Questions From Readers
● How can we explain Luke 22:44 concerning Jesus’ sweat’s becoming like blood?—L. G., France.
Jesus was under great emotional stress in the garden of Gethsemane and it was during agonized praying that this unusual occurrence took place. Luke 22:44 states (NW): “Getting into an agony he continued praying more earnestly; and his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” It does not say that his sweat became literal blood, but only “as drops of blood”. Under the heading “Gethsemane—Watching and Praying”, the February 15, 1901, Watchtower stated: “Luke, who was a physician, says that he [Christ] was ‘in an agony’, a contest, a struggle, the language used in the Greek implying a struggle of increasing force and severity, so that ‘his sweat became as it were great drops of blood;’ and this bloody sweat is not unknown to physicians today, altho very rare. It marks an extreme tension of feeling—sorrow nigh unto death.”
More light on just what this may have been is shed by modern science, which, far from contradicting what the Bible says on this matter, shows that his sweat could have become “as drops of blood”. For example, the August 30, 1952, issue of Science News Letter reported: “Some people really do seem to ‘sweat blood’. The red color in their sweat comes from a pigment produced by their saprocrine glands. These skin glands normally exude unnoticeable quantities of milky white fluid, but sometimes they secrete a pigment, or dye, into the normally colorless fluid. When the perspiration dries, the pigment remains and attracts attention. . . . Sweating red, or any other color, is known as chromidrosis. Some cases obviously are caused by chemicals or drugs taken into the body. For hundreds of years it has been known that workers in copper mines may have green sweat, and that patients may show red sweat after taking certain medicines. In these instances, however, sweating over the entire body is colored, and the external origin of the color has long been apparent. The type of chromidrosis that remained unexplained until now is limited to small patches on the body. It usually occurs in the armpits, but may occur anywhere on the skin. It is seen only in adults, often in response to emotions. The sweat may be green, blue, black, yellow, brown or blood-red. In the latter case the condition has sometimes been regarded literally by laymen as ‘sweating blood’.”
Whether this is the specific explanation of what happened in Jesus’ case, there is, of course, no way of knowing. But it shows definite scientific evidence that it is possible for the sweat to be “as drops of blood”. And the above-quoted scientific news item shows that this unusual occurrence takes place “often in response to emotions”. Certainly at the time of Jesus’ agonized praying in Gethsemane sufficient emotional disturbance was present to call forth the response of the sweat’s becoming “as drops of blood”.
● Some scholars claim that the letter to the Ephesians was not to those at Ephesus but was the letter to the Laodiceans, mentioned at Colossians 4:16, and some ground for this, they say, is that the words “which are at Ephesus” found in the King James Version of Ephesians 1:1 are an addition to the text. Are they correct in their position?—H. J., Chile.
That there actually existed at one time a letter to the Laodiceans seems established by Colossians 4:16. Do we have it today? Or do we have a replica of it? Maybe we do; maybe we do not. It may have been inspired; it may not have been inspired. But if it was not inspired that does not mean it was false, any more than statements that we might make today are necessarily false merely because they are uninspired. A statement can be absolutely true, though uninspired. So if the letter to the Laodiceans was not inspired, that does not make it false. Merely because it was not preserved in the Bible canon does not make it false. It was not included because it doubtless is not necessary for us today; other letters that are included may cover the same points for us. To include it might mean useless duplication.
The suggestion of duplication brings us to a consideration of the letter to the Ephesians. The opening reads: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1) However, many manuscripts omit “at Ephesus” and in the Greek merely read “to the saints which are”, without naming any place. The New World Translation renders this verse Eph 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will, to the holy ones who are also faithful ones in union with Christ Jesus.” It omits “at Ephesus”, the footnote saying “who are” is according to the manuscripts Sinaitic, Vatican 1209 and Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 2, symbolized respectively by א, B, P46. However, the expression “who are at Ephesus” is found in the manuscripts known as Alexandrine, Bezae, Vulgate and Peshitta Syriac version.
In view of these facts the explanation that has been given is that the letter to the Ephesians was a form letter and that Paul had several copies of this letter made and left a space after the words “who are——————”, and the space was to be filled in according to the address to which a particular copy of the letter was to be directed. We know that many organizations today, including the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, use form letters that have an omission or blank space that is to be filled in according to its destination. It may be that one of these form letters by Paul was sent to Ephesus and another to Laodicea, and that since the Laodicean letter was an exact duplicate of the one sent to the Ephesians it was not preserved as a part of the Bible canon. The one addressed to the Ephesians was the one preserved.
The foregoing is quite an ingenious explanation, and accounts for certain things. We can consider it as an interesting possibility. At any rate, we believe the letter to the Ephesians to be just that, and not the one to Laodicea mentioned at Colossians 4:16. The one to the Laodiceans may have been a duplicate form letter, or a repetition of points already adequately covered in other canonical letters, or uninspired, or dealing with material not necessary for us today; and for any one of these reasons may have been left out of the inspired Bible canon.