The Last Supper: A Fiction Opposing the Account of Garden of Gethsemane

Epigraph:

Then whoso does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoso does an atom’s weight of evil will also see it. (Al Quran 99:8-9)

The Last Supper, originally painted by Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper, originally painted by Leonardo da Vinci

By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The Last Supper is the evening that Jesus, may peace be on him, spends with his disciples, in Jerusalem.  We have several different accounts in the New Testament, but, for our puposes today, let us stick with the Gospel of Mark, which was the first of the four canonical gospels to be committed to writing.  It describes the Last Supper as follows:

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14:17-26)

In this account of the Last Supper, the Christians read that Jesus, may peace be on him, is allegedly preaching a New Covenant and describing that the whole purpose of his life is to die on the cross, for sins of others, for vicarious atonement.

This description of the Last Supper, is also the foundation of one of the seven Sacred Sacraments of Catholicism, namely Eucharist.

But, just a few verses later in the same chapter, we have the description of the Garden of Gethsemane:

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! (Mark 14:32-41)

Jesus’ heartfelt prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, most famous as the place where, according to Biblical texts, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed the night before Jesus was put on cross, tell us that he did not want to die on the cross.

If we take the account of the Garden to be true and avoid any convoluted interpretation of his prayers to God Almighty to rescue him from ignominious death on the cross, then the account of Last Supper, of bread being Jesus’ body and drink being his blood, of the New Covenant, becomes nothing more than a fiction created at a later time.

According to Luke 22:43–44, Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane was so deep that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”


 The Garden of Gethsemane — From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Garden’s account is very believable, reflecting human need to pray to God, in time of need and distress and the Last Supper depiction above is only a painting and everyone is lined up, on one side of the table, as if posing for Leonardo da Vinci!

 The Garden of Gethsemane -- Olive trees up close

There are more than one places, in Jerusalem, which are claimed to be the Garden of Gethsemane, but that should not take away from the Luke’s account:
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  (Luke 22:39-42)
 John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan

This issue of historicity of the Last Supper is covered very well by John Dominic Crossan in his book, the Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. John Dominic Crossan (born February 17, 1934[1]) is an Irish-American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, and former Catholic priest who has produced both scholarly and popular works. His research has focused on the historical Jesus.  He writes:
Did Jesus, before his death, institute a new Passover meal in which his martyrdom with its separation of body and blood was symbolized by the meal with its separation of bread and wine? On the one hand, Paul certainly mows about such an institution in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. But, on the other, John 13-17 has a last supper with Jesus and his dis­ciples that is neither the Passover meal nor any type of institution­alized symbolic commemoration of his death. Neither the Gospel of Thomas nor the Q Gospel exhibits any awareness of a Last Supper tradition. Finally, the case of Didache 9-10 is especially significant. It describes a communal and ritual eating together, from the sec­ond half of the first century, with absolutely no hint of Passover meal, Last Supper, or passion symbolism built into its origins or development. I cannot believe that those specific Christians mew all about those elements and yet studiously avoided them. I can only presume that those elements were not there for everyone from the beginning–that is, from solemn, formal, and final insti­tution by Jesus himself. “What Jesus created and left behind was the tradition of open commensality seen so often earlier, and what happened was that, after his death, certain Christian groups cre­ated the Last Supper as a ritual that combined that commensality from his life with a commemoration of his death. It spread to other Christian groups only slowly. It cannot be used as a historical event to explain anything about Jesus’ own death.[1]
Jesus of Last Supper and Jesus of the Garden, a few hours later, seemto be polar opposite, if the two accountsare read in the Bible, without any embellishments, suggesting a split personality.However I believe, Jesus, may peace be on him, was a noble prophet of God, very patient and steadfast. Just one of the two accounts is a fabrication.

