What is Gethsemane?
(oil-press), a place across the Kedron and at the foot of Olivet, noted as the scene of our Lord's agony. John 18:1; Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39. A garden or orchard was attached to it, and it was a place to which Jesus frequently resorted. Matt 26:36; Mark 14:32; John 18:2. Tradition, which since the fourth century has placed it on the lower slope of Olivet, about 100 yards east of the bridge over the Kedron, seems to agree with the requirements of the Gospel narratives. It is a small, irregular, four-sided spot, enclosed by a high wall, and about 70 paces in circumference. The wall was built in 1847 by Franciscan monks, who say it was necessary to restrain pilgrims from injuring the olive trees. The old olive trees are seven or eight in number, the trunks cracked from age and shored up with stones. The trees are said to date back to the time of Christ. They are surely of great age and size (19 feet in circumference), but Titus cut down all the trees about Jerusalem, and the Crusaders found the country destitute of wood, and we have no mention of old olive trees before the sixteenth century; hence it can only be stated that these old olives are possibly descendants of those which grew here in the time of Christ. The garden now has younger olives and a dozen cypresses. The monks keep in it a flower-garden, and present each visitor with a bouquet of roses, pinks, and other flowers, for which one franc is expected in payment. Olive-oil and rosaries from the olive-stones are also sold at a high price. Tradition, which is not trustworthy, fixes the spot of Christ's suffering at the so-called Cavern of Agony, a grotto in a solid rock, near the garden. The place of the arrest of Christ was pointed out in the Middle Ages at the above spot, and near by the spot where Judas betrayed Jesus was also marked by tradition. Dr. Thomson and some others think the present garden too near the public road for Gethsemane, and would place it farther to the north-east. The Latins control the present garden, and the Greeks have set up a Gethsemane of their own, farther up the Mount of Olives.
Bibliography Information Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'gethsemane' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". bible-history.com - Schaff's