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  #1  
Old 8th June 2010, 04:51 PM
Climacus Areopagite Climacus Areopagite is offline
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Default Abiathar

Here is what I have come up with while debating with a Catholic who does not believe in the total inerrancy of Sacred Scripture.

The problem is that Jesus uses the name Abiathar while explaining the event of David and his men eating the Bread of the Presence. In the second chapter of 1 Samuel the priest Ahimelech is described as giving the Bread of Presence to David and his men. Ahimelech was the son of Abiathar so those who do not accept inerrancy think Mark erred in his writing, which of course is a false claim since the Catholic dogma we believe in proclaims immunity from error.

{2:23} And again, while the Lord was walking through the ripe grain on the Sabbath, his disciples, as they advanced, began to separate the ears of grains.
{2:24} But the Pharisees said to him, “Behold, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbaths?”
{2:25} And he said to them: “Have you never read what David did, when he had need and was hungry, both he and those who were with him?
{2:26} How he went into the house of God, under the high priest Abiathar, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and how he gave it to those who were with him?”

My opinion is that Jesus used Abiathar as a figure of speech so as to teach the Pharisees as well as everyone that he is the Son of the Father sent into the world as well as one true high priest. Notice he deliberately says "under the high priest Abiather" and not literally Abiathar or Ahimelech or any one priest in particular. Jesus was referring to himself when using the figure Abiathar. He is the one and true high priest even in Old Testament times. All Old Testament as well as New Testament priests are under Jesus.

Mark under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit accurately reported what Jesus said. Abiathar in the Hebrew means "the [divine] father is pre-eminent" thus the figure directly teaches them (and us) that Jesus is the Son of the Father. He is the high-priest between the Father and mankind. He glorifies the Father. He teaches us that the Divine Father is the pre-eminent Person of Trinity from whom the Son proceeds, and that the Father sent Him into the world. Thus Jesus is Lord on the Sabbath for his presence represents the pre-eminence of the Father.

{2:27} And he said to them: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
{2:28} And so, the Son of man is Lord, even of the Sabbath.”

Son of man is used by Jesus to refer to his human nature. Lord refers to Jesus' Divine Nature. So he is teaching in a figurative way using 'Abiathar' that he is the Son of the Father sent into the world and thus Lord of the Sabbath. He teaches us that the work he is accomplishing in obedience to the Father is pre-eminent even on the Sabbath. He is teaching us that the Father is Love and that the work of love is greater than discipline. The doctrine of love based on the Divine Nature is greater than the disciplines of the Old Testament which are abrogated by Jesus and His Church. They are no longer necessary since the circumstance has changed. Jesus is sent into the world. Jesus represents the pre-eminence of the Father in the Church and in the world. He who sees Jesus sees the Father.

Last edited by Climacus Areopagite : 8th June 2010 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 8th June 2010, 05:27 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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That approach does not work because what you describe is not a figure of speech, under the direct level of meaning, but rather an explanation of the spiritual level of meaning. But St. Thomas says that the spiritual level (indirect) is based on the literal/figurative level (direct), and that therefore the direct level of meaning can never be false.

Rather, we should consider that when a man is in charge of a group of men, the actions of members of that group can be attributed to the person in charge. So the actions of Abiathar concerning David can be attribulated to Ahimelech.
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Old 9th June 2010, 02:30 PM
Climacus Areopagite Climacus Areopagite is offline
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That approach does not work because what you describe is not a figure of speech, under the direct level of meaning, but rather an explanation of the spiritual level of meaning. But St. Thomas says that the spiritual level (indirect) is based on the literal/figurative level (direct), and that therefore the direct level of meaning can never be false.

Rather, we should consider that when a man is in charge of a group of men, the actions of members of that group can be attributed to the person in charge. So the actions of Abiathar concerning David can be attribulated to Ahimelech.
Right I agree. I did not think that through well.

But now I am confused since the passage says under the high priest Abiathar, yet Abiathar was Ahimelech's son at the time unless I am misreading something.
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Old 9th June 2010, 04:07 PM
Climacus Areopagite Climacus Areopagite is offline
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o.k. I think I figured out the problem with Abiathar. Now I have an interpretation on both levels. Abiathar even though the son of Ahimelech was high-priest at the time David and his men recieved the Bread of Presence:

"The frequency of change in the office is hinted at by St. John (xi, 51), where he says that Caiphas was "the high-priest of that year". Solomon deposed Abiathar for having supported the cause of Adonias, and gave the high-priesthood to Sadoc (1 Kings 2:27, 35): then the last of Heli's family was cast out, as the Lord had declared to Heli long before (1 Samuel 2:32)." (newadvent.org)

The succession of the eldest son to the high priest was their law yet this succession did not necessarily tarry til the death of the father. The change could taken place before the father's death.

