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The chronology of John's Gospel often seems a bit difficult to follow. In the sixth chapter, Peter makes this declaration:

John 6:69: "We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God" (emphasis added).

This, in contrast to that of Matthew's Gospel:

Matthew 16:16-17: "Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' 17And Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'" (emphasis added).

Are these two entirely separate instances? Or, might John 6:69 be chronologically similar to Peter's confession in Matthew 16:16?

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Same Confession, different context

This is one of the cases where John differs most from the Synoptics which, in spite of their differences (Matt 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-22), have these elements in common (which we don't find in John):

  • The location (Caesarea Philippi), not mentioned by Luke, though;
  • Jesus' question on peoples' opinion, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is [I am]?”
  • The answer of the disciples (John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah one of the prophets - and variants thereof)
  • Jesus' question on the disciples' opinion (“But who do you say that I am?”)
  • Peter's answer on behalf of the twelve (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” - with variants in Mark and Luke)
  • Jesus' approval of Peter (only in Matthew)
  • The much disputed sentence of Jesus, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, etc." - only in Matthew
  • Jesus' warning to keep secrecy
  • Jesus prediction of his suffering, rejection, killing and resurrection (only Luke)

The core of Peter's confession in John is this verse:

We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!” (John 6:69)

It is worth reproducing here the footnotes appended by NET Bible at the end of the verse:

3tc The witnesses display a bewildering array of variants here. Instead of “the Holy One of God” (ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ, ho hagios tou theou, Tertullian has ὁ Χριστός (ho Christos, “the Christ”); C3 Θ* Ë1 33 565 lat read ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ (ho Christos ho uios tou theou, “the Christ, the Son of God”); two versional witnesses (b syc) have ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ (“the Son of God”); the Byzantine text as well as many others (Ψ 0250 Ë13 33 Ï) read ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος (ho Christos ho uios tou theou ho zontos, “the Christ, the Son of the living God”); and Ì66 as well as a few versions have ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ (“the Christ, the Holy One of God”). The reading ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ is, however, well supported by Ì75 א B C* D L W as well as versional witnesses. It appears that Peter’s confession in the Synoptic Gospels (especially Matt 16:16) supplied the motivation for the variations. Although the witnesses in Matt 16:16; Mark 8:29; and Luke 9:20 vary considerably, the readings are all intra-synoptic, that is, they do not pull in “the Holy One of God” but reflect various permutations of “Christ”/“Christ of God”/“Christ, the Son of God”/“Christ, the Son of the living God.” The wording “the Holy One of God” (without “Christ”) in important witnesses here is thus unique among Peter’s confessions, and best explains the rise of the other readings.

sn You have the words of eternal life…you are the Holy One of God! In contrast to the response of some of his disciples, here is the response of the twelve, whom Jesus then questioned concerning their loyalty to him. This was the big test, and the twelve, with Peter as spokesman, passed with flying colors. The confession here differs considerably from the synoptic accounts (Matt 16:16, Mark 8:29, and Luke 9:20) and concerns directly the disciples’ personal loyalty to Jesus, in contrast to those other disciples who had deserted him (John 6:66).

Conclusion

In spite of the absence of many of the elements that are present in the Synoptics, the one we find in John 6:69 is essentially the same confession of Peter's that we find in Matthew.

The expression "the Holy One of God", far from being unique to the Gospel of John, is even used by Peter, speaking of Jesus, in Acts:

But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a man who was a murderer be released to you. (Acts 3:14)

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Your question is best answered by consulting a Gospel Harmony. I consulted four of them, but the result is rather different.

Resources used

  1. Two are based on the work started by John A. Broadus culminating in his own Harmony of the Gospels published in 1893, and thus offer similar chronologies.

  2. The Four-Fold Gospel (1914) by J.W. McGarvey, LL.D. and Philip Y. Pendleton, A.B.

  3. Synopsis of the Four Gospels by Kurt Aland (2009).

  4. NET Bible Synopsis of the Four Gospels (2009) by Gregory White (ed.) synthesized Kurt Aland's harmony + Eusebian Canons + NET Bible texts into a table format in neatly typeset pages. He also added maps and various lists in the Appendix.