References

1. John Dominic Crossan. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. Harper Collins, 1995. Pages 146-147.

15 replies

  1. Zia Shah, it seems you are writing fiction because first of all THERE IS NO MENTION OF A “LAST SUPPER” in the NT. (I post this because in many places you have specifically asked if “Son of God” is anywhere in the Bible? and cast doubts about the same) showing that you believe what you want to believe.
    Further The last meal of Christ IS described in all four canonical Gospels – Mt. 26:17-30, Mk. 14:12-26, Lk. 22:7-39 AND ALSO Jn. 13:1-17:26- BTW what are the Gospel of Thomas and Q Gospels pray tell. They are not canonical gospels – here too you want to believe what you think should be true & what should not.
    You give the reference of John Dominic Crossan (born February 17, 1934[1]) is an Irish-American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, and former Catholic priest who has produced both scholarly and popular works. His research has focused on the historical Jesus., which is neither here nor there.

  2. Dear Ashok Saldanha, you are following the usual Christian apologists’ strategy, of beating around the bush, when faced with a difficulty.

    John Dominic Crossan is making a strong logical case, so you cannot dismiss him.

    You are not resolving the conflict between Jesus of Last Supper and Jesus of the Garden, a few hours later, seem to be polar opposite, like a split personality.

    I believe, Jesus, may peace be on him, was a noble prophet of God, very patient and steadfast. Just one of the two accounts is a fabrication.

  3. Zia Shah, you and John Dominic Crossan can say what you’ll fell like but I still say you want to believe what you want to believe is “true” even though history and fact are against you.
    Let me inform you that John D. Crossan is not the “only authority” on debunking the truth of the Gospels. There have been many like him and there will be many more.
    Evangelical biblical scholar Craig L. Blomberg in Making Sense of the New Testament, writes “The majority of recent specialized studies, has recognized that the closest parallels (TO THE GOSPELS – emphasis mine) are found among the comparatively trustworthy histories and biographies of writers like the Jewish historian Josephus, and the Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides”
    Also in his observation on the Gospels Catholic theologian and biblical scholar Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis says “We must conclude, then, that the genre of the Gospel is not that of pure “history”; but neither is it that of myth, fairy tale, or legend. In fact, evangelion (Good News) constitutes a genre all its own, a surprising novelty in the literature of the ancient world……Matthew (for example) does not seek to be “objective” in a scientific or legal sense. He is writing as one whose life has been drastically changed by the encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. Hence, he is proposing to his listeners an objective reality of history, but offered as kerygma, that is, as a proclamation that bears personal witness to the radical difference that reality has already made in his life. (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, Vol. II: Meditations on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, 44)

    Many early Christian authors, such as Justin Martyr, referred to the Gospels as “memoirs of the apostles.” These have been written by WITNESSES who were there and SAW CHRIST IN THE FLESH. That’s why like I said the last meal of Christ IS described in all four canonical Gospels — Mt. 26:17-30, Mk. 14:12-26, Lk. 22:7-39 AND ALSO Jn. 13:1-17:26 and have to be read as a whole NOT IN PARTS.
    So causing doubts like you do that the Christ of the Last Supper “was different” – a split personality according to you – does not hold water.

  4. I cannot understand how the event of last supper and the prayer in the garden oppose each other. What harm is there if Jesus foretold that he was being cheated by some one? And while doing that he could say that the disciples were eating his flesh and drinking his blood, by betraying him. That was quite appropriate style of expressing his unhappy condition.
    Somehow, I could not understand the basis of disagreement between the event of Supper and the prayer in Garden.
    It is sure that Jesus a.s. used to have special meal together with disciples to celebrate some Jewish event. He knew that he was being betrayed otherwise why he would go in the garden and pray and be exceedingly sorrowful.
    I believe that both reports about a meal with disciples and the prayer in the garden are true. I cannot see any conflict in them. Wassalam.

  5. Dear Ghulam Sarwar

    Thanks for your comment. Jesus, may peace be on him, may well have dined with his disciples on the night before he was put on the cross. I am not taking issue with that.

