In my previous posts I’ve been puzzling over the textual problem of Luke 22:43-44, the so-called “bloody sweat” passage, where Jesus, before his arrest, is said to have been in such deep agony that he sweat drops “as if of blood,” so that an angel came down from heaven to minister to him. These verses are found in some manuscripts of Luke, but not others. So which text is “original”? The version of Luke with the verses or the version without them?
In previous posts I have argued that the verses run contrary both to the structure of Luke’s passage and to the theology of Luke, who worked to *eliminate* any sense of Jesus actually suffering from his Gospel. In my last post I began to ask, not which of the two texts the author Luke himself would have written (scholars call that kind of question “intrinsic probabilities”: what is more intrinsically likely to go back to the author?) but which of the two texts scribes of the second century, when the passage came to be altered in one way or another, would have preferred (which scholars call “transcriptional probabilities.”)
You might *think* that scribes may have wanted to omit the verses because they wanted to emphasize that Jesus was divine and so couldn’t suffer. But we have almost no evidence of any manuscripts that were edited in order to promote that kind of view of Christ, a view scholars have called docetic. What we have are numerous instances in which scribes altered their texts of the NT in order to stress that Jesus really was a human being (even though he was also God). Since he was fully human, he really could suffer.
Is it possible that the text was altered by scribes wanting to stress that point? Here is where it gets interesting.
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