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Six Denials and Three Rooster Crows
Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." (Matthew 26:34; see also Luke 22:34; John 13:38)
Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." (Mark 14:30)
The above records a total of six denials by Peter and three crows from a rooster.1 Faith in the Word of God reveals this. For assuredly, they both stand true, and Peter heard both statements (Matthew 26:35; Mark 14:31). In Matthew, Luke, and John, each record a set of three denials and one rooster crow. Mark records a set of three denials with two rooster crows. It is obvious (when the accounts are believed) they are not the same event, and the gospels bear witness to that.
I. First Set of Three
In John, Peter's three denials all start with a question (John 18:17; John 18:25; John 18:26), and it records Peter's denial as he responds to the questions (John 18:17; John 18:25; John 18:27). In Matthew and Luke Peter's denials are preceded by various accusatory statements. When these three gospels are compared, it becomes evident there is more to the story than just one simple accusation and one simple denial, even within Matthew, Luke, and John which record the first three denials and first rooster crow.
A. First Denial
In the first denial, in John the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter,
You are not also one of this Man's disciples, are you? (John 18:17)
Evidenced via Matthew, Peter's first denial also included a servant girl saying,
You also were with Jesus of Galilee. (Matthew 26:69)
And Luke records a servant girl saying,
This man was also with Him. (Luke 22:56)
Peter's response to the question was,
I am not. (John 18:17)
Peter's response to the accusation recorded in Matthew 26:69 was,
I do not know what you are saying. (Matthew 26:70)
Peter's response to the accusation recorded in Luke was,
Woman, I do not know Him. (Luke 22:57)
All of this is accounted by Matthew, Luke, and John as, not three denials, but the first denial.
B. Second Denial
John records a second question and says the question was asked while Peter "stood and warmed himself" (John 18:25). This time the question is asked from a "they" (i.e. those who were there).
You are not also one of His disciples, are you? (John 18:25)
another [male]2 saw him and said, "You also are of them." (Luke 22:58)
Matthew records an additional accusation, describes it being at the gateway, and coming from a girl (as opposed to the male of Luke 22:58).
And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth." (Matthew 26:71)
So, in this second denial these three gospels record a question by a group ("they") and two different accusations, one from a male, another from a female.
Peter's response to the question was,
I am not! (John 18:25)
Peter's response to the accusation from the man was,
Man, I am not! (Luke 22:58)
Peter's response to the accusation by the girl was,
I do not know the Man! (Matthew 26:72)
All of this is accounted by Matthew, Luke, and John as, not three more denials, but a second denial.
C. Third Denial
Finally, John records a third question from "One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off."
Did I not see you in the garden with Him? (John 18:26)
those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." (Matthew 26:73)
Luke records someone "confidently affirmed,"
Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean. (Luke 22:59)
Now, no specific answer is given in John for Peter's response to the question, except that it is noted that Peter "denied again" (John 18:27).
In Matthew, to "those who stood by" Peter "began to curse and swear," saying,
I do not know the Man! (Matthew 26:74)
Luke records Peter's response to the one accusation as,
Man, I do not know what you are saying! (Luke 22:60)
All of them record a rooster crowed immediately. So, it is evident by this that it happened very fast. Luke adds, "while he was still speaking" (Luke 22:60).
Finally, again, all of this is accounted by Matthew, Luke, and John not as three denials, but a third denial.
II. Compared to Mark
So, we see in Matthew, Luke, and John three somewhat involved denials before a rooster sounds.3 In Mark it is not that way. There is a rooster crow right away.
Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth." But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are saying." And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. (Mark 14:66-68)
Here, after the first recorded denial in Mark a rooster crows.4 Moreover, as already noted, Mark records Jesus telling Peter, "before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." In keeping with this prediction, Mark records the two rooster noise making occasions. Once after the first denial, and then the second after the third denial in Mark.
It says immediately after the last denial in Mark, "a second time, the rooster crowed" (Mark 14:72). Then it explicitly records what Peter remembered,
that Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." (Mark 14:72)
This is entirely different than what is found in Matthew and Luke, for in them,
Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." (Matthew 26:75; see also Luke 22:61)
What Peter remembers Jesus saying are two different things, and the gospels record two different things. Matthew, Luke, and John record Peter denying the Lord three times before a rooster crows. Mark records Peter denying the Lord once, and a rooster crows, and then a rooster crows "a second time" after he denies him two more times.