    In Garden of Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus does not want to die on the cross and is praying fervently to God the Father. But, in the Last Supper, he is allegedly preaching a New Covenant and describing that the whole purpose of his life is to die on the cross, for sins of others, for vicarious atonement:

    While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

    Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

    “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. (Mark 14)

    This is what I am taking issue with and this is what is against what is described in the account of Garden of Gethsemane and this is indeed that is contradictory to the essence of Judaism and Islam.

    I will add a few lines in the article also to clarify this point. Thanks for pointing out.

  6. Well, the amazing thing really is that they were all seated on one side of the table, sort of anticipating that someone in the future will want to paint them having their ‘last supper’ before their Master the Prophet Jesus went on his final journey to Kashmir.

  7. Thanks Shah sahib, I will try to understand any further explanation from you. The event of the garden is true and clear. The event of the supper (i.e. feast of Passover) was also clear to me because I was taking it that Jesus a.s. was upset. He was taunting the followers and abusing them for the bad deed of one disciple betraying him to the enemies.
    The words in the supper event about the betrayer that it was better that he was not born, support the truth that Jesus a.s. did not want to be killed. If that was the mission of his life (i.e. sacrifice) then he would have praised that person (Judas) who was helping the arrest of Jesus a.s.
    I like the post of Rafique sahib if we take that picture as the last supper in Galilee before Jesus a.s. departing on a long journey.
    Leonardo da Vinci was a very wise person. The Last Supper, originally painted by Leonardo da Vinci has nothing to do with Mark 14:17-26.
    All the persons in that painting seem to be happy about something. They are not shown in any sorrowful mood. They seem to be celebrating something. Please examine the painting carefully.
    I understand that Mark 14:17-26 concerns the Passover event and the painting is showing the last supper of Jesus a.s. in Galilee after surviving the ordeal of the cross.

  8. Zia Shah, how much nit picking one can do can be seen by what you have posted to Ghulam Sarwar regarding the “2 Jesus’ – one at the “Last Supper” and other at the Garden of Gethsemane.
    Jesus DID indeed preach a new covenant (which I think if muslims did also follow (instead of harping on 2 different Jesus’) there would be much less trouble in the world) at the “Last Supper”.
    Time and again you and the others on this board have been told of the 2 natures of Christ – human and divine – which you fail to ingest, given that your belief in the Koran & Mohammed’s belief in what he knew about Christ is the last word.
    The human side of Jesus is seen NOT ONLY at Gethsemane when Christ realises HIS MISSION and what He came for & says “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE” BUT ALSO on the Cross.

  9. My dear Ashok Saldanha, you are my brother in humanity and we share a lot in our Abrahamic faiths.

    But, with your comment you have made things more difficult for yourself.

    Your official claim is that Jesus is “perfect man” and “fully Divine.”

    But, if we are to accept, your understanding of the Last Supper and the Garden, then he becomes a “scared man,” and “incompletely divine.”

    The former, because he does not have the courage to gracefully accept, what his mission is and “incompletely divine,” because, “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE!”

    Obviously, you and others will try to harmonize the accounts of the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, but, these are fundamentally opposed, when you look at them, without preconceived ideas.

    Peace and Love!

  10. Zia Shah, that is why in my post I said “Time and again you and the others on this board have been told of the 2 natures of Christ — human and divine — which you fail to ingest, given that your belief in the Koran & Mohammed’s belief in what he knew about Christ is the last word.
    The human side of Jesus is seen NOT ONLY at Gethsemane when Christ realises HIS MISSION and what He came for & says “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE” BUT ALSO on the Cross.”
    The key words are “When Christ realises his mission” which you fail to accept. The day you accept that God came down AS A HUMAN BEING you will realize that NO MAN (read Mohammed) can show you the way to God and Heaven EXCEPT GOD.

    So you can chery pick and nit pick all you want regarding “2 Jesus’ – Last Supper and Gethsamene” but your argument does not hold water against the overwhelming evidence historical and otherwise of the Christ.

