Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him? — Mark 2:25-26
In today’s Gospel reading we hear Christ tell the story of David eating the bread of the presence out of necessity because he is on the run from Saul, who is trying to kill him. Christ tells us that this happened in the days when Abiathar was high priest. When we look to 1 Samuel 21 where that story was originally told, however, we find that Abimelech is the priest, not Abiathar. The Fathers of the Church are quick to point out that Christ calls Abiathar high priest and that Abimelech is only called priest, so both statements could be true. Regardless, this is an example (one of many) where, when taken at face value, there is a discrepancy within Scripture.
When faced with what one might call mistakes within Scripture, we are left with two choices: to doubt (indeed, to allow these passages to lead us away from Christ and His Church), or see beyond these discrepancies to the Truth of the Gospel of Christ born, crucified and risen.
It is at these times when the Orthodox Church is blessed to know the saints. Today, we celebrate St. Eleutherios the Hieromartyr — for which Mark 2:25-26 is read. Ordained as a bishop at a young age during the first part of the second century, he became a threat to the Romans by declaring the Gospel and attracting many to a faith in Christ. St. Eleutherios was arrested in Rome where he was tortured and killed. His story, however, does not end there. His mother St. Anthia came to embrace the dead body of her son. She, too suffered a martyr’s death. The story doesn’t end here, either. St. Coremmon the Eparch believed through Eleutherios and was also martyred. The story is still not over. Not one but two executioners came to Christ through Eleutherios and were also martyred. We celebrate all of them today.
If the discrepancies like that found between Mark 2 and 1 Samuel 21 invalidate the Truth of Christ born, crucified and risen, would Eleutherios, his mother Anthia, the eparch Coremmon and the two executioners all have willingly given their lives for Christ? The simple fact that all of them did declare their faith in Christ in the face of death demonstrates how powerful the Gospel really is.