James Hastings Dictionary of the NT: Abiathar

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James Hastings Dictionary of the NT: Abiathar


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ABIATHAR.—The son of Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli. He is mentioned in Mar_2:25-26 ‘Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread?’ The Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 , however, translates, ‘when Abiathar was high priest.’ The reference is evidently to 1 Samuel 21, where, according to the Hebrew text, Ahimelech gives David the sacred bread. There is thus a discrepancy between the two passages. The facts are these:—The Authorized Version , cited above, follows the reading of A and C ( ἐðὶ Ἀâéáèὰñ ôïῦ ἀñ÷éåñÝùò ), Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 follows that of B and à (which omit the article) and the Vulgate (‘sub Abiathar principe sacerdotum’). The clause is omitted altogether by D [Note: Deuteronomist.] . In the Massoretic Text of 1 Samuel 21, 22 and in Psa_52:2 (title) the high priest is Ahimelech the son of Ahitub and the father of David’s friend Abiathar. In the Greek text of all these passages, however, the name is Abimelech. In 2Sa_8:17 and 1Ch_24:6 Ahimelech (in 1Ch_18:16 Abimelech) the son of Abiathar is priest along with Zadok, but it is generally supposed that Abiathar the son of Ahimelech is meant. Ahimelech is usually held to be identical also with Ahijah the son of Ahitub of 1Sa_14:3; 1Sa_14:18.

The discrepancy between Mar_2:26 and 1 Samuel 21 f. has been sought to be accounted for in several ways. It may readily be due to a mere lapsus memoriae or calami, Abiathar, David’s high priest, being a much more familiar figure than his father, just as in Jer_27:1 ‘Jehoiakim’ is a slip for Zedekiah. It is not impossible that father and son may each have borne both names, according to Arab usage, Abiathar corresponding to the Arab. [Note: Arabic.] kunyah, and Ahimelech being the ism or lakab, or name proper. It has been suggested that the reference in St. Mark is not to 1 Samuel 21 at all, but to some later unrecorded incident, such as might have occurred during the flight from Absalom. But this is very improbable.* [Note: Swete (St. Mark, ad loc.) suggests that the clause ἐôὶ Ἀâéáèὰñ ἀñ÷éåñÝùò , which is peculiar to Mark, may be an editorial note.]

T. H. Weir.