All four gospels record that Jesus predicted that Peter would deny knowing him. This is Luke 22:34:
Mark's version of the prediction is unique: it predicts that Peter will deny Jesus before the rooster crows twice. This is Mark 14:30:
These two passages on their own are not really contradictory. That the rooster will crow twice seems like a minor detail. However, a contradiction with Luke comes later, when Mark writes that the rooster first crowed after Peter had denied Jesus just once. This is Mark 14:66-68:
Peter then goes on to make two more denials (Mark 14:69-72) and then the rooster crows for the second time. While this is perfectly in harmony with the prediction Mark himself recorded, it seems to contradict the prediction as recorded by Luke, that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed at all.
One solution is to say that the words "and the rooster crowed" were not present in the original version of Mark 14:68. According to the NET Bible's notes, a number of significant early manuscripts lack these words. However (as is also noted by the NET Bible) this explanation runs into trouble with Mark 14:72:
The NET Bible says this verse "is much more textually secure". Since we are here told that the rooster crowed a second time, it seems highly likely that there should be a prior verse which tells of it crowing the first time. Presumably, Mark 14:68 is that verse.
The Apologetics Press has what might be the best explanation (though it still seems a bit of a stretch):
In the first century, roosters were accustomed to crowing at least twice during the night. The first crowing (which only Mark mentioned - 14:68) usually occurred between twelve and one o'clock. Relatively few people ever heard or acknowledged this crowing (Fausset's Bible Dictionary). Likely, Peter never heard it; else surely his slumbering conscience would have awakened.
In other words, Mark conscientiously pays attention to the first crowing, but the other gospel writers simply ignore it, because it is not what the man-in-the-street would consider "the rooster crowing". Thus, what Mark calls the second crowing, the other writers call the first crowing. Mark is more technically correct, but the other writers are more in line with common usage. The problem thus disappears.
Obviously, the gospel writers differ on precisely what Jesus said, but that's well within what inerrancy allows, since they are reporting the spirit of his words rather than his exact wording.
Back to errancy.org main index