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‘Jesus had a brief nervous breakdown’

Jill Hamilton meets Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, the scholar with a bold view of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane

By on Thursday, 21 June 2012

Fr Murphy-O’Connor

Fr Murphy-O’Connor

“Jesus had a brief nervous breakdown in the Garden of Gethsemane,” suggested Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, the 77-year-old renowned expert on the New Testament. Tall, very erect, heavily built with a clipped white beard, “Fr Jerry,” as he is affectionately known, looks imposing even when sitting. Although he spoke with an air of authority, the idea of Jesus having a mental collapse after the emotional Last Supper came as a shock to me, as it would to most traditional Christians. But Fr Murphy-O’Connor, like his first cousin, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, can present an argument persuasively.

“Scholars,” he said, “have come a long way from seeing Jesus as a lonely figure in a moonlight-dappled garden whose body and spirit momentarily rebelled.”

He emphasised the wide gap between recent research and how average churchgoers still perceive many events in the life of Jesus.

Expanding on the contradictions surrounding the diverse re-tellings of Jesus’s final hours, his suffering and extreme anguish of the Agony in the Garden, he added: “When realising the imminence of his own demise, Jesus was deeply distraught and troubled, out of control.”

We chatted over pre-lunch drinks in the austere, book-lined bedroom-cum-study in the quiet confines of the École biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem, one of the numerous stone monasteries in Jerusalem. For nearly half a century Fr Murphy-O’Connor has lived here on the outskirts of the Old City in this colonnaded, palace-like building which claims to be the oldest research institute in the Holy Land.

During his long years here Fr Murphy-O’Connor has built up a formidable reputation. No other priest in Jerusalem is as well known internationally. An esteemed professor of New Testament studies, he has the prestige of being one of the most respected biblical scholars in the world today. Indeed, he is a living legend, almost a landmark in Jerusalem.

The son of a prosperous wine merchant in Cork, he was educated by Christian Brothers and, not wanting to be a secular priest, joined the Dominicans. After graduating from a seminary in Ireland he chose scriptural studies, gaining a doctorate in Switzerland, followed by post-doctoral work at the University of Heidelberg. When he arrived in Jerusalem at the age of 28 he continued the challenging work of interpreting the Dead Sea Scrolls which he had begun in Germany.

Intensely interested in the history and archaeology of the Holy Land, and being very sociable by nature, he gathered together various diplomats, United Nations staff, journalists and priests who met on weekends to hike around various archaeological and historical sites. As a result of the weekend adventures and explorations of these enthusiasts, nicknamed the Sunday Group, Oxford University Press asked Fr Murphy-O’Connor to write an archaeological guidebook, The Holy Land. Since 1980 it has gone into five editions and sold over 100,000 copies. All the royalties, as with his books on St Paul and other publications, go to his Dominican institute.

Jerusalem has remained the focus of Fr Murphy-O’Connor’s life, but he has returned “home” to Cork most summers and keeps closely in touch with his Irish relatives. “We are a big clerical family. Three cousins, including Cormac, and three uncles were priests,” he said with pride.

Last year, as now, he was confined to a wheelchair, yet he managed the five hour flight to Cork. This summer, though, he won’t make the journey. “The trouble is that my good friend, Sister Kay, a nun, who looks after me when I am there, is now very ill,” he said sorrowfully.

Fr Murphy-O’Connor radiated a sense of confident well-being, and it was hard to believe that he is unable to walk far or breathe properly without medical assistance. Having recovered well from a coma seven years ago, he has suffered another health setback. For months he has had endure having a plastic tube from an oxygen machine attached to his nose 24 hours per day. This, though, has not stopped him working long hours each day at his computer, writing and editing. As he is not the sort of person who complains about personal discomfort, his only words relating to his physical disabilities are praise for the medical staff and the devoted students who push his wheelchair to the dining room and to prayer.

Nothing hinders Fr Murphy O’Connor’s sharp intellect. He manages to keep up to date on the latest historical research and critical biblical scholarship which shapes interpretations of events in the Bible. Chapter five, “What really happened at Gethsemane?” in his new book, The Keys to Jerusalem, refers to the debates surrounding the emotional turmoil of Jesus on the night prior to his arrest. The book contains 12 articles on the history, archaeology and theology of Jerusalem. All deal with problems which he thinks have not yet been given satisfactory solutions.

