SWEAT, BLOODY. A physical manifestation of the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane (
BLOODY SWEAT. “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (
There has been argument as to whether Luke means the sweat was blood-tinged, or that the drops of sweat were merely very large, like drops of blood. The former would appear more likely. This phenomenon called hematidrosa has been rarely described in medical lit. It occurs as Dr. Le Bec says in “very special conditions: great physical debility, accompanied by violent mental disturbance following on profound emotion or great fear.” (Quoted in Pierre Borlet, The Passion of Our Lord, p. 160.)
It is interesting to pause to consider the probable mechanism of the phenomenon. When a person is under stress the body chemical processes are speeded up producing excess heat which is lost via the sweat. The sweat can only reach the sweat glands as fluid passing into them from the blood stream, and so the blood vessels just under the skin around the sweat glands become markedly dilated. In hematidrosa the dilatation of these blood vessels is so intense that blood ruptures into the sweat glands and sweat and blood run intermingled onto the body.
Although “great fear” was not the cause of our Lord’s experience, this explanation does give a glimpse of the intensity of His mental suffering.
P. Borlet, The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1954), 160; see also “La Supplice de la Croix,” L’Evangile de la Vie (April, 1925).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)