And the law was not strictly enforced since Solomon replaced Abiathar with Sadoc. I think Caiaphas was Ananias' son-in-law.

Ahimelech is not mentioned as high priest in the first book of Samuel, simply priest:

{21:1} Then David went into Nob, to the priest Ahimelech. And Ahimelech was astonished that David had arrived. And he said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?”

So Christ attributed the action to Abiathar since he was high priest at the time.

No inaccuracy in the Sacred Writer. The inaccuracy is in my fallible, limited, fallen mind.

Last edited by Climacus Areopagite : 9th June 2010 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 9th June 2010, 04:31 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Originally Posted by Climacus Areopagite View Post
Right I agree. I did not think that through well.

But now I am confused since the passage says under the high priest Abiathar, yet Abiathar was Ahimelech's son at the time unless I am misreading something.

Although the OT is not very specific on this point, concerning who was high priest when, both Abiathar, and later Ahimelech, are referred to as 'the priest' or with one other person 'the priests'. This with their prominence in Scripture cannot mean merely that they were among the many priests, but that they had leadership roles. Also, Abiathar is removed as priest and replaced with his son, Ahimelech. Again, this cannot mean merely the ordinary role of Jewish priest, in which case it would not be necessary to replace one with the other, but a role of leadership. So each one was high priest, successively.

Jesus gives us additional information, from His knowledge as the Son of God, which is beyond what Scripture states, but does not contradict it. This happens also with the famine during Elijah's ministry. Scripture says it is three years, but Jesus specifies 3.5 years.

{4:25} In truth, I say to you, there were many widows in the days of Elijah in Israel, when the heavens were closed for three years and six months, when a great famine had occurred throughout the entire land.
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  #6  
Old 9th June 2010, 08:02 PM
Climacus Areopagite Climacus Areopagite is offline
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those are good points, especially about Jesus.

Here are some additional thoughts:

Abiathar, son of Ahimelech (son of Ahitub) also had a son whose name was Ahimelech. This Ahimelech's grandfather was the Ahimelech who gave the Bread of the Presence to David, when his son Abiathar held the office of high priest. Zadok came from a different line (a different father Ahitub). He was not in Nob at the massacre of Doeg.

In 2 Samuel 8:17 it is recorded:

{8:17} And Zadok, the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar, were the priests. And Seraiah was the scribe.

By this time it seems the office of high priest was not held by any one person for a lifetime. The office also seems to be shared in this case. So the office of high priest though generally passed down from father to son seemed to have be taken up by father or son (or another) in different years or at different times or even on different occasions within a year, though ultimately the father-son the succession would remain intact. This seems to be implied in the events of David's reign and implicit in the Gospel of John:

1 Kings
{4:4} Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, over the army; and Zadok, and Abiathar, priests;

John
{11:51} Yet he did not say this from himself, but since he was the high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.

There is no law set by God in the Pentateuch concerning the length of time a high priest is to officiate or when succession is to take place. Eleazar succeeded Aaron just before he died.

By the time David passed away Abiathar and not his son Ahimelech was fulfilling the office of high priest again, but then Solomon deposed him and permanently set Zadok in his place. And with Abiathar being deposed in favor of Zadok, the succession in his house (of Eli) ended as prophecied by Samuel. And so his son Ahimelech is never described as high priest again in the records. This seems to be the sole case of deposition of a high priest in Scripture:

{2:26} Also, the king said to Abiathar, the priest: “Go into Anathoth, to your own land, for you are a man worthy of death. But I will not put you to death this day, since you carried the ark of the Lord God before David, my father, and since you have endured hardship in all the things, for which my father labored.”

But ultimately Jesus knew who was high priest at the time David took the Bread of Presence, and working from this the rest may be explained. I am going to put this to rest in my mind.

Thanks for your help and insight Ron.

