Bring a staff, or not?

Matthew has a form of the verb ktaomai, while Mark and Luke both use forms of airO. Miller argues that in Matthew 10:9-10, ktaomai means "to acquire" in the sense of "to hunt for and obtain." He says that in Luke 9:3, airO also means "to acquire" in the sense of "to hunt for and obtain." Luke didn't use ktaomai in 9:3, Miller claims, because he uses it elsewhere to mean "to purchase," and his readers would have been confused if Luke had told them that Jesus ordered his disciples to purchase money. Apparently, Miller thinks that Luke's readers would not be able to tell from the context that Luke meant "to acquire/get/retrieve" rather than "to buy."

Miller makes it quite clear that ktaomai as a whole in Luke meant "buy". Luke's Gospel is quite obviously written for a more sophisticated readership than Matthew and Mark. While such readers may well have been able to figure from context that "buy" would not have been in place in Luke 9:3, it is just as clear that from Luke's usage of the word, we would end up with what Miller called "a very misleading and only marginally coherent notion," one we are quite sure would be objected to in other ways (e.g., "Luke thinks you can buy money!").

Although Mark and Luke use the same word, airO, Miller says that it has a different meaning to Mark. For Mark, airO meant "to pick up and carry."

In Miller's mind, this resolves the contradiction because in Matthew and Luke, Jesus tells the disciples not to hunt for and obtain (i.e., go get, retrieve, etc.) for their journey money, bread (Luke), a sack, a second tunic, sandals, or a staff. In Mark, Jesus, knowing that the disciples already have staffs, tells them not to pick up bread, a sack, or money, and to put on their sandals but not to put on a second tunic. This, of course, creates the problem of Jesus commanding the disciples not to hunt for and obtain that which he knows they already have, i.e., staffs, and not to pick up and carry that which they are forbidden to hunt for and obtain.

Why this is a problem we are not told. The staff was used as an instrument of self-protection against robbers or even wild animals as needed, to say nothing of the practical use of keeping balance on uneven paths in an era before asphalt and limited Roman roads. It was such an essential piece of equipment that even the Cynics and beggars carried them when travelling. [Keener, Matthew commentary, 317-8]

This was not meant to restrict hunting for a second staff. Given the importance of this item to personal welfare, I don't see what the problem would be. We may as well ask why some cowboys carried two six-shooters while some were content with one. A second staff tucked in a belt or tied to a back is not an outrageous burden and a happy tradeoff for the extra guarantee of safety in case an older staff gets broken. Remember that this is a matter of survival -- not of just having a stick you can whistle with and twirl in the air.

Miller asserts that the reason the disciples are prohibited from going to get the items is "presumably because of the urgency and haste of the trip-as indicated in all versions; much of this saying probably would have been standard prophetic hyperbole-perhaps indicated by the strong 'take nothing' in some of the passages-since most of them would have already had walking sticks." According to Miller, Matthew says that Jesus told the disciples not to prepare for the journey by acquiring money, or bread, or a second tunic, or sandals, or a staff because of the urgency of the trip: "In Matthew, Jesus tells them not to '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."

Miller doesn't let the context of the verses stand in his way. He doesn't seem to notice that the context of the verses, especially Matthew, strongly suggests that the reason Jesus orders the disciples to take nothing is because God will provide. Miller gives no textual support for either presumption, that the urgency of the journey is the reason Jesus forbids the disciples to take time for even minimal preparations, and that the disciples have their walking sticks at hand and Jesus knows this.

Neither does lack of any specific saying that "God will provide" stand in the way of putting that presumption into the text. God will provide? No -- God is not listed as provider here; the people they meet along the way will be (Matt. 10:11; Luke 9:4; Mark 6:10). Ancient practice of hospitality covered their needs, a concept especially prominent in Judaism (Keener, 319, the Jews "particularly stressed this virtue"). The adding in of God is an invention. As for the urgency: "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" -- clearly tied to the pericope in Matthew, and clearly in evidence throughout the Synoptic Gospels. From the perspective of Jesus: It's a mission for the sake of eternity and for the good of others.

Can ktaomai and airO have the meanings Miller attributes to them? Yes...[But] Miller's claim, that in Matthew Jesus is telling the disciples not to get the items, could certainly be considered correct, but forbidding the disciples from getting the items has the effect of telling the disciples not to take the items with them. In this context, take seems to be a perfectly reasonable choice for the translation.

How "forbidding getting the items" has "the effect" stated is not explained. As Miller notes, "most of them would have already had walking sticks." You can't "get" what you already "have" with you. You can't "get" the shirt you are wearing, or the object you are carrying or that is in your possession. Note that Mark also allows footwear, which they also would have had with them already, while Matthew also forbids it.

