Christ's agony at Gethsemane
|Events in the|
|Life of Jesus
according to the Gospels
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Christ's agony at 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 the New Testament, but is absent in many of the 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.
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.
- 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.
- Include passage
Codex Sinaiticus*, 2, D, Codex Laudianus, Codex Seidelianus I, Codex Seidelianus II, Cyprius, Regius, Codex Campianus, Guelferbytanus B, Codex Sinopensis, Codex Nanianus, Codex Monacensis, Δ*, Codex Tischendorfianus III, Codex Athous Lavrensis, Uncial 0171, f1, 174, 565, 700, 892, 1009, 1010, 1071mg, 1230, 1241, 1242, 1253, 1344, 1365, 1546, 1646, 2148, 2174, (ℓ 184, ℓ 211, Byz, it, vg, syrcur, syrh, syrp, syrpal, Armenian and Ethiopian manuscripts, Diatessaron.
- Exclude passage
Papyrus 69, Papyrus 75, Codex Sinaiticus1, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus, Codex Nitriensis, Codex Borgianus, 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 Sangalensisc, Codex Petropolitanusc, Codex Vaticanus 354, 045, 166, 481, 655, 661, 669, 776, 829, 892mg, 1077, 1079, 1195, 1216, ℓ 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.
- Include passage
Ireneaus had used it as an argument against the Docetae.
Augustine: "(...) 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
- Critical editions
UBS4 marks this variant with double square-brackets and the evaluation letter C.
Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (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.
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.
- Other disputed passages
- Matthew 16:2b–3
- Mark 16:8-20
- Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11)
- Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7b-8a)
- John 5:3b-4
- Doxology to the Lord's Prayer
- Luke 22:19b-20
- Busse, Heribert. "Islam, Judaism and Christianity: Theological and Historical Affiliations", 1998. p. 126.
- C. R. Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testaments, (Leipzig, 1900), vol. 1, p. 95.
- S. P. Tregelles, An Introduction to the Critical Study of the New Testament (London 1856), p. 451.
- Burgon, The Revision Revised, 1883
- F. C. Burkitt, The Old Latin and the Itala, p. 47
- H. C. Hoskier, Codex B and its Allies (London 1914), vol. 1, p. 408
- p.266-67 Green, J. B., McKnight, S., & Marshall, I. H. (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
- Aland, Kurt; Barbara Aland; Erroll F. Rhodes (trans.) (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 310. ISBN 978-0-8028-4098-1.
- Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Oxford University Press: 2005), p. 286.
- Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford University Press: 1993), pp. 187-194
- Scrivener, Frederick Henry Ambrose; Edward Miller (1894). A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament 2 (4 ed.). London: George Bell & Sons. pp. 353–356.
- Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the New Testament, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, United Bible Societies, Stuttgart 1994, p. 151.
- Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford University Press: 1993), pp. 187–194.
- W. Willker, A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels. Vol. 3 Luke. TVU 174
- W. Willker, Luke 22:43–44 in 0171 (the earliest Greek witness to these verses)
- W. Willkier, Luk 33:43 in Codex Vaticanus
- Claire Clivaz, A Sweet like Drops of Blood" (Luke 22:43-44)
- Claire Clivaz, L'ange et la sueur de sang (Lc 22,43-44) ou comment on pourrait bien écrire l'histoire (BiTS 7), Leuven: Peeters, 2009, 737p.
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