Last edited by Climacus Areopagite : 9th June 2010 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 9th June 2010, 08:28 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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It is an interesting point that perhaps there were two high priests. This could be due to the development of the kingdom, there was a division between those who supported Saul and those who supported David. So perhaps one priest was from each group. Later, after Solomon, the kingdom again fell into division by groups of tribes.
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Old 12th June 2010, 01:09 AM
Climacus Areopagite Climacus Areopagite is offline
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It is an interesting point that perhaps there were two high priests. This could be due to the development of the kingdom, there was a division between those who supported Saul and those who supported David. So perhaps one priest was from each group. Later, after Solomon, the kingdom again fell into division by groups of tribes.
yes! I have continued to meditate and even began researching this problem the past couple of days since it is still bothering me. I have discovered that this verse in Mark is a great test of faith. Here are some interesting things I have found:

1. I've looked up the Mark verse and the Samuel verses in about a total twenty Catholic and Protestant Bible commentaries, dictionaries and footnotes to different translations and the vast majority either implicitly or explicitly admit that Mark erred, some quite bluntly. A remaining handful make no comment on the problem. Most of the books I looked up were modern. The only one who expressed no discrepancy is Saint Bede the Venerable in Aquinas' Catena Aurea (though I disagree with Bede's explanation):

"There is, however, no discrepancy, for both were there, when David came to ask for bread, and received it: that is to say, Abimelech, the High Priest, and Abiathar his son; but Abimelech having been slain by Saul, Abiathar fled to David, and became the Companion of all his exile afterwards. When he came to the throne, he himself also received the rank of High Priest, amid the son became of much greater excellence than the falter, and therefore was worthy to be mentioned as the High Priest, even during his father's life-"

These results are very telling as regards the current state of total inspiration and total inerrancy in modern life. Quick to point out an apparent error yet irresponsible in trying to solve a difficult problem in favor of defending inspiration and inerrancy.

2. Matthew also describes this event. He does not mention Ahimelech or Abiathar. So I think this may be a proof of the view Mark wrote his Gospel after Matthew, for he adds this additional information of Abiathar. Perhaps this came from the influence of Peter our first pope. It seems Peter, as first pope and he who loves Jesus more than the others would have appreciated this additional teaching of Christ and its spiritual significance. Or maybe there is some other reason. Luke does not mention Abiathar or Ahimelech. I do not have the ability to speculate on why.

3. Well what is my opinion at this point? It roughly goes as follows though I still need to refine it:

Ahimelech was a high priest and father of Abiathar who succeeded him as high priest as Christ said and Mark wrote. By the time David came to Nob Ahimelech was an old man and high priest for a long time since there is reason to believe that he is Ahijah who wore the ephod with the breastplace of judgment containing the Urim and Thumin. This Ahijah was high priest at Shiloh before the priests moved to Nob. Perhaps Ahimelech changed his name when he moved to Nob. In any case I think he was older and high priest for many years by the time David came. In his old age Ahimelech clothed his son Abiathar with the ephod (with breastplate) which is the ceremony of investure and anointed him high priest. It seems like this would be the custom after the first example of Eleazar being invested with Aaron's garments before he died.

So Abiathar was officiating as high priest when David arrived in Nob. Ahimelech an old man and former high priest would still be in a position of honor and able to make decisions since the office of high priest at the time seemed to be primarily liturgical and special for the Day of Atonement. Later in post-exilic times it became a position of more temporal and political authority. So Ahimelech took charge of the situation. Or perhaps Abiathar was away for the time (in Gibeah where the Ark was resting). Yet Christ says and Mark records that David took the Bread of Presence when Abiathar was high priest.

After David left Nob, Doeg reported this act of harboring David to Saul. Then they went to Nob and slaughtered 85 priests including Ahimelech. Abiathar was the only one to escape, and he seems to have escaped with the ephod with the breastplate of judgment and not the common linen ephod worn by all the priests since he presented it to David who used it to consult the LORD. So this implies he was high priest at the time of the slaughter. The escape was providential, since he was high priest and a foreshadowing of the resurrection and immortality of the great high priest Jesus Christ (a theme of Hebrews). Then he came into David's protection perhaps a foreshadowing of the Ascension, and remained high priest for many years during the reign of David and was finally deposed by Solomon.

4. And then there is a spiritual level of meaning to the passage of Mark I began to work on above.

So these are my thoughts at this point.

Last edited by Climacus Areopagite : 12th June 2010 at 01:55 AM.
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  #9  
Old 12th June 2010, 11:36 AM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Good work.

"Luke does not mention Abiathar or Ahimelech. I do not have the ability to speculate on why."

Luke was a Greek writing for Greeks. He did not have much knowledge about Jewish history, and his audience did not care what the name of the high priest was.
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