Article: Did Jesus Tell Them to Take a Staff or Not? by Will Kinney

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Did Jesus tell His disciples to take a staff or not?

Matthew 10:10, Mark 6:8, and Luke 9:3

In the King James Holy Bible we read the following:

Matthew 10:9-10

"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 hire."

In Matthew 10:10 the NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV read: "Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals NOR A STAFF, for the laborer is deserves his food." (ESV).

The singular word "staff" comes from Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and D.


Mark 6:8

KJB - "And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save A STAFF ONLY; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse."

So read all texts, and the NASB, ESV, NIV also make mention of taking a staff only.

Luke 9:3

KJB - "And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither STAVES, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece."

Again STAVES (plural) is the Majority reading and Alexandrinus, but again Sinaiticus and Vaticanus have the singular "staff", and so the NASB, NIV, ESV read: " Take nothing for your journey, neither A STAFF, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money, and do not have even two tunics apiece." (NASB)

By way of example here, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus continually disagree with each other and so do the versions based on them. Here in Luke 9:1-3 the KJB and the Majority of all texts read: "Then he called HIS twelve DISCIPLES...and he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal THE SICK...neither have two coats APIECE."

In just these three verses, Vaticanus omits "his disciples" and so do the NASB, NIV, ESV, but Sinaiticus reads "his twelve APOSTLES", contrary to the others. None of the versions follow the Sinaiticus reading here.

"and to heal THE SICK" is found in the majority of all texts including Sinaiticus, and so read the previous Revised Version, the American Standard Version, and the NIV; but because Vaticanus omits the words "the sick" the NASB, RSV, and ESV have again changed and chosen to now omit these words.

Then in verse three we read "neither have two coats APIECE", which is in the Majority of texts, including A and D, and the NASB includes it, but Sinaiticus and Vaticanus omit this word and so do the NIV, ESV. This is modern scholarship in action.

New Versions Cause Doubt

Anyway, the result of the Westcott-Hort texts which use the singular "staff" in all three gospels have the Lord telling His disciples not to take a staff in Matthew and Luke, and then in Mark He tells them to take a staff, has created a contradiction. And this contradiction has not gone unnoticed by the atheistic, Islamic, and Bible debunker sites.

An Islamic site lists this example as one of their alleged contradictions. They introduce the subject with these words: "There are contradictions in the Gospel accounts and such contradictions also prove that the Gospels do not constitute a revelation of God or that human interference has changed the original revelation out of recognition. Any ordinary author possessing an ordinary measure of consistency will not allow contradiction in what he writes. How then can we tolerate contradiction in a ‘Book of God’? We give some examples here:"

Then the Islamic site goes on to mention the apparent contradiction of Jesus telling his disciples not to take a staff in Matthew and Luke and in Mark telling them to take a staff.

What is pathetic to see is how some Christian sites who use the versions based on Westcott-Hort try to defend this contradiction. This article comes from a Christian site called Apologetics.

Take a Staff or Not?

Matthew 10:10 in Greek in the 1598 New Testament of Beza
Matthew 10:10 in Greek in the 1598 New Testament of Beza

Jesus allowed (Mark 6:8), or did not allow (Matthew 10:9; Luke 9:3) his disciples to keep a staff on their journey? (Category: misunderstood the Greek usage)

It is alleged that the Gospel writers contradict each other concerning whether Jesus allowed his disciples to take a staff on their journey or not. The problem is one of translation. (My note: It is NOT one of translation, but one of which text is correct and which is wrong.)

In Matthew we read the English translation of the Greek word which is rendered in the King James (Authorized) translation as "Provide neither gold, nor silver nor yet staves". According to a Greek dictionary this word means "to get for oneself, to acquire, to procure, by purchase or otherwise" (Robinson, Lexicon of the New Testament). Therefore in Matthew Jesus is saying "Do not procure anything in addition to what you already have. Just go as you are."

