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Matthew 10:9-10

Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts - no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. (NIV)

Luke 9:3

He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. (NIV)

Mark 6:8-9

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. (NIV)

Luke and Mark both use the airo for 'take'

Matthew uses ktaomai for 'acquire'.

How can a person harmonize the verses seemly contradiction about weather or not Jesus commanded the apostles to take a staff with them?

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Source criticism is the modern approach to harmonize Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It examines details written as if a single event has been described differently due to different source(s). This theory is based on the belief that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are a compilation of sources, not original documents. Thus, differences in descriptions are a result of different source(s) a particular writer and redactor used:

enter image description here

I believe this method brings more questions than answers because John wrote last and said:

“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:25-26 NKJV)

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. (John 15:26 NKJV)

If John is taken literally all records are original. If so, then the issue becomes one of understanding the differences without compromising the literal truth. In other words, how can each account be a completely accurate description?

There are reasonable alternatives to source criticism. One is to recognize the Holy Spirit is capable of inspiring a written account that describes different human perspectives:

enter image description here

An example of this would be the baptism of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe the voice from heaven with slightly different words. Three different sayings correspond to three different perspectives of the event. One point of reference is Jesus; one is John the Baptist; one is the crowd. This analysis can be extended to the fourth Gospel which is silent on the subject – that is, since the first 3 form the complete record, there is nothing left for the Holy Spirit to record.

There are other possibilities to consider. Perspective may be a function of time: different accounts may be reporting a detail from a different time. Then there is the obvious possibility: descriptions are different because the events are different:

enter image description here

There is no reason to presume Jesus sent out others only once. If this event occurred more than once, the differences in details are explained as describing the different occasions Jesus sent the others out.

The inclusion of a staff in Mark, an item which is specifically excluded in Matthew and Luke, means Mark is describing a different time than Matthew and Luke. The other aspects of Jesus’ instructions should also be considered:

enter image description here

While staff in Matthew and Luke is in agreement, other details cannot be reconciled. Matthew records the mission as limited to some cities and to proclaim the kingdom of the heavens; Luke has no limitations on cities and to proclaim the Kingdom of God:

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (Matthew 10:5-7 NKJV)

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1-2 NKJV)

These differences mean Matthew and Luke are also describing different events. The presumption of different sources ignores an equally valid and more reasonable conclusion: the three accounts are detailing three different occasions Jesus sent out twelve.

It is possible Jesus sent out the same 12 on more than one occasion or two different groups of 12 were sent out. When Matthew is taken literally, the answer is that Jesus sent out 2 different groups of twelve:

The Twelve Apostles: Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:2-6 NKJV)

The Twelve Disciples:And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. (Matthew 10:1 NKJV)…Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. (Matthew 11:1 NKJV)

Jesus sent out the 12 apostles with their instructions (found in Matthew) and He sent out the 12 disciples with their instructions (found in greater detail in Luke).

The differences in the details between Matthew, Mark, and Luke can be explained by recognizing Jesus sent out twelve 3 times. While Matthew and Luke are describing 2 different groups being sent, the twelve in Mark could be a third group, or sending out one of the same groups of twelve on a different occasion.

Rather than seek source(s) outside of Scripture, the better approach is to recognize The Holy Bible is the record of God’s work to redeem all creation and nothing of significance has been omitted. If there is uncertainty in an action Jesus takes, it should be resolved in a way that is consistent with what is found in Scripture. Since God has been at work from the beginning, His unchanging nature will result in repetition of work (sending out the 12) as it is recorded in all of Scripture.

For example, Luke records that Jesus sent out the twelve and later sent out 72. This is exactly how the nation of Israel begins. Jacob’s 12 sons were sent to Egypt; later the entire family of 72 went. Luke descriptions makes it clear Jesus is doing things which are patterned after events (His work) recorded in the Old Testament.

