Note that each gospel writer concludes this segment with the statement of the rooster crowing. But it is Mark who records two crowings. We need to investigate the details of this.
All four Gospels record a prophecy about a cock (rooster) crowing at the time of Peter’s third denial. Matthew, Mark, and Luke also record that this sound triggered Peter to remember the prophecy. Matthew, Luke, and John were not being specific about how many times the cock crowed nor did they state nor infer that it was the first time or the only time the cock crowed. It seems they were making the point of significance; that Peter heard a particular cock crowing at the time of his third denial. Thus Christ’s prophecy came to mind. Mark adds a detail not found in the other accounts—that Peter would deny Christ before the cock crowed twice. All four Gospels attest to a cock crowing at the time of Peter’s third denial. Although Mark specifies that this was the second crow, the other three Gospels do not say the crow at the third denial was the only crow.
The first step in dealing with these supposed contradictions is to check the context of the passages. In this case, we find something very interesting. Matthew and Mark place Jesus and His disciples on the Mount of Olives during the giving of this prophecy. Also in these two passages, Jesus stated that all of the disciples would be made to stumble that night. Then Peter spoke up and pledged his allegiance to Jesus. At this point, Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. On the other hand, Luke and John tell us that Jesus was already specifically talking to Peter in the Upper Room before they left for the Mount of Olives.
So is this another point of disagreement among the Gospel writers? Not at all! The best solution to this dilemma is that Jesus told Peter about his coming denials while they were still in the Upper Room. Then when they went out to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told all of the disciples that they would stumble that night. At this point, Peter reiterated his promise to stand by Jesus no matter what the consequences. Jesus once again told Peter that he would deny the Saviour three times “before the rooster crows” Mt 26:34.
We are still left with the supposed differences between Matthew and Mark. Did Jesus say the cock would crow once or twice? Some commentators, such as Dr. John Gill, have appealed to a copyist mistake. Beza’s ancient copy that was given to Cambridge University does not have “twice” in Mk 14:30 nor does the Ethiopic version. Mk 14:72 also mentions that Jesus had said to Peter that the cock would crow twice. The explanation does not lie in a copyist’s error. What is interesting is that Mark heard the original statement by Jesus of the prediction of the Peter’s denial to include two crowings – before the cock crowed twice. For the other gospel writers this was not included as a feature of the prophecy. Is this merely a difference between the way in which the gospel writers “heard” or remembered the original statement by Jesus? For Mark it was important and thus is recorded. The others were possibly thinking of the cock crowing as being a time period rather than the specific number of times the rooster or a number of roosters would crow.
The night was divided into four sections or “watches.” According to Roman practices during the time of Christ, “evening” lasted from about 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M., “midnight” was around 9:00 P.M. until 12:00 A.M., “the crowing of the rooster” continued from about 12:00 A.M. until 3:00 A.M., and “the morning” watch was approximately from 3:00 A.M. to 6:00 A.M.1 The time period of “the crowing of the rooster” lasts for several hours as the rooster crows off and on for several hours in the early morning. So roosters crow periodically during the night. Sometimes, they crow once, and other times, they crow two or three times in a row. Nevertheless the cock crowing can refer to both a specific action of a rooster and a certain time period during the night. Since the third watch of the night was known as the cock crowing, this could include multiple crows.
Furthermore note that all gospel writers place the crow which reminded Peter of the prophecy of Jesus immediately after the third denial. As you can see from the highlighted sections above, all gospel writers record “immediately the rooster crowed”. Luke adds a little more detail. He writes “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.” He adds the element “while he was still speaking”. It is the immediacy of the moment that is focus here. Peter makes his third denial and straight away the cock crows. The number of times the rooster crowed is not in focus here. Once . . . Twice, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that after Peter makes his THIRD denial the rooster crows. That is where the importance lies. Mark uses the “immediately” many times. It doesn’t carry the same weight as when the other writers use it in this case. Added to that is Luke addition of “while he was still speaking”. Little wonder that Peter was grabbed abruptly and definitively. He IMMEDIATELY recalls what Jesus told him and the full importance of his denials strike him.
More tomorrow when I analyze further Peter’s actual denials, not in an attempt to reconcile them with what the other writers say but to see what gems lie within them for our benefit. Before I do that take some time to look at the nature of Peter’s denials and the response of those who challenged him or questioned him about his connection with Jesus. It is very interesting. We will deal with that in the next Gem.
We all make mistakes. The wise admit & learn from them. The insecure deny them. The foolish repeat them. The godly forgive them.Rick Warren
The only place in the universe you find atheists is on earth. God lets you deny him your entire life, but then he’ll deny you.Anon
But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:33)Jesus Christ
Faith Is Not The Denying Of My Circumstances… It Is Acknowledging God’s Truth Concerning Them.Robb Thompson