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Christ's agony at Gethsemane

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Christ on the Mount of Olives

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 20, wherein the prophet Moses speaks to God and pleads weakness when told to confront Pharaoh.[1]

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.

Manuscript evidence

Include passage
Codex Sinaiticus*, 2, D, Codex Laudianus, Codex Seidelianus I, Codex Seidelianus II, K, L, Codex Campianus, 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, ( 184, 211, Byz, it, vg, syrcur, syrh, syrp, syrpal, arm, eth, Diatessaron, Justin, Ireneaus, Hippolitus, Dionysus, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Theodoret, Leontius, Cosmas, Facundus.
Augustine, De Trinitate, Book 10, para. 41
"(...) 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."
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, 1071*, 1128, Lectpt, f, syrs, copsa, copbo, geo, Marcion, Clement, Origen.
Question passage
Marked with asterisks (*) or obeli (÷). Codex Sangalensisc, Codex Petropolitanusc, 892mg, 1079, 1195, 1216, copbomss.[2]
Relocate passage
f13 transpose the passage after Matthew 26:39.
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus and Minuscule 33.

Modern scholars

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."[3]

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.[4]

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."[5]

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".[6]

Bart D. Ehrman:

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.[7]

Other disputed passages


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Christ's agony at Gethsemane. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. Busse, Heribert. "Islam, Judaism and Christianity: Theological and Historical Affiliations", 1998. p. 126.
  2. C. R. Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testaments, (Leipzig, 1900), vol. 1, p. 95.
  3. S. P. Tregelles, An Introduction to the Critical Study of the New Testament (London 1856), p. 451.
  4. Burgon, The Revision Revised, 1883
  5. Kurt Aland, and Barbara Aland, "The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism", transl. Erroll F. Rhodes, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995, p. 310.
  6. Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Oxford University Press: 2005), p. 286.
  7. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford University Press: 1993), pp. 187-194

Further reading

  • Bruce M. Metzger, "A Textual Commentary on the New Testament", Deutsche Bibelgesselschaft, United Bible Societies, Stuttgart 1994, p. 151.
  • Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford University Press: 1993), pp. 187-194.

External links