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Arrest of Jesus & Denial of Peter: Contradictions in the Gospel Accounts


Judas Kisses, Betrays Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Judas Kisses, Betrays Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Why Was Jesus Arrested?:

It was crucial for Jesus to be arrested and taken before the authorities, otherwise he would never have been executed, and that’s that whole point of the Passion narrative. For the purposes of the story, it was also important that Peter deny Jesus in order to show Christians that even as important a figure as Peter could be weak and do the wrong thing. Unfortunately, the gospel accounts are not at all consistent in how they portray these events.

Disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane:

While Jesus waited in the Garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed, his disciples failed to show their faith - but how often?

Mark 14:37-41, Matthew 26:40-45 - Jesus’ disciples fall asleep three times
Luke 22:45 - Jesus’ disciples fall asleep just one time
John doesn’t mention this at all

Judas Betrays Jesus:

A key event in the passion of Jesus is his betrayal by Judas, one of his disciples. But how does it happen?

Mark 14:44-46, Matthew 26:49-50 - Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss, then Jesus is taken prisoner
Luke 22:47-48 - Judas’ kiss is anticipated by Jesus and it’s not mentioned if the kiss occurs
John 18:2-9 - Judas doesn’t have to betray Jesus, who voluntarily identifies himself. Again, no kiss is mentioned

A Slave is Harmed:

Was anyone harmed during Jesus’ arrest?

Mark 14:47, Matthew 26:51, John 18:10 - A slave’s ear is cut off and remains cut off
Luke 22:50-51 - Jesus miraculously heals the severed ear

Jesus Gives Advices on Swords:

One of the curious incidents during Jesus’ arrest is his advice on swords and violence.

Matthew 26:52 - Jesus advises his disciple to get rid of swords because those who “live by the sword shall die by it.”
Luke 22:36-38 - Jesus advises his disciples to buy swords
Mark and John don’t mention swords at all

Peter’s First Denial:

Where and how did Peter give his first denial of Jesus?

Mark 14:66-68, Luke 22:56-57, John 18:17 - Peter only denies Jesus to a maid
Matthew 26:69-70 - Peter denies Jesus first to a maid and then to “them all.”

Peter’s Second Denial:

To whom did Peter give his second denial of Jesus?

Mark 14:69-70 - Peter appears to deny Jesus to the same maid
Matthew 26:71-72 - The second time, Peter denies Jesus to a different maid
Luke 22:58 - Peter denies Jesus to some unidentified man
John 18:25 - Peter denies Jesus to a an unidentified group described as “they.”

Peter’s Third Denial:

To whom did Peter deny Jesus on the third time?

Mark 14:70-71, Matthew 26:73-74 - Peter denies Jesus to a group of unidentified people
Luke 22:59-60 - Peter denies Jesus to a single, unidentified man
John 18:26-27 - Peter denies Jesus to a single, unidentified servant

For Whom Does the Cock Crow?:

Some gospels relate that the cock crowed after Peter denied Jesus, but how often?

Mark 14:72 - The cock crowed twice
Matthew 26:74 - The cock crowed once
Luke and John don’t mention a cock crowing at all

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