AN ATHEISTIC BIBLE READING PETER DENIES KNOWING JESUS THREE TIMES
Peter, the Rock, the future first Catholic Roman Pope, has been warned by Jesus that he will deny knowing or following Jesus three times in the same night, before the cock crows.
With Jesus taken away from Gethsemane by an arrest party, we were told that the Apostles all fled and deserted him to his fate. We are now told that Peter at least followed the arrest party as they took Jesus to face his first trial. This in itself seems quite brave given that Luke describes the arrest team trying to seize a curious young man who was also following them. Peter is risking arrest as an accomplice, or for potentially trying to aid Jesus in an escape attempt.
MARK – With Jesus taken to the palace of the High Priest, Caiphas, Jesus follows as close as he dares, getting into the main courtyard to the palace and warming himself by the fire with the palace guards. His aim seems to be to listen for any news of how Jesus’ trial might be going.
A servant girl from the palace sees Peter, and recognizes him as a supporter of ‘The Nazarene’. Peter denies it. She makes the same claim to the guards, namely that she is sure Peter is a follower of Jesus. Over-hearing her, Peter again denies this emphatically. The guards believe her and recognize Peter’s accent as that of a Galilean. They too accuse him of being a Christ follower, and once more Peter denies the allegation. The cockcrows as it is now dawn. Jesus’ prophesy has come true.
If Peter had admitted being a follower of Jesus, he would have surely ruined his chances of gaining information and possibly also have been arrested. Survival made his lies a necessity. That the guards didn’t seethe triple recognition as evidence that he was laying is less convincing?
MATTHEW – The first servant girl is again the first to claim Jesus is a friend to Jesus, but the second claim is not simply her repeating this, but a second servant girl identifies him as Peter is already leaving the palace, suspecting that his cover is now blown. The guards ask him as they are convinced that the girls can’t be lying and as with mark’s account, due to Peter’s accent. Peter again refuses to stop lying, and leaves as the cockcrows, no wiser as to Jesus’ fate than before but having made a valiant effort. The assertion of cowardice lying behind his denials seems to be most unfair. .
LUKE Peter’s denials are respectively to a servant girl, an un-identified man, and a third figure, also male. As the cock crows, Jesus is seen looking at Peter through a window, to rub in the enormity of the sense of betrayal and sense of ‘told you so’ from the captive Messiah.
JOHN – Peter is not alone in following Jesus as the arrest gang take him away. A second, but un-named disciple goes with him, and he has some influence at the palace. He gets Peter into the outer courtyard, and goes into the palace itself with the arrest party, leaving Peter outside with the guards. The girl who first asks Peter if he is a follower of Jesus is a friend of the second disciple, but she still asks Peter if he worships Jesus, which Peter denies. His denial gets him admission to the second, or inner courtyard to the palace. Whether this question was put to the other man is not clear, nor is that of whether he admitted being a follower of Jesus or not too.
As he warms himself by a fire in the inner courtyard, a guard asks him if he is a friend to Jesus. Peter denies it and then he is recognized by the brother of the man who’s ear he severed in the arrest events. This man claims to have actually seen Peter assault his brother, but Peter denies knowing anything of such an event, and the cock crows to confirm daylight and that the prophesy is fulfilled. Quite how this gullible brother seems willing to be satisfied with this claim is beyond me. He must surely know who Peter is.
Though all four Gospels relate this story, their versions of it conflict so much that it is reduced to nonsense.