The really fascinating pages are those which analyse the controversy over one of the most soul-wrenching episodes in the gospels, that is, Jesus’s prayer to God in Gethsemane. Fr Murphy-O’Connor even goes so far as to ask the question: “How do we know the words of Jesus’s prayer? If the disciples were asleep and they had no time with Jesus after he was arrested and before he was put to death, how does anyone know what Jesus prayed? Where is the source for the content?”

His answer came as a shock: “They made it up!”

This was the sort of remark one might hear from an atheist or a non-believer, not an august Catholic biblical scholar.

He continued: “The only possibility is that certain disciples projected on to Jesus the emotions that they imagined they would experience if they themselves suddenly realised their death by torture was imminent.”

The notion that the authors of the gospels used imagination, and that their words sometimes only reflect a kernel of the historical truth, was difficult to grasp. As he sat at his neat desk, Fr Murphy-O’Connor spoke of the intensely human Jesus revealed by Mark: “Mark stressed that it is a fully human thing to have a nervous breakdown if you are about to be tortured to death.”

To strengthen his reasoning, Fr Murphy-O’Connor added that modern scholars agree that Mark was the first to write any of the gospels and was, therefore, more likely to have had reliable first-hand sources. The distortion of facts developed, Fr Murphy-O’Connor believes, because “it is clear in the story that the early Church did not want a Jesus that was really human”.

“In contrast, John’s Jesus is always in control. Unlike John, Mark accepted the full humanity of Jesus. Remember, that it is only in the first source used by Mark that Jesus has a brief nervous breakdown.”

He paused: “However, in Mark’s second source there is no reference to this. It suppresses Jesus’s breakdown by making him say: ‘My soul is sorrowful unto death.’ Such a quote makes it look as if Jesus was talking about his internal feelings, yet it is a quotation from Psalm 42.”

He added: “This was all written at the very beginning of thought of who Jesus was and what he felt. Mark’s writings were about 40 years after Jesus died, around the year 70 AD” – the time of the first Jewish-Roman War, when Christians, like Jews, in Jerusalem were persecuted.

“Young men and women in their 20s who had been in the company of Jesus would have been alive in the year 70. So even though Mark was writing 40 years after the death of Jesus, he would have had access to witnesses. We know that Mark combined two sources which, of course, must be earlier than the year 70.”

Halting to ensure that I fully understood what he was saying, Fr Murphy-O’Connor then spoke of how Mark’s second source is similar to the way that John portrayed Jesus at Gethsemane: always completely in control. “Presenting Jesus as a man who loved people and having compassion was no problem. But they didn’t like him having a nervous breakdown, being out of control. It proved to be more than other Christians could accept. Ignorance, they also tried to suppress.”

But can Christians even now accept the human frailty of Jesus, not just his divine nature?

Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s new book, The Keys to Jerusalem, is published by Oxford University Press, priced £65

  • http://jacquelineparkes.blogspot.com/ Jackie Parkes

    Having suffered nervous breakdowns myself, don’t think I could accept that Jesus was “out of Control ” – distraught, even depressed yes..

  • JohnR

    I’m puzzled here by two things that Fr Murphy-O’Connor is claiming. Firstly, and most simply, what are the ‘two sources’ that he says Mark combined, and how do we ‘know’ this? I can only assume that he is talking about the Ur-Mattheus gospel mentioned by Papias, and perhaps an oral tradition supplemented to this. Could someone clear this up?

    Secondly, is Fr Murphy-O’Connor not cognizant of the Biblical Commission’s decree that Matthew’s gospel has priority over Mark? How can a Catholic scholar make exegetical claims on the basis of Markan priority?

  • Patrick Walters

    If, as Fr Murphy-O’Connor asserts,“They made it up”, how can he be so sure of his own assertions regarding what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane?

  • dyoung

    Jesus is the sorce. After the resurection  he spent 40 days with his disciples. Plenty time to converse with them. Secondly he wakes the apostles up. Perhaps they heard his words as they were drifting back to sleep again.

