Was it Abiathar or His Father, Ahimelech?

People telling their individual stories has universal appeal.

Bart Erhman is the Chair of Religious studies at the University of North Carolina.  He has written bestsellers and academic books and articles.

As a teen, Erhman was smitten with literalism. Literalism treats every word in the Bible as literally true.

He spent three years at literalist Moody’s Bible College.  He wanted to take his skills to the broader field of theology where his was confident he could hold his own as a literalist.

He moved on to Princeston Theological Seminary.  By then he was skilled in reading Greek, the language of the New Testament.

In a class on the Gospel of Mark, he decided to write a paper on Mark 2 which has a story that refers to the Temple “when Abiathar was the high priest.”  The problem with this sentence is that in the Old Testament it was not Abiathar who was the high priest, but his father, Ahimelech.

Erhman, the literalist, spent days developing an argument that there was no disagreement between the two accounts.  Disagreement was impossible.  His argument involved use of a Greek word and that Abiathar might have functioned as a high priest while not holding the title.

His Professor wrote on the bottom of his paper, “Maybe Mark simply made a mistake.”

This stunned Erhman.  He had to admit the Professor was right.

Eventually, he came to see other inconsistancies in the Bible and left literalism behind.

Misquoting Jesus by Bart Erhman, p. 9.

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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44 Responses to Was it Abiathar or His Father, Ahimelech?

  1. Henry says:

    Henry VII otherwise known as Harri was the father of Henry VIII. By Ehrman’s logic, Henry VIII defeated Richard III in battle for the throne. Again, Ehrman appears to have Ehrred.

  2. entech says:

    Speaking of logic what possible connection is there between Harri Tudor winning his throne in battle and founding the house of Tudor a long lasting dynasty and something Biblical which, once again, clearly shows that it cannot be literally true in every word.

    Could it be that as Bart started of in the position Henry appears to be now and by dint of hard work and study came to the conclusion that a literal interpretation could not be sustained, could it be that Henry is fighting off the beginnings of similar thoughts and is worried that he may one day become an unbeliever. I suppose Bart was much younger and not so set in his ways when his voyage to skepticism began, Henry seems to be tightly wrapped in the fabric of scripture, his brain especially might as well be wrapped in concrete.

    • Henry says:

      Harri was the father of Henry, yet the name Henry is interchangeably used in lieu of Harri when speaking of the elder. Same for Abiathar/Ahimelech.

      Do atheists/agnostics make very good historians? It seems they could easily get things switched around. They could certainly write the history of Henry VIII defeating Richard III.

      • entech says:

        Still not sure what you are getting at. The Tudors are historical figures. The Bible stories are from two sources saying different things. The old and the new do not seem to agree, hence not infallible.

        • Henry says:

          For you to understand, you would have to consider how different names are used interchangeably for the same individual. This function has not apparently occurred yet. It is beyond your abilities, and I understand.

          • entech says:

            That Harri Tudor was called Harri until gaining the throne in battle to become Henry VII has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible. You are deliberately confusing the issue in a typically creationist manner.

            Dishonesty is your name: Dishonesty is Klingon for Henry. :lol:

          • Henry says:

            You clearly do not understand the use of multiple names for an individual. I understand your position. It is OK.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Henry 12:47 “you would have to consider how different names are used interchangeably for the same individual.”

            Interesting that this is your explanation but it did not occur to the young Erhman who had studied three years at literalist headquarters, Moody, read the NT in Greek for a few years at that time and now reads the OT in Hebrew, nor to his professor who had done so for some decades at that point. Your need to publish this “fact”, Henry, so the uninformed like Erhman and his colleagues can learn about it.

          • Henry says:

            Perhaps the fact Ehrman was a literalist initiated his problems. He got off on the wrong foot and he slipped, big time.

            ….cattle on 1000.0000 hills…..

  3. pqbd says:

    An interesting quote from the Criticism section of the Wikipedia page on Biblical literalism:
    “Conrad Hyers, professor of comparative religion at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, criticizes Biblical literalism as:
    … a mentality [that] manifests itself [not] only in conservative churches, private-school enclaves, television programs of the evangelical right, and a considerable amount of Christian bookstore material; one often finds a literalist understanding of Bible and faith being assumed by those who have no religious inclinations, or who are avowedly antireligious in sentiment. Even in educated circles the possibility of more sophisticated theologies… is easily obscured by burning straw effigies of biblical literalism.”

  4. Avatar of realist realist says:

    Biblical literalism is far more than a method of viewing the bible by historians or others interested in biblical literary criticism. As it is practiced by many, it causes immense harm to humans, specifically children who are reared by literalist parents with the objective of following biblical admonitions to not spare the rod. Breaking the will of small children by beating them into submission, killing some on the way, is commonplace among Christians who practice literal interpretation of the bible. Far from the academic view of biblical literalism, real children suffer at the hands of parents who not only beat them, but deprive them of medical care for easily curable diseases. The courts have intervened on many occasions especially in medical areas, but I’m afraid so many other children suffer because their parents follow this form of biblical interpretation. There are real victims of biblical literalism alongside the philosophical conundrums suffered by historians.

