2 The Gospel accounts
- Matthew 26:31-35.
Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account
of me, for it is written: `I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'4 But after I
have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
- Mark 14:27-31.
"You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written:
`I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
- Luke 22:34.
- Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."
- John 13:31-38.
When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is
glorified in him. If God is glorified in him,6 God will glorify the
Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
- Matthew 26:69-75.
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to
him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.
- Mark 14:66-72.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the
high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked
closely at him.
- Luke 22:54-62.
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the
high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a
fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat
down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight.
She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him."
- John 18:15-17,25-27.
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this
disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high
priest's courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The
other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the
girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
|Gospel||First denial||Second denial||Third denial|
|Matthew||A servant girl (26:69)||Another girl (26:71)||Some standing people (26:73)|
|Mark||A servant girl (14:66)||The same servant girl (14:69)||Some standing people (14:70)|
|Luke||A servant girl (22:56)||A man (22:58)||Another man (22:59)|
|John||A girl at door (18:17)||Anonymous person(s) (18:25)||High priest's servant (18:26)|
3 Exegetical solutions
3.1 Three-denials solutions
- Two crows in a row.
It is thought that roosters often crow multiple times in a row.
If so, then saying that that rooster crowed twice is simply
additional information about the rooster's
For example, the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM)
puts it this way:14
Mark does not mention when the cock crowed the first time. Therefore, it is possible that after Peter's third denial, the cock then crowed twice; that is, two times in a row. This is logically possible.
- Second crow is the main crow.
- Similar to the first solution, this second explains the discrepancy by considering the second crow to be the "main" crow in signifying the time frame of interest; again, Mark was just furnishing additional detail. In other words, the rooster's second crow is what Matthew, Luke, and John meant when they wrote "crow."15 As in the first approach, the point is that Jesus' reference to a rooster crow (or two) signifies midnight, and all Gospels are consistent about this time frame.
- Different observers, different accounts.
- Yet another solution is to point out that the differences in descriptions among the four Gospels arise from the fact that they were written under different observational vantage points.16 This solution is quite general, and has the advantage of also explaining the differences in people involved in Peter's denials---the four Gospel authors wrote from their own unique perspectives.
- Later manuscripts introduced "twice."
A final solution to the apparent variance in Mark is to posit that Mark's
original manuscript did not include the reference to two crows, and that
this was an erroneous addition introduced into later
manuscripts.17 Indeed, the New
International Version's footnotes corroborate this line of reasoning.
Moreover, the removal of the reference to a first crow in Mark 14:68
(present in the King James Version and other translations)
in later translations18 further
suggests that more recent evidence and scholarship justified this removal.
3.2 Six-denials solutions
- First denial:
- A girl at the door to the courtyard (John 18:17).
- Second denial:
- A servant girl, by the fire in the courtyard (Matthew 26:69, Mark 14:66, Luke 22:56).
- Third denial:
- A man by the fire in the courtyard (Luke 22:58).
- First crow.
- Mark 14:68 (King James Version).
- Fourt denial:
- Another girl, at the gateway (Matthew 26:71) or entryway (Mark 14:68,69).22
- Fifth denial:
- Some anonymous (standing) people by the fire in the courtyard (Matthew 26:73, Mark 14:70, John 18:25).
- Sixth denial:
- Another man who happens to be a male servant of the high priest (Luke 22:59, John 18:26).
- Second crow.
- Matthew 26:74, Mark 14:72, Luke 22:60, John 18:27.
- detailed inerrancy;
- irenic inerrancy;
- partial infallibility; and
- complete infallibility.
"Detailed Inerrantists" claim that a commitment to Scripture's inspiration demands that the original copies of the Bible be considered without error, factual or otherwise. "Irenic Inerrantists" agree that the Bible is without error, but believe Scripture itself must determine according to its intent the scope of that inerrancy. "Complete Infallibilists" reject "inerrancy" as a helpful term for describing the total trustworthiness of the Biblical writers' witness, substituting the word "infallible" in its place. "Partial Infallibilists" believe that the authors' intended message is in error at points, but their witness to the gospel is trustworthy and authoritative.As John Perry points out in a recent article, "the heart of the disagreement, as these categories indicate, is the accuracy of the Bible's account of items not integral to salvation, for even the most liberal of these categories insists on the complete authority of the Bible's presentation of the gospel."26 It is within the mire of this disagreement that we are confronted with an issue like the variance of Mark's account of Peter's denials.
5 Analysis of the solutions
- either the current manuscripts differ from the original manuscripts with
respect to the Gospel accounts of Peter's denials, or
- the three-denials solutions are inadequate.
Edwin Chong is a professor at Colorado State University. He received his MA and PhD from Princeton University.