Jesus sent out the 12 apostles without their staffs to the lost sheep of Israel to preach the kingdom of the heavens. Then He sent out the 12 disciples without their staffs to preach the Kingdom of God in any city. Then He sent out the 72 (with no mention of staffs) to preach the Kingdom of God in any city. This pattern is also found in Genesis: Jacob’s sons made 2 trips to Egypt and then the entire family went.

Mark states to take a staff, contrary to Matthew and Luke, and it is a different event from what is described in either Matthew and Luke. The use of the staff draws attention to Moses and Aaron as a type of parallel to the nation coming out of Egypt into the Promised Land. However, the specific reference to sandals is a contrary reference. The better choice is to see Mark as describing the first sending of twelve which would parallel Jacob’s journey from Haran to Israel:

I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. (Genesis 32:10 NKJV)

Jacob's return to Israel is marked by a specific reference to a staff and that he has become two companies. Just as Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe two companies, disciples and apostles. Mark's group of twelve is not identified as apostles or disciples, but apostles are the most likely group.

Therefore, the explanation for the differences found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is that Jesus sent out 12 on three different occasions. Apostles with staffs (Mark); Apostles without staffs (Matthew); disciples without staffs (Luke).

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  • The fatal limitation of source criticism is the belief the primary source(s) lie outside of Scripture. This does not lead to the next sentence: Whether it is Q or some other document, the theory rests on the belief God did not present His authentic Word to mankind today.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 31 '15 at 8:14
  • I understand your point and modified the answer. But here is a quote from the other answer: "...the mission is found in both the Q Gospel and in Mark and has therefore posed a problem to Matthew and Luke, who used those twin sources. He says their obvious options were duplication, elimination, or conflation - they could keep both, choose one and omit the other, or combine both into a single coherent unity. Matthew chose conflation of the two accounts, whereas Luke keeps both mission accounts as independent stories..." This where source criticism leads which was my original point. Oct 31 '15 at 22:20
  • It doesn't have to lead there, and I think it only does for people who already are not infalliblists.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 31 '15 at 22:56
  • 1
    @RevelationLad (+1) Are you saying there are three different events in mind? That seems a rather unnecessary conclusion. Also, in regards to source criticism, see my answer - source criticism that doesn't pre-decide the conclusion does not back Dick's answer. Invalid assumptions (e.g. Two Source Hypothesis explains all) lead to bad conclusion, source criticism does not inherently require such bad conclusions.
    – ThaddeusB
    Nov 1 '15 at 18:47
  • 1
    @RevelationLad Thanks, your conclusion is clearer now (and thanks also for dialing back the language criticizing source criticism).
    – ThaddeusB
    Nov 2 '15 at 0:25
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Relationship of the texts

To determine how to reconcile the Gospels accounts, we first need to determine the relationship between the different accounts. The best way to do this is to look at the original Greek.

Below are the verses in question. Since a few Biblical scholars also think Luke 10:4 is related, I went ahead and included it too. The Greek is from NA27 (no textual variants significant to the discussion). The English is ESV. Words shared by Mark & Matthew are purple; Mark & Luke red; Matthew & Luke green; and all three blue. The word for staff is in bold instead of blue.

Comparison of Synoptic accounts

One common way to resolve differences between the Synopic Gospels is the Two Source Hypothesis. In this hypothesis Matthew and Luke are made from a combination of Mark and an unattested source called "Q", possibly with some additional sources thrown in. A few scholars have suggested that this hypothesis applies to our passages, and that Matthew and Luke were an attempt to combine conflicting accounts between Q and Mark in our passage

We don't have to take their opinion as fact, though. We can test it ourselves using the data. If this hypothesis was correct, we would expect to see a good amount of of green, as these are words which theoretically came from Q. However, there is a total of one word - ὑποδήματα ("sandals"; Mark's word for sandals is σανδάλια). Furthermore, the word isn't even negated in the same way between the two passages. All four passages share ὁδόν ("bag"). And that's it. Luke 10:4 has a unique verb, a unique idea (greet no one), and the two shared words aren't part of a phrase. Whatever Luke's source for 10:4, there is nothing but one's imagination to connect it to Q.

