Monday, April 23, 2012

Not In The Bible? - bleeding in Gethsemane

When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, did He really sweat blood?  Or is that just a fable?  Did the disciples suffer a mass hallucination?  Or did He even pray at all?  These are some of the questions which are raised by the next accusation under the microscope: The accusation that Luke 22:44 is a “scribal edit.”

To one of these questions, we can answer immediately in the affirmative.  Yes, He did pray in Gethsemane.  This scene is repeated in Matthew, Mark and Luke, as well as other extra-canonical accounts.  Moreover, while John’s Gospel does not show Christ praying, it does have Him arrested within Gethsemane; and describes the mob which came to arrest Jesus in nearly identical fashion as the other three Gospels.  Furthermore, given the distance of the home they had Passover in to the garden; given the distance from the Temple to the garden; and given their dinner had been nearly ended when Judas left, there is a certain amount of time which elapses between John 18:1 and 18:3. 

Another reason John would not have included the prayer of Jesus, some say, is that he was fast asleep during the time it happened.  Still others state that while he was not the John who slept, he also was not close enough to see what happened.  I personally believe he had another reason for not writing about the prayer, and that is simply this: John wrote his Gospel to accent the divinity of Christ, as well as His humanity, through His ministry.
Finally, there is one other reason for this absence in John.  I agree with Augustine, who stated: 
“In the four Gospels, or rather in the four books of the one Gospel, the Apostle St. John not undeservedly with reference to his spiritual understanding compared to an eagle, has lifted higher, and far more sublimely than the other three, his proclamation, and in lifting it up he has wished our hearts also to be lifted…”  
In other words, John wrote this Gospel for the express purpose of deeper spirituality, faith, and ultimately, relationship with God.  Moreover, he wrote it to demonstrate, beyond shadow of doubt, that Christ was Divine- And for the Jews, that Christ was not introduced as a second god, but that He was the Word of God made flesh.

Going back to Luke, the first three questions can all be answered at roughly the same time.  No, the disciples did not suffer a mass hallucination; and though three may have been dreaming, it was only because they fell asleep while He was praying.  Yes, Christ did sweat blood while in prayer, which we’ll get into in a moment.  Finally, no, the account is not a fable.

To start, it is of great importance to note and keep in mind that Luke was a physician, and thus focused on more of the medical/physical aspects than any other writer of the Gospel.  To that end, Luke’s account of Christ’s suffering is a great deal more detailed and scientific, as it were.  Yet, this foolish accusation states that such a thing never happened.  Indeed, many times this accusation is accompanied with the statement that such a thing is not even possible.

First, let me just address the sweating of blood as a reality.  There is a medical condition, going by two names, which explain this.  Called hematidrosis or hemidrosis, it is when blood shows so close to the skin that it begins to pigment.  In more extreme cases, the capillaries hemorrhage into the pores of the skin where it mixes with sweat, thus thinning, and allowing one to “sweat blood.”  (By definition, it literally is sweating blood.)  This is caused by extreme stress, combined with high-blood pressure.  Stress causes capillaries to constrict, but high levels of stress also cause blood-pressure to rise to unbelievable intensities.

In case you are not familiar with what Christ could possibly have been so stressed out about…  Well, how much stress and physical anxiety would you be under if you knew every single aspect of your future death?

Now, on to the question of whether it is a fable or, as this particular accusation worded it, a “scribal edit.”  Were this to be a scribal edit, and given that the accusation also states that this description cannot be found in the original texts, it would not be found from codex to codex.  It would also not be known by the Ante-Nicene Fathers.  With this as the basis, let us immediately turn to the codices.
In the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, the “youngest” of the four uncials, Luke 22:44 is included on what are known as the “lost leaves.”  With an understanding of events of the fifth century, (specifically, around 450 A.D.); as well as the process which was involved to create these codices and the circumstances which would have necessitated them; it is a simple answer as to why these verse were included on these “lost leaves”: They were absolutely meant to be included, because they were translated; either a scribe was working while exhausted, or they were missing the section as likely happened with a portion of John, this verse was sent along with the codex for a very good reason; namely, that it belonged with it.  Thus, the accusation has already suffered defeat; still we will continue.

In the Codex Alexandrinus, these verses are missing completely.  This codex is the second youngest of the uncials, having been written around 400-450 A.D.  However, there is good reason this particular codex does not have the accused verse: It has been torn, or burned out.  This codex is heavily damaged, resulting in missing or “corrupted” text.  Because of this, the Codex Alexandrinus cannot be properly used as a basis for this accusation.

The Codex Vaticanus does not include this passage either; yet as I’ve mentioned in earlier entries, this codex and two papyri which have been used to support it were written during a period in which a full collection of Scripture was being attempted.  Vaticanus was written around 325-350 A.D., and this is an important date to note.  There will be more on this momentarily.

The Codex Sinaiticus included it originally, but the passage was removed at a later time by a “corrector.”  This took place at a time much later, and, according to scholar Dean Burgon, due to an overly pious belief that the passage impugned the deity of Christ.  It is important to note that it was originally included, and it is also once more present within this codex.

Papyri 69 and 75 both omit this passage.  However, though Papyri 75 was written within a range of 175-250 A.D., it is missing a large portion.  Thus, any so called support it lends any argument regarding the lack of Scripture must be withdrawn, for one cannot know if it was included upon a later leaf.  Moreover, Papyri 69 is but a fragment itself, and thus the same argument applies.

With this said, if a contemporary document was found in completion, and it did not include the Scripture in question, then further, deliberate investigation would absolutely be needed.  As it stands, Uncial 171, (which dates to no later than 300 A.D.), includes this passage.

Now, with all of that said, the early Church Fathers would not have heard of this were it a later addition or a “scribal edit.”  Yet, we have evidence that Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, and others, (disciples of the Apostles), have all referenced the passage.  Though some of these references were less than gracious, they prove its existence.

When the evidence which has been presented is taken into account, it cannot truly be said that this verse was never included in Luke.  One may make the accusation, but it does not hold up to scrutiny.  Only the most ignorant would continue to make such a claim after a careful review of the evidence at hand.  Thus, this accusatory “myth” is busted.

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