How did Luke know what Jesus said in the garden if the apostles were asleep?
Question:

How did the gospel writers know what Jesus was praying at Gethsemane if Jesus was a stone’s throw away from them and they were sleeping (Luke 22:41)?

Answer:

The Bible, clearly, does not tell us how the gospel writers, for example Matthew, knew what Jesus said in his conversation with the Father in the garden. The way I see it, there are four possible explanations of what happened. Which is the correct one will require some speculation. Here are the four possibilities:

1. There was an eye-witness, but not Peter, James or John because they were asleep.

2. The apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had the words spoken by Jesus given to them by inspiration, not by any direct knowledge.

3. After his resurrection but before his ascension, they asked Jesus what happened in the garden. Either that or he told them.

4. The story is simply wrong. It is a fabrication.

Of the four, I reject the last because I believe the Bible is inspired by God. The evidence for this is so overwhelming for the inspiration of the Bible that I find this to not be a reasonable conclusion, given the overall evidence for the reliability of the Bible. Of course, skeptics of Christianity will consider this option a real one, but that is their business. Given what I know about the Bible from an overwhelming weight of evidence, I find this conclusion to be the least likely. Of the other three, I cannot say for sure which is the case. My speculation is that option #3 is the most likely. It seems quite likely that Jesus would have related to them what happened in the garden while they slept. Surely John apologized to Jesus for falling asleep when he asked them to stay awake. Possibly Jesus filled him in at that time on what had happened, assuring John that this was all by the providence of God. I will admit that this is speculation, but, given what I know about the scriptures, #4 seems ruled out. #2 is possible, but I believe it is unusual for God to work in this way. Options #1 and #3 seem reasonable, but I personally find #3 to be more reasonable.

John Oakes

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