Mark 2:26

By: Martin A. Shue

Often when we approach the text of any modern version it is with great caution and bewilderment. For it seems that on every page we are met with blunders of the foulest kind. Scarcely could a more distasteful error be found than one attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ.

In this brief article I wish to discuss Mark 2:26 where our Lord is recorded as saying, "How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest," Here Jesus is describing what happened when David was hungry while on the run from King Saul.

Our Lord’s recollection of these events is woefully misrepresented by many of the modern versions. Below is the rendering of 4 popular translations:

NRSV- He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest,

ASV- How he entered into the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest,

TEV- So he went into the house of God and ate the bread offered to God. This happened when Abiathar was the High Priest.

The Message- How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching-

The importance of this "very serious innovation", as one writer put it, might possibly escape the notice of general readers. It may be briefly stated that our Authorized Version (AV) has properly rendered the passage "in the days of Abiathar the high priest". Abiathar was not high priest when these events took place but rather his father, Ahimelech, was. Concerning this passage in our AV Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment, "But this means not during his high priesthood — for it was under that of his father Ahimelech — but simply, in his time."

No doubt Abiathar is recognized here because of his prominence as high priest during the reign of David but to state that he was high priest when David entered the temple is not accurate. Yet despite this fact many of the modern versions have Jesus confusing the whole story and stating that "Abiathar was high priest". Again, one writer remarks, "A grosser anachronism could scarcely be committed, and here it is distinctly imputed to our Lord Himself, on the authority of St. Mark, the Petrine Evangelist."

This extraordinary falsification of well-known history is effected by the simple omission of the definite article tou. The Greek text that underlies our AV reads, epi abiaqar tou arcierewV. The Westcott-Hort/Nestle-Aland/UBS Greek texts all conspire in omitting the definite article before ‘high priest’. The basis for this omission is, as usual, the Sinaitic ms. (Aleph) and the Vatican ms. (B). Because of these blind guides these Greek texts and many of the mvs. based upon them attribute a plain and clear error to our Lord Jesus Christ. Are we to believe that Jesus didn’t know His Old Testament history? God forbid!

Some of the mvs. have identified this blunder in their underlying text and abandon this false witness. However, there are many that retain it in their translation. "That this is a plain and clear error, is a fact absolutely indisputable; and is attributed….to our Lord or to the Evangelist (Cook, Revised Version, p. 70)." Selah!