While such questions have stumped few students, they have baffled some of the most credentialed scholars of our era—the famed author Dr. Bart Ehrman among them. In Jesus, Interrupted he expresses his bewilderment: “In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times ‘before the cock crows twice.’ In Matthew’s Gospel he tells him that it will be ‘before the cock crows.’ Well, which is it—before the cock crows once or twice?’”

First, it should be noted that the problem here is fundamentalism—fundamentalism from the left, but fundamentalism nonetheless. In recounting past events or telling stories, we obviously don’t all highlight the same details. In the case at hand, Mark simply provided a bit more detail than did Matthew.

Furthermore, as his more attentive readers have likely discovered, Professor Ehrman is obsessing over what in reality is a nonissue. Careful observation reveals that Matthew did not comment how many times the rooster crowed. Matthew simply told us that the rooster crowed.

Finally, whether he means to or not, Ehrman puts the biblical authors in a no-win situation. If Matthew and Mark fail to provide identical testimonies, he supposes the accounts to be contradictory. Conversely, if the gospel writers provide identical testimonies, he uncharitably charges them with collusion.

In sharp contrast to the methodology of Ehrmanites, erudite scholarship seeks a reliable core set of facts in order to validate historical accounts. Far from seeking word-for-word uniformity, they expect the biblical authors to provide complementary perspectives. Divine inspiration never supposes biblical authors to be automatons devoid of individual personality or perspective but rather people who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

In part adapted from Has God Spoken?

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:

‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”

Matthew 26:31–34 NKLV

For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff Has God Spoken? Memorable Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).

***Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming in Fall 2023. When available for pre-order we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***