Luke 22:44 (NIV)
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Was this a literal thing--did he actually sweat drops of blood. Is that even possible?

Or was his sweat so thick that it was "like drops of blood"?

What's going on in this passage?

  • It's called 'hematohidrosis.' – Gigi Sanchez Mar 12 '17 at 7:14

There's a condition known as Hematidrosis, which has reportedly occurred in people other than Jesus.

(Edit) It's difficult to tell whether the statement is intended to be taken literally or metaphorically. It seems as though most modern translations use similie language, so I'm changing my answer to say the "easy reading" suggests it's not literal; the author is likely using evocative (and alluding) language to describe Jesus's sweat drops. The medical condition is not completely unheard of, though.

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    This condition is also apparently related to the phenomenon known as stigmata: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18360116 – Bruce Alderman Oct 5 '11 at 15:22
  • Several of the lesser-voted answers point out the use of "like" in the quoted NIV passage. In the KJV the translation goes, "...his sweat was as it were great drops of blood..." And if you dig into the Greek, you find these are faithful renderings of Strongs G5616, which does in fact indicate a simile. The same word is used e.g. in Matt. 9:36 when Jesus looks out with compassion on the multitudes who were "as sheep without a shepherd." Apologies for the wordiness but I'm really puzzled over why such an obvious use of simile could be dismissed the way this answer dismisses it. – JDM-GBG Mar 31 '19 at 1:30
  • @JDM-GBG: Thanks for your comment. I've amended my answer. – Steven Apr 1 '19 at 13:24
  • A simile by definition uses a comparative such as "as" or "like" which this sentence does, in Greek and usually in English so there really isn't any question about it; it is a simile and not "hematidrosis". The image is though, intended to evoke his coming suffering. If Jesus did sweat large drops of blood it would not be an indicator of love or duress, just bizarrely porous skin. – Ruminator Apr 1 '19 at 20:44

The NET Bible includes this textual criticism note:

Several important Greek mss (Ì75 א1 A B N T W 579 1071*) along with diverse and widespread versional witnesses lack 22:43-44. In addition, the verses are placed after Matt 26:39 by Ë13. Floating texts typically suggest both spuriousness and early scribal impulses to regard the verses as historically authentic. These verses are included in א*,2 D L Θ Ψ 0171 Ë1 Ï lat Ju Ir Hipp Eus. However, a number of mss mark the text with an asterisk or obelisk, indicating the scribe’s assessment of the verses as inauthentic. At the same time, these verses generally fit Luke’s style. Arguments can be given on both sides about whether scribes would tend to include or omit such comments about Jesus’ humanity and an angel’s help. But even if the verses are not literarily authentic, they are probably historically authentic. This is due to the fact that this text was well known in several different locales from a very early period. Since there are no synoptic parallels to this account and since there is no obvious reason for adding these words here, it is very likely that such verses recount a part of the actual suffering of our Lord. Nevertheless, because of the serious doubts as to these verses’ authenticity, they have been put in brackets. For an important discussion of this problem, see B. D. Ehrman and M. A. Plunkett, “The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43-44,” CBQ 45 (1983): 401-16.

In plain English, Luke's original manuscript probably didn't include these verses. Early Christian scribes may have had the verses in some form (perhaps a fragment of a larger document or perhaps an annotation to a copy of the text) and fit them in were they thought they belonged.

The passage being a later addition breeches the question of whether Jesus sweated blood in historical fact. In my opinion, this is a pious, but misguided, addition and not historically authentic. I base this opinion largely on the work of Bart D. Ehrman and his popularization, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. The first four chapters are particularly useful.

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    Looking at his life timeline, it looks like that book came out of Bart Ehrman's agnosticism rather than his PhD and MDiv studies. It makes me question the source. Still, +1 for the fuller mention of the question of authenticity of this passage. (even though it doesn't answer the question) ;) – Richard Oct 18 '11 at 17:39
  • @Richard: Even so, I agree with Ehrman's argument here. But not so much that I am willing to answer "yes" or "no" it seems. ;-) – Jon Ericson Oct 18 '11 at 18:05
  • @Richard: If it matters, the article cited by the NET Bible is pre-agnosticism and probably forms the basis for the section in the book. I haven't read it, however. – Jon Ericson Oct 18 '11 at 18:06
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    It sounds like from this blog post, that the first four chapters (as you mention) are a solid, basic explanation of textual criticism. It's the last three chapters are controversial. – Richard Oct 18 '11 at 18:20

One thing to remember here is that Luke was a physician. He knew (should have known?) his symptoms. This does not preclude the metaphoric interpretation, but it does give the literal interpretation a lot more credence in this case. Even if it was not something he had seen before, it makes it far less likely that he would describe it this way in error.

