 Sam. xxi. 1 ff., indeed, the high priest at that time was not Abiathar, but his father (1 Sa. xxii. 20; Joseph Antt. vi. 12. 6) Ahimelech. Mark has erroneously confounded these two, which might the more easily occur from the remembrance of David’s friendship with Abiathar (1 Sam. xxii. 20 ff.). The supposition that father and son both had both names, is only apparently supported by 2 Sam. viii. 17, 1 Chron. xviii. 16, comp. xxiv. 6, 31 ; as even apart from the fact that these passages manifestly contain an erroneous statement, the reference of our quotation applies to no other passage than to 1 Sam. xxi. [ SeeNote XV., p. 37.] Grotius thought that the son had been the substitute of the father. Recourse has been had with equally ill success to a different interpretation of έπί; for it is assumed to be coram (Weststein, Scholz), 1 Sam. l.e. stands historically opposed to it; but if it is held to mean : in the passage concerning Abiathar, i.e., there where he was spoken of (xii. 26 ; Luke xx. 37), it is opposed by the same historical authority, and by the consideration that the words do not stand immediately after ανεγνωτε.”  (bold emphasis added)
Professor Dr. Boris Repschinski of the Department of Biblical Studies and Historical Theology, University of Innsbruck writes:
“Mark made an error since the story, as related in 1 Sam 21:1-6, took place under the High Priest Ahimelech, father of Abiathar. A further Markan error is corrected by omitting that David gave of the bread to his men (Mk 2:26).”  (emphasis added)
The Mercer Dictionary of the Bible states:
“It was Abiathar’s father Ahimelech who was the priest involved in the incident recounted in Mark 2:25-26 (cf. 1 Sam 21:1-6).” 
It is clear that the above identifies the attribution in Mark 2:26 as an error as the priest who was the actual priest was not Abiathar, but his father Ahimelech which is a point we have made abundantly clear.
The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary in its own entry on Abiathar writes, “He is incorrectly identified as high priest in David’s time in Mark 2:26.”  (emphasis added)
We would like to conclude the foregoing exposition with the astute remarks of Reverend Ezra Gould who was Professor of the New Testament Literature and Language of the Divinity School of the Protestant Eposcopal Church, Philadelphia which beautifully summarises our topic of discussion:
“έπί Άβιάθαρ άρχιερέως – in the high priesthood of Abiathar.
Omit του before άρχιερέως Tisch. Treg. marg. WH. RV. א BL Γ etc.
In the account of this in 1 Saml. 21:1, sqq., Abimelech was high-priest, and Abiathar, his son, does not become high-priest until the reign of David. See ch. 22:21. To be sure, other passages in the O.T. make the same confusion of names making Abimelech, the son of Abiathar, high-priest in David’s time. But this does not explain our difficulty; it only shows that there is the same difficulty in the O.T. account. Nor does it relieve it to suppose that this means simply that the event took place during the lifetime of Abiathar, not during the high-priesthood. For the transaction took place between David and the high-priest, and the object of introducing the name would be to show in whose high-priesthood it took place, not simply in whose lifetime. The impropriety would be the same as if one were to speak of something that took place between the Bishop of Durham and some other person in the time of Bishop Westcott, when, as a matter of fact, Lightfoot was bishop, and it was only during the lifetime of Bishop Westcott. And the phrase itself means strictly, during the high-priesthood of Abiathar. If such disagreements were uncommon, it would be worth while to try somewhat anxiously to remove this difficulty; but, as a matter of fact, discrepencies of this unimportant kind are not at all uncommon in Scriptures.” 
