Peter's First Denial


The Gospel of John appears to indicate that Peter's first denial of Jesus occurred while He was on trial before Annas, whereas the other Gospels seem to say it occurred during His trial before Caiaphas. How do we resolve this? One answer I've heard is that Peter actually denied Christ six times, each set of three denials being terminated by a crowing rooster. This explanation seems like a bit of a stretch, though it does mesh interestingly with Mark's quotation of Jesus, "Truly I say to you, that you yourself this very night, before a cock crows twice, shall three times deny Me." Does the Greek grammar allow us to relocate the comma, i.e. ". . . before a cock crows, twice shall three times deny Me." ?


No, the Greek grammar doesn't allow for that reading, at least not in Mark 14:30. A woodenly literal word-for-word rendering would be "before twice the rooster crows, thrice you will deny me." The "twice" and "thrice" are clearly in different clauses in the Greek, and modify different actions. Mark 14:72 is worded more vaguely, but it should be interpreted consistently with verse 30, which is not vague.

Actually, the text of John 18:13ff. is not entirely clear. It may be that verse 13 and verses 19ff. describe two distinct events. Annas had actually been deposed by the Romans, but he was still known by the title  "high priest." It is possible, however, that verses 19ff. describe a subsequent event before Caiaphas.

Also, according to Matthew 26:57,59, the scribes and elders (the "whole Council") were gathered with Caiaphas, and it would seem reasonable to think that Annas was among them. The hearing may have been before both Annas and Caiaphas.

Also note that according to John, John himself (the "other disciple") gained admittance to the proceedings before Peter did, and John's gospel is the one that mentions Annas in addition to Caiaphas. Matthew mentions only Caiaphas. Perhaps Jesus was first brought before Annas, and John alone witnessed this. Later, Peter gained admittance through John, so that both were in the area when Jesus was interviewed by Caiaphas, the official high priest.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.