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    That is true, but it also seems that those verses weren't in the original manuscripts. So, the authorship may be in question. (Just another thought. You do make an excellent point, though.) – Richard Oct 5 '11 at 14:04
  • Ok, good point. But was the symptoms known at the time? That is the question. – Sonic The Hedgehog Oct 6 '11 at 2:56
  • Modern scholarly consensus is that "Luke the physician" is not the author of the third gospel. – fdb Jul 18 '18 at 14:49

The combination of ἐγένετο and ὡσεί ("was like" or "became like" drops of blood) are used in Mark 9:26 and a variant reading of Matt. 28:4, both of which pretty clearly denote a simile ("became like dead men" and "became like a corpse," respectively). In the manuscripts of the Gospels ὡσεί and ὡς are often interchanged, suggesting that those who transcribed them did not see any high degree of semantic difference...nor should we.

Regardless of whether Luke was a physician, or whether sweating blood is possible (and I'm not saying it isn't), it seems to me that the simplest reading of the Greek is that we should understand this as a metaphor painting the picture that Jesus' was dripping perspiration due to his anguish. Just because Jesus did not literally sweat blood does not lessen the anguish that he suffered.

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    Indeed, there is no question that it is a simile. It is also probably an allusion to his impending bloody death. Those derelict "doctors" that claim that this is not only possible but happens to people are obviously making a pious lie. Kazillions of people have endured way more stress than Jesus went through without so much as collectively perspiring out even a single drop of blood, let alone one guy sweating "huge drops". LOL! – user10231 Sep 19 '15 at 20:50

The text says, "His sweat was LIKE drops of blood", which strongly suggest his sweat was not blood, but he was sweating so profusely that it was dripping off of him; resembling someone who had been severely wounded and was dripping blood.

If someone fell into a pond and sunk to the bottom of that pond and I told you, "he sunk to the bottom like a rock", does that mean when he sunk to the bottom... he became a rock?

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    This is a good point you make, although your second paragraph is a bit condescending. Still, if you look back at the original Greek, the text doesn't illustrate that this is a simile quite as obviously. Still, +1 for pointing out the tiny little word ὡσεί. – Richard Sep 25 '13 at 14:07

The text doesn't say he sweat great drops of blood, but it was 'LIKE' drops of blood. This gave meaning to what the Lord was going through. Read Luke 22:44 in the KJV, NKJV, or the NIV. Now to my reason, on top of my above statement is this: Jesus lead his disciples to the gates of the garden and had only three follow him in further. Jesus took with him John, James and Peter (two of them were sons of Zebedee), but Luke isn't in this group. So say James, John and Peter are there sleeping (Matt. 26:40) and the Lord wakes them up asking for them to stay awake. Wouldn't it be important to note in Matthew, Mark and John's writings that the Lord had blood soaked or stained clothing. And wouldn't you at this point stay awake in worry for your loved one? The Lord returns two more times and still nothing about bleeding great drops of blood from his sweat in their writings. Luke is saying this just show the agony our Lord was going through. The fact that Luke was some sort of doctor may have just given him the idea of this as he may have seen it in others and possibly dealt with it. So this doesn't take away from this agony the Lord took on for us.

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  • The Greek word "hosei" (translated "like" in KJV) can certainly have a metaphorical meaning (introducing an analogy) but not necessarily. In this case, the "drops" are "thromboi" thick clots of blood (from which we get our modern word, "thrombosis"). The International Critical Commentary documents several cases where people in extreme distress have had their pores exude blood. – user25930 Aug 7 '18 at 6:06
  • Bible simply doesn't say our Lord swet drops of BLOOD. Evidence shows he didn't. He shed his blood on the cross where he died for us (taking the cup). If he had also shed his blood in the garden you allow for false doctrine. Thus the atonement occurred two times and the Mormons are then correct. ADD: John 18:11Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?.............. So our Lord has not drank from the cup yet, he has that to do yet. Thank, (John 3:16) – Walter Sep 21 '18 at 1:43

Yes the word LIKE makes it a simile. IF the verse said his sweat WAS drops of blood then it could EITHER be interpreted as a metaphor OR literally (which is to say that his sweat was mixed in with blood as several physicians have documented in actual medical cases). The word LIKE makes it a more comparative statement VS a more literal XOR open interpretation. :)

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