Is it 70 or 72 Disciples in Luke 10:1

By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©1999
Some translations of Luke 10:1 say “70 disciples,” while others say “72 disciples.” Which is correct? Rev. Harris attempts to answer this seeming contradiction.

In Luke 10:1 some versions say “72 disciples,” while others say “70 disciples.” Which is right?

Question:

“The preacher was speaking on Luke 10:1, and read from the New Interna­tional Version (NIV) that Jesus sent forth 72 disciples, and I was in the pew with my King James Version (KJV) and it read that Jesus sent forth 70 disciples. How do you reconcile the two?”

Answer:

The questioner stated that he had asked many preachers this question but had not received any direct answers. I’m not sure that I can do much better, but let me share my research to this point.

The King James, New King James, and the New American Standard Bible read that Jesus “sent forth 70 disciples,” while the New International Version, The Jerusalem Bible, and the New Living Translation reflect that Jesus “sent forth 72 disciples.” Why the differ­ence here?

Looking at Nestle’s Novum Testamentum Graece, we find that the Greek word “hebdomekonta” (coded 1440 in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible) is trans­lated “seventy.” However, immediately following this word is the Greek word “duo” in brackets (duo) translated “two.” Footnotes of several translations indicate that the Greek manuscripts are divided between 70 and 72 as the number sent out and there is no way to be sure of which one is the original. Both represent the number of nations in the world in Genesis 10, with the Hebrew text having 70 names while the Greek text has 72.

As one person stated when I discussed this question with him, it really doesn’t matter the difference between 70 or 72, it’s exciting that Jesus had this many ready to send out to share the good news of the gospel! I would say, AMEN to that!

17 Comments

  1. Dennis on November 30, 2015 at 7:37 am

    I would be inclined to believe that the number would be 70, because of the 70 that went down to Egypt, because of the 70 Sevens in the Book of Revelation and Daniel’s prophecy, etc.

    • Mike on May 3, 2016 at 11:11 am

      70 7’s is not the 72. 72 is the number of nations in the world. That in itself has significance in the way it can be reduced. However, seven is the number of completeness, perfection. How many times are we called to forgive? Be careful not to read into the scriptures and add to them. It is OK not to know everything. Focus on what God is speaking to YOU at that moment. How is the word alive in YOUR reality today. His Word is alive and always doing.

      • KathyH on October 28, 2016 at 5:18 am

        Martins explanation most sense to me. The Hebrew text reads 70 corresponding to the number of nations listed in Genesis 10 of the Hebrew text, while 72 is written in the Greek Text, correlating to the number of nations in Genesis 10 of the Greek Text.

  2. Bob on December 19, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    And he turned him to his disciples, and said privately

    My question was it all 70 or just the orginal 12 that he spoke privately

  3. Andrew on December 20, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    It matters when God’s word is changed. Original scripts read 70 and not 72. N I V is full of distortions and changes to God’s word that needs to be exposed.

    • Mike on May 3, 2016 at 11:02 am

      If you don’t know the significance of the change you would not know which is right and which is wrong and it wouldn’t matter. There are so many translations and translations of translations and explanations of translations that you need to look to what the Holy Spirit is teaching you in what you have and pray for the gift of discernment. King James is not a good translation either … a work of prose done in Shakespearean English.

  4. Nakena on April 4, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Its 70 + 2 the other two have double or extra functions in that they are part of the 12 disciples as well as carrying out the duties of the 70. You see the Lord at the triumphant entry and at the Passover sending two disciples as he would have one of the 70. So its 70 plus John and Peter 72.

  5. Mike on May 3, 2016 at 10:50 am

    The quantity of disciples matters in this instance because 72 had meaning in the Jewish tradition. Numbers had meaning…3, 12, 7, 6 all meant something and are seen throughout the Bible. 72 is the number of nations on Earth for the Jews. Therefore, when Jesus sent out 72 disciples, in essence, He was sending out His people to all the nations of the Earth to let them know that the Kingdom had arrived (in Jesus himself) and to do His works … healing and cleansing. It is important to note then that He is the God of all people and all nations, not just the Jews, and we are called to be His ambassadors. Do not confuse the 72 with the 12. Christ had thousands of followers (see the miracle of the loaves and fish) The 12 were to be the foundation of the new chosen people in the new covenant … the new 12 tribes. Everything in the Old Testament is made better through Christ Jesus.

  6. Mike on May 3, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Scripture is beautiful…every word flrom the mouth of God is alive and has meaning but His message does not require a degree in theology. Genesis has wonderful messages yet I heard 2 Good Christian men debating Creation … was it 7 days, 7000 years … how long would it take, could it take … ??? I finally stopped them and told them to stop trying to contain or fit God into their understanding of the world. The message was clear for both … in the beginning GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. … ’nuff said?

  7. Martin on July 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    The difference could be related to the 70 elders chosen by Moses at Yahweh’s command (Numbers11:16) on whom the spirit of Yahweh was conferred and they left the camp to go to the Tent of Meeting – two remained in the camp (Eldad and Medad) but the spirit was also given to them and they prophesied.

  8. Bruce R Porter Sr on August 3, 2016 at 10:30 am

    For what it is worth, the Peshitta, the direct translation from Aramaic states 70.

  9. MATIAS on November 19, 2016 at 10:08 am

    THE HOLY BIBLE IS THE TRUTH WORD OF GOD. WHOLE PARTS OF THE BIBLE IS TRUTH. BOTH OF THE NUMBERS ARE TRUTH AND EACH ONE THERE IS ONE JUSTIFICATION. JUST LOOK FOR THE JUSTIFICATION .

  10. MATIAS on November 19, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    THE ANSWER OF THIS MYSTERIOUS IS IN BOOK OF THE NUMBERS 11:24-30, SO YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THE BOTH NUMBERS ARE RIGHT. HOW SWEET IS TO BE CHRISTIAN .

    • Jonathan on November 25, 2016 at 5:19 am

      Thank you brother. This is the real answer. I don’t need to look any further now. Love when this happens.

  11. Nida on March 25, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    And, 6 times 12 is 72…so perhaps after sending out the first 12 he sent out 6 more groups of 12…

    • Nida on March 25, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      One thing is for certain, He didn’t just empower the 12, he empowered many other believers as well.

  12. The Truth on May 10, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    Jesus is served by 12 Superior Angels and 72 angels of less rank
    70 is the false # in ALL books

    72 is the only truth in all holy books and ancient texts
    72 dead (will of Abraham)
    72 Sickness (life of adam and eve)
    70 went out and +2 stayed in the camp (Moses)
    Lucas 10 Sent out 72 Apostles

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