The Three Denials of Jesus by Peter
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Introduction
When Jesus was arrested, and taken away to be tried and crucified, Peter followed Him at a distance.

Peter waited in the courtyard outside the place where Jesus was being tried by the Jewish religious leaders.

While Peter waited in the courtyard, the people out there accused him three-times of being a follower of Jesus. Each time, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus, much less was one of His followers.

Those events were recorded by the three men whom God used [respectively] to write the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There are slight differences between the three accounts, which leads some folks to wonder whether or not the Bible contradicts itself.
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In the paragraphs that follow, I will present evidence to show that, despite their minor differences in perspective, the three Gospel accounts are totally in harmony with one another for much the same reasons that...

  • Three TV cameras at different positions will give varied perspectives, even though they are all three recording the same scene in the same studio at one and the same time.
  • Soprano, tenor, and bass singers will sound different, even though they are all three singing the SAME song, from the same sheet of music.
  • In a court, three honest witnesses to an event will agree on the major details. If not, they are surely lying. On the other hand, if every detail is identical, they have almost certainly conspired.
Be a Berean!
This study is in two columns. The right-hand column quotes Bible facts. The left-hand column quotes my INTERPRETATION of those facts.

Acts 17.10-11 most definitely applies!
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17.10-11
Bible-based analysis
Peter's three denials of Jesus all took place in the courtyard of the High Priest.
Peter followed Him [Jesus] at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. Mk 14.54
A number of servants were gathered around a fire in the courtyard of the High priest.

Peter sat down by that fire in order to warm himself.
Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. Mk 14.54
Of the servants gathered around or near the fire, several of them were females. Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. Mk 14.66
First denial
One of the servant girls approached Peter as he sat warming himself by the fire.

For convenience, I will refer to this servant as Servant #1.

Servant #1 accused Peter of being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

In response, Peter denied that he knew Jesus.
Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, "You also were with Jesus of Galilee." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are saying." Mt 26.69-70
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. Mk 14.66-68
And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, "This man was also with Him." But he denied Him, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." Lk 22.56-57
After being accused by Servant #1, Peter moved away from the fire, to the courtyard's gateway. 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." Mt 26.71
At the gateway, Servant #1 saw Peter again. Speaking to nearby servants, Servant #1 repeated the accusation that Peter was a follower of Jesus.

Servant #1 made this accusation to those who stood by the gateway, NOT to Peter.
And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, "This is one of them." Mk 14.69

Second denial
Among the servants near the gateway was a person referred to as "another
girl."

In KJV, NASB, & NKJV, notice that the word "girl" is italicized, denoting that it is NOT present in the Bible manuscripts. Ergo, the gender of this servant is NOT identified.

For convenience, I will refer to this person as Servant #2...

  • Servant #2 agreed with Servant #1's accusation, and repeated it to the other servants. Mt 26.71
  • Servant #2 also confronted Peter with the accusation that he was a follower of Jesus. Lk 22.58a
  • Peter vehemently denied the accusation of Servant #2. Mt 26.72, Mk 14.70a, Lk 22.58b
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." Mt 26.71

But again he denied with an oath, "I do not know the Man!"
Mt 26.72
But he denied it again. Mk 14.70a
And after a little while another saw him and said, "You also are of them." Lk 22.58a

But Peter said, "Man, I am not!"
Lk 22.58b
About one hour later, "another" person repeated the accusation that Peter was with Jesus.

The Bible does not identify who the speaker was.

The fact that the speaker referred to Peter as "this fellow" attests that this particular statement was addressed to other people, NOT to Peter.
Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, "Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean."
Lk 22.59
Third denial
About one hour later a group of servants approached Peter and again confronted him with the accusation that he was a follower of Jesus.

Peter cursed when he denied this accusation. After this -- Peter's third and final denial of his Lord -- the rooster crowed.
A little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. Mt 26.73-74
But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it." Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this Man of whom you speak!" Mk 14.70-71
Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, "Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying!" Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. Lk 22.59-60
Bottom Line
I conclude that there is no contradiction whatsoever. In fact, what is recorded about Peter's three denials is precisely what you should expect from independent and reliable witnesses to a single series of events.

The agreement of the three testifiers on main points shows that they all are reporting the true facts about the same events.

The reconcilable differences in the details between the three accounts proves that the testifiers did not conspire to perpetrate a lie by making their respective testimonies agree in every tiniest detail. Amen
 

Aftermath
Simon Peter denied Jesus three times.

After Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He had breakfast with Peter.

After they had dined together, the Lord very specifically drew Peter back into the fold of His love and salvation.

You have just read about Peter's 3 denials. Now read the *Aftermath*...

  • 3 questions
  • 3 confessions
  • 3 commissions

Read them and understand.

Question 1- So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?"
Confession 1- "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."
Commission 1- "Feed My lambs." John 21.15

Question 2- He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?"
Confession 2- "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."
Commission 2- "Tend My sheep." John 21.16

Question 3- He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?"
Confession 3- Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You."
Commission 3- "Feed My sheep." John 21.17

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