  • JohnR

    I think Fr Murphy-O’Connor may have been referring to two sources from a more scholarly perspective, especially since his work is as a biblical textual critic. 

    However, I was taken aback by his apparent certainty that there were two sources which Mark used – it is hypothesized that he may have used a Hebrew version of proto-Matthew, but I wasn’t aware, outside of a vague notion of an oral tradition, of another text. Unless he is referring to the mysterious ‘Q’ document…..

    Still, the Biblical Commission of 1913 cites priority for Matthew, so I’m still a little puzzled…..

  • Diego

    I thought most Catholic scholars had moved on from denying the veracity of the scriptures. Pity the Herald bothers to give this Murphy O’Connor house room. He sums up the decadence of Catholic Irish intellectualism and tired Irish Dominicanism.

  • JohnR

    Quite right. Modern archaeological discoveries e.g. the Pool of Siloam etc, are even authenticating the veracity of John’s gospel.

    I suspect a major motivation of such exegesis as Fr O’Connor’s is financial. At £65 a book, he has to say something controversial…..

  • Parasum

    “Fr Murphy-O’Connor even goes so far as to ask the question: “How do we know the words of Jesus’s prayer? If the disciples were asleep and they had no time with Jesus after he was arrested and before he was put to death, how does anyone know what Jesus prayed? Where is the source for the content?”His answer came as a shock: “They made it up!”
    This was the sort of remark one might hear from an atheist or a non-believer, not an august Catholic biblical scholar.”

    ## That last sentence shows a lack of awareness of NT scholarship since about 1950. The idea may well shock Catholics, and that is not surprising, though certainly a pity – but outside the CC, and within NT scholarship whether Catholic or not, such a suggestion is perfectly normal. 

    There is nothing revolutionary in suggesting that parts of the gospels are invented scenes. Such a suggestion does not oppose the truth of Scripture, because an incident that did not happen precisely as described can be true in a different way from that of an historical narrative. The gospels are not merely historical, though they include historical matter. They are profoundly theological documents  that set forth some historical details about the Lord in order to proclaim Who He is, & why He matters. 

    It is not impossible that some seemingly historical parts of the gospels did not happen, but are stories generated within the Apostolic Church for the purposes of preaching. Some parables may be of this kind: they are put into the mouth of Jesus, not because He uttered them during His ministry, but because He, being Glorified & Ascended, speaks  them through His Church that preaches Him. 

    The variety in the accounts of the death of Judas Iscariot suggests that a real event has been given the clothing of a story in different forms for the sake of making a theological point. Matthew’s Judas hangs himself like Ahithophel, the very wise counseller of King David, who took the side of Absalom against David. Since Jesus is the new David & the Davidic King, to take the Ahithophel story in 2 Samuel 17  and make Judas Isariot die like Ahithopel makes good sense.

    Atheists often see the problems in the Bible – but do not try to solve them. They seem more likely to scoff, which rather suggests that they are aware enough of the contents to see the difficulties for Christians, but not learned enough in theology or Scripture to realise that the difficulties are neither news, nor insoluble. Their objections may upset Fundamentalists, but nobody else. The scholars, by contrast, are aware not only of the obvious problems, but also of the many that are not obvious to the “average” Bible-reader. Including the difficulties with the idea that the gospels are straightforwardly historical. They are not – they are far more interesting than anything so dull. Anglo-Saxon Christianity is apt to be more concerned with whether a thing actually happened, than with its significance. Virgin births, or angels, or miracles are not distinctive. Descents to Hell ? Ishtar & Theseus did that. None of these things, even if they are all real events, make Jesus of Nazareth important, let alone the Christ of Christian faith. The events are nothing without the theological significance. But the events, real or not, combined with the writer’s faith-given insight into what they mean, are important. And their meaning emerges from how they are are narrated: the cloud which receives Jesus at the Ascension is a reminder that He is a Divine figure, associated with both sacrifice & the Exodus.

     “But can Christians even now accept the human frailty of Jesus, not just his divine nature?”

    ## Why ever not ?  Hebrews 4 has this:

    Hebr 4:14     Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
    Hebr 4:15     For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

  • jtliuzza

    Father’s “bold” view?  How is it “bold?”  Enjoy the proceeds from your book, father.