  11. I apologise for posting this reply to Ghulam Sarwar in the 65 Reasons post in error. It should have been here.

    Ghulam Sarwar, I will rephrase what I had put in earlier and which was not posted. You so easily accepted what “Shah sahib” posted because YOU WERE WILLING TO ACCEPT it But you cannot even think that Leanardo Da Vince USED HIS IMAGINATION in painting the Last Supper and there ARE COUNTLESS OTHERS who have done the same, so why pick only Leanardo Da Vinci.
    I will give you some more food for thought THERE IS NO CHALICE shown in the Leanardo painting. I suppose Leanardo da Vinci read the DA VINCI CODE before painting it.
    Now I bet this will cast the cat among the pigeons & we can have some more inane “discussions” as to the why and where and what of the “mistake”.

  12. Dear Ashok, I do not see two types of Jesus, as a man and as a God. Jesus was a Jew, born in a Jewish home. He was a man who lived a pious life according to the law of Moses a.s. Jesus never digressed (departed) from the law of Moses a.s. He was under the command of Moses a.s. as a follower of Moses a.s. like all other prophets and messengers in the Ummah of Moses a.s. The only thing is that he was the greatest amongst them all and the last of the messengers to the nation of Jews.
    Had Jesus done a single thing against the law of Moses a.s. the Jews would have had a serious case against him and nobody would have followed him.
    I cannot understand why you are denying the facts which are obvious from the reading of the gospel. Leave alone the Quran, just see bible NT. It will prove what I am saying.
    Jesus a.s. came to guide the Jewish people towards a proper understanding of the law of Moses a.s. He said he had not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law of Moses a.s.
    Can any one fulfill the law by abolishing the law, calling it a curse?. That law is from God Almighty. It is a disgrace to call it a curse. It is a serious disrespect of the God Almighty and His law.
    Ashok, why do you want me to lecture to you on these clear matters. You accuse me of spinning (twisting) things. But I see that you are blindly following something which is wrong and you are obliged to follow something wrong. You are bent on not seeing the reality.
    Jesus never did anything against the law and he had no intention of starting any new religion. It was a great sin to ascribe partners with God. How could Jesus become God himself? That would be a great sin according to the law of Moses a.s. In that case, Jesus would be the greatest sinner. What do you say? Some one has misled the followers of Jesus a.s. completely. The present teachings of the church are not any religion at all. There are so many problems, of dual nature of Jesus, and Jesus creating everything, even creating his own mother, and the world and the stars and galaxies. And the problem of Trinity and the problem of all prophets (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David) being sinful, all sinful except Jesus, being born through a sinful woman (Mary)…
    We Muslims do not believe in any such thing. You may believe as you like. Please forgive us from any such bad beliefs. Thank you, wassalam.

  13. Namelee does not offer any good arguments in refutation of my article.

    He employs a usual apologist’s tactic, when your position is indefensible and irrational, question the rationality of your opponent and throw a temper tantrum.

    Allama Iqbal is national poet of Pakistan and well known in many other countries. When he was a student, the British Empire was at its zenith and ‘sun never set on the Empire!’ Iqbal was student of a well respected British professor, Thomas Arnold. They became close and happened to discuss and debate religion. They came to debate about Trinity and when Thomas Arnold had enough of the debate, he remarked, “Perhaps, an Asian mind cannot understand the nuances of Trinity!” Allama Iqbal could not figure this out, as Asians indeed at that time had become second fiddle to the Europeans, in almost all human spheres. Nonplused, he put this issue to Maulvi Nurrudin, who later became the first Khalifa of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

    Maulvi Nurrudin replied, “Tell the learned professor that Jesus, may peace be on him, was also an Asian, so perhaps he did not understand Trinity either and it was a later invention.”

    The other strategy, which I took out from Namelee’s comment was to avoid discussion of the Bible on the issue under discussion, but, confuse it with some misinterpretation of the Holy Quran.

    So, I did not allow him to change the subject.

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