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Answering The Atheist
July 2, 2006 / Volume 6, Issue 27

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
To whom did Peter deny knowing Jesus? Matthew records a servant girl, another girl, and then a crowd of people. Mark records a servant girl, the same girl again, and then a crowd of people. Luke records a servant girl, a man, and then another man. John records a girl at the door, several anonymous persons, and one of the high priest's servants. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Let us look at each accusation in succession.

Accuser # 1:

  • Matthew simply says "a servant girl" accused him (Mt 26:69).
  • Mark speaks of "one of the servant girls of the high priest" (Mk 14:66).
  • Luke tells us "a certain servant girl" (Lk 22:56), and
  • John identifies her as "the servant girl who kept the door" (Jn 18:17)
There is no contradiction with regard to the first accuser.

Accuser # 2:
  • Matthew tells us it was "another girl" (Mt 26:71).
  • Mark reveals "the servant girl saw him again" (Mk 14:69).
  • Luke simply says "another saw him", to which Peter answered, "Man, I am not" (Lk 22:58), and
  • John uses the word "they", indicating a crowd of individuals (Jn 18:25)
Do these 4 accounts disagree? Hardly. From the first accusation, and Peter's response to it (Mt 26:69-70) and this second accusation (Mk 14:69; Jn 18:25), it is obvious that there was a crowd of people present. Though the first accusation seems to have solely come from a servant girl, it appears that this second accusation was levied by several people, including:
(1) another servant girl (Matthew);
(2) the same servant girl (Mark);
(3) a seemingly boisterous man, whom Peter specifically responded to (Luke); and
(4) others (John).

There is no contradiction with regard to the second accuser(s).

Accuser # 3:
  • Matthew speaks of a crowd of people, with the word "those" (Mt 26:73).
  • Mark also speaks of a crowd, with the word "those" (Mk 14:70).
  • Luke says "another confidently affirmed" that he was a disciple of Jesus (Lk 22:59), and
  • John tells of a servant of the high priest who was relative to Malchus (Jn 18:26)
Like the second accusation, there was a crowd of people, but two in particular are mentioned, perhaps because they spoke against Peter louder than the others, a servant of the high priest (perhaps the same servant girl who had already spoken against him), and another, mentioned by Luke. There is no contradiction with regard to the third accuser(s).

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible