Christ’s Agony in The Garden of Gethsemane

Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane is a passage in the Gospel of Luke (22:43–44), describing a prayer of Jesus, after which he receives strength from an angel, on the Mount of Olives prior to his betrayal and arrest. It is one of several passages which appear in most versions of the New Testament, but are absent in earlier manuscripts.

The situation of Jesus, prior to the completion of his ministry, begging weakness to God to perform the difficult task has been compared to Exodus 3, wherein the prophet Moses speaks to God and pleads weakness when told to confront Pharaoh.

The authenticity of the passage has been disputed by scholars since the second half of the 19th century. The verses are placed in double brackets in modern editions of the Greek text, and in a footnote in the RSV.

Christ's Agony At Gethsemane

Christ’s Agony At Gethsemane

Text

Greek

ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτὸν. καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο. ἐγένετο δὲ ὁ ἱδρὼς αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος καταβαίνοντες ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.

Ōphthē de autō angelos ap’ ouranou enischyōn auton. Kai genomenos en agōnia ektenesteron prosēucheto. Egeneto de ho hidrōs autou hōsei thromboi aimatos katabainontes epi tēn gēn.

Translation (RSV)

And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.

Codex Vaticanus 354

Codex Vaticanus 354

Manuscript evidence

Include passage

Codex Sinaiticus, 2, Bezae (D), Laudianus, Seidelianus I, Seidelianus II, Cyprius, Regius, Campianus, Guelferbytanus B, Sinopensis, Nanianus, Monacensis, Sangallensis 48 (Δ), Tischendorfianus III, Athous Lavrensis, Uncial 0171, f1, 174, 565, 700, 892, 1009, 1010, 1071mg, 1230, 1241, 1242, 1253, 1344, 1365, 1546, 1646, 2148, 2174, ( 184 211, Byz, it, vg, syrcur, syrh, syrp, syrpal, Armenian and Ethiopian manuscripts, Diatessaron.

Exclude passage

Papyrus 69, Papyrus 75, Codex Sinaiticus1, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Petropolitanus Purpureus, Nitriensis, Borgianus, Washingtonianus (W), 158, 512, 542, 552, 579, 777, 826, 1071*, 1128, Lectionariespt, f, syrs, copsa, copbo, Georgian mss.

Question passage

Marked with asterisks (※) or obeli (÷). Codex Sangallensis 48c, Petropolitanusc, Vaticanus 354, Athous Dionysiou (045), 166, 481, 655, 661, 669, 776, 829, 892mg, 1077, 1079, 1195, 1216, 283, copbomss. Minuscule 34 has questionable scholion at the margin.

Relocate passage

Manuscripts of the textual family f13 transpose the passage after Matthew 26:39. Several lectionaries transpose Luke 22:43-45a after Matthew 26:39.

Lacuna

Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (22:19-23:25) and Minuscule 33 (Luke 21:38-23:26) lack the text for this passage.

Church Fathers

Include passage

Irenaeus had used it as an argument against the Docetae.

Justin, Hippolytus, Dionysus, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Theodoret, Leontius, Cosmas, Facundus, Theodore

Hilary of Poitiers: “(…) let not the heretics encourage themselves that herein lies a confirmation of His weakness, that He needed the help and comfort of an angel. Let them remember the Creator of the angels needs not the support of His creatures.” (De Trinitate, Book 10, para. 41).

Theodore of Mopsuestia wrote: “When our Lord was in deep thought and fear at the approach of His Passion, the blessed Luke said that ‘an angel appeared to Him strengthening and encouraging Him,'” (Comm. on Lord’s Prayer, Baptism and Eucharist; Ch. 5)

Exclude passage

Clement, Origen.

Modern scholars

Critical editions

UBS4 marks this variant with double square-brackets and the evaluation letter C.

Individuals

Thomas Hartwell Horne (1856): “the reason for the omission of these verses in some manuscripts and for their being marked as suspected in others, is by some supposed to have been that they were rejected by some of the more timid, lest they should appear to favour the Arians: it may be that they were omitted in Luke from their being early read in a lesson containing part of Matt. XXVI.”

Dean Burgon (1883) said that “These two Verses were excised through mistaken piety by certain of the orthodox, jealous for the honour of their LORD, and alarmed by the use which the impugners of His GOD head freely made of them. “He also cites Ephraem, who “puts… into the mouth of Satan, addressing the host of Hell” a statement of rejoicing over the Lord’s agony.

Francis Crawford Burkitt called this passage as “the Greater Interpolations”.

According to Herman C. Hoskier it can be result of the influence of the docetics of Alexandria.

