We find reports of certain details that our gospel authors would not have known based off the knowledge they had at the time when they were writing. This is particularly striking for sifting through what is historical as opposed to what is unhistorical when it comes to history. It likewise allows us to have greater confidence in certain details provided by the author, as we clearly see in Luke.
Luke reports that Jesus was praying before he was arrested. He tells us that “being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:44).
This is a very interesting detail as Luke reveals a medical condition that only contemporary medical science has discovered. For a 1st century Jew this would be quite unexplainable as they undoubtedly lacked sufficient medical knowledge. According to Matthew Henry’s commentary this was a manifestation of the “terrors possessed by the meek and lowly Jesus” and the coming of his excruciating and painful death. (1)
However, doctors today recognize a rare medical condition (it’s called hematidrosis) that looks like what Luke’s author is describing. Basically, high anxiety causes certain chemicals to release into the capillaries in the sweat glands. These chemicals break down the capillaries (very tiny blood vessels) so that there’s a small amount of bleeding right in the sweat glands. When the sweat comes out, it’s tinged with blood.
One criticism of this view would be that Luke’s author uses the word like – Jesus’ sweat became like drops of blood. In other words, Luke is comparing the sweat to the appearance of blood thus indicating that Jesus didn’t actually bleed. However, I disagree with this since Luke’s usage of the word like can be taken to designate a lack of knowledge of Jesus’ perceived condition. Secondly, I haven’t heard/read an explanation as to why we should doubt that Luke is mentioning hematidrosis when it fits with Jesus’ described condition of “being in agony.”
1. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary. Available: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/luke/22.htm