Photo by the Norton Gallery, Palm Springs, CA/Bridgeman Art Library, London/Superstock

The agony in the garden. Disconsolate and abandoned, Jesus weeps as he contemplates his approaching death in this 1889 painting by French artist Paul Gauguin. In the distance appear his disciples, dressed in black; behind them, only the swords are visible of the Roman soldiers ascending the Mount of Olives to arrest him.

Discrepancies abound in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane, leading author Jerome Murphy-O’Connor to ask which version is earliest and why later evangelists altered the story. Repetitions in Mark’s account indicated to Murphy-O’Connor that this gospel actually combines two earlier sources. The first and simplest version (labeled Source A) describes a fully human Jesus, in deep agony. As the story was refined over the years, Jesus gradually evolved into a model Christian, calmly accepting his fate in Gethsemane.