Proceed to New Testament anachronism Part 3 for further details
 Goodwin, H. (1860). A Commentary on the Gospel of S. Mark. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co. p. 40
 The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003). Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press. p. 1810
 Schaff, P. (1879). A Popular Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. p. 257
 Clark, G. W. (1896). The Gospel of Mark: A Popular Commentary Upon a Critical Basis, Especially Designed for Pastors and Sunday Schools. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Seminary. p. 56
 Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament (2008). Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. p. 95
 New Living Translation (2008). Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. p. 1651
 Alford, H. (1863). The Greek Testament: With a Critically Revised Text: A Digest of Various Readings, Marginal Referencesto Verbal and Idiomatic Usage: Prolegomena and a Critical and Exegetical Commentary. p. 323
 as cited in Croy, N. C. (2011). Prima Scriptura: An Introduction to New Testament Interpretation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
 Danker, Frederick William, & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 367
 Alexander, J. A. (1864). Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. p. 53
 Lane, W. L. (1974). The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 115
 Ibid. pp. 115-116
 Ibid. p. 116
 Ibid. p. 116
 Bruce, A. B. (1958). The Synoptic Gospels. In W. Robertson Nicoll (ed.), The Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. I. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 356
Broadus, J. A. (1905). Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society. p. 24
 Ibid. p. 25
 Wallace, D. B. (2004). Mark 2:26 and the Problem of Abiathar. Retrieved from http://bible.org/article/mark-226-and-problem-abiathar
 Alexander, J. A. Op. Cit.
 Ibid. p. 54
 Wallace, D. B. Op. Cit.
 Williamson, Jr. L. (2009). Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Mark. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 73
 Davies, W. D., & Allison, D. C. (2004). Matthew: A Shorter Commentary. London: T&T Clark International. p. 191
 Metzger, B. (2002). A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibeldesellschaft. p. 68
 Wallace, D. B. Op. Cit.
 Black, C. C. (2011). Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Mark. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press.
 Evans, C. Op. Cit.
 Kannaday, W. C. (2004). Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition: Evidence of the Influence of Apologetic Interests on the Text of the Canonical Gospels. Leiden, The Netherlands: Kninklijke Brill NV. pp. 98-99
 Hahn, S., Scott, D. (2011). Letter & Spirit, Vol. 6: For the Sake of Our Salvation: The Truth and Humility of God’s Word. Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Publishing House. pp. 217-218
 Ratzinger, J. (2008). Six Texts by Prof. Joseph Ratzinger as Peritus before and during Vatican II (Jared Wicks, trans.). Gregorianum, 89 (2), 269-285. Retrieved from http://www.scotthahn.com/download/attachment/3345
 Healy, M. (2008). The Gospel of Mark. In Peter S. Williamson and Mary Healy (eds.), Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic. p. 65 fn.3
 Jacobus, M. W. (1915). A Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark. New York: The Macmillan Company. p. 62
 Weiss, B. (1906). A Commentary on the New Testament Vol. 1 (George H. Schodde and Epiphanius Wilson, trans.). New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. P. 266
 Branscomb, B. H. (1937). The Gospel of Mark. In James Moffatt (ed.), The Moffatt New Testament Commentary. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers. pp. 56-57
 Keenan, J. P. (1995). The Gospel of Mark: A Mahayana Reading. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. p. 95
 Ehrman, B. D. (2006). Studies in Textual Criticism of the New Testament. In Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman (eds.), New Testament Tools and Studies. Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 334
 Halimton, V. P. (2001). Handbook on the Historical Books. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic. p. 271
 Meyer, H. A. W. (1884). Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Gospels of Mark and Luke (Robert Ernest Wallis, trans.). New York: Frunk and Wagnallis Publishers. pp. 34-35
 Repschinski, B. (2000). The Controversy Stories in the Gospel of Matthew: Their Redaction, Form and Relevance for the Relationship Between the Matthean Community and Formative Judaism. Gottingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 97
 Abiathar. (1990). In Watson E. Mills (ed.), Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (p. 3). Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press.
 Abiathar. (1996). In Paul J. Achtemeier (ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (p. 4). New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
 Gould, E. P. (1912). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. p. 49
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