Take a Staff or Not?
Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. Matthew 10:9-10 NKJV
He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Mark 6:8-9 NKJV
Between the two above passages it appears as though there is a contradiction. Matthew’s account appears to be saying to not take any staffs or sandals, whereas Mark’s account says to wear sandals and to take a staff. Were they to take a staff or not?
We can take notice that Matthew says “provide neither…” while Mark states “take nothing…”. Consider the same passages from the New American Standard Bible (perhaps things will become clearer with a different translation):
Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. Matthew 10:9-10 NASB
and He 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; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” Mark 6:8-9 NASB
In the NASB, Matthew’s account says to not acquire the things listed. So his account is saying that the apostles were not to go out and get staffs, coats, or sandals. They did not need to acquire more than what they already possessed. It makes sense that they already had a staff and sandals.
Since the apostles would be out on the road it would likely have made sense to them to bring both a walking stick and a staff for defence. However, as read in the NASB of Mark, they were to take a “mere” staff. This could mean that they only needed their walking staff and they had no need of additional staffs for protection - after all, the Lord was watching over them.
What looked like a contradiction has a reasonable explanation. Sometimes it helps to look at things from multiple angles - using multiple translations can be very useful.
-- John Thrower Jr.