The Q source (also Q document, Q Gospel, Q Sayings Gospel, or Q from German: Quelle, meaning "source") is a hypothetical written collection of sayings (logia) of Jesus defined as the "common" material found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but not in their other written source, the Gospel of Mark. According to this hypothesis, this ancient text was based on the Oral Tradition of the Early Church.
Along with Markan priority, Q was hypothesized by 1900, and it is one of the foundations of modern gospel scholarship. B. H. Streeter formulated a widely accepted view of Q: that it was a written document (not an oral tradition) composed in Greek; that almost all of its contents appear in Matthew, in Luke, or in both; and that Luke more often preserves the original order of the text than Matthew. In the two-source hypothesis, Matthew and Luke both used Mark and Q as sources. Some scholars have postulated that Q is actually a plurality of sources, some written and some oral. Others have attempted to determine the stages in which Q was composed.
The existence of Q has been questioned. The omission of what should have been a highly treasured dominical document from all the early Church catalogs, and from mention by the fathers of the early Church, might be seen as a great conundrum of modern Biblical scholarship. However, copying Q might have been seen as unnecessary as it was preserved in the gospels that were considered canonical. Hence it was preferable to copy Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where the sayings of Jesus from Q were rephrased to avoid misunderstandings, and to fit their own situations and their understanding of what Jesus had really meant. Despite challenges, the two source hypothesis retains wide support.
Nineteenth-century New Testament scholars who rejected the traditional perspective of the priority of Matthew in favor of Markan priority speculated that the authors of Matthew and Luke drew the material they have in common with the Gospel of Mark from that Gospel. Matthew and Luke, however, also share large sections of text which are not found in Mark. They suggested that neither Gospel drew upon the other, but upon a second common source, termed the Q.
In modern times, the first person to hypothesize a Q-like source was an Englishman, Herbert Marsh, in 1801 in a complicated solution to the synoptic problem that his contemporaries ignored. Marsh labeled this source with the Hebrew letter beth (ב).
The next person to advance the Q hypothesis was the German Friedrich Schleiermacher in 1832, who interpreted an enigmatic statement by the early Christian writer Papias of Hierapolis, circa 125: "Matthew compiled the oracles (Greek: logia) of the Lord in a Hebrew manner of speech". Rather than the traditional interpretation that Papias was referring to the writing of Matthew in Hebrew, Schleiermacher believed that Papias was actually giving witness to a sayings collection that was available to the Evangelists.
In 1838 another German, Christian Hermann Weisse, took Schleiermacher's suggestion of a sayings source and combined it with the idea of Markan priority to formulate what is now called the Two-Source Hypothesis, in which both Matthew and Luke used Mark and the sayings source. Heinrich Julius Holtzmann endorsed this approach in an influential treatment of the synoptic problem in 1863, and the Two-Source Hypothesis has maintained its dominance ever since.
At this time, Q was usually called the Logia on account of the Papias statement, and Holtzmann gave it the symbol Lambda (Λ). Toward the end of the 19th century, however, doubts began to grow on the propriety of anchoring the existence of the collection of sayings in the testimony of Papias, so a neutral symbol Q (which was devised by Johannes Weiss based on the German Quelle, meaning source) was adopted to remain neutrally independent of the collection of sayings and its connection to Papias.
This two-source hypothesis speculates that Matthew borrowed from both Mark and a hypothetical sayings collection, called Q. For most scholars, the Q collection accounts for what Matthew and Luke share — sometimes in exactly the same words — but are not found in Mark. Examples of such material are the Devil's three temptations of Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer and many individual sayings.
In The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (1924), Burnett Hillman Streeter argued that a third source, referred to as M and also hypothetical, lies behind the material in Matthew that has no parallel in Mark or Luke. Furthermore, some material present only in Luke might have come from an also unknown L source. This Four Source Hypothesis posits that there were at least four sources to the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke: the Gospel of Mark, and three lost sources: Q, M, and L. (M material is represented by green in the above chart.)
Throughout the remainder of the 20th century, there were various challenges and refinements of Streeter's hypothesis. For example, in his 1953 book The Gospel Before Mark, Pierson Parker posited an early version of Matthew (Aramaic M or proto-Matthew) as the primary source. Parker argued that it was not possible to separate Streeter's "M" material from the material in Matthew parallel to Mark.
In the first two decades of the 20th century, more than a dozen reconstructions of Q were made. However, these reconstructions differed so much from each other that not a single verse of Matthew was present in all of them. As a result, interest in Q subsided and it was neglected for many decades.
This state of affairs changed in the 1960s after translations of a newly discovered and analogous sayings collection, the Gospel of Thomas, became available. James M. Robinson of the Jesus Seminar and Helmut Koester proposed that collections of sayings such as Q and Gospel of Thomas represented the earliest Christian materials at an early point in a trajectory that eventually resulted in the canonical gospels.
