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The Passion Story, Part 5

July 24, 2011
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Now I will try to tackle the rest of the Denial Story with Peter and the Council Story, where Jesus is condemned to death by the Jewish leadership. I’m not sure I will be able to get to all this this morning, but I will try to have it all by tonight (although the time on WordPress doesn’t seem to agree with my United States clock).

First, I’m not sure what to make of John’s account that Jesus was first taken to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Of course, John also says that Jesus was led away to Caiaphas and doesn’t even record any judgment of Jesus by the Jewish council. Therefore, the account of the method of Jesus’s judgment in the Synoptic Gospels is not disputed by John. What matters is the placement of Peter’s denials. Did they take place at the home of the high priest, or did they take place at the home of his father-in-law, or were they split between the two places? The last option seems to be particularly ruled out by implication that all three of Peter’s denials took place in the same courtyard by the same fireplace.

Differences can also be seen in the sequence of three denials. Matthew and Mark contain the same sequence (they are the most similar to each other throughout their accounts of the Passion Story). In those books, the denials go to a servant-girl, another servant-girl, and then the others (probably the group that arrested Jesus) that stood by. In Luke, there is a servant-girl, another—not another servant-girl, but a man this time—and finally, another man.

John starts with a servant-girl, as well, but this one sees him because she is keeping the door, not because she finds him while he is by the fire, as in Matthew. John continues with a “they,” which is probably the same as the “they that stood by” in Matthew and Mark; the third denial goes to a relative of Malchus, the servant whose ear was cut off. You can probably explain some of this by one denial to multiple people, but that will not explain all of it.

The most interesting difference is that Matthew, Luke, and John all agree against Mark that the rooster only crowed once after the third denial, not once during and then a second time after. This poses problems for inerrancy but more importantly for Markan priority, that is, why all the other Gospels would independently disagree with the original. Adding to the difficulty is Matthew and Luke usage of the same adverb, “bitterly” in English, to describe Peter’s weeping for shame after his denials, and the same phrase, “[Went] outside and wept.” (John doesn’t record the any reaction of Peter to a realization that he is fulfilling Jesus’s prediction of Peter’s denial, or even any such realization.)

As you will see, some of the most interesting anomalies for the theories of “Markan priority” and the independence of the other three Gospels are found in the Passion Story.

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