Saint Mark says that Christ said to Saint Peter at the Mount of Olives,

Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. Mark 14:30b

However, this goes against what Saint Matthew says that Christ said in the same instance:

Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Matthew 26:34

It also goes against what Saint Luke and Saint John say that Christ said (although they are recording different instances in which Christ predicted Peter's denials, as their contexts make clear).

And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. Luke 22:34

Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. John 13:38

The most obvious and popular explanation of this variance is that Saint Matthew edited the words of Christ to make them plainer, as the first cock-crowing was likely a minor crowing, and that Saint Mark's record is accurate. However, this explanation goes against the testimony of the other Gospel authors, and what they record about the actualization of Christ's predictions against Peter.

Is it then possible that Saint Mark was, in fact, the one who doctored Christ's words to fit the fact that the cock did crow twice, although the first crowing was likely minor, and that Saint Matthew's account accurately records what Christ said at the Mount of Olives?

Whatever the explanation may be, it is almost necessary that it involves editing of the words of Christ, since the two quotations are identical with the exception of one word, and are records of the same event.

Thank you.

  • 1
    A full explanation of the differences between the four accounts (the differences are not contradictions) is available here at this link. It is the tenth item and is labelled 'Cock Crowing Question'. The item is too large for me to copy and paste as an answer. Nor do I feel it necessary to do so.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 29, 2018 at 23:48
  • For another take on the denials of Peter in relation to the Gospels, see this answer to another question.
    – ScottS
    Aug 30, 2018 at 0:02
  • For some mysterious reason, this question seems to confuse Gospel writers with tape recorders.
    – Lucian
    Aug 30, 2018 at 10:19

3 Answers 3


The cock's crow was a unit of measure for the beginning of the say in ancient Judea. However, there was dispute as to what constituted the cock's crow, whether it was the first or the second instance, even the third. An example of this can be found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 21a. You can see the also explore that reference here on the note for Matthew 26:34.

We have learnt in accord with R. Shila: If one starts out on a journey before keri'ath ha-geber, his blood comes upon his own head! R. Josiah says: [He should wait] until he has crowed twice, some say: Until he has crowed thrice. What kind of cock? The average type. Babylonian Talmud Sotah 21a

Thus, the difference between accounts is not one of historical difference. All accounts agree that Peter would deny Jesus before the cock's crow. Mark is simply being more specific, that when he refers to the cock's crow, he is utilizing the idea that it is the second crow which counts.


Why would Mark have mentioned the first crowing in vs. 68 if he knew Jesus really said it would only crow once, but wrote 'twice' anyway? This would imply that Mark recorded the first crowing knowing full well it had nothing really to do with what Jesus said to Peter about roosters crowing, but mentioned it for the sake of mentioning it, when he could have as the others not mentioned it at all. It seems then that he was recording what Jesus said when he wrote 'twice', and the others are telescoping the event.

  • The text makes clear that the rooster had crowed twice; it is possible that Mark recorded both crowings in order to emphasize the severity of Peter's denials. A
    – CMK
    Aug 29, 2018 at 20:03

There is no conflict among the four gospels and no need for anyone to edit the text. By stating "before the cock crow" does not mean "only" once, ie, the phrase does not preclude the cock from crowing multiple times. Also, the cock could have crew twice in succession.

  • Either Matthew or Mark did edit what Christ said, since He almost certainly did not say both "Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice" and "Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice" in the same event.
    – CMK
    Aug 30, 2018 at 23:07
  • 1
    I understand how you feel but we must not think of the testimonies of the Apostles as being like someone with a tape recorder transcribing every word the witness uttered. Scripture is full of "differences" but those differences are not conflicts. For example, what color robe did the soldiers put on Christ while they were trying/scourging Him? Was it purple or scarlet? Well, one gospel says scarlet and two say purple, one does not specify color. If you look at all the phrases in Greek, you find the phrases are completely different so you can't make the claim it was the same robe. (continued)
    – alb
    Aug 31, 2018 at 22:14
  • 1
    So, either you conclude the gospels are incorrect or you understand that there were two garments placed on Christ during His mocking ordeal. One was a scarlet military cloak a Roman soldier would wear and one was a purple outer garment (as reported by John) that was “gorgeous” as reported by Luke. Just because one witness adds additional details not specified in the other gospels, does not necessitate a conflict.
    – alb
    Aug 31, 2018 at 22:14
  • I agree with what you've stated, although I am more inclined to think that Christ was mocked twice with the same robe, considering that colors like scarlet and purple were used interchangeably at that time, according to what I've read a while before. But we can say this because the contexts are different. In Matthew and Mark, Christ is at the Mount of Olives saying the same exact thing, save for a single word. The context is exactly the same. This is why I say that either Saint Matthew or Saint Mark must have edited what Christ said, either one omitting or one adding a word.
    – CMK
    Sep 1, 2018 at 0:35
  • Understand. Re: color of robe: scarlet and purple are used together a couple dozens times in the tabernacle. Perfect metaphor don't you think?
    – alb
    Sep 1, 2018 at 13:53

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