This burst of interest after the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas led to increasingly more sophisticated literary reconstructions of Q, and even to redactional speculation, notably in the work of John S. Kloppenborg. Kloppenborg, by analyzing certain literary and thematic phenomena, argued that Q was composed in three stages. In his view, the earliest stage was a collection of wisdom sayings involving such issues as poverty and discipleship. Then, he posits, this collection was expanded by including a layer of judgemental sayings directed against "this generation". The final stage included the Temptation of Jesus narrative.
Although Kloppenborg cautioned against assuming that the composition history of Q is the same as the history of the Jesus tradition (i.e., that the oldest layer of Q is necessarily the oldest and pure-layer Jesus tradition), some recent seekers of the Historical Jesus, including the members of the Jesus Seminar, have done just that. Basing their reconstructions primarily on the Gospel of Thomas and the oldest layer of Q, they propose that Jesus functioned as a wisdom sage, rather than a Jewish rabbi, though not all members affirm the two-source hypothesis. Kloppenborg is now a fellow of the Jesus Seminar himself.
However, scholars supporting the hypothesis of the three-stage historical development of Q, such as Burton L. Mack, argue that the unity of Q comes not only from its being shared by Matthew and Luke, but also because, in the layers of Q as reconstructed, the later layers build upon and presuppose the earlier ones, whereas the reverse is not the case. So evidence that Q has been revised is not evidence for disunity in Q, since the hypothesised revisions depend upon asymmetric logical connections between what are posited to be the later and earlier layers.
In the study of biblical literature, some scholars believe that an unknown redactor composed a Greek-language proto-Gospel. It may have been in circulation in written form about the time of the composition of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., between 65 and 95 AD). The name Q was coined by the German theologian and biblical scholar Johannes Weiss.
Synoptic Gospels and the Nature of Q
The relationship among the three synoptic gospels goes beyond mere similarity in viewpoint. The gospels often recount the same stories, usually in the same order, sometimes using the same words. Scholars note that the similarities between Mark, Matthew, and Luke are too great to be accounted for by mere coincidence.
If the two-source hypothesis is correct, then Q would probably have been a written document. If Q were merely a shared oral tradition, it is unlikely that it could account for the nearly identical word-for-word similarities between Matthew and Luke when quoting Q material. Similarly, it is possible to deduce that Q was written in Greek. If the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were referring to a document that had been written in some other language (for example Aramaic), it is highly unlikely that two independent translations would have exactly the same wording.
The Q document must have been composed prior to the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke. Some scholars even suggest Q may have predated Mark. A date for the final Q document is often placed in the 40s or 50s of the first century, with some arguing its so-called sapiential layer (1Q, containing six wisdom speeches) being written as early as the 30s.
If Q did exist, it has since been lost. Some scholars believe it can be partially reconstructed by examining elements common to Matthew and Luke (but absent from Mark). This reconstructed Q is notable in that it generally does not describe the events of the life of Jesus: Q does not mention Jesus' birth, his selection of the 12 disciples, his crucifixion, or the resurrection. Instead, it appears to be a collection of Jesus' sayings and quotations.
Case for Q
The existence of Q follows from the argument that neither Matthew nor Luke is directly dependent on the other in the double tradition (defined by New Testament scholars as material that Matthew and Luke share that does not appear in Mark). However, the verbal agreement between Matthew and Luke is so close in some parts of the double tradition that the most reasonable explanation for this agreement is common dependence on a written source or sources. Even if Matthew and Luke are independent (see Markan priority), the Q hypothesis states that they used a common document. Arguments for Q being a written document include:
- Sometimes the exactness in wording is striking, for example, Matthew 6:24 = Luke 16:13 (27 and 28 Greek words respectively); Matthew 7:7–8 = Luke 11:9–10 (24 Greek words each).
- There is sometimes commonality in order between the two, for example Sermon on the Plain/Sermon on the Mount.
- The presence of doublets, where Matthew and Luke sometimes each present two versions of a similar saying but in different context, only one of those versions appearing in Mark. Doublets may be considered a sign of two written sources, i.e., Mark and Q.
- Luke mentions that he knows of other written sources of Jesus' life, and that he has investigated in order to gather the most information.
The fact that no manuscripts of Q exist today does not necessarily argue against its having existed. Many texts of early Christianity are no longer extant, and we only know they did exist due to their citation or their mention in texts which have survived. Once the text of Q was incorporated into the body of Matthew and Luke, it was no longer necessary to preserve it, just as interest in copying Mark seems to have waned out substantially once it was incorporated into Matthew. The editorial board of the International Q Project writes: "During the second century, when the canonizing process was taking place, scribes did not make new copies of Q, since the canonizing process involved choosing what should and what should not be used in the church service. Hence they preferred to make copies of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where the sayings of Jesus from Q were rephrased to avoid misunderstandings, and to fit their own situations and their understanding of what Jesus had really meant."
