Is there a contradiction in Matthew 12:2-4 and Mark 2:23-28 and 1 Samuel 21:1-6

First, some people have said they had never read this story, so it must be that Jesus was misquoting scripture. But in fact, this is found in 1 Samuel 21, and is included below the text of the story of what Jesus said as recored in Matthew 12:2-4 and Mark 2:23-26.

Second, some have said that there is an apparent contradiction where “in Matthew Jesus states that it was not lawful for David to eat the consecrated bread. However in the book of 1 Samuel the Priest Ahimelek says to them it is okay for them to have the bread provided that they have kept themselves from women. So which is…A) Only permissible for the Priest to eat. or B) Permissible as long as you have kept yourself from a women”.

Third, some have said that there is a different apparent contradiction where in Mark, Jesus is reported as saying David entered the temple in the time of Abiathar the high priest, yet in 1 Samuel 21, it reports the priest was Ahimelech. Which was it?

I am providing the scripture to review before I tackle the two apparent contradictions.

Matthew 12:2-4

But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?

Mark 2:23-28

24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And He *said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry;26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?”

1 Samuel 21:1-6

21 Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone and no one with you?” David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has commissioned me with a matter and has said to me, ‘Let no one know anything about the matter on which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you; and I have directed the young men to a certain place.’ Now therefore, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.” The priest answered David and said, “There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” David answered the priest and said to him, “Surely women have been kept from us as previously when I set out and the vessels of the young men were holy, though it was an ordinary journey; how much more then today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him consecrated bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the Lord, in order to put hot bread in its place when it was taken away.

Now, to address whether it was permissible for the consecrated bread to be eaten if you had kept yourself ceremonially clean, or if you had to be a priest (as Jesus stated), we have to look at Leviticus 24:5-9. There we see that only priests (Aaron and his sons) could eat the consecrated bread.
Leviticus 24:5-9

5 “Then you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it; two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. 6 You shall set them in two rows, six to a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. 7 You shall put pure frankincense on each row that it may be a memorial portion for the bread, even an offering by fire to the Lord. 8 Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the Lord continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. 9 It shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the Lord’s offerings by fire, his portion forever.”

That being the case, Jesus was right, and the priest lied (or at best was wrong about the law).

Now to address whether Abiathar was the high priest, or whether it was Ahimelech. If you look at the passage in 1 Samuel 21, you will notice it does not mention whether Ahimelech was the high priest. We see in 1 Samuel 22:20 that  Ahimelech was the father of Abiathar.

1 Samuel 22:20

But one son of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David.

It may be that Abiathar was high priest and Ahimelech was only a priest. Or it may be that both were high priests.  Alternatively, according to some, “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.”

Like Abiathar and Ahimelech, Annas and Caiaphas were father and son and were both high priests at the time of Jesus.

John 11:49

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!

John 18:13

and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.

Acts 4:6

Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family.

In fact, it was not unusual for the priesthood to be recognized as belonging to more than one person, although only one could be high priest at a time. This is seen in Luke 3:2.

Luke 3:2

in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.

So… the story Jesus told IS found in the Old Testament. More than that, Jesus was right to say it was unlawful for David and his men to eat. Even more, there are multiple ways to address the fact that Jesus said ‘Abiathar’ and 1 Samuel 21 records ‘Ahimelech’.


2 Responses

  1. Matthew Perri,

    You are sadly confused or not wanting to obey God. God spoke through Paul – indeed, Paul’s writings were scripture.

    2 Peter 3:15-17

    15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,

    Paul addressed a different question than Jesus was asked. There is a huge difference between a summary of the Law and what is the greatest commandment. Paul summarized the Law. Jesus did not. Those are two different questions, which require two different answers.

    Paul was building communities of believers made up of people who did not have a national and familial ties – the church was made up of gentiles from all over, as well as Jews, of slaves and masters, of rich and poor. He was addressing issues of unity and compassion, trying to get people to love one another. This was a different thing than being asked which law took precedence over all other laws, which is what was asked of Jesus – and even Jesus included “love your brother as yourself.”

    Paul DID teach people had to love God.
    1 Corinthians 8:3

    3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

    2 Timothy 3:1-5

    But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

    We can see that if you love God, you will obey God.

    1 John 5:3

    For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

    This means that if you love God, then you will love your beighbor, as Christ and Paul both said.

    So no, there is no contradiction between what Jesus said and what Paul wrote.

    You are free to ignore what Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but you do so in error.

    It appears to me that you are looking for a reason to ignore what God has said – not looking for a way to obey God. Nothing in what God had Paul write is error. It does not contradict any other part of the Bible. You ignore it at your own peril.

  2. Matthew Perri

    You are looking for reasons to pick and choose which part of scripture you want to follow.

    Go do so elsewhere.

    Peter called Paul’s writing scripture. You are mistaken if you think Peter was speaking only of prophecy. Peter was writing about “the day of the Lord”, but in so doing, He did not call Paul’s writing prophecy. He called all of his writings scripture.

    2 Peter 3:14-18

    14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

    There is no contradiction between what Jesus and Paul taught. you are looking for a reason to not follow Paul’s writing.

    Feel free to do so at your own peril, but I will not give you a platform to argue that here.

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