    • Henry says:

      r: “Breaking the will of small children by beating them into submission, killing some on the way, is commonplace among Christians who practice literal interpretation of the bible.”

      Very extreme statement by r. Why isn’t it “commonplace” for Christians to be prosecuted for these crimes? Where are the trials? Convictions? There aren’t any. It is fiction and atheist/agnostic hatemongering.

      • entech says:

        A Philadelphia couple who believe in faith healing over medicine and have had two children die of pneumonia can’t post bail before a hearing Friday. This year, the family lost a child after refusing to provide him with medical care. But it’s not the first time that Herbert and Catherine Schaible have come under scrutiny for denying life-saving health services to one of their children.
        The two are charged with third-degree murder in the April death of their 8-month-old son, Brandon. Previously, the Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment after 2-year-old Kent died in 2009 and were ordered afterward to get their children medical care. Considering that this was part of their probation deal, the notion that another child was denied care could land them 14 years in prison — or more.
        May. 24, 2013

        http://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/21/us/colorado-children-s-deaths-rekindle-debate-on-religion.html

        Apparently you are correct Henry, no convictions for murder, it seems it would be depriving them of their freedom of religion. Personally I think the children’s freedom of avoiding death should be the dominant theme.

      • Wolfy32 says:

        Henry.. It’s very real.. why do you seek to deny that which is commonplace? It’s easier to deny it than face reality!

        My entire extended family is extreme evangelical, including my parents. My cousins were all beat bare bottom by their father’s belt buckle and belt to beat them into submission.

        Their dad, my uncle, graduated 8th grade, and went on to become an evangelical pastor. Spare the rod, spoil the child, is a commonplace statement. My dad wasn’t quite as extreme, I remember several times my mom inspecting my butt and the fact I had welts on it for a week and she talked to him stating, he may have hit me too hard.

        This is more common place than you believe Henry, it’s sad when people dismiss other people’s pain just to support their own self indulgent delusions.

        • Henry says:

          Original claim had no backing. Still doesn’t.

          • Wolfy32 says:

            Your position flies in the face of all the abuse that Christians justify as following the word of God…

            You’re original submission was “Why isn’t it “commonplace” for Christians to be prosecuted for these crimes? Where are the trials? Convictions? There aren’t any. It is fiction and atheist/agnostic hatemongering.”

            It’s fiction if there’s no court cases to prove that the bible is used to justify child abuse… LOL. Kids are going to to take their parents to court?

            Maybe if child services had been called, maybe things would have been different, but, most of this type of stuff is unreported… Just as most child sex abuse is unreported, as well as many hateful and hurtful things done in the name of God.

            I find your post very offensive and dismissive of anyone that’s been abused in a christian family. The “If people aren’t in jail for it, it didn’t happen.” philosophy doesn’t fly…

          • Henry says:

            Still doesn’t have backing.

          • Wolfy32 says:

            Wow, you’re crazier than I originally thought… If I was on the fence on rejoining christianity, you would be the reason I would run as fast as I could away from it…

            It makes so much more sense to me now to understand why so many people do stay away from Christianity especially evangelical and literal ones!

            I was taught that each person was a missionary to represent Christ to others.. There’s so many misrepresentations I don’t know which one to believe anymore. (I think this is a good thing!) :)

          • Henry says:

            You need not worry yourself. It was r’s claim. Politely waiting………..

  5. Avatar of realist realist says:

    Not going to do your research for you, Henry. Just google “Christians beating children” and read the long sad story, along with ample justification for this reprehensible practice by fundamentalist Christians.

  6. Wolfy32 says:

    There’s too much that’s meant to be taken metaphorical in the bible.. To read it literally is absurd… The psalms are all 100% metaphorical poetry.. How can much of the psalms be read as literal interpretations?

    Even evangelical branches believe that Revelations is symbolic / metaphorical. That or they’d have to admit there’s really going to be a 6 headed (or is it 9, I don’t remember) dragon walking around the planet… I’d like to see Henry explain the literalism of a dragon walking around. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see it myself. I think it’d be fricken awesome to see a real live dragon.

    That said… I don’t know of anyone willing to admit that that is literally going to happen…

    Catholic nuns openly admitted that they believed the story of job is a metaphor for suffering. They openly stated “does it matter that Job existed or not?”

    Heh, if we took the bible literally, then sleeping with our daughters is o.k. as long as the daughter comes on to the father…. (Always the girl’s fault right?)

    • Henry says:

      Wolf:“I’d like to see Henry explain the literalism of a dragon walking around.”

      I don’t need to. You haven’t been paying attention to what I have previously said or the criticisms previously levied against me. Nor my 1:44 on this thread. Read all again, and you will become aware of my position on that.

      • Jinx says:

        See Jinx 6:22 above………

      • entech says:

        1:44. Perhaps the fact Ehrman was a literalist initiated his problems. He got off on the wrong foot and he slipped, big time.

