Agony of Christ (from Greek: agonia, a struggle; particularly, in profane literature, the physical struggle of athletes in the arena, or the mental excitement previous to the conflict).—The word is used only once in Sacred Scripture (Luke, xxii, 43) to designate the anguish of Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani. The incident is narrated also in St. Matthew (xxvi, 36-46) and St. Mark (xiv, 32-42); but it is remarkable that only St. Luke mentions the details of the sweat of blood and the visitation of the angel. The authenticity of the verses narrating these details (43-44) has been called in question, because of their absence, not only from the text of the other synoptists, but even from that of St. Luke in several of the ancient codices (notably 1/1a—the revised Sinaiticus—A., B., et al.). The presence of the verses, however, in the majority of the MSS., both uncial and cursive, has sufficed to warrant their being retained in the critical editions of the New Testament. Their acceptance by such scholars as Tischendorf, Hammond, and Scrivener seems to place the question of their authenticity beyond controversy. The “sweat of blood” is understood literally by almost all Catholic exegetes; and medical testimony has been alleged in evidence of the fact that such a phenomenon (haematodrosis), though rare and abnormal, is neither impossible nor preternatural.
JAMES M. GILLIS