Reza Aslan’s version of events in the Garden of Gethsemane bears little resemblance to the Gospel accounts.

Whatever a particular reader may or may not think about the precise historical veracity of the accounts of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Gospel writers appear to be going to considerable lengths to make at least three important points:

1. Jesus was not a “victim” in these events. He chose freely to enter into the terrible events of the passion narrative and to go willingly to this place of suffering.

2. Jesus was a peaceful participant in these events. Although he had the capacity to command greater power than his adversaries, he chose to respond with peace, grace and healing in the face of injustice, treachery and violence.

3. The events ushered in by the treachery of Judas and the Temple officials were part of a larger cosmic tapestry of God’s unfolding plan.

Aslan’s reader is left to decide who should be trusted as the more accurate authority on the meaning of what took place on this dark and tragic night in a lonely Garden in Jerusalem.

Here is Matthew’s account of this event:

Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’49At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.50Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.52Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:47-56)

And John’s version:

Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’5They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.6When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground.7Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’8Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’9This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.11Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’ (John 18:3-11)

And Luke’s recounting of the same incident adds the detail of the healing of the ear of the high priest’s servant:

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him;48but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.51But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him.52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit?53When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’ (Luke 22:47-53)

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