If we decided two sentences showed a literary relationship simply because they happened to share two nouns, we'd never get anywhere. Any conclusion that a relation exists here must be based on preconceived notions about the Gospel's relationship, as the text does not support it. If we do no decide in advance that every similarity between the Synopics must derive from Mark and/or Q, we will reach a very different conclusion about this passage.

Actual relationship

Now, of course, it is nearly universally acknowledged that copying did occur between the Synoptic accounts. This practice was common and considered ethical in the ancient world, and need not impact ones view of inspiration.

Here, the three parallel passages share a clear theme. However, the grammar does not provide evidence of copying. There are some shared words, sure, but much less so than in parallel accounts usually do. Furthermore, even where there are shared words, there are differences in word order. Mark states Jesus made a command; Matthew is just the command; and Luke write "He said" - three different ways to convey the idea of Jesus issuing a command. There are never more than three shared words in a row.

If one is committed to an idea that two of the accounts must have been copied and adjusted from the others (and possibly combined with an outside source), one will struggle to explain the great grammatical differences. It takes a lot of hoops jumping to explain why two author drastically changed the grammar, word order, etc., while leaving the basic theme unchanged.

If, however, one is open to the possibility that the accounts are independent of each other, the solution is simple. What we have here is not dependence, but coincidence. The parallel accounts represent three different eyewitness account (in this case, not universally throughout the Gospels). This hypothesis best explains the actual data. Additionally, it makes sense that such an important event for the Twelve would have multiple remembrances with eleven possible witnesses telling the story. The fact that discarding the shortcut of using the Two Source Hypothesis to explain every difference means we have to treat each passage individually is not sufficient reason to use it where it does not actually fit the data.

Contradiction resolved

If the accounts are indeed independent, in my opinion there is no need to resolve the differences. I believe that the minor difference in details between the Gospels actually are excellent evidence of their accuracy. Real, legitimate eyewitness testimony always have such differences. When they don't exist, it means collusion took place, as any lawyer will happily point out in court. Differences, however, don't imply someone is wrong (or lying) - it just means two people saw the same event from a different perspective. That said, since the OP requested a resolution, I will provide one, or actually two.

The first option is quite simple: the accounts don't refer to the same occasion. While it is natural to think of the Gospel accounts as giving the entire story of Jesus' ministry, that is not really the case. It would be foolish to say Jesus never gave the same speeches\taught the same lessons twice just because they appear in the Gospel only once. Likewise, there is no real reason to say Jesus didn't send out the 12 on multiple occasions.

However, there isn't even a need to postulate multiple mission trips. The key to seeing why is in the verb. Matthew uses κτήσησθε while Mark and Luke use forms of αἴρω. According to BDAG, the primary meaning of κτήσησθε is "to gain possession of" suggesting a gloss along to lines of "procure" or "acquire". The semantic range of αἴρω is quite broad. It can mean "to raise to a high place" (pick up), "to life up and move from one place to another" (take/carry), "to take away, remove, or seize control of" (take away), and a couple other more technical or metaphorical uses.

Jesus, of course, wasn't speaking Greek when he dispatched the Twelve. Thus, (assuming Jesus did speak the words), the accounts reflect a translation of the original Aramaic - and in any case is not word-for-word. As anyone with any translation experience will realize, there also is not a one-to-one correspondence between languages.

Mark is capturing the idea of Jesus saying (paraphrased) "take what you have on hand (a staff and sandals) and go". Matthew and Luke are capturing the same idea, but as "don't go and retrieve anything (e.g. spare sandals), but go right away". They both mean the same thing - go at once. This explains Mark's αἴρωσιν ("don't carry anything but") and Matthew's κτήσησθε ("don't acquire anything at all"). That just leaves Luke's αἴρετε.