Matthew 10 and Mark 6 agree that Jesus directed his disciples to take along no extra equipment. Luke 9:3 agrees in part with the wording of Mark 6:8, using the verb in Greek, ("take"); but then, like Matthew adds "no staff, no bag, no bread, no money". But Matthew 10:10 includes what was apparently a further clarification: they were not to acquire a staff as part of their special equipment for the tour. Mark 6:8 seems to indicate that this did not necessarily involve discarding any staff they already had as they traveled the country with Jesus.

However, this is not a definitive answer, only a possible explanation. This trivial difference does not effect the substantial agreement of the Gospels. We would not be troubled if this were, or is, a contradiction, for we do not have the same view of these Gospels as a Muslim is taught about the Qur'an. And if this is the pinnacle of Biblical contradictions when the Bible is said to be "full of contradictions" and "totally corrupted", then such people are obviously deluded. If indeed Christian scribes and translators had wished to alter the original Gospels, this "contradiction" would not have been here. It is a sign of the authenticity of the text as a human account of what took place, and is a clear sign that it has not been deliberately corrupted."

My comments: Did you hear what this "defender of the faith" just said? "We would not be troubled is this is a is a sign of the text AS A HUMAN ACCOUNT of what took place, and a clear sign it has not been deliberately corrupted."!!??!! So much for our friends as Christian Apologetics.

Now, for a look at another Christian site's explanation. This Big Time Baloney set in classic scholarspeak comes from a site that calls itself The Christian Think Tank. Unfortunately there is far more "tanking" than "thinking" at this site. You will notice the "Think Tank" site uses one of the modern versions which has the corrupted text. Rather than admitting that his Westcott-Hort Sinaiticus/Vaticanus text is wrong, he goes into a lengthly circumlocution of pedantic proportions worthy of the best trained Jesuit priest.

Here is the question and the "scholarly response". You can see the whole thing at

Notice how the "Christian apologist" resorts to a totally humanistic and naturalistic perspective. I have edited many portions because he goes on and on with his "scholarspeak". It is even worse in the full explanation which you can see if you wish at the site. He even says that the same word meant something to Luke that it didn't mean to Mark.

The Christian Think Tank begins this way, and all the capital lettered words are his:

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

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:

  • Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take ("ktaomai") no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. (Matthew 10.9-10)
  • These were his instructions: "Take ("airo") nothing for the journey except a staff -- no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. (Mark 6.8) * He told them: "Take ("airo") nothing for the journey -- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. (Luke 9.3)

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:

  • Matthew uses the word 'ktaomai', meaning 'acquire' (a logistics function). * Luke seems to be dependent on Matthew here--as evidenced by the grammatical construction, and seems to have used a broader word ('airo') for Matthew's tighter 'acquire' ('ktaomai'). Luke is very similar to Matthew--the verbs in both passages are imperatives (vs. Mark's use of a subordinate construction and subjunctive mood). But Luke CANNOT use Matthew's verb (ktaomai) in this passage, because 'ktaomai' means something DIFFERENT for Luke (and presumably his readers). Ktaomai in Luke is focused more on "PURCHASED/Financially OWNED things".

What this means is that Luke HAD TO find ANOTHER, DIFFERENT word that could convey 'locate and acquire' OTHER THAN Matthew's word ktaomai. Luke selects 'airo', a more general term.

  • And just as 'ktaomai' did not mean the same for Luke and Matthew; so also the word 'airo' DID NOT (often) MEAN the same for Luke and Mark! (which dissipates the contradiction).

That Luke probably did NOT mean the same sense of 'airo' as Mark did (removing the problem) is suggested by a similar issue in Luke 10.4. In that passage--the sending of the 70--Luke uses the verb "bastazo" (which has a narrower range than airo) which for Luke means 'bear, carry' [== the same sense as Mark's 'airo'].

Although the word airo is used by both Luke and Mark in these passages, in the Triple Tradition it is often understood that the gospel writers did not have as much flexibility in redactional word-choice-changes as they might have had in other sections. So, similarities in word choices in the TT would not indicate shared semantic 'preferences' but in shared source-stock of the accounts.