What the resources say about the 2 pericopes

  1. In the harmonies based on Broadus's work, John 6:69 appears in a separate, earlier event toward the beginning of Jesus's ministry in Part VIII: The Special Training of the Twelve in Districts around Galilee.
  2. In McGarvey's harmony, John 6:69 also appears in a separate, earlier event, but toward the latter end of Jesus's ministry:
    • John 6:22-71 is at the end of Part 5 (From Second Passover until Third) Chapter 64 (Discourse on Spiritual Food and True Discipleship. Peter's Confession)
    • Matt 16:13-20 is in Part 6 (From the Third Passover until Our Lord's Arrival at Bethany) Chapter 70 (Third Withdrawal from Herod's Territory)
  3. In Kurt Aland's harmony, both pericopes are in the same entry: # 158 (Peter's Confession).

Outline from Broadus's harmony

To give you a sense on where the 2 events occur in the Broadus's harmony, please see the following outline with your 2 events bolded:

  • Part I: The Sources of the Gospels

  • Part II: The Pre-existent State of Christ and His Incarnation

  • Part III: The Two Genealogies in Matthew and Luke

  • Part IV: The Birth and Childhood of the Baptist and of Jesus

  • Part V: The Beginning of the Baptist's Ministry

  • Part VI: The Beginning of Christ's Public Ministry

  • Part VII: The Great Galilean Ministry

  • Part VIII: The Special Training of the Twelve in Districts around Galilee

    § Title Matt Mark Luke John
    72 Feeding 5,000 14:13-21 6:30-44 9:10-17 6:1-13
    73 Jesus Sends the Disciples On 14:22-23 6:45-46 6:14-15
    74 Walking on the Water 14:24-33 6:47-52 6:16-21
    75 Miraculous Healings 14:34-36 6:53-56
    76 The Bread of Life 6:22-71
    77 The Tradition of the Elders 15:1-20 7:1-23 7:1
    78 A Gentile Mother's Faith 15:21-28 7:24-30
    79 Jesus Does Everything Well; Feeds 4,000 15:29-38 7:31-8:9
    80 The Sign of Jonah 15:39-16:4 8:10-12
    81 The Yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees 16:5-12 8:13-26
    82 Peter's Confession of the Messiah 16:13-20 8:27-30 9:18-21
    83 Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection 16:21-26 8:31-37 9:22-25
    84 Public Commitment to the Son of Man 16:27-28 8:34-9:1
    85 The Transfiguration 17:1-8 9:2-8 9:28-36a
    86 The Disciples' Puzzlement Concerning
    Elijah and the Resurrection
    17:9-13 9:9-13 9:36b
    87 The Power of Faith over a Demon 17:14-21 9:14-29 9:37-43a
    88 Jesus' Second Prediction of His Death 17:22-23 9:30-32 9:43b-45
    89 Paying the Temple Tax 17:23-27
    90 Who Is the Greatest 18:1-5 9:33-37 9:46-48
    91 Warnings from Jesus 18:6-14 9:38-50 9:49-50
    92 Restoration and Forgiveness 18:15-35
    93 Following Jesus 8:18-22 9:57-62
    94 The Unbelief of Jesus' Brothers 7:2-9
    95 The Journey to Jerusalem 9:51-56 7:10
  • Part IX: The Later Judean Ministry

  • Part X: The Later Perean Ministry

  • Part XI: The Last Public Ministry in Jerusalem

  • Part XII: In the Shadow with Jesus

  • Part XIII: The Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, and Burial of Jesus

  • Part XIV: The Resurrection, Appearances, and Ascension of Christ

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  • +1 for referring the the Harmonies. Interestingly, Matthew's "Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" in Mark is "Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”" and in Luke is "Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”" Jun 16 at 4:22
  • @GratefulDisciple Thank you! My congregation is just now beginning a study in John, and I've often been puzzled by the chronology relative to the other Gospels (as my recent questions probably suggest). Many thanks also for the references. +1.
    – Xeno
    Jun 16 at 4:27
  • 1
    I added 2 more resources. Hope it helps. Jun 16 at 4:32
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather Yes, unfortunately I haven't been able to obtain any introduction / preface / essays by Kurt Aland, or even 3rd party explanation of his synopsis yet. Jun 16 at 4:59
  • 1
    @Xeno For what it's worth, here's another harmony by Rick Aschmann similar to Pendelton's one. He has notes and updates it as late as 2020. Personally, I believe although the chronological backbone of each gospel is largely true, each evangelist shapes the narrative and the words in the dialog to suit a particular theological angle rather than prioritizing a precise news-article style chronicle. Plus why does Peter's confession should happen only in 1 or 2 events? As John 21:25 implied, there could have been more. Jun 16 at 14:45

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