When doing translation/analysis, we like to think that the same word always means the same thing. But, the reality is that words 1) have multiple meanings and 2) don't mean exactly the same thing to every speaker. When one looks at Luke's other uses of κτάομαι (Luke 18:12, 21:29; Acts 1:18, 8:20, 22:28), one gets the strong impression that to him the word had a narrower meaning of, or at least a strong connotation of, "purchase". Since he wished to capture a broader sense of "don't acquire (go and get) anything", he chose a broader word - αἴρετε. As further evidence, for Mark and Luke having different word meanings in mind consider:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up (ἀράτω) their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

And whoever does not carry (βαστάζει) their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)

It seems when Luke wants to say "carry", he uses βαστάζω and when Mark does, he is OK with saying αἴρω. The semantic range of βαστάζω, αἴρω, and κτάομαι overlap in general. The data suggests that Luke has a slightly different understanding (or preferred usage) of αἴρω than Mark and a slightly different understanding of κτάομαι than Matthew.

Thus, all three accounts say the same thing - leave immediately, taking with out only what you have on hand. Whether the texts refer to the same event or multiple events, there is no contradiction. Instead, the textual evidence suggests we have three independent eyewitness accounts.

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  • This seems like a very messy solution, especially given that the introduction to Luke's gospel states outright that he is not an eyewitness, but that he is aware of multiple written accounts of Jesus' life. To suggest he chose here to not use/modify any of those accounts (whether they be Mark and "Q" or Mark and Matthew) but to go with a separate, apparently oral, "eyewitness" testimony--and that Matthew likewise chose to ignore the written testimony he had available--raises more questions than it solves. Nov 2 '15 at 6:31
  • @BruceAlderman The text provides no evidence of multiple shared sources here. To postulate a second shared source is to do so against the evidence. If Matthew was written by the apostle (or a disciple of the apostle), there is no reason to believe he isn't relying on his own memory. Why must any vague similarity mean Matthew vastly changed Mark? That is merely an assumption. As to Luke, I never said his source was oral, just that it was not shared with Matthew. Whether it is oral or written makes no difference.
    – ThaddeusB
    Nov 2 '15 at 15:17
  • If the three accounts were not in the synoptics, I most scholars would surely say they were independent. That is exactly what they do when they find non-conclusive similarities between the Gospels and other early Christian writings. Why should the synopics be treated differently?
    – ThaddeusB
    Nov 2 '15 at 15:18
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These passages are extracts of a longer story of Jesus sending them on a mission, with differences according to the gospel:

Starting with Mark, the first New Testament gospel to be written, verses 6:8-9 says to take a staff and wear sandals.

Matthew 10:9-10 says to take no staff or sandals.

Luke 9:3 says to take no staff, but does not mention whether to take sandals.

But the passage occurs twice in Luke. Contrary to Luke 9:3, Luke 10:4:11 says to take no sandals, but does not mention whether to take a staff. Robert A. Stein (Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, page 303) says the similarities between the two mission charges is striking. He adds that Matthew's mission to the twelve includes material found in Luke's mission charge to the seventy. Both of these insights tend to confirm Crossan's exegesis in the following paragraph.


John Dominic Crossan explains in The Birth of Christianity that the story of the mission is found in both the Q Gospel and in Mark and has therefore posed a problem to Matthew and Luke, who used those twin sources. He says their obvious options were duplication, elimination, or conflation - they could keep both, choose one and omit the other, or combine both into a single coherent unity. Matthew chose conflation of the two accounts, whereas Luke keeps both mission accounts as independent stories, with the extract about what to take appearing in Luke 9:3 and 10:4.

The authors redacted the instructions according to differing Cynic practices of the time. There would be groups of wandering Cynics observing any one of these rules. Francis Gerald Downing (Making Sense in (and of) the First Christian Century, page 123) says that Mark allows both staff and sandals, which many Cynics would carry; Matthew forbids the staff, as Luke does in one passage; Matthew forbids sandals, as Luke does in his other passage.

