Battle For The Bible

Bart Ehrman, after becoming a Christian and graduating from Wheaton College, attended Princeton Theological Seminary for higher education. It was there he wrote a paper on Bible difficulties in Mark 2 where Jesus and His disciples were picking heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath, and Jesus alluded to 1 Samuel 21:1-6 where David and his companions ate the showbread, in the time of the high priest Abiathar (According to Mark) while the passage in Samuel clearly says it was Ahimelech.

Some inerrantists do have answers for this, such as there being overlapping periods of priests.

At, this problem is answered thus:

First Samuel is correct in stating that the high priest was Ahimelech. On the other hand neither was Jesus wrong. When we take a closer look at Christ’s words we notice that He used the phrase “in the days of Abiathar” (v. 26) which does not necessarily imply that Abiathar was high priest at the time David ate the bread. After David met Ahimelech and ate the bread, King Saul had Ahimelech killed (1 Sam. 22:17–19). Abiathar escaped and went to David (v. 20) and later took the place of the high priest. So even though Abiathar was made high priest after David ate the bread, it is still correct to speak in this manner. After all, Abiathar was alive when David did this, and soon following he became the high priest after his father’s death. Thus, it was during the time of Abiathar, but not during his tenure in office.”


The problem with this is that Jesus is said to be referencing the passage in Samuel. It could be that Jesus had knowledge of other manuscripts which referenced Abiathar. That I do not know.

One possible vindication of this is one may see this as two sides of history. For example, one may see 2016 as the year of Obama, as in his exit year, while others may see the same year as the year of Trump, as in that being his inaugural year. Jesus may have been viewing it as this, therefore Mark did not record anything improperly.

It is said that Ehrman had a lengthy explanation why there is a discrepancy between these two passages and he was taken aback by his professor’s simple statement: “Maybe Mark got it wrong!”

Certainly, Mark may have gotten it wrong, but this does not mean Jesus got it wrong. It could just be a bad knowledge of what we have better access to today, on Mark’s part, when he reconstructed the words of Jesus.

Shawn Nelson, in his contribution to “Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate” says, that Ehrman, by allowing errors into the Bible, such as the apparent contradiction here, puts us on a slippery slope, and even says scholars like Michael Licona are on their way to becoming the next Ehrman based on similar concerns he has raised.

The problem is, no one is “letting errors into the Bible” if they’re already there, they’re merely admitting to them. We cannot be so committed to the inerrancy of the Bible that we are unable to see apparent conflicts in these types of passages.

Nelson further notes in his contribution that Ehrman reasoned that if Mark got this wrong about what Jesus said, what about where Jesus says things like “the mustard seed is the smallest seed” in Mark 4, when clearly it isn’t?

This is where I believe the accommodation hermeneutic provides help. The passage in Mark 4 was never intended to be a lesson about botany, but was allowing for current beliefs about the mustard seed being really small and using that to convey another, more important, principle.

While higher criticism of the Bible is certainly very helpful in helping us see past our dogmatism in Christian circles, one needn’t be committed to the agnostic or liberal conclusions of said scholars and I trust Licona would agree, he is simply being honest about difficulties in scripture.

While this is not a severe blow to inerrancy, the inerrantist must not insist that inerrancy is so true that just any answer to the problem will do.

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