  • So, can Luke's airo be used in the sense of Matthew's ktaomai (='acquire')? If it can, then the issue is resolved, since we know that Mark's airo is NOT the same as Matthew's ktaomai, and that Mark's airo is closer to Luke's bastazo that to Luke's airo. So, the last piece of the puzzle is why Luke used airo in 9.3. We know why he didn't use ktaomai (it would have mislead his readers) and we know why he didn't use bastzao (because Matt and hence Luke, was not talking about Picking up and CARRYING luggage--an immediate act, but about LOCATING/ACQUIRING/SECURING something--taking a longer period of time to do, delaying the mission).

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.

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 ----------------------------------------------end of Think Tank article.

In contrast to this mind-numbing babble of the modern version defenders, let's look at some very simple explanations offered by saints of old who referred to the true reading as found in the King James Holy Bible.

Adam Clarke

Adam Clarke says in his commentary on Matthew 10:10:

"all the following manuscripts and versions have STAVES: C, E, F, G, K, L, M, P, S, ninety-three others, Coptic, Armenian, latter Syriac, one of the Itala, Chrysostom, and Theophylact. This reading is of great importance, as it reconciles this place with Luke 9:3, and removes the seeming contradiction from Mark 6:8; as if he had said: "Ye shall take nothing to defend yourselves with, because ye are the servants of the Lord, and are to be supported by his bounty, and defended by his power."

John Gill

John Gill remarks on these passages:

"And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey,.... To accommodate them in it, except those things after directed to: save a staff only; a single one, for staves in the plural number are forbidden. Matthew 10:10 does not forbid the taking of shoes, but two pair of shoes; as not two coats, nor two staves, but one of a sort only, that is, with more than one staff, which was sufficient to assist them, and lean upon in journeying: for, according to Mark, one was allowed; as though they might take a travelling staff, yet not staves for defence, or to fight with."

B.W. Johnson

B.W. Johnson's People's New Testament Commentary:

"Save a staff only. Only the staff that each had already. Matthew forbids a supply for future use. With the staff each one had, but without an extra supply. A staff was always carried in walking over the rugged mountains of Palestine."

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry comments:

"In Matthew and Luke they are forbidden to take staves with them, that is, fighting staves; but here in Mark they are bid to take nothing save a staff only, that is, a walking staff, such as pilgrims carried."

The word used for a staff in Greek is rabdos and it can have several meanings and uses. It can mean a staff, a walking stick, a twig, a rod with which one is beaten, or a branch. It can also mean a sceptre held by a king.

The Bible itself should serve as our dictionary. A simple staff may be used for walking on a journey. In Genesis 32:10 Jacob says to God: "for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands."

Zechariah 8:4 "There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age."

A staff could also serve in battle. Isaiah 10:5-6 "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a tread them down like the mire in the streets."

Notice the use of the plural "staves" when David goes against Goliath in battle as recorded in 1 Samuel 17:43 where Goliath says to David: "And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with STAVES? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods."

The simple fact is that the King James Bible is one of the very few Bibles that is right where the Lord tells his disciples not to take staves (plural) in Matthew 10:10 and Luke 9:3, but tells them to take a staff (singular) in Mark 6:8. These are the Majority readings of all Greek texts and are also found in the NKJV, KJV 21st Century, Green's interlinear, and the Third Millenium Bible. All other versions I checked, including those that preceeded the King James Bible, have it wrong in Matthew 10:10 and create a real and not just an apparent contradiction.

