Luke 22:43-44 (Christ's Agony at Gethsemane)

© 1998 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.

Luke 22:43 (KJV) And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Many modern versions mark these verses as doubtful, despite the overwhelming testimony of their authenticity by several church fathers, ancient versions, and Greek manuscripts--including the original hand of Codex Sinaiticus! (According to UBS-4, a corrector of this ms. later marked the verses to be omitted, but a second corrector restored them.) It is to be noticed that even the NAS and NIV do not bracket or remove these verses from the main text, although both include a note on them in the margin. The patristic testimony is abundant and impressive; for example:

Burgon notes that "These two Verses [v. 43-44] 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 GODhead 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. (Dean John William Burgon, The Revision Revised, 1883, reprint by Dean Burgon Society Press, Collingswood, NJ; p. 82).

Indeed, Hilary of Poitiers (d. 367) remarks on the fact that, even by his time, "in many manuscripts, both Latin and Greek, nothing is said of the angel's coming or the Bloody Sweat," and though he says he intends therefore to "suspend judgment, whether this is an omission, where it is wanting, or an interpolation, where it is found," he feels obliged to defend it anyway:

. . . 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).

Hilary's discomfort as to the way the passage might be interpreted by "heretics" points clearly to the motivation spoken of by Burgon for its omission by some misguided faithful.

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