The Abiathar Problem, why Jesus got it wrong
In Mark 2:25 Jesus names Abiathar as the High Priest who gave David the show bread.
I accept that this was Mark’s version of what Jesus said as it was reported to him and that the other gospel writers differ in their accounts, possibly to avoid this conundrum.
In 1 Samuel 21:1 it is recorded that David came to Ahimelech the priest who gave him the show bread.
1 Samuel 22:9 Doeg the Edomite, identifies Ahimelech as the son of Ahitub. “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub.”
11 Then the king sent for Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and
all his father's house, the priests that were in Nob. 13 And Saul
said unto him, Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of
Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and a sword, and hast
inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in
wait, as at this day? 16 And the king said, Thou shalt surely die,
Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house. 18 Ahimelech and eighty
five priests are massacred. 20 Abiathar one of the sons of Ahimelech
(the son of Atihub) managed to escape and fled to David.
1 Samuel 14:3 identified Ahitub as the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli the priest at Shiloh).
Eli > Phinehas > Ahitub > Ahimelech > Abiathar
So in I Samuel it is quite clear that Ahimelech is the son of Ahitub, and that Abiather is the son of Ahimelech and Ahimelech gave the showbread to David and was murdered for showing David this kindness during the reign of Saul.
Why the confusion?
Sheva was the scribe who wrote 2 Samuel at the end of David’s reign.
2 Samuel 20:25 states that Sheva was scribe; and Zadok and Abiathar were priests.
So we can assume that Sheva wrote this account along with Zadok and Abiathar.
Shavsha the scribe in Chronicles contradicts this
1 Chronicles 18:16 records that Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Abimelech the son of Abiathar, were priests; and Shavsha was scribe.
This is a blatant error probably by Shavsha. Firstly it was “Ahimelech” not “Abimelech”, and secondly, Ahimelech was assassinated by King Saul and his son was Abiathar.
1 Chronicles 24:6 When David was old and he was preparing to hand over
his kingdom to Solomon, and preparing for the building of the temple,
and the order of priestly service, Shemaiah the son of Nethanel the
scribe, recorded the priests names for the order of service, in the
presence of the king (David) and the princes, and Zadok the priest,
and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and the heads of the fathers'
[houses] of the priests and of the Levites; one fathers' house being
taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar.
This Abimelech is only mentioned one time in connection with Zadok the priest, which is inconsistent with all other texts, so it’s obvious that it’s a mistake.
Who was Abimelech?
In Genesis Abimelech is the king of Gerar, who takes Sarah after having been lied to by Abraham, who said “she is my sister”.
Judges 8:31 Gideon’s concubine had a son named Abimelech.
He killed all his brothers, the sons of Jerubaal, and he was prince of Israel for three years. Judges 9:22
It is easy to confuse two names that only have one letter to differentiate them.
Although it’s recorded that Shemiah wrote the list of the order of service, it’s probably still the same scribe Shavsha who made the first mistake calling “Ahimelech” “Abimelech”, who now carelessly switches the name of the elder “Ahimelech” with his son “Abiathar”.
Shavsha obviously got it wrong... Sheva’s earlier account would be the most authoritative version.
If Jesus quoted from Shavsha’s account in Chronicles, he would also have gotten it wrong.
Why did Chroniclers provide us with a genealogy of Eleazar but not of Ithamar?
Surely Ahitub could not have been the descendent of both Eleazar and Ithamar?
Could it be that the chroniclers we’re trying to legitimize the credentials of Zadok, while delegitimizing Abiathar?
The genealogy of Abiathar to Ithamar (as far as I could gather from various scriptures).
1 Samuel 4:11, 22:20, 14:3
Ithamar > ....? Eli > Hophni + Phinehas > daughter > Ichabod + Ahijah > Ahitub > Ahimelech > Abiathar > Johnathan
The genealogy of Zadok from Eleazer
According to 1 Chronicles 6 the children of Amram: Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam were:
Aaron > Nadab + Abihu + Ithamar + Eleazar > Phinehas > Abishua > Bukki > Uzzi > Zerahiah > Meraioth > Amariah > Ahitub > Zadok > Ahimaaz
When Abiathar put Adonijah, David’s eldest son, on the throne, it was apposed by Zadok and Nathan who conspired with Bath-Sheba, to put Solomon on the throne. The coup succeeds and Abiathar falls into disrepute and is exiled by Solomon...The political revisionists, the chroniclers of Solomon, write Abiathar out of the genealogies in Chronicles or conveniently leave it out.
It is possible that they created the genealogy of Eleazer to Ahitub, to legitimize Zadok’s priestly line, which is of course at odds with Abiathar’s genealogy from Ahitub.
Which explains why there is no genealogy from Ithamar to Abiathar .
Read my study on the Bathsheba Conspiracy.
The 'two Abiathar' theory
1 Chronicles 24:1 The priestly office of Aaron continued through Eleazer and Ithamar.
1 Chronicles 24:3 From the lineage of Eleazar, David chose Zadok and his sixteen sons, and of the lineage Ithamar he chose Ahimelech and his eight sons, for the order of service in the house.
When Solomon came to the throne, due to dubious circumstances, Ahimelech was banished and the revisionists got busy, resulting in the errors and contradictions.
Some apologists argue that there were two Ahimelechs and Abiathars. A good Abiatar and a bad one. That Ahimelech had Abiathar, who had Ahimelech who had Abiathar.
I don't see any support for that theory. First of all, according to Shemiah the scribe who wrote down the names of the priests for the order of service in David’s era, there were eight houses of priests descended from Ithamar....Saul massacred all of the priests of Ahimelech’s house, eighty five in total, only one escaped, that was Abiathar. We know from 2 Samuel that Abiathar had a son, who carried the ark with Zadok’s son, but his name was Jonathan, not Ahimelech.
This is the same Ahimelech throughout the narrative, but for the slip up (son of Abiathar), why should this be a different Ahimelech to the one that has been so consistent in the narrative? Could be...is what I call theological gymnastics.
This whole argument is based on assumption with nothing to back it up, except the inconsistencies in scripture. The argument goes, “because the Bible is perfect, there has to be an explanation for the inconsistencies”, other than these errors are the result of political revisionism.