Matthew 10:1-15 – Does the commissioning of the Twelve contradict Mark and Luke’s account?

Problem: Matthew records that the disciples shouldn’t acquire “a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff” (Mt. 10:9-10). Mark records, “[Jesus] instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt—but to wear sandals” (Mk. 6:8-9). Whereas Luke records that Jesus instructed, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece” (Lk. 9:3).

The discrepancy can be seen in this way:

Discrepancies between the Synoptic Gospels

Matthew

Mark

Luke

No staff or sandals Take a staff and sandals No staff—silent on sandals

Solution: It would be odd if Jesus was telling the disciples to walk barefoot on their arduous journey through multiple cities. Therefore, we should wonder immediately if Matthew’s account is really prohibiting such a thing.

Instead, the disciples were not supposed to take anything extra. That is, they were not to take anything in addition to what they had on them. Poythress writes, “Luke 10:4 says, ‘Carry… no sandals.’ The disciples were not to have a second pair. But they could wear the ones they already had. It would be completely unrealistic to go barefoot. Jesus was addressing the fact that on a long journey sandals could wear out. The disciples might have thought that they had to make provision beforehand by buying (‘acquiring’) a second pair.”[1]

Matthew uses the Greek word ktesesthe (“acquire”), which means “to gain possession,” rather than to have possession (BDAG). Mark and Luke use the Greek word airosin (“take”), which means “to take” or “to carry.” This most likely means that the disciples were merely to take the shirts on their back. When Luke says “take nothing,” surely this doesn’t mean that the disciples should walk around naked! It means don’t take anything extra, as Matthew makes explicit.

[1] Poythress, Vern S. Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. 151.


“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The 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 publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Matt 10:1-15)”

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