Gethsemane (//) is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where, according to the four Gospels of the New Testament, Jesus underwent the agony in the garden and was arrested the night before his crucifixion. It is a place of great resonance in Christianity. There are several small olive groves in church property, all adjacent to each other and identified with biblical Gethsemane.
Gethsemane appears in the Greek original of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark as Γεθσημανή (Gethsēmanḗ). The name is derived from the Aramaic ܓܕܣܡܢ (Gaḏ-Šmānê), meaning "oil press". Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 call it χωρίον (chōríon), meaning a place or estate. The Gospel of John says Jesus entered a garden (κῆπος kêpos) with his disciples.
There are four locations, all of them at or near the western foot of the Mount of Olives, officially claimed by different denominations to be the place where Jesus prayed on the night he was betrayed.
- The garden at the Catholic Church of All Nations, built over the "Rock of the Agony".
- The location near the Tomb of the Virgin Mary to the north.
- The Greek Orthodox location to the east.
- The Russian Orthodox orchard, next to the Church of Mary Magdalene.
William McClure Thomson, author of The Land and the Book, first published in 1880, wrote: "When I first came to Jerusalem, and for many years afterward, this plot of ground was open to all whenever they chose to come and meditate beneath its very old olive trees. The Latins, however, have within the last few years succeeded in gaining sole possession, and have built a high wall around it. The Greeks have invented another site a little to the north of it. My own impression is that both are wrong. The position is too near the city, and so close to what must have always been the great thoroughfare eastward, that our Lord would scarcely have selected it for retirement on that dangerous and dismal night. I am inclined to place the garden in the secluded vale several hundred yards to the north-east of the present Gethsemane."
All of the foregoing is based on long-held tradition and the conflating of the synoptic accounts of Mark (14:31) and Matthew (26:36) with the Johannine account (John 18:1). Mark and Matthew record that Jesus went to "a place called the oil press (Gethsemane)" and John states he went to a garden near the Kidron Valley. Modern scholarship acknowledges that the exact location of Gethsemane is unknown.
According to Luke 22:43–44, Jesus' anguish on the Mount of Olives (Luke does not mention Gethsemane; Luke 22:39–40) was so deep that "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
Near the tomb of Mary
The Garden of Gethsemane became a focal site for early Christian pilgrims. It was visited in 333 by the anonymous "Pilgrim of Bordeaux", whose Itinerarium Burdigalense is the earliest description left by a Christian traveler in the Holy Land. In his Onomasticon, Eusebius of Caesarea notes the site of Gethsemane located "at the foot of the Mount of Olives", and he adds that "the faithful were accustomed to go there to pray".
In 1681 Croatian knights of the Holy Order of Jerusalem, Paul, Antun and James bought the Gethsemane Garden and donated it to the Franciscan community, which owns it to this day. A three-dimensional plate on the right side next to the entrance to the garden describes the aforementioned gift to the community.
Age of the olive trees
A study conducted by the Italian National Research Council (CNR) in 2012 found that three of the olive trees in the garden are amongst the oldest known to science. Dates of AD 1092, 1166 and 1198 were obtained by carbon dating from older parts of the trunks of three trees. DNA tests show that the trees were originally planted from the same parent plant. This could indicate an attempt to keep the lineage of an older individual intact. Then again, the three trees tested could have been sprouts reviving from the older roots. According to the researchers, "The results of tests on trees in the Garden of Gethsemane have not settled the question of whether the gnarled trees are the very same which sheltered Jesus because olive trees can grow back from roots after being cut down".
However, Mauro Bernabei, author of the paper published as a result of the CNR study, writes: "All the tree trunks are hollow inside so that the central, older wood is missing ... In the end, only three from a total of eight olive trees could be successfully dated. The dated ancient olive trees do, however, not allow any hypothesis to be made with regard to the age of the remaining five giant olives [sic]."
In December 2020, archaeologists revealed the remains of 1,500 year-old Byzantine church (known as the Church of All Nations) and the foundations of a Second Temple-era ritual bath (also known as a mikveh). According to Dr. Leah and Dr. Rosario, Greek inscriptions were written on the church’s floor as : "for the memory and repose of the lovers of Christ… accept the offering of your servants and give them remission of sins”.
According to Israel Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem district head Amit Re’em, the uniqueness of the bath is that it is the first archaeological evidence at the site of Gethsemane where Christians have made pilgrimages for centuries, in the days of Jesus.
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- gheth-SEM-ə-nee; Ancient Greek: Γεθσημανή, romanized: Gethsēmanḗ; Hebrew: גת שמנים, romanized: Gat Shmaním; Classical Syriac: ܓܕܣܡܢ, romanized: Gaḏ Šmānê, lit. 'oil press')
- Matthew 26:36 (King James Version); "Holy Bible: Greek New Testament (Scrivener 1894)". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
- Mark 14:32 (KJV); "Holy Bible: Greek New Testament (Scrivener 1894)". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
- Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D., eds. (1993). The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 253. ISBN 0-19-504645-5.
- John 18:1 (KJV).
- Brown, S. Kent (1992), "Gethsemane", in Ludlow, Daniel H (ed.), Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing, pp. 542–543, ISBN 0-02-879602-0, OCLC 24502140
- Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, "Gethsemane", p.675, 1975, ISBN 0-8024-9697-0
- Thomson, William M. 1806-1894. The Land And the Book. New York: Harper & brothers, 1860.
- The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version. 1994 by Polebridge Press. p. 108, note on Mt. 26:36
- Paul Maier In the Fullness of Time
- Polic, Peter (21 February 2018). "English: Gethsemane garden plate which describes contribution of Croatian knights in 17th century for granting those gardens to Franciscan monastery". Archived from the original on 11 May 2018 – via Wikimedia Commons.
- "Jerusalem olive trees among oldest in world". ABC.net.au (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Reuters. 20 October 2012. Archived from the original on 31 October 2016.
- Zeller, Harmah. Wild Flowers of the Holy Land
- Bernabei, Mauro (January 2015). "The age of the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane". Journal of Archaeological Science. 53: 43–48. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.10.011.
- Israel Antiquities Authority, Excavators and Excavations Permit for Year 2014, Survey Permit # A-7013
- Amanda Borschel-Dan. "Ancient ritual bath may mark first New Testament-era find at Jesus' Gethsemane". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
- "Archaeologists Have Uncovered an Ancient Church Built on the Site Believed to Have Hosted the Last Supper". artnet News. 22 December 2020. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
- "Jewish ritual bath from Jesus' time found at Gethsemane". Haaretz. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
- Taylor, Joan E. (1995). "The Garden of Gethsemane: Not the Place of Jesus' Arrest". Biblical Archaeology Review. 21 (4): 26–35. INIST:3732699.