Garo Nalbandian

The Garden of Gethsemane attracts tourists who contemplate Jesus’ last hours while resting among the massive olive trees where late tradition locates his arrest. The Bible itself mentions no Garden of Gethsemane. This phrase, dating only to the 12th century, results from a conflation of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, which describe Jesus coming to a place called Gethsemane, and the Gospel of John, which locates the arrest in a walled kepos, or cultivated area, often translated garden.

The Greek word “Gethsēmani” comes from a Hebrew or very similar Aramaic term, “Gat-shemanim,” literally “a press of oils.” Joan Taylor argues that the name better applies to a cave just north of the olive-tree grove: Excavations conducted in the cave in the 1950s uncovered evidence of an olive-oil-press. This cave, she suggests, once stood within a kepos, a cultivated enclosure.