In Matthew and Luke (the first set of three denials) it explicitly states Peter remembering these exact words of Christ, and it is for this reason it says,
So he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75; see also Luke 22:62)
Why did Peter go out and weep bitterly? Because Jesus had said,
the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. (John 13:38)
It is evident then, because the account in the gospel of Mark is also true, that Peter came back in around and near the ungodly (after having gone out and wept). Mark records Peter warming himself "in the courtyard" at Mark's first recorded denial (Mark 14:66-67). So, Peter comes back in where he gets confronted again three more times. He denies the Lord three more times (for a total of six), and then again, after denying the Lord for the sixth time (third time recorded in Mark), Peter remembers these explicit words of Christ:
Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times. (Mark 14:72)
And it says,
when he thought about it, . . . . (Mark 14:72)
What did he think about? Two rooster crows and three denials. What did he think about (remember) before this? Three denials before any rooster crow ("the rooster shall not crow this day" Luke 22:34). The three denials and two rooster crows recorded in Mark must have come after the three denials and one rooster crow recorded in Matthew, Luke, and John, because the first set mandated not a single rooster crow until three denials. Therefore, Peter's rememberance and meditation on the two events Christ warned him about further reveal a total of six denials and three rooster crows, because what he remembered and thought about were two different predictions and two distinct sets of events.
So, we see in the gospels that Peter denied the Lord three times, and afterward a rooster crows for the first time; and Peter goes out and weeps bitterly about it. Then, he comes back and gets confronted again, denies the Lord again, and a rooster crows. Yet, despite the crow, Peter continues to be where he can be confronted, and he gets confronted and denies the Lord another two times; and a rooster crows again. Then Peter remembers Christ's words,
Before the rooster crows twice,5 you will deny Me three times. (Mark 14:30)
Then Peter weeps once again.
Now, when Peter "called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him,"
when he thought about it, he wept. (Mark 14:72)
After the first three denials and first rooster crow, Matthew and Luke state he "went out" (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62). Mark simply says he wept. It does not declare whether he continued where he was, or left. It is wrong, therefore, to say or indicate he went out after this, or to claim he stayed. It just doesn't say, so neither should we (Proverbs 30:5-6).
1. The crows are not necessarily from the same rooster.
2. The Greek word for "another" in Luke 22:58 is in the masculine form, ετερος (eteros).
3. The word translated "crows" or "crowed" in the gospels is simply the verb to make a "sound" or "noise." It is each time from the Greek word φωνεω (phôneô).
4. That is what is found in most Greek manuscripts (Majority and Received Texts). The Critical Text puts these words in brackets [και αλεκτωρ εφωνησε] (kai alektôr ephônêse) "and the rooster crowed." The NAS leaves them out altogether with a footnote stating, "Later mss. add and a cock crowed." Yet, the NAS does have in Mark 14:72, "a cock crowed a second time," but the NAS doesn't record when the first of the two took place. Nonetheless, even the NAS notes there were indeed two rooster crows in Mark.
The Greek word for "a second time" in Mark 14:72 is δευτερου (deuterou) and it is found also in Matthew 21:30 (RT); 22:26, 39; 26:42; Mark 12:21, 31; Luke 12:38; 19:18; 20:30; John 3:4; 4:54; 9:24 (“again”); 21:16; Acts 7:13; 10:15; 11:9 (“again”); 12:10; 13:33; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 15:47; 2 Corinthians 1:15; 13:2; Titus 3:10; Hebrews 8:7; 9:3, 7, 28; 10:9; 2 Peter 3:1; Jude 5; Revelation 2:11; 4:7; 6:3 (2x); 8:8; 11:14; 14:8; 16:3; 19:3 (“again”); 20:6, 14; 21:8, 19. All translated “second” in NKJV unless otherwise noted.
Moreover, in the rooster crow in Matthew (26:74), Luke (22:60), and John (18:27), the rooster immediately makes a noise. In the first denial in Mark (14:68), Peter denies, then goes outside, and then a rooster makes a noise.
5. “twice” is the Greek word δις (dis) found also only in Mark 14:72 (“twice”); Luke 18:12 (“twice”); Philippians 4:16 (“again” used with απαξ [apax] “once,” more literally, “once and twice” απαξ και δις [apax kai dis]); 1 Thessalonians 2:18 (“again” same as Philippians 4:16); Jude 12 (“twice”); Critical Text Revelation 9:16 (“two”).
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