This question led me to reread Luke 22:44 in various translations, and I noticed that all of them used a comparison, as if Jesus’s sweat was similar to great drops of blood, but not actually great drops of blood. Then I read this commentary:

Athanasius even goes so far as to pronounce a ban upon those who deny this sweat of blood.

What arguments was Athanasius fighting against? In addition, what made this issue so significant to Athanasius that he banned the belief outright? As of yet, I’ve been unable to find either his attackers’ arguments or anything from Athanasius himself on the issue. The commentary mentions one “Theophylact”, but I can’t seem to find him either. All Wikipedia had is this list, and all of them lived well after Athanasius.

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    In all likelihood Athanasius was speaking out against some form of Docetism. – bradimus Oct 23 '17 at 23:13
  • @bradimus Thanks! I’d never heard the term before. – Zenon Oct 24 '17 at 0:48
  • As an update a year later, I’m fully willing to accept any answer that provides one or more reliable sources stating that there is no answer. If this is just some quack from Athanasius’s congregation who’s arguing this, there’s no reason to assume this information even exists. While Docetism definitely seems relevant, to argue that Christ’s sweating blood is non-literal assumes in itself that his body is physical, otherwise asserting his sweating blood as non-literal is superfluous. – Zenon Sep 10 '18 at 21:22

By historical, do you mean arguments coming from church history aka the early church fathers?

Just a couple notes: sweating drops of blood is a medical condition called hematidrosis. It is understandable if Jesus did undergo this amount of stress when looking forward to "becoming sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21) and being cursed by God (Galatians 3:13 which references Deuteronomy 21:22-23) and having the wrath of God poured out on him instead of us. We can be confident that it wasn't the physical torture that he would have to endure that caused him duress, as many early Christians were tortured and killed in similar to worse ways (Peter crucified upside-down or another disciple being burned while being crucified) and yet they would be singing hymns approaching their death. Jesus had much much worse to deal with - bearing the sins of the entire world.

Athanasius is often attributed as being the most important and influential Christian in defense of the Trinitarian conception of God, mostly against Arianism. However, Arianism would have no problem with the drops of blood of Jesus because Arianism believes in the full humanity of Jesus but not the full deity. So, as bradimus commented, it likely was against Docetism, which rejects the full humanity of Jesus. There are all sorts of other heresies in the early church that had to be protected against, such as Nestorianism, modalism/Patripassianism/Sabellianism, Pelagianism, monophysitism, homoiousian (not the name of a heresy but a view of Jesus contrary to homoousian), etc. Very interesting reads.

Conclusion, Jesus had to be fully God and fully man united in one person, the hypostatic union, or else the atonement fails and should be considered heterodoxy.

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  • To address your initial question, I’m looking for arguments predating or contemporary of Athanasius. I’ll read your answer when I make it home tonight. Thanks for answering! – Zenon Sep 10 '18 at 20:58
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    Okay cool thank you! My information does not provide early church father evidence or arguments, but hopefully some more things that you would be interested in looking into! All I know is some of the other controversies in the early church. I wish I could be more helpful. – Alex Strasser Sep 10 '18 at 21:02
  • Thanks for the answer! It provides some valuable information, but I’m afraid it doesn’t actually answer my question. Athanasius was arguing against someone who thought Jesus didn’t actually sweat blood. I’m trying to figure out who that someone is and what their arguments were. Upvote but no accept from me. – Zenon Sep 10 '18 at 21:16

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