(Investigator 114, 2007 May)


What did the inscription on Jesus' cross say? Who replaced Judas Iscariot and became the 12th apostle? Did David have men with him when he fled from King Saul? The Bible is accused of being inconsistent on these points.

Over many years I've shown the Bible correct in hundreds of scientific points. The implications of this result, however, are undermined if the Bible also has numerous inconsistencies.

In The Bible Consistent series we'll investigate alleged Bible inconsistencies.


The inscription above Jesus on the cross according to the four Gospels was:

Possibly the four writers each quoted part of the inscription and the full inscription said:

However, John 19:20 says the inscription was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. Therefore it's possible that the translations varied giving three versions as in Matthew, Luke and John with Mark employing the phrase the three versions had in common.

Who replaced Judas and became the 12th apostle – Paul or Matthias?

Paul called himself an apostle, wrote 13 or 14 of the 27 books/letters of the New Testament, and spear-headed Christianity's expansion.

However, in Acts 1:21-26 the choice is out of two men who:

…accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us…And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles. (1:26)

Who then replaced Judas?

The Christian church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets…" (Ephesians 2:19-20) Elsewhere the Church is compared to a house and a temple. And that settles it. The "foundation" of any house or temple is laid down before the main structure. Since the Church began at Pentecost (Acts 2) Paul joined too late to be in the "foundation".

Although Paul was an "apostle" this designation also applied to men with special missions besides the twelve apostles. Sylvanus and Timothy, for example, were apostles but were not of the twelve. (I Thessalonians 2:5-6)

Now for a more difficult "discrepancy":


And he [Jesus] said to them [the Pharisees], "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 Presence, which it was not lawful for any but the priest to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" (Mark 2:25-26; Matthew 12:3-4; Luke 6:3-4)

Previously (#113) I cleared up the claims of critics that:
Apparently Jesus additionally erred in stating that David had "those who were with him." David (in I Samuel 21) was alone and seemingly lied regarding men waiting nearby:

Then came David to Nob [the main religious centre] to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came to meet David trembling, and said to him, "Why are you alone, and no one with you?"

2 And David said to Ahimelech the priest, "The king has charged me with a matter, and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.' I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place.

3 Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here."

4 And the priest answered David, "I have no common bread at hand, but there is holy bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women."

5 And David answered the priest, "Of a truth women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy, even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?"

6 So the priest gave him the holy bread…

Critics argue that David's statement in verse 2 was a lie since: 
  1. David was not on a mission for King Saul but was fleeing from him;
  2. Nowhere does I Samuel 20-21 mention men with David;
  3. Not enough time had elapsed for the sexual-purity claim in 21:5 to be true.
The critics, therefore, conclude that David's claim about having men was "part of an elaborate lie" to better his chances of getting help from the priest.

Authors of some Bible commentaries agree that David lied:

The choice to deceive Ahimelech by inventing a secret mission and a hidden troop adds to the impression that Ahimelech was unaware of the real situation, though David's deception may have been an attempt to protect Ahimelech from accusations of conspiracy. Unleavened bread would remain edible for some time, and the nonexistent troop provides an excuse for David to ask for a good supply. (Evans 2000)  

If David lied about having men with him then Jesus (and Matthew, Mark and Luke) was wrong.


One of Saul's herdsmen named Doeg observed David with Ahimelech and reported it to Saul. This led to 85 priests being slaughtered. (I Samuel 22)

In Psalm 52 David says of Doeg, "You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth." Many other Psalms of David similarly criticize lies. (7:14; 34:13; 36:3; 38:12; 58:3; 62:4; 63:11; 101:7; 144:8, 11)

David, in I Samuel 21:2, did not overtly lie but spoke truths that could be misunderstood – he used ambiguity. His claim "The king has charged me with a matter…" was probably assumed by Ahimelech to mean King Saul.

However, "king" could also refer to:

  1. God since to the Israelites God was king (I Samuel 12:12; Psalm 5:2);
  2. David himself, since David had been anointed as king by Samuel. (Chapter 16)
Therefore, "The king has charged me with a matter…" was true. The "matter" was that David should act on his anointing and progress toward becoming actual king. Saul "charged" David with this "matter" indirectly by forcing David's hand by seeking to kill him, and God, in David's viewpoint, had "charged" him with this "matter" when Samuel the prophet anointed him.

David's first statement to Ahimelech, therefore, was not an outright lie but a truth worded ambiguously.

What about his subsequent statements?



Let's get a bird's eye view of I Samuel 10-22:

In Chapters 20 and 21 David seems a solitary fugitive travelling alone except for his statement to Ahimelech about rendezvousing with his men. Since David asked for five loaves, let's assume he's implying there were four men.The four men could have joined David at Ramah/Naioth because:

And he [David] and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. (19:20)
"Dwelt" implies a lengthy stay, which is borne out by the rest of the chapter. Therefore, at Naioth there was time and opportunity for David's first active supporters to arrive.

