Good question...

...Well, did Jesus tell them to take a staff or not? Another contradiction?!

[Created 7/25/97]
Someone wrote in:
Hi, glen--

I don't know how tough a question this is, but would appreciate your input. Regarding the sending out of the 12, could they take a staff (Mark 6:8), or not (Matt. 10:10; Luke 9:1-6)? The (few) commentaries that I have checked have been less than helpful.


This was a GREAT question because it highlights one of the MAIN sources of 'mistaken contradictions'--morphological similarity.

What this means is that when two authors use the SAME word-form, somebody decides that the two different authors meant the SAME word-meaning. Let's look at the passages in question:

At the surface, the 'contradiction' seems obvious: Matthew and Luke SEEM to agree that Jesus prohibits the disciples from taking a staff, while Mark SEEMS to allow them to take one...At first blush--assuming all the 'takes' mean the same thing(!)--SOMEBODY must be wrong!

So, we have two sets of contradictions here: Matthew vs. Mark (different word forms for 'take'), and Luke vs. Mark (same word forms for 'take').

So, let's try to determine what those word-forms mean for the authors:

So, where this seems to net out:

  1. In Matthew, Jesus tells them to not 'make preparations'--the trip is too urgent to 'acquire belongings for the trip' (cf. Luke 17.31). No hesitation--start NOW with what you already have at your disposal!

  2. In Mark, Jesus tells them to 'pick up the walking stick that is sitting beside them, start CARRYING it, and then to get moving!' hesitation--start walking NOW!

  3. In Luke, Jesus tells them the same thing as in Matthew--do not 'make preparations', but Luke has to use a different word that Matthew. Although he uses the same word form as Mark does, the meanings are different--as can be seen from their independent uses of the same word-form. So Matthew's ktaomai equals Luke's airo (in this and in other passages), and Mark's airo equals Luke's bastazo (in this and other passages).

Notice also the general principle that we must ALWAYS ask what an author meant by a word, and not simply what OTHER authors' meant by it. Audiences and Authors differ, and with the significant semantic ranges of common-use words, we must always do this level of consideration to be as honest as possible with text.

[I might also point out that the resolution of this issue provides some support for the neo-Griesbachian hypothesis--that Luke uses Matthew, but did NOT use Mark. It is easy to see from the above argumentation how the phenomena in Luke is derived from Matthew--the grammatical construction is identical, only the verb is changed due to different usages. But IF Luke had had MARK in front of him as well, then Luke would probably have found another way to say it--simply to avoid the appearance of such an obvious conflict in the verb forms. The fact that the problem even surfaces--coupled with the substantial similarity between Luke and Matthew--is evidence that Luke did NOT have a finished text of Mark in front of him.]

So, the morphological similarity of the words, in this case, would have misled interpreters if they did not pay attention to the usage patterns of the authors. As it stands, there is no disagreement between the accounts--in fact, they strangely appear to be saying the say exact thing--"Hurry up and get moving!".

Hope this helps,
glenn miller


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