    No wonder the Church in Ireland is in shambles.  When are all these post-conciliar frauds going to finally leave us in peace?

  • Parasum

    “The notion that the authors of the gospels used imagination, and that their words sometimes only reflect a kernel of the historical truth, was difficult to grasp.”

    ## The difficult thing to grasp is that anyone could think that difficult to grasp LOL How we think of “the authors of the gospels” as working, depends partly on our understanding of inspiration, and partly on how we think the NT traditions were formed, preserved, and made available to the authors of the gospels. This is not contentious, from the POV of the Magisterium: it allows for (IIRC) four stages in the transmission of tradition from Jesus during his earthly Life, to the composition of the gospels by the Four Evangelists.  ISTM some of what bothered you is stuff that the Magisterium has taken for granted for quite a long time. The problem, in any investigation, is that all of us are at the mercy of our sources; problems we are not aware of, are problems we can’t guard against; all of us know some things, while being ignorant of others; & all of us have biases and blind-spots of some kind. And for those of who are specifically Christians of some kind, ideas that seem obviously right may seem shocking and scandalous & grossly unChristian to others.

  • Parasum

    The decrees of the PBC under St.Pius X or Benedict XV are not the last word in Biblical study. Nor are they the final word. And they are disciplinary, & not doctrinal. I find it very strange that some people seem well aware of the PBC of 90 or 100 years ago, but unaware of Pius XII’s Letter to Cardinal Suhard in 1948, or of Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943.

    Quite apart from Magisterial acts, a lot has happened in Biblical scholarship since the death of St.Pius X. The issues that the PBC bothered with in his time, are those of that time, not later ones.  To expect Catholics to think and study & work & write on Biblical matters as though 2012 were 1912, is a restriction that no other academic discipline would tolerate for a moment – and rightly. The loss to Biblical scholarship would cripple Catholic scholars, while making it impossible for them to pay any attention to other disciplines later than that date (some of which did not exist until later) that overlap with theology.  The result would be obscurantism, ignorance among those who should be learned in Scripture & in what concerns it, & the crippling of the Church’s mission. It would become nothing more than a large Fundamentalist sect, trying (in vain) to keep modern scholarship at bay just in case it had to reconsider its traditional faith. But that would be not only unavailing  & very foolish; it would be rank cowardice. If God is with the Church, there is not, & cannot be, anything whatever to fear, ever, anywhere. To try to stave off problems, intellectual or other, by refusing to consider them, shows that the Church has no answer to them, or has not the courage to face them. Which suggests it does not think God is adequate to them – IOW, they are too great even for God. Is that the God of Catholicism ?

  • jtliuzza

    Ishtar and Theseus.  Great.

    Do you publish anywhere of significance or do you limit yourself to pedantic blather on internet comment boxes?

  • Patrick Walters

     What is shocking is that Fr Murphy-O’Connor, a scripture scholar, appears to be able to make a diagnosis of a nervous breakdown, on the basis of “evidence” which he claims to have been fabricated.

  • Cjkeeffe

    They made it up! Me thinks Fr Jerry has made things up to sell a book.
    Where do we get these peopel from?

  • JohnR

    Markan priority is simply another hypothesis among many that fail to answer the ‘Synoptic problem’. Personally, on account of my own study, I have come to accept the position that Matthew has priority in the Synoptic tradition, and this just happens to concord with the Decree of the Biblical Commission 1913, though I’m quite happy for others to disagree, and I’d too be quite happy to debate this.

    The problem with Fr O’Connor’s analysis is that it all rests on Markan priority, which is neither a proven proposition by any means, nor a position that the Church he belongs to would endorse. The Church asserts Matthew’s priority for good exegetical reasons: it is not the result of blind dogmatic conceit….

  • JohnR

    According to the ‘criterion of embarrassment’, Jesus’ torment prior to his arrest would be considered a fairly safe historical fact, which makes your comments above fairly redundant…..

