(Mt. 10:1-15) Does the commissioning of the Twelve contradict Mark and Luke’s account (cf. Mk. 6:7-13; Lk. 9:1-6)?

CLAIM: 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




No staff or sandals

Take a staff and sandals

No staff—silent on sandals


RESPONSE: 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.