Seidensticker Folly #48: Peter’s Denials & Accusers

Seidensticker Folly #48: Peter’s Denials & Accusers August 31, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.”

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog (just prior to his banning me from it), his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.”

And on 10-25-18, utterly oblivious to the ludicrous irony of his making the statement, Bob wrote in a combox on his blog: “Someone who’s not a little bit driven to investigate cognitive dissonance will just stay a Christian, fat ‘n sassy and ignorant.” Again, Bob mocks some Christian in his combox on 10-27-18“You can’t explain it to us, you can’t defend it, you can’t even defend it to yourself. Defend your position or shut up about it. It’s clear you have nothing.” And again on the same day“If you can’t answer the question, man up and say so.” And on 10-26-18“you refuse to defend it, after being asked over and over again.” And againYou’re the one playing games, equivocating, and being unable to answer the challenges.”

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. Again, on 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like he himself: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 47 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.


Bob writes in his article, “More of the Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions (Part 6)” (4-18-19):

This example is of less importance, but it’s well known and shows yet another set of contradictions. At the Last Supper, Jesus said that his disciples will scatter once he is taken away, but Peter protests that he won’t. Jesus tells Peter that he will disavow him three times before the rooster crows, and indeed that’s what happens.

But read the accounts, and the story differs in each of the gospels.

  • In Mark, Peter is accused of being one of Jesus’s followers by a slave girl, then the same girl again, and then a crowd of people (Mark 14:66–71).
  • In Matthew, it’s a slave girl, another slave girl, and then a crowd of people (Matthew 26:69–73).
  • In Luke, it’s a slave girl, a man, and then another man (Luke 22:54–60).
  • In John, it’s a girl at the door, several anonymous persons, and one of the high priest’s servants (John 18:15–17, 25–27) . . . 

Allowing for synonymous descriptions (Mark’s slave girl could’ve been John’s girl at the door, for example) and squashing these confrontations together, we have Peter denying Jesus to a slave girl, another slave girl, a crowd, a man, another man, and perhaps more. That’s a lot more than Jesus’s promised three.

An excellent refutation of this charge was given by professor of the New Testament Craig L. Blomberg, in his piece, “You Asked: Are the Differing Narratives of Peter’s Denials Reconcilable?” (The Gospel Coalition, 12-12-11):

But what of the identity of the three interrogators?

Matthew, Luke, and John all agree that a servant girl (Gk. paidiskē) was the first person to approach Peter (Matt. 26:69Luke 22:56John 18:17). John also calls her a doorkeeper. Matthew calls the second person to query Jesus allē (the feminine form of “another”), presumably meaning another servant girl (Matt. 26:71). Luke calls this second individual heteros (the generic use of the masculine form of another word for “another”), thus not specifying the individual’s gender (Luke 22:58). John is vaguer still, using merely a third person plural verb eipon (“they said”) to introduce the second accusation. The third and final question for Peter comes from “the bystanders” (Matt. 26:73). Luke speaks merely of another person (allosLuke 22:59), while John specifies him as a servant of the high priest (John 18:26). But again there is no contradiction.

That leaves Mark’s version. The first accusation in Mark comes from one of the servant girls (mia tōn paidiskōnMark 14:66)—-no problem. The last challenge comes from the bystanders, just as in Matthew (Mark 14:70). That leaves only the person who prompted Peter’s second denial. Mark calls her hē paidiskē. Often this would be translated, “the servant girl.” Coming after the reference in verse 66, it is natural to take this article as resumptive, referring back to the same girl. But not all uses of the article in Greek are best translated with articles in English. If this is a generic or categorical use of the article, then it means one of a class and can be translated “a servant girl” and be understood as referring to a different one. . . . Alternately, we may just have to assume that more than three people accused Peter, even if he denied it only three times. After all, “the bystanders” already suggests more than one person making the final accusation.

Next question?


Photo credit: Peter’s Denial, by Carl Bloch (1834-1890) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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