  • Lewispbuckingham

     Yes that’s the obvious answer.Also when the apostles woke up they would have seen drops of sweat on the ground, sweaty clothing, sweat on Christ’s brow and possibly droplets in the dust.They may have even smelt it.So they were eye witnesses.
     There is a line in  G@S about the need to ‘ add verisimilitude to an otherwise unconvincing narrative’ One of the things about the Gospel narrative of Christ’s suffering and death is the simplicity of the prose.It lacks embroidery to make it sound better.
     This is a feature of eyewitness statements.They are clear and to the point when they are truthfull. This particular narrative does not look like it was made up.

  • Nicholas2m

    Dear Fr.Murphy 

     Christ has to bear the very sins of the whole world of past, present and future – the enormity of reparation he has to pay since He became the propitiation for our sins, the One who is sinless became sin itself is so terrifying and agonizing even for our Lord to fathom with.   Moreover Christ who can foresee the events starts from Gethsemane and ends at Golgotha, can not only see his sufferings but also see the agonies of God the Father, Holy Spirit, (the two of the three distinct Persons)  Mary His Beloved Mother, His disciples and His beloved friends. It is very natural and correct for our Lord who is fully human and fully divine to express His humanness, yet in absolute control by submitting to the will of His Father ( ” Take this bitter cup from Me but not my will,  Thy will be done”)  Otherwise you will simply say that His divine nature made his suffering totally pain- free. The disciples may not have witnessed the moments of His sufferings in the Garden, but we should not forget that the Holy Spirit  was witnessing the events and the Gospel was written by His inspiration.                         

  • guardian angel

    Does it matter whether or not Jesus had a nervous breakdown. The dear father is missing the point surely – Jesus died for our sins. Salvation came through Jesus Christ. And what is wrong with the Matthew gospel showing Jesus human frailty? He was both Son Of God and Son of Man. Jesus was a man in flesh and he was also divine. I have my bible to prove that. I don’t need to buy another 65GBP book to prove that. The message of salvation is very simple

  • guardian angel

    No wonder the current Pope’s comment that the english clerics are very liberal and not very obedient to Rome. Is this another example of Dominican disobedience cloaked in a scholarly work? It won’t be the last from a Dominican. They are far away from the preaching of De Guzman – this dear father, Congar, Crean etc. My long standing admiration for this “teaching order” as my Pa described it is fast fading!

  • Laura

    Maybe they didn’t make it up.  Maybe He revealed His prayer to the apostles after the resurrection.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    SOME SCHOLARS ARE SPIRITUAL IDIOTS!

    INTELLECT IN ITSELF IS NOT A  REDEEMED REALITY, UNLESS IT IS ANOINTED BY THE SPIRIT OF JESUS.

  • Ronk

     Agreed the claim “they made it up” is utter nonsense.  Apart from what you’ve menttioned, he assumes
    (a) Jesus went out of earshotfrom the Apostles to pray (the Garden of Gethsemani is quite small) and/or
    (b) the Apostles ALL fell asleep IMMEDIATELY on reaching Gethsemani, and then when Jesus returned twice to wake them up, they then ALL immediately fell aslepp again another two times and
    (c) nobody else was in the Garden (we know from St Mark that e.g. the young man with the linen cloth on was there – he is thouught to have been St Mark himself, as none of the other Evangelists mention him).
    None of these assumptions are justified by the Gospel texts and other evidence, in fact they if anything render Fr Murphy-O’Connor’s assumptions impossible.

  • Diego

    “To expect Catholics to think and study & work & write on Biblical matters as though 2012 were 1912…”That is not the issue here but Murphy O’Connor’s assumption, and by publishing his views here, the Catholic Herald’s assumption too, that 2012 is 1972 or 1982, we have moved on! Now most Catholic scholars now accept earlier dates for authorship of scripture, the trustworthiness and apostolicity of those authors and the authenticity of the Apostolic Tradition. No Catholic scripture scholars would say that we should read scripture as “fundamentalists”, but it has to be read for what it is: Divine Revelation. MO’C treats it as dross, “they made it up”, “they invented it”, “its midrash”, “it didn’t happen like this” pervade his works, this is so far from Catholic scholarship, it is shameful and insulting to the “Word of God”.

    This is the type of nonsense that “Protestant” scholars were indeed expounding circa 1912,  in 2012, even they have moved on from that!

