I have been talking about the famous passage in Luke 22:43-44, the account of the so-called “bloody sweat,” where we are told that prior to his arrest, Jesus went into deep agony and began to sweat great drops “as if of blood,” and to be so deeply disturbed that an angel had to come down from heaven to support him.
These verses can be found in a lot of manuscripts, including those used by the translators of the King James Bible, which is why the passage became so familiar to English-Bible readers over the years; but they are absent from many or our earliest and best manuscripts, which is why some modern translations put the verses in a footnote or, more commonly (as in the NRSV), in double brackets, indicating that in the opinion of the translators, the verses were not original (the translators keep them – bracketed — in the text because they knew they are familiar and judge that they are very ancient).
In my previous posts I have given two reasons for thinking that these verses were not originally in the Gospel of Luke (or any other Gospel): (1) They completely disrupt the literary structure of the passage otherwise, a structure known as a chiasmus that Luke has specifically implemented from the passage by radically changing his exemplar, the Gospel of Mark; and (2) They embody a view precisely contrary to the one Luke lays out otherwise, both in this account and in the passion narrative as a whole, that Jesus went to his death calm and in control, without experiencing any serious agony or grief, knowing that God was on his side all along and choosing to go along with his crucifixion in order to do God’s will.
Those two arguments are known to textual scholars as types of “intrinsic probability.” That is a technical term that refers to a certain kind of evidence for solving a textual problem, evidence that asks, “What is an author intrinsically more likely to have written”? Is he likely to have written verses that run counter to the literary structure he has designed for a passage? Is he likely to have written verses that appear to contradict the themes that he otherwise goes to such trouble to develop in his account? The answer in both cases is obviously “no.” This is not a certainty of course; it is only highly likely. And so scholars talk about these precisely as intrinsic probabilities. On those grounds, it appears that the verses were added to Luke’s account by later scribes.
Another entirely different set of probabilities, based on a completely different set of questions, also needs to be considered. This is the question…
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