Joel B. Green and Scott McKnight (1992) wrote in The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, “Others, however, observe the impressive Lukan character of these verses, which speaks for their originality to the Third Gospel. In addition to (1) the inclusion of characteristic Lukan vocabulary (Green 1988, 56–57), one may also observe (2) the Lukan emphasis on the appearance of an angel (e.g., 1:11, 26; 2:13, 15; Acts 5:19; 7:30; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7), (3) Luke’s interest in simile (“his sweat was like drops of blood,” v. 44; cf. e.g., 3:22; 10:18; 11:44; 22:31) and (4) Luke’s fondness for physical manifestations (like sweat) accompanying extramundane events (e.g., 1:20; 3:22; Acts 2:2–3; 9:18). These data, along with the fact that the presence of these verses is of a piece with Luke’s interpretation of this scene as a whole, point clearly to the originality of 22:43–44. Moreover, it is not difficult to imagine a rationale for the early exclusion of these verses in the manuscript tradition. The portrait of Jesus contained therein—human, agonizing, needful, requiring angelic support—would have been problematic to some (cf. Gos. Nic. 20; Green 1988, 56). Accordingly, they may have been dropped for doctrinal reasons. There is thus good reason for taking these verses as original to Luke.”

Kurt Aland (1995): “These verses exhibit a conclusive clue to their secondary nature (like the Pericope Adulterae) in the alternative locations for its insertion. While the majority of the (now known) manuscripts place them at Luke 22:43-44, they are found after Matthew 26:39 in the minuscule family 13 and in several lectionaries. This kind fluctuation in the New Testament manuscript tradition is one of the surest evidences for the secondary character of a text.”

Bruce M. Metzger (2005): “These verses are absent from some of the oldest and best witnesses, including the majority of the Alexandrian manuscripts. It is striking to note that the earliest witnesses attesting the verses are three Church fathers – Justin, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus – each of whom uses the verses in order to counter Christological views that maintained that Jesus was not a full human who experienced the full range of human sufferings. It may well be that the verses were added to the text for just this reason, in opposition to those who held to a docetic Christology”.

According to Bart D. Ehrman (1993) these two verses disrupt the literary structure of the scene (the chiasmus), they are not found in the early and valuable manuscripts, and they are the only place in Luke where Jesus is seen to be in agony. Ehrman concludes that they were inserted in order to counter doceticism, the belief that Jesus, as divine, only seemed to suffer. While probably not original to the text, these verses reflect first-century tradition.

Scriptural depiction

According to all four canonical Gospels, immediately after the Last Supper, Jesus took a walk to pray. Each Gospel offers a slightly different account regarding narrative details. The gospels of Matthew and Mark identify this place of prayer as Gethsemane. Jesus was accompanied by three Apostles: Peter, John and James, whom he asked to stay awake and pray. He moved “a stone’s throw away” from them, where he felt overwhelming sadness and anguish, and said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it.” Then, a little while later, he said, “If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, Your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42; in Latin Vulgate: fiat voluntas tua). He said this prayer thrice, checking on the three apostles between each prayer and finding them asleep. He commented: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. An angel came from heaven to strengthen him. During his agony as he prayed, “His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44).

At the conclusion of the narrative, Jesus accepts that the hour has come for him to be betrayed.

Tradition

The Agony in the Garden Artist: Andrea Mantegna Date made: about 1458-60 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

The Agony in the Garden
Artist: Andrea Mantegna
Date made: about 1458-60
Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/

In Roman Catholic tradition, the Agony in the Garden is the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary and the First Station of the Scriptural Way of The Cross (second station in the Philippine version). Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as acts of reparation for the sufferings of Jesus during His Agony and Passion. These Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ do not involve a petition for a living or dead beneficiary, but aim to “repair the sins” against Jesus. Some such prayers are provided in the Raccolta Catholic prayer book (approved by a Decree of 1854, and published by the Holy See in 1898) which also includes prayers as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary.

In his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor on reparations, Pope Pius XI called Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ a duty for Catholics and referred to them as “some sort of compensation to be rendered for the injury” with respect to the sufferings of Jesus.

Catholic tradition holds that Jesus’ sweating of blood was literal and not figurative.

Holy Hour

In the Catholic tradition, Matthew 26:40 is the basis of the Holy Hour devotion for Eucharistic adoration. In the Gospel of Matthew:

“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.'” (Matthew 26:38)

Coming to the disciples, He found them sleeping and, in Matthew 26:40, asked Peter:

“So, could you not watch with Me one hour?”

The tradition of the Holy Hour devotion dates back to 1673 when Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque stated that she had a vision of Jesus in which she was instructed to spend an hour every Thursday night to meditate on the suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Medical conjectures

A medical interpretative hypothesis of hematidrosis has been advanced in the scientific literature, according to which the great mental anguish that Jesus suffered to the point that his sweat became blood is described only by Luke the Evangelist because he was a physician.

References

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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