  • Geo

    This from the same scholar who asserts, without a shred of evidence, that Paul’s wife and family were killed in an earthquake. See Murphy-O’Connor’s “Paul: A Critical Life”.

  • Regina

    Where the sin of Adam took place in the Garden of Paradise, our Savior’s passion began in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had no nervous breakdown.

  • Daclamat

    And you’re not? Blame the hierarchies who have kept the faithful ignorant of biblical scholarship for the last fifty years. Cormac is perfectly orthodox.

  • Daclamat

    Right., And he dictated every word to a passing scribe just to make sure they got the message.
    But just supposing Jesus is human (which is what our faith is all about) what kind of reaction do you you expect him to have had? Is there something fundamentally wrong in describing what he must have felt?  The BBC wasn’t around at the time. The gospel narratives were never meant to be historical recordings.  If you  think they are, try reconciling the synoptic narratives.
    They are about revelation and truth, an understandiing of Jesus of after his passion, in the light of his passion.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A4E5PR5DDDIWYSTV5YDIIGTHLA Michael

     What are Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s qualifications in psychology and do they cover making diagnoses two millennia after the event?

  • Burt

    Unfortunately his brother Cardinal is cut out of the same drab piece of cloth.
    Soon I hope these Modernists will all reflect how they will be judged on their part in wrecking the Faith of the flock they were given the responsibility to lead to Heaven.

  • Daclamat

    This is the unkindest cut of all, accusing Cormac of being an English cleric

  • Burt

    Fr Jerome and indeed his brother Cardinal Cormac would do well to heed this warning given by St Patrick who bequeathed their country The One True Faith:

    6 I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.
    7 I am not ignorant of what is said of my Lord in the Psalm: ‘You destroy those who speak a lie.’ And again: ‘A lying mouth deals death to the soul.’ And likewise the Lord says in the Gospel: ‘On the day of judgment men shall render account for every idle word they utter.’
    8 So it is that I should mightily fear, with terror and trembling, this judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or hide, but each and all shall render account for even our smallest sins before the judgment seat of Christ the Lord

    These are passages taken from The confession of St Patrick (written originally in Latin, the language of the Church the Modernist heretics have tried hard to make redundant) 
    St Patrick pray for the Church in Ireland and indeed in the rest of the world.

    Priests, Bishops and Cardinals are betraying the Mission of Holy Mother Church.

  • KevinBeach

    The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity was so terrified in the Garden that he burst a blood vessel. I’ve got no problem if somebody wants to interpret that as a brief nervous breakdown. The same could be said for the moments before he died, when he lost faith in the Father: “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?”

    Fully human and fully divine. But we will never know how in this life.

  • paulpriest

    erm…pardon my use of the vernacular..but..COBBLERS!!!!

    This 1950s post-Bultmannian rubbish might have been something one could get away with 25yrs ago in the thralls of Catholic academe…but now?!!

    Sorry father but we’ve researched for ourselves – and we do indeed know better!
    [my major exegesis in seminary was on the marcan passion narrative and even from the miniscule amount I scried from that time I fully realise your speculative postulations are..coillons!  ]

  • Ed Sianski

    Fr Murphy-O’Connor is to be congratulated on his research about Jesus’ humanity. There is nothing incongruous  about a person facing the death penalty having a nervous breakdown. Somebody with the sensitivity of Jesus would be open to the full impact of a painful death. The whole experience of the Agony in the Garden is about Jesus’ acceptance of his fate and his refusal to compromise his principles. His was the ultimate in “Letting go and letting God”.  One cannot fully appreciate Jesus’ divinity unless s/he also accepts his humanity which includes having ‘nervous break-downs’.
    Ed Sianski

  • PeterOz

    I have always enjoyed the work of Jerome Murphy O’Connor both whenever he appeared on TV and from his book on Jerusalem an the Holy Land that I used extensively when I visited the Holy Land thirteen years ago. I am amazed at the vitriol being sprouted by some of the responses on the Catholic Herald Website. Who cares what Jesus ‘s exact words of prayer were, we know from all written sources that he prayed fervently and was totally distressed even to the possibility of sweating blood. Is that not fear? Is he not close to breaking point? Only a few hours later on the cross did he not cry out in despair that God had abandoned him? Isn’t it most likely from all that we know of the human character that he was close to panic just before his arrest? A fully human Jesus would have had a fully human reaction and that includes serious doubt as to his own relationship with God. I am no biblical scholar but I am a human and what JM O’C says makes perfect sense to me; I have long grappled with the contradictions in scripture and I look forward to reading his next book.