        Perhaps, perhaps not. It would seem to me that being a literalist was the start of his problems, problems that did perhaps cause him to slip in his youth. Learning the error of his ways was helped him regain his balance. When you find that the Bible is not literally true in every word and detail you have to wonder which parts are true, which metaphor and which downright lies. Followed to its conclusion skepticism is the only sensible position. If you decide to believe what you want anyway in spite of all the difficulties, you find yourself making some very stupid statements, reconciling your beliefs and Biblical errors requires some convoluted thinking which extends to your writing here.

        …. cattle on 1000.0000 hills…..
        Had a look around but could not find where you may have cut’n'paste this bit of nonsense from. As a man with a technical background perhaps you could explain how geographical features like hills, and lakes like the dead sea could have a decimal part to their quantities. Four places after the decimal point implies a high degree of accuracy, how could we have, say, 1 and a little bit hills – I can see portioning of cattle, a rump steak for example.

        • Henry says:

          entech:“Four places after the decimal point implies a high degree of accuracy “

          Incorrect. A high degree of precision, but not necessarily accuracy. You will have to re-educate yourself on a discussion of “significant digits”.

          As applied to this “literal” discussion, the literalist, like Errman, would expect exactly 1000 hills as opposed to a great many hills.

          • entech says:

            Precision, I stand corrected.
            I have to be more careful and precise in my writing, too easy to give an excuse to skirt the issue, to avoid the main point.

        • Henry says:

          entech:“When you find that the Bible is not literally true in every word and detail you have to wonder which parts are true, which metaphor and which downright lies.”

          Your argument is false.——If not literal then parts are either true, metaphor, or lie. You seem to be confusing literal with inerrant and leaping to the conclusion that lie must exist in part if not literal.

          • entech says:

            literally true in every word and detail if this is so then it is without error. It clearly is not.

            Got as train to catch, been fun as usual, and as usual wondering if you can be serious.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          entech 10:12 “When you find the Bible is not literally true in every word and detail you have to wonder which parts are true, which metaphor and which downright lies. Followed to its conclusion skepticism is the only sensible postion.”

          Well said. That summarizes the case some of us try to make to true believers. We have a few on the board who I think qualify in theology as literalists. Most others are believers but don’t accept every detail as being accurate and true. But, they, and different groups all over the world, disagree on what is actually, or literally in the non religious use of the word, true.

          If some take Jesus’ death on the cross as a literal forgiveness of sin and others think think he was a holy man but died simply because he was a political problem for the group in power at that time, we have no way to prove which, if either, is correct.

          • Henry says:

            Jon:“We have a few on the board who I think qualify in theology as literalists. Most others are believers but don’t accept every detail as being accurate and true.”

            Literalism is again being confused with inerrancy of the scriptures.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Henry 3:07 re: Literalism vs. inerrancy of the scriptures

            I know you and others here like to put down literalists claiming inerrancy is much superior. They are not all that different from an outsiders point of view, both just use the Bible to justify what they already want to believe it says/means.

            “It’s noteworth that the doctrine of inerrancy doesn’t arise directly from anything the Bible claims for itself, but has usually been imposed on it from a theological argument about the kind of Bible God must have produced.” (Comment from a blog discussing the differences.)

            Inerrancy, literalism and the currently popular “spiritual but not religious” are all products of the contemporary culture we live in. If they help individual people, they are all a force for good. If those who believe/feel these things try to impose them on those without that need, things get snarely.

    • pqbd says:

      Wolfy32, once again I must say that in my view you get the message of the ‘Good News’ in the biblical allegories. Your perspective is appreciated here.

      • Wolfy32 says:

        I know some comes off as anti christian at times. I have to answer for myself to someone, or no one, who knows. I humbly believe there’s more than I and more than possibly can fit in the “box” of the bible. Something beyond any of our imaginations combined. I haven’t decided fully if that being or kingdom is malevolent or if it’s breading humans like cattle for food, or if it actually cares about us as implied in the bible.

        I’m hoping it cares somewhat. If it doesn’t exist or is breading us as a food supply, then, well, there’s not much I can do about those things, I can still be the best person I can be and believe that something more is out there, hoping that maybe my life means something. Maybe not much in the big picture, but even a little drop can make waves….

  7. entech says:

    OK, you win, Life is too short for futility.
    Henry, of course, knows everything better than everyone. So if he doesn’t think or believe something it is obviously false.

    • Wolfy32 says:

      We should have Henry celebration day…. Maybe make some idols of Henry?

      Little golden pins. “I am the truth, the light, the way” written on the pin… Since Henry’s truth is all that matters.

      • Henry says:

        Sure, keep making it personal. Avoid the argument.

        • entech says:

          I don’t see it as personal, not anymore than you make it a lot of the time. It is actually a fair comment and observation to say that you give a very strong impression that your ways is the only way, as I have said many times.

          In this case there is no argument because you are wrong Harri, just wrong.

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