In Chapter 20 David fled from Naioth and consulted with Jonathan at Gibeah. (20:11)

Jonathan agreed to sound out Saul's attitude during the feast of the new moon and report to David two days later. (20:5, 12) David would meanwhile hide in a field.

Note the time periods:

20:5, 18 Tomorrow is the new moon
20:24 …when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food.
20:27-34 But on the second day, the morrow after the new moon…Jonathan ate no food the second day of the month…
20:35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David…

For two days and parts of two more "David hid himself in the field…" (20:24) David and any men keeping watch or scouting around would have been extremely hungry.

After hearing from Jonathan that King Saul still wanted him dead David walked SE, 8km, from Gibeah to Nob (near Jerusalem).

Nob was the location of the tabernacle – the elaborate tent which constituted the centre of Israelite worship and where the "showbread" or holy bread was kept. (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5ff)

At Gibeah David had exercised great caution to stay inconspicuous. Why then did he go to Nob, which bustled with activity? Probably because:

Ahimelech wanted assurance that David's men were pure enough to eat holy bread and therefore asked if they had been with women. David said:

Indeed women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?

The law required that a man who had sexual intercourse be ritually unclean until he bathed. (Leviticus 15:18) Men going into battle also had to be sexually clean. (Deuteronomy 23:10ff) This involved a three-day abstinence from sex. (Exodus 19:15)

David had hidden three days in the field at Gibeah. Previous to that David "dwelt" with Samuel at Naioth. The time requirement for sexual holiness fits with men having joined David at Naioth who were now rendezvousing with him near Nob. David's story rings true.

"Holy bread" was for priests. The loaves were made from 2/10 of an "ephah" of flour. (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9) An ephah was a measure of capacity equal to 22 litres. Therefore David wanted bread equivalent to 22 litres of flour – (i.e. 2/10 x 22 x 5).

Ahimelech gave David the sword of Goliath stored in the tabernacle because David said he had no weapons. Again this rings true since David had left his wife hurriedly at night (19:11-12) without opportunity to take weapons.

David left Ahimelech that same day (21:10) and fled 40km west to Gath the home town of Goliath.

Carrying five loaves plus Goliath's sword, and walking 40km after three days without food seems too strenuous – unless David shared the loaves and did not carry them.

At Gath the Philistines recognized David, which made him afraid:

So he changed his behavior before them; he pretended to be mad when in their presence. He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard. (I Samuel 21:13; Psalm 34 & 56)

Then David fled Gath and went SE to the "cave of Adullam" where 400 men joined him:

David departed there [Gath] and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all of his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt; and everyone who was discontented, gathered to him; and he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. (22:1-2; Psalm 57, 142)

How did these 400 men from far and wide "hear" where David was?

David would not have told the Philistines where he was going next. Nor could David press-gang strangers to pass word since they might report to King Saul or to the Philistines.

The plausible answer is David's men. David must have had a few men who joined him at Naioth as watchmen and messengers and contacted trusted supporters.

The non-mention of these men in Chapters 19-21 is explained if they travelled separately except for several rendezvous.

Furthermore, in the Bible bodyguards, messengers, entourages and servants are not mentioned unless there's good reason. At Saul's feast on the new moon only Saul, Jonathan and a commander are mentioned. Yet, others such as servants and guards must have been present. At Nob we initially meet only Ahimelech as if he lived there alone – in the next chapter, however, we realize that 85 priests and their families implies hundreds of people.

Even whole armies are sometimes only implied. For example, when David was still in Saul's service we read:  

And there was war again; and David [alone?] went out and fought with the Philistines, and made a great slaughter among them… (19:8)

If people are often unmentioned even when they're swarming all around why shouldn't four men travelling separately also remain unmentioned in a narrative?

After 400 men joined David at the cave of Adullam he became a guerrilla marauder. Only then does I Samuel repeatedly mention his "men". (22:6; 23:3, 5, 8, 13, 24, 26; 24:2, 3, 4, 6, 7 etc)

This is because there were no longer just four, but 400 and then 600. And most were close and not scouting around. It was the beginning of David getting significant support from the population. The 600 men also did stuff that directly involved David. They "came", they "said", they "fought with the Philistines". (23:3, 5; 24:4, 6) Nevertheless, many verses still mention only David when context shows other men are included. (22:5; 23:14, 19, 25, 29; 24:8; 25:2)



David's statement to Ahimelech about having men (21:2-5) was truthful because:

  1. David spent enough time at Ramah/Naioth for some men to meet him there;
  2. Except for his initial ambiguity David was truthful with Ahimelech;
  3. It required "men" to pass word to, and summon 400 supporters. David's men were otherwise unmentioned because they were few and rendezvoused with him infrequently.

Jesus sorted all this out and expressed it in the short phrase, "those who were with him."

It's not Jesus (or Matthew, Mark and Luke) who misunderstood the book of Samuel but the critics.


Evans, M. J. 2000 New International Biblical Commentary 1 and 2 Samuel, Hendrickson, p. 97.

Frank, H. T. (Editor) 1984 Atlas of Bible Lands, Hammond.

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