"His Sweat Became as It Were Great Drops of Blood"
Jerry C. Ray
The night of Jesus' betrayal he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. An angel was sent to strengthen him. "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44).
The generally accepted interpretation of this verse, both among the ancients and moderns, is that the extreme mental agony Jesus was undergoing resulted in a bloody sweat pouring from His body. Athanasius even pronounced a ban upon those who would deny that it was a bloody sweat. Adam Clarke goes so far as to affirm "the principal part of the redemption price was paid in the unprecedented and indescribable agony" (Clarke's Commentary, V, 257). I have heard, and read from gospel preachers that Jesus sweated drops of blood. I question seriously this idea, and invite your consideration of the following thoughts.
There has been some question as to the genuineness of Lk. 22:43-44, but it is not my purpose to question the text. I will accept the text as it stands in the American Standard Version.
I am not denying the possibility of a person "under abnormal pathological circum-stances" perspiring bloody sweat. For "of this malady, known in medical science by the term diapedesis, there have been examples recorded both in ancient and modern times (McClintock & Strong, X, 50), and a few examples are given from a collection made by Calmet in McClintock & Strong. A. T. Robertson states, "Aristotle speaks of a bloody sweat as does Theophrastus" (Word Pictures, 11, 272).
The basic question involves the correct interpretation of the passage. Did Luke state (1) that Jesus perspired blood, or (2) that his perspiration was so profuse that it fell from his body as would drops of blood fall from a wound. The study centers on the word "hosei," translated "as it were."
The adverb "hosei" appears in Mt. 3:16 where, upon the baptism of Jesus by John, "the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him." The Spirit of God descended "hosei" a dove. Was it really and only a dove (as the modernist maintains), or was it actually the Holy Spirit "in the form of" or "like" a dove?
The same word appears in Acts 2:3 where the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, "and there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire." These tongues were "hosei" fire. The Holiness people advocate, by a perversion of Mt. 3:11-12, a baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire as necessary for salvation. They use Acts 2:1-4 to prove that their interpretation of Mt. 3:11-12 is correct, and such obtains today. Brethren have pointed out that the text does not say there was actual fire, but that these tongues were "like as of" fire.
Consistency would demand that we modify our thinking on these three passages:
"His sweat became 'hosei' great drops of blood."
"He saw the Spirit of God descending 'hosei' a dove."
"Tongues parting asunder 'hosei' fire."
I believe that our argumentation on Mt. 3:16 and Acts 2:3 is sound. That the meaning I have given "hosei" is sound, observe by its usage in other passages: (1)"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed, and scattered, as (hosei) sheep not having a shepherd" (Mt. 9:36). (2) "And all that sat in the council, fastening their eyes on him, saw his face as it had been (hosei) the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15). (3) "Neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as (hosei) alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:13). They are commanded to present themselves to God, for His service, as if they had been raised from the dead (physical death). (4) "And as (hosei) a mantle shalt thou roll them up" (Heb. 1:12). (5) "And having cried out, and torn him much, he came out: and the boy became as (hosei) one dead; insomuch that the more part said, He is dead" (Mk. 9:26). (6) "And these words appeared in their sight as (hosei) idle talk; and they disbelieved them" (Lk. 24:11). (7) The word is used in calculation and with numbers to mean "about," cf. Mt. 14:21; Lk. 3:23; 9:14, 28; 22:41, 59; 23:44; Acts 2:41; 10:3; 19:7; Lk. 22:41.
This includes every place that the adverb "hosei" appears in the New Testament. In every passage (excepting calculation and numbers) it indicates similarity, but not actuality. Why would Luke use the word in Lk. 22:44 if Jesus' perspiration became blood? H. L. E. Luering recognizes the correct meaning of the word, and the force of the argument, when he states:
"It has been generally accepted that the sweat of the brow of Jesus had become bloody in appearance and in character, . . . it must, however, be observed that this translation would make the Greek particle hosei, superfluous, by which, not the identity of the sweat with drops of blood, but a certain similarity or comparison must be intended."
(I.S. B. E., V, 2875).
Truth Magazine VIII: 4, pp.74-75 January 1964