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The words of the text say, "in the days of Abiathar the high priest". This could be interpreted (as in the question) as referring to the period when Abiathar was the high priest, which would raise the issue noted by the questioner. However, the text could also be read as referring to an event that took place during Abiathar's lifetime (that is, in his days), but before the period when he actually served as high priest, when he was acting as an assistant to his father Ahimelek, in Ahimelek's capacity as the high priest at that time. Abiathar could nevertheless have been referred to as "the high priest" by Jesus because Abiathar did in fact eventually hold the office of high priest, and it was for that office for which he would have been most noted. It would be analogous to referring to someone who eventually served as President of the United States by the title of "President", even when talking about offices that he held, or events that occurred in his life, prior to assuming the presidency, and even though he was not president at the time. (For example, "From 2004 to 2008, President Obama served in the United States Senate." or "In the days of President Washington," which could refer to any time between his birth in 1732 and his death in 1799, rather than being limited to his term as president from 1789 to 1797.)
According to I Samuel 21:1, David went to Ahimelech the priest and asked for bread, but in Mark 2:26, Jesus speaking about the same incident, indicated that Abiathar his son was the high priest. It is not a mistake or a misunderstanding either by Jesus or Mark the writer, or by later scribes copying the Scriptures. It has been suggested that there is a bit of confusion with names of fathers and sons of the priests. The Scriptures are clear as to their names and relationships. Some suggest Ahimelech was one of many priests and not necessarily the high priest. But the language is definite in that Ahimelech was in the position of the high priest. Some say there would have been a problem if Jesus had used Ahimelech’s name as he was, according to Jewish writings, punished by God for profaning sacred things. However, this is not likely, and no hint exists that Jesus thought this. Some suggest He cited Abiathar because he would become high priest and this event happened in his days. This anticipation or prolepsis view is not an adequate explanation as that still does not solve the discrepancy. Some scholars have noted that the wording of Mark 2:26 in the Greek is most unusual. It literally reads, “How he entered into the house of God in Abiathar the high priest…” In Greek, the word “in” is “epi” which can mean “upon,” “on,” “in,” “over,” “at,” “by,” “before” but seldom “when.” According to Daniel Wallace the preposition “epi” plus genitive was used in a temporal sense outside of Mark, such as Luke 3:2 “in the time of the high priest, Annas and Caiaphas” and Luke 4:27 “in the time of Elisha”, meaning in the days of. The NKJV adds words in italics to indicate that sense. However, this solution is not at all satisfactory as there is no escaping the fact that Abiathar is still called the high priest. Some such as John W. Wenham, Craig Blomberg, and James Snapp Jr., have suggested that it is not alluding to the person of Abiathar, but a section of the book or chapter title, as if saying “in the passage about Abiathar.” Before the chapter divisions were introduced about the 13th century and verse divisions were introduced later, it was a practice of the Jews to label sections of the Scriptures according to a prominent theme or person. Other passages labeled by topic are “the Bow” in II Samuel 1:17-27, and “the Chariot” in Ezekiel 1:15-28. The very same construction is found in another part of Mark’s gospel. In Mark 12:26 (and also Luke 20:37), Jesus refers to “the Bush,” for the burning bush passage, Exodus 3. Both use the pronoun “epi” as in the sense of “in the passage about.” The Darby Bible has “in the section of Abiathar the high priest.” This last explanation seems to satisfactorily solve the problem of the contradiction, and the Scriptures stand as the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God.
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