Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemene


  • Question 208 from Simon, United Kingdom

    Could you tell me if Jesus really did sweat blood? I know it’s medically possible (haematohidrosis).

    The reference to Jesus sweating blood while praying in the Garden of Gethsemene immediately before being betrayed and arrested only appears in Luke’s Gospel, which contains a slightly different version of events to Matthew and Mark.

    The actual text of Luke chapter 22, verse 44 says that “he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”. This is an accurate translation of the Greek text which reads ‘και εγενετο ο ιδρως αυτου ωσει θρομβοι αιματος καταβαινοντες επι την γην’ – literally ‘and became the sweat of him as drops of blood falling down onto the earth’. The key word there is ωσει which means ‘as’, which is translated in many English versions as ‘like’. So, they may have just been very large drops of sweat or excessive amounts of sweat, flowing from him as blood does when a person is bleeding.

    Haematohidrosis is a very rare condition caused when blood vessels near sweat glands burst under stress and the blood leaves the body mixed with sweat. The gospels do indicate Jesus being under extreme stress in Gethsemene, and so it could be possible for haematohidrosis to have occurred.

    Verses 43 and 44 not in all the original manuscripts, and may have been included later in the copying process. If so, they may reflect traditional oral accounts of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Verse 43 also mentions an angel ministering to Jesus, which is another detail omitted in Matthew and Mark.

    So, why would these details have been added? One reason would be to illustrate the very important truth of Jesus’ humanity. The prayers in Gethsemene in Luke, Matthew and Mark include Jesus’ plea for deliverance from crucifixion, before submitting to the will of God. The humanness of Jesus is often overlooked in the crucifixion story, but he is obviously experiencing fear, and possibly doubt at this point. Luke’s additional details about the angel and the sweat underline how powerless and overwhelmed Jesus is at this point – how human, in fact.

    The sweat also has a symbolic role. Matthew Henry notes in his commentary (1) that ‘sweat’ was part of the curse laid upon humanity after the Fall, when sin entered the world. Here, Jesus sweating represents him taking on the curse of sin, a curse that could only be lifted through the shedding of blood. Sweat and blood are thus connected by the Gospel writer in the detail of Jesus’ sweat being like drops of blood.


     

    References

    Winter, D (ed.) (1974) Matthew Henry’s Commentary. The Four Gospels. Hodder & Stoughton. p.460

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