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  • 1
    In Luke 9:3 Jesus is sending out the twelve, but in Luke 10:4:11 it is the 70. Aren't these different contexts and not directly comparable as the three I stated?
    – hogarth45
    Oct 30 '15 at 15:17
  • Hi @hogarth45 This was Luke's solution. By changing a single detail, he could keep both the Markan and the Q passages. The 70 occur nowhere else in Luke and are not even mentioned in Matt. Oct 30 '15 at 19:54
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Harmonizing Matthew 10:10, Luke 9:3, Mark 6:8

Luke 9:3

He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. (NIV)

Mark 6:8-9

"These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt." (NIV)

According to Mark, the apostles were told to carry a staff and to wear sandals, Luke’s however says that they were to take nothing for the journey , not even a staff. Unlike Mark, Luke made no mention of sandals.

Matthew was present and heard the command given by Jesus, wrote:

Matthew 10:9-10

"Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts - no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep." (NIV)

Observe statements common to all three Gospels

"No extra shirts": the apostles were already wearing a shirt ,so they were told not to get another for the trip.

"No extra sandals": The apostles were already wearing sandals , so they were told not to carry another for the trip. Mark stressed the need to wear sandals.

What about staff? It was a custom for the Jews to carry staff (Genesis 32:10) . Mark in his account says to carry nothing for the journey, except the staff which they already had with them.

Conclusion:

At first glance that apparent contradiction between the Gospels of Mark and Luke , covering the same circumstances , are dissolved by Matthew who was present when Jesus gave the command and supplied more details.

Hence there is no contradiction in the Gospels, Jesus was simply emphasizing the need to His Apostles , not to go out of their way to get extra provisions for the trip.

0
  1. This was not the information or digital age. The eye witnesses hear the story and write down what they remember at a later point in time or tell the story to another and that person writes it down later (Luke).
  2. Consider what we would should expect with 3 or 4 eyewitness accounts. Agreement on the main points, variation in the inconsequential details. Taking a staff or no staff is an inconsequential detail. How foolish would it be to have a church division on the 'doctrine' of the staff?
  3. If the accounts were 100 percent identical then our accusation would be that it's all plagiarized. Step 2 is what a historian would expect in having multiple eye witness accounts. If there's no benefit to multiple perspectives then we would have 1 account and not 4.

Considering all 3 passages on the topic, consider what we know and what we don't. We would know what to take on the journey, what not to take, and we would be unsure about the staff detail but it would be reasonable to conclude that Jesus mentioned a staff.

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I view the staff that Jesus commanded them not to take as primarily weaponish in nature(Exd. 21:20, Num. 22:27, 1 Sam. 17:43, 2 Sam. 23:20-21, 2Ki 18:21, Psalms 2:7-9, Isa 9:4,10:5;10;24-25,14:3-5), that is, one beyond walking(Exd 12:11,21:19), dipping(Judg 6:21, 1 Sam. 14:27,17:40), digging(Numbers 21:18), etc.. With this then, the command to take a staff specifically for walking, would not oppose the prohibition against taking things which might imply coercion, and possibly distort the nature of his ministry.

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  • Welcome to Stack Exchange. We are glad you are here. Can you please explain how you feel this interpretation resolves the apparent conflict between the verses, because I am don't understand why the nature of the "staff" would enter into explaining why one account says "take only a staff" and in another "don't take a staff". In general, don't just us what you believe, show us why you believe it to be true. Please note that "showing your work" is required on this Stack Exchange.
    – ThaddeusB
    Oct 31 '15 at 21:08
  • While I will not edit my submitted answer at this time, brandplucked.webs.com/mt1010takestaff.htm may explain it better than I; this answer however was not based upon the given link.
    – sandman22
    Nov 1 '15 at 0:44

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