Contradictions – Rooster-Crowing

The next alleged contradiction in Scripture has to do with the number of times the rooster crows on the night of Jesus’ betrayal.  The alleged contradiction has to do with the Last Supper, when Peter asserts that he would follow Jesus even to death and Jesus tells him that he will deny him this very night.  In Mark’s gospel (14:30), Jesus specifies that Peter will deny Jesus before the rooster crows twice.  Matthew 26:34 doesn’t specify a number of crows.  Luke 22:34 says that before the rooster crows at all, Peter will deny him three times.  John 13:38 agrees with Luke.

This sounds like a pretty obvious contradiction at surface level.  But must it be so?  No.

We note that Mark’s account of that night includes the first crowing of a rooster (14:68).  Strange that this apparently has no impact on Peter.  We aren’t told that Peter considers this first crowing, or even notices it (at the time).  We remember that Mark is recounting Peter’s words on this subject, so if Peter had taken any note of this first rooster crowing at the time, it is reasonable he would have said so and Mark would have noted it.  He only realized it afterwards, after the full import of Jesus’ prophecy and his own fear convicted him.

According to various sources (Fausett’s Bible Dictionary, etc.) roosters in the first century in Jerusalem were known to crow twice in the night – once shortly after midnight, and then again, more strongly and pronounced, just before dawn, around 3am.  It was this second crowing that people were most cognizant of, because it was the louder, the more pronounced one, the one which acted as an alarm clock.

It is entirely reasonable then, to think that Matthew, Luke, and John remember Jesus’ words relevant to the final crowing of the rooster – the only crowing that people paid any attention to.  It was prior to this crowing that Peter would deny his Lord three times.  However Peter, the guilty party, remembered it more specifically, that Jesus had specified not just the main crowing, but was detailed enough to say the second crowing.  The first crowing would be overlooked by everyone, even Peter, even though Jesus had given him specific warning, a means of being reminded by the first crowing!

One person summarized it this way:  If you’re going to a basketball game with a group but  you’re sitting in different areas, you’ll make an arrangement on where to meet after the buzzer.  What is meant by this is the final buzzer.  Most everyone in the group will know this, and it isn’t necessary to elaborate.  A friend unfamiliar with the game and the use of buzzers might think that you’re supposed to get up and leave after the first quarter buzzer, but then it could be further explained to them that only the final buzzer is the one that really matters.

So the issue of the rooster crowing doesn’t have to be contradictory.  Peter is more specific, as we would expect the person directly involved in the situation to be.  Jesus is referring to the final crowing, the second crowing of the rooster.  All of the disciples would have understood this, but Peter is the one who supplies the most detailed account of it.




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