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    I recommend that you read St Thomas More “The sorrows of Christ” on how the apostles knew about Jesus in the Garden. Fr  O’Connor, I hope you read this because I never got the chance to correct your stupidity when you lectured in Australia years ago. You declared that private prayer of petition is useless, and when a priest referred to Jesus in Gethsemane, you mockingly said, “Yes but he wasn’t heard, was he.” How ignorant you are! Read Hebrews, and also call to mind Our Lord’s words, “When you pray, go to your private room… your Father who sees all that is done in secret will hear you.” I so regret not walking out on your lecture, please consider this the rebuke I should have given you then. God bless and forgive you.

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    One of my lecturers in the Seminary referred to soot in the chimney. I think he was talking of Fr J M-O’C

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    St Thomas More suggests, while writing in the Tower of London, that Jesus explained, “While you were sleeping…” because He wanted us to know of His suffering, so that those who suffer will understand His Compassion and that He has not abandoned us. Jesus is our Compassionate High Priest, able to sympathize with us, our trustworthy High Priest, tempted as we are, though outside of sin. Fr Jerome is a joke, and I feel great pity for him as well as a desire to box his ears for his blasphemy.

  • Burt

    I wish i could give at least one million ‘likes’ to this comment…..got that father jerome? got that Cormac?
    ….I don’t get it. you guys gave up sex lives apparently, but you betray the Saviour I sinned against for too long. Well I want to sin against him no longer. I want you guys to get back to why you first felt you were called to be priests. sometimes I wish I answered my vocation now. I don’t think I would have walked your path.Who knows?

  • Burt

    how can we know there was such a named garden?

    (just trying to carry on the irony)

  • Burt

    I bet Jesus was depressed when he saw what Fr J Mo’C was writing!

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    Jesus did not cry out in despair. He quoted the psalm that so clearly describes the Crucifixion, “…they cast lots for my robe…” etc. He thereby made it clear that by this action, this passion, He was making the offering that would heal the separation caused by mankind’s sin in the past. The tense used is of a once-off, completed action in the past, not an ongoing action, ie “why DID you abandon me”, not “why have you abandoned me.” As St Augustine explained, Jesus was speaking on behalf of all humanity. This psalm is one of the TODA psalms, full of hope and confidence; they begin by stating the present crisis, they affirm God’s help in the past, they express confidence in a victorious outcome. Read Ps 21 for yourself. See how the last words also align with the words of Jesus on the Cross, “These things the Lord has accomplished”, “It is accomplished”. We can meditate on Jesus’ humanity without having to claim that He did not know who He was, or that He had struggles with His faith. Jesus did not have Faith at all, He did not know the truth on the words of another, He is the Truth. If you investigate, you will find that is the witness of Scripture. If Fr Jerome wants to base his theories on pop psychology rather than Scripture, good for him, but let him be honest and stop calling himself a scripture scholar. He is no such thing.

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    Thank you Burt. It amazes and concerns me that we priests, after so many opportunities to learn the truth, could end up with far less Faith than our parents passed on to us. It would be better never to have become a priest than to become one who had less Faith. Please pray for us. Wasn’t Pope JPII so wonderful as an example, with his amazing learning, and profound devotion. I’m sure that humble devotion, especially to Our Lady, prevents us from becoming so clever that we become stupid. God bless

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    I wish we stopped giving the term “scholar” to someone who builds a huge edifice on unproven suppositions. This is purile play-school stuff. Thanks be to God true Scripture scholars are emerging, who know and believe the Scriptures and can join the dots to reveal more of God’s amazing message. We want to have revealed more of what God says, not what J M-O’C says that some alleged non-Scriptures might say, maybe, perhaps, with a modernist interpretation thrown on top.

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    And when we analyse this kind of scholarship, we often find it is very unscholarly as well. 

