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John 20:3-8:

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

Why did John choose to mention three times that he beat Peter to the tomb?

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A possible answer is the contested authorship of the ending of John which I briefly addressed in my answer to this question hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/854/367 There's significant discussion regarding the ending of John and how disjointed it seems (specifically, chapter 20). This has led some to hypothesize that John's gospel has been edited a few times. These could be insertions from the Johannine community revising an original document. – swasheck May 2 '12 at 21:36
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So John was the faster runner, but Peter was the stronger swimmer. I'll bet James would have been a better cyclist if only it had been invented. – Jon Ericson May 2 '12 at 22:36
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I'd always heard this was one way John was able to make it clear he was talking about himself without using his own name, like "the apostle Jesus loved," etc. – Thomas Shields May 4 '12 at 3:40
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The issue that John is addressing is that no one went into the tomb unaccompanied. John arrived first, but did not go in. His testimony is that he did not disturb anything before Peter got there.

"...who was behind him" does not emphasize that John was first but that Peter, and not another, was second.

The final reference simply clarified which "other disciple" is being referred to.He is just saying that he one who arrived first followed Peter in, and not another disciple that perhaps arrived third.

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Peter was more senior to John and he had to follow protocol by allowing his leader to bear the first witness

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