Just across the Kidron Valley to the east of Jerusalem on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives was a place called Gethsemane that has been remembered in connection with Jesus for over 2000 years (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32; Luke 22:39-40; John 18:1). Matthew and Mark give the name Gethsemane, while John specifies that it was a garden or orchard (Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon, 947). Luke recorded events that occurred at Gethsemane, but only mentioned that it was at the Mount of Olives. The name Gethsemane is Aramaic, from gat shemane meaning “oil press,” although the Hebrew version of the name is almost identical. This orchard apparently contained olive trees which were harvested and then pressed into oil, and even today many ancient olive trees still stand in the general area. However, according to recent tests, the most ancient of these olive trees in the garden are about 1000 years old, with the possibility that they may have grown back from the roots of trees centuries older. All of the trees in Gethsemane from the time of Jesus were probably cut down with the rest of the trees around Jerusalem for use in construction during the Roman siege of the city in 70 AD, while the trees that grew back after the 1st century were probably also cut or burned during later attacks on the city (Josephus, Wars 5.522-523).
The ancient Garden of Gethsemane was located on the lower northwestern slope of the Mount of Olives, although the exact location of the events in the Gospels cannot be ascertained from the written sources (Eusebius, Onomasticon; Bordeaux Pilgrim, Itinerarium Burdigalense). The current building at the site, called the Church of All Nations, was built over the ruins of a 4th century Byzantine church constructed to commemorate the events of the life of Jesus that took place in the Garden of Gethsemane (McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament, 198-199). The rock now inside the church, mentioned by the Bordeaux Pilgrim, is supposedly the place where Jesus prayed, although this is conjecture. This church was destroyed in the 614 attack of the Persians, rebuilt by the Crusaders, and then destroyed again by the Muslims.
In the solitude of Gethsemane at night, Jesus prayed to the Father that His cup might pass, but He was ready to carry out the plan of God no matter how difficult or painful it might be (Matthew 26:38-42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). The events in this garden may be contrasted with Eden, where Adam gave into temptation, while at Gethsemane Jesus Christ prevailed over temptation (Genesis 3:6; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45). Jesus kneeling down during this prayer in the garden may also have been the origin of the Christian practice of kneeling prayer, which was later emulated by Peter, Paul, and Luke (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:35; Luke 22:41; Acts 9:40, 20:36, 21:5). During this prayer, the Gospel of Luke relates that Jesus was so overwhelmed with anxiety that His sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). In modern medicine, this rare condition is called “hematidrosis” to describe blood sweat. It comes from two Greek words, haimatos meaning “blood” and hidros meaning “sweat.” The phenomenon can occur in situations of extreme stress, such as knowledge of impending death, causing a reaction in which capillary blood vessels feeding the sweat glands rupture, mixing blood with sweat and creating a “blood sweat” (Holoubek, “Blood, Sweat and Fear: A Classification of Hematidrosis”; Jerajani et al., “Hematohidrosis—A Rare Clinical Phenomenon”). Although an extremely rare occurrence, hematidrosis was known in ancient times at least as early as the time of Aristotle in the 4th century BC, and it was also mentioned by Apollonius of Rhodes, Theophrastus, and Lucan (Aristotle, Historia Animalium 3.19; Apollonius of Rhodes. Being a physician, it is understandable that Luke would be the only author to include this detail, and Luke also correctly specifies that while Jesus was praying, his sweat became “like” or “just as” blood and not that it was simply and only blood (Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon, 2040). This is an important distinction because according to medical studies, hematidrosis causes a mixture of blood and sweat, but it is not the sweating of pure blood. Further, the blood atonement of Jesus Christ took place at the crucifixion, not in Gethsemane (Mark 14:24; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20). Although several ancient manuscripts omit the prayer and sweating of blood recorded in the Gospel of Luke, some of the earliest Gospel manuscripts also include the section, and analysis indicates that the section was purposely removed due to theological variances, probably by Marcionites (Clivaz, “The Angel and the Sweat like ‘Drops of Blood’ (Lk 22:43-44): P69 and f13”).
Gethsemane was a real place outside of 1st century AD Jerusalem that had a garden or orchard including olive trees, it was the site where Jesus prayed that the will of the Father would be done and where Jesus was arrested by the religious leaders of Jerusalem, and thanks to descriptions in the Gospels, early Church writings, and a Byzantine church preserving the memory of the location, the area can still be visited nearly two millennia after those events.