  • Fr Thomas Casanova

    Kevin, you may as well say that Jesus was also schizophrenic, not knowing who he was, loosing faith in the Father. Quoting a psalm that spelt out to the hearers that He was offering the sacrifice prophesied so long before does not indicate a loss of “faith”. Fully human and fully divine, yes. Confused? No.

  • Phillip Turnbull

    Mark’s Gospel clearly states that great anguish and distress came over Jesus and ‘he fell on the gound’. Then the words…’and prayed’.

    Odd – Jews don’t fall on the ground when they pray – they ‘fall on their face’.

    The distinction is important.

    As well, there are so may repititions in this account that there is a case that the original text was edited.

    And he went to a place and he took his diciples with him.

    Later generations ask – where? who?

    And so it becomes in alater generation, And he went to a place WHICH WAS CALLED GETHSEMANE and he took his disciples with him, PETER, JAMES AND JOHN.

    And then there are the contradictions in the text:

    Father IF it is possible – take away this cup from me – if? – surely expressing hesitatation as far as belief/confidence is concerned - then followed by - Father for you ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

    Whatever the real logic of the text is – and remember – now we see in a mirror dimly – Jesus in Gethsemane – afraid and terrified of the coming ordeal – and tragically alone – the disciples asleep and uncomprehending – finally utters that enigmatic word “Enough!” 

    What does that mean?

    Perhaps its the word that the jews uttered and wroite when a bill was paid – something like – Sure, that;s OK; that’ll do.  (The apostles’s weak faith; the residents of Rome for whom the Gospel was written throwing in the towel in the face of persecution.)  Jesus says to them – to you and I – Enough!  That’ss OK.  What little you have will do. Because I will pay the price.

    And then the confronting words of judgement – on them – on me – 0n you: See my betrayer is at hand.
    And that bgetrayer – was not only Judas – but me – and you.

    But He had said “Enough!”  It’s Ok – I will go and pay the price (for your betrayal – not only here – but throughout My ministry and throughout all ages.)

    What was it the angle said to the shepherds:  Behold I bring you news of great joy.  For today FOR YOU is born the SAVIOUR.

    Who knows what scholars say is true or not.  In the end we will all come before God with our opinions and have egg on our face.
    But at the same time, Fr Murphey’s opinions give me some little hope and kindle greater love and confidence in the Sacret Heart of Jesus – Divine Love in a human heart – and body.

    Sacdalized by his opinions?  The whole of Jesus’ ministry – his birth,  death and resurrection was a scandal.  Thankfully. 

  • HapHarris

    I believe the term “Nervous Breakdown” is a [misnomer].  Christ was carrying the Sins of all mankind on His shoulders.  

  • John O’Callaghan

    John O Callaghan

    Many years ago I attended  a talk by Fr. O’Connor given in a Cork City Church. As now, he held the same modernist opinions. Conforming to the Divine maxim, “say yes if you mean yes and no if you mean no and everything else is of the devil”I challenged a number of his comments. His answers were wooly enough to give an Aussie sheep-shearer problems. The word “modernist” came to mind then as now.

    Nevertheless, It was a wake-up call, and in that sense Fr. O’Connor and like revisionist historians have, maybe inadvertently done some good. With other men, I meet to study traditional Catholic Apologetics. We use this increasing knowledge in our door to door efforts to protect the unborn and to foster the Faith of parents.  Hopefully, they may in turn form their children in the personal love of Christ and His most holy Mother Mary.

    Others have already said what I would have, so my comments would be superfluous. Nonetheless, I would urge that courtesy and charity underpin whatever criticisms are leveled.

    Ideas have consequences, and the consequences set in motion by what I hold as the side effects of the repetitive historical Scriptural revisionism of many of today’s scholars, is terrible indeed. To Fr. Murphy O’Connor and others of like mind and kind, I invite you to come down from your towers, ivory or otherwise, and see first-hand the disastrous spiritual and material side-effects your “Scholarship” has brought down on society.

    Did you ever see the desolation of a mother who’s two daughters had killed themselves? Or of a father,  a son, a mother? In a country where suicide was once as rare then as an orthodox bishop is today, think carefully before you make anymore of your intuitive “Scholarly observations” about Holy Writ. We have found that where the curse of suicide is common, faith and prayer are uncommon.