Will Kinney

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New Testament

Did Jesus Tell Them to Take a Staff or Not? Matthew Is Matthew 23:14 Scripture or not? - Matthew 27:44 cast in teeth Mark Gospel of Mark - a Modern Version Mix-up Luke Is "cousin" wrong in Luke 1:36 - Luke 17:36 Is it inspired Scripture or not? John John 1:18 the only begotten Son Acts Act 3:19 times of refreshing; 7:20 Moses was exceeding fair - Acts 9:5-7 hear the voice; 7:20 exceeding fair - Acts 5:30 slew and hanged; 19:20 word of GOD - Acts 13:33 this day have I begotten thee - Acts 19:9 DIVERS were hardened, and believed not - Acts 19:35 Diana or Artemis? Jupiter, Zeus or Heaven? - The So-called "Science" of Textual Criticism. Science or Hocus-Pocus? Gospels through Acts Romans James White discussing Romans 6:17 Philippians Textual Studies in Philippians 2 Timothy 2 Timothy 3:16 Inspiration of God or God Breathed? Hebrews The Book of Hebrews - a Comparative Study 1 Peter 1 Peter - Shifting Sands of Scholarship 1 John And These Three Are One Article defending the inclusion of 1 John 5:7. - 1 John 5:7 These three are one Jude The Book of Jude - James White's "inferior" texts Revelations Revelation 13 Confusion - Vials or Bowls in the book of Revelation - Rev.16:5 and SHALT BE; 5:8-10 redeemed US - Revelation 17:8 "the beast that was, and is not, and YET IS" - Acts 28:13 We Fetched a Compass; 1 Tim5:4 Nephews - Matthew 24:3; Hebrews 9:26 End of World or Age?

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Bible Babel 1 - Bible Babel 2 - Bible Babel 3 - Bible Babel 4 - The Oldest and Best Manuscripts? - Every Man for Himself Bible Versions - the HCSB, NET, ESV, TNIV, NKJV - The Inerrancy of Scripture - are you a Bible believer or a Bible agnostic? - True Bible? - Modern Versions Teach Racism - Modern Versions Teach Pride as a Virtue - Do Ghosts Exist? Modern Versions say Yes ESV The English Standard Version 2001 NASB The Ever Changing NASB's NKJV NKJV Word Changes - When the NKJV departs from the TR - The New KJV is a Hack Job Translation - NKJV vs KJB Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah - Is the NKJV the same as the KJB? - Don't go on Safari with a New KJV Translator - The NKJV is a Poor Substitute for the True Bible - NKJV vs KJB Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah - NKJV Bible Babel in Proverbs

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King James Bible

Is King James onlyism Scriptural? - Does the KJB only position "blow up"? - What About Those Printing Errors in 1611? - Does the King James Bible depart from the Hebrew Texts? - Why do you King James Bible onlyies Attack the word of God? - The Historic Confessions support the KJB position - Can a Translation be Inspired? - The Old Latin versions and the KJB


NO LXX Part 1 - NO LXX - the Fictitious Use of Septuagint

Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls Fiasco

Hebrew Text

The NIV, NASB reject the Hebrew Texts - NIV, NASB reject Hebrew texts Part 2 - How to Destroy Messianic Prophecies

Greek Text

"The Greek" and Hebrew Games

Gender Inclusive Versions

Gender Inclusive Versions Dealing with the TNIV

Answering Critics

E mail exchange with Bible Agnostic Doug Kutilek - John MacArthur - Pastor with NO Infallible Bible - A Bible Believer's Response to James Price's book King James Onlyism - a New Sect - A King James Bible Believer's Response to Rick Norris' book 'The Unbound Scriptures' - 17 Parts

Part 1 - The "logical" Premise of Mr. Norris

Part 2 - Those Dreadful Archaic Words

Part 3 - Imperfect men, Perfect Bible

Part 4 - Revision

Part 5 - Printing Errors and Spelling

Part 6 - Inspiration and Inerrancy

Part 7 - Alleged Errors in the King James Bible

Part 8 - Let Me Count The Ways

Part 9 - Beasts or Living Creatures?

Part 10 - Mules or Hot Springs?

Part 11 - "Digged down a wall" or "hamstrung an ox"?

Part 12 - Steel, brass, copper, bronze - Paper or Plastic?

Part 13 - The Usual Suspects

Part 14 - The Preservation of the words of God

Part 15 - KJB Only versus Latin Vulgate Only Argument

Part 16 - Where Was the Word of God Before 1611?

Part 17 - Final Thoughts

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