So Miller says that Mark has Jesus telling the disciples to pick up and carry their staffs, (which they must already have, says Miller, because Jesus forbids them to go get staffs

Not "because" anything of the sort. Miller does not make any such cause and effect statement, to the effect, "they must have one, because Jesus forbids them to go get them". That they have one already (and footwear) is a contextual given for any traveling party or person in this era making it on their own two feet.

, but not to pick up and carry bread, a sack, or money, (which, presumably, they could pick up and carry if they were at hand since they are permitted to pick up the staffs because they are at hand).

Money, a bag for it (and for begging as well), and bread were the staples of a long journey, whereas the staff was an all-purpose item [Keener, 317]. You could always need protection on the way from robbers or animals, but food and provision for a shorter journey (one that didn't take you far afield of cities or habitations, as would be the case for the Galileean mission) could be picked up along the way via hospitality -- the nice folks can't protect you from snakes or robbers by giving you bread and money; they also couldn't protect your feet for you, and neither sandals nor staves were the sort of items you could count on people to give to you free.

That brings us to Luke 9:3 and its use of airO. This is where Miller argues that airO doesn't mean airO.

No, he argues that because of Luke's different word usage, he has to select another and depend on the nuances inherent in the word for reader understanding, and airo has a broad range of meaning that needs to be determined by more than a simple word comparison. To say "doesn't mean" is an oversimplification.

According to Miller, in Mark 6:8-9, airO means "to pick up and carry," but in Luke 9:3, airO means something else; it means the same as "ktaomai" in Matthew 10:9-10, i.e., airO means "to acquire" in the sense of to hunt for and obtain. No such meaning is given for airO in L&S, but Miller cites Luke17:31 to support his argument. (More on this later.)

So when you "acquire" something you don't look for it and get it? The action is implicit in the meaning and in the context of the object. Yes, more on Luke 17:31 later. Note also that what you acquire, you don't necessarily pick up and carry (land, wisdom, etc.); but what you pick up and carry, you always acquire.

If Luke's audience would be misled if Luke had used ktaomai to mean "to acquire" in the sense of to hunt for and obtain because he uses it elsewhere to mean "to acquire" in a financial sense, wouldn't his audience also be misled by his use of the verb airO to mean "to acquire" (in the nonfinancial sense) when he uses it elsewhere to mean "to pick up and carry"?

No, because airo clearly has broader connotations (one "acquires" what one picks up and carries) not tied as ktoamai was in Luke to the process of purchase (one does not always "purchase" what one picks up or acquires).

Miller writes a lot about why Luke couldn't use ktaomai and says that Luke couldn't mean airO in the same sense as Mark because elsewhere he, Luke, uses bastazO to mean carry. In other words, Mark's airO = Luke's bastazO." However, he goes on to list four instances where Luke uses airO in the sense of "to pick up and carry," but he dismisses these because they are all passages that appear in all three synoptics. It seems that Luke just didn't have much flexibility in changing the wording in these shared passages.

Miller showed that these are passages from the Triple Tradition -- tradition representing a "shared source-stock", tradition more fixed in the church tradition, leaving less maneuvering room to make changes that audiences would find unfamiliar. Not that the opponent explains why this isn't adequate to show why Luke kept the verbiage as close as possible to what he received.

What other evidence does Miller provide to support his assertion that airO means "to acquire" in Luke 9:3? He cites Luke17:31: "On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them…." But Mark13:16 uses airO in the exact same sense as Luke17:31: "And a person in a field must not return to get his cloak…." How do we know that Mark 6:8-9 doesn't use airO in the same sense as Luke17:31? Miller gives no explanation for this, even though he mentions the verse. He want to eat his cake and have it, too.

Of course it has been amply explained how we know the meaning is not the same; this is merely a word comparison devoid of context -- textual and social context alike. At best this now proves that Mark also recognizes a broader usage of airo, and you need to do more than say, "Here's an airo, there's an airo, they have to mean the same exact thing" to do the job. Ironically enough this has parallels to a trip I took to Wycliffe Bible Translators, where a display showed how a certain Central American language had over 20 words for carrying things -- depending on whether you carried ON your shoulder, OVER your shoulder, carried by your fingertips, carried something held vertically, or in the palms of your hands, etc. 2000 years from now some wag who speaks this language will look at our English word "carry" and have some argument with some other fellow about how when he says "carry" covers all these different meanings in their language when found in different passages, the other guy is "clearly" claiming that "X does not mean X" and that different nuances in meaning are all "in his mind" and just a way of him trying to "resolve the contradiction."

-JPH