Peter's Denial


What was Jesus' instruction to Apostles before his arrest?

Jesus was supremely concerned with the safety of apostles, as they were to continue his teachings to all nations. Thus, he wanted the apostles to scatter and not follow him and accept the same fate as Jesus immediately after his arrest. Moreover, in Luke 22, Jesus instructs apostles to take purses and bags to continue the teaching. Thus, here in Mattew 26, Jesus is not scolding that they are deserting, but they will be scattering.

This passage also suggests that the quoted sayings of Jesus was not an eyewitness account of Matthew at the Last Supper for two reasons. First, Matthew was copying the same passage from Mark 14. Had he remembered the sayings of Jesus correctly, his record would have been somewhat different from Mark's account. (Whenever Matthew's record coincides with that of Mark, it indicates that either Matthew was not present or his memory was vague, and preferred to accept Mark's account.)

Second, according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus predicts all his apostles will desert Jesus. But this is not true. All other apostles did scatter that evening, but because Roman law protects at least one friend to accompany the accused, John accompanied Jesus, saw through his trial and was at the scene of crucifixion, together with women followers.

Had Peter followed this instruction, he would not have faced the risk of unwittingly denying Jesus at all.

Luke 22:35 He said to them, "When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "No, not a thing." 36He said to them, "But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag.


Matthew 26:31 Then Jesus said to them, "You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee." 33Peter said to him, "Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you." 34 Jesus said to him, "Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." 35 Peter said to him, "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." And so said all the disciples.

Where did Peter deny Jesus?

Luke (22:54) only says the denial occured at the high priest's house, but does not give the name of the high priest. Mark was the young man who ran off naked, and while Mark states that Peter's denial took place at the Sanhedrin council, this record is not accurate, because he could not possibly have been an eyewitness.

Matthew 26:57 states that Peter followed Jesus to Caiaphas the high priest's house, implying that the denial took place at his residence. Matthew was not an eyewitness to this event either.

John was the only possible eyewitness, and he was known to the staff of the house of Caiaphas. He was with Jesus at the time. Also, it was John who also talked and persuaded the woman gate keeper to admit Peter into the courtyard of Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest.

According to John 18, Jesus was bound and taken to Annas' residence. After he was smitten by a servant of Annas, he was taken to Caiaphas the high priest. Exiting the house, John observes Peter who was standing and warming himself denying Jesus once again.


John 18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not."

What happened at Caiaphas' house?

Sanhedrists (elders and scribes) were gathered there early in the morning. John (18:28) only records that Jesus was at Caiaphas' residence, but does not elaborate because other Gospels did a reasonably good job describing the court proceeding.

As Jesus was silent to all charges, Caiaphas asks whether Jesus is the Son of God. When he hears an affirmative answer from Jesus, Caiaphas rends his garment, claiming Jesus blasphemed. The meeting adjourns in chaos, and Sanhedrists spit, smite and slap Jesus. The time would have been about four in the morning.

Matthew 26:64 Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your verdict?" They answered, "He deserves death." 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him.

Was the Council meeting over and was Jesus taken to Pilate right away?

No. First, Jesus was abused by the guards who blindfolded him, and there was a second meeting in the morning.

There is not a strong evidence that a second meeting took place in the Gospels. But according to the Jewish custom at the time, there shoud be two meetings on death sentence in order to assure prudence on their part. This second meeting of Sanhedrin appears to have taken at the daybreak, say at about 5 or 5:30 a.m. on a certain day in April. Especially, Mark makes it clear that there was a meeting at daybreak and he also records an earlier meeting of Sanhedrists in which Jesus was charged of blasphemy. So, there were two distinct meetings, the purpose of the latter being the official charge against Jesus, rather than a "blasphemy."

Luke 22:63 Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; 64 they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" 65They kept heaping many other insults on him.

66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council.

Mattew 27:27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death.

Mark 15:15 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council.


Washington National Gallery

"Christ Before Anne and Peter's Denial", wood panel, 1308-1311, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena. (about 1 am, Friday morning, in the courtyard of Annas). This is another painting of Duccio di Buoninsegna which illustrates Peter's predicament.

There was no huge crowd as in “The Passion.” Peter was warming himself around a camp fire together with servants and maids. The maid who admitted Peter at John’s invitation asks Peter whether he is with Jesus.

"Christ Before Anne and Peter's Denial"