Although most scholars accept the Two-source Hypothesis, many have never been entirely happy with it. The difficulty tends to center around Q. The Two-source Hypothesis explains the double tradition by postulating the existence of a lost "sayings of Jesus" document known as Q. It is this, rather than Markan priority, which forms the distinctive feature of the hypothesis.
While this hypothesis remains the most popular explanation for the origins of the synoptic gospels, the existence of the "minor agreements" has raised serious concerns. These minor agreements are those points where Matthew and Luke agree against or beyond Mark precisely within their Markan verses (for example, the mocking question at the beating of Jesus, "Who is it that struck you?" [Luke 22:64 // Matt 26:68], found in both Matthew and Luke but not in Mark; though it should be noted that this "minor agreement" falls outside the usually accepted range of Q). The "minor agreements" thus call into question the proposition that Matthew and Luke knew Mark but not each other, e.g. Luke might have indeed been following Matthew, or at least a Matthew-like source. Peabody and McNicol argue that until a reasonable explanation is found the Two-source Hypothesis is not viable.
Secondly, how could a major and respected source, used in two canonical gospels, disappear? If Q did exist, these sayings of Jesus would have been highly treasured in the early Church. It remains a mystery how such an important document, which was the basis of two canonical Gospels, could be lost. An even greater mystery is why the extensive Church catalogs compiled by Eusebius and Nicephorus would omit such an important work yet include such spurious accounts as the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas. The existence of a treasured sayings document in circulation going unmentioned by the Fathers of the early Church remains one of the great conundrums of modern Biblical scholarship. Pier Franco Beatrice argues that until these issues are resolved, Q will remain in doubt.
Some scholars argue that Matthew's Gospel according to the Hebrews was the basis for the Synoptic Tradition. They point out that in the first section of De Viris Illustribus (Jerome), we find the Gospel of Mark where it should be as it was the first gospel written and was the basis of later gospels. Following it should be Q. But not only is Q not where it should be at the top of Jerome's list, this treasured work recording the Logia of Christ is mentioned nowhere by Jerome. Rather, the first seminal document is not Q but the Gospel according to the Hebrews. In "the place of honor" that should be given "the phantom Q" we find a Hebrew usurper.
Austin Farrer, Michael Goulder, and Mark Goodacre have also argued against Q, maintaining Markan priority, claiming the use of Matthew by Luke. This view has come to be known as the Farrer hypothesis. Their arguments include:
- Farrer, in his 1955 paper that first outlined this hypothesis, notes that when we find two documents that contain common material, identical in the words and phrases they use to describe some scenes, the simplest explanation is that one of the two used the other as a source, rather than both using a third document as a source.
- Goulder points to common Matthean phrases such as "brood of vipers", "make fruit", and "cast into the fire" that each appear in Luke only once, in a Q passage. Goulder's conclusion, based on writing styles, is that Matthew is the source for these "Q" sayings.
- Goodacre notes that there is no extant copy of Q and that no early church writer makes an unambiguous reference to a document resembling the Q that modern scholars have reconstructed from the common material in Luke and Matthew.
- While supporters say that the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas supports the concept of a "sayings gospel", Mark Goodacre points out that Q has a narrative structure as reconstructed and is not simply a list of sayings.
Other scholars have brought other arguments against Q:
- There is a "prima facie case" that two documents, both correcting Mark's language, adding birth narratives and a resurrection epilogue, and adding a large amount of "sayings material" are likely to resemble each other, rather than to have such similar scope by coincidence.
- Specifically, there are 347 instances (by Neirynck's count) where one or more words are added to the Markan text in both Matthew and Luke; these are called the "minor agreements" against Mark. Some 198 instances involve one word, 82 involve two words, 35 three, 16 four, and 16 instances involve five or more words in the extant texts of Matthew and Luke as compared to Markan passages.
- John Wenham (1913–1996) held to the Augustinian hypothesis that Matthew was the first Gospel, Mark the second, and Luke the third, and objected on similar grounds to those who hold to the Griesbach hypothesis.
- Eta Linnemann, formerly a follower of Bultmann, rejected Q, and Markan priority, for a variation of the Two Gospel hypothesis that holds that the Mosaic requirement for "two witnesses" made two Jewish Gospels a necessity in the Diaspora audiences.
Notable contents of Q
Some of the more notable portions of the New Testament are believed to have originated in Q:
- Gospel harmony
- Gospel of Thomas
- List of Gospels
- Markan priority
- Synoptic problem
- Two-source hypothesis
- Common Sayings Source
- Christoph Heil & Jozef Verheyden (Ed.) The Sayings Gospel Q: collected essays, Vol. 189 of Bibliotheca Ephemeridum theologicarum Lovaniensium, Peeters Publishers Pub., 2005 pp. 163 - 164
- Funk, Robert W., Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar. The five gospels. HarperSanFrancisco. 1993. "Introduction," p 1-30.
- "'Q.'" Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
- James R. Edwards , The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009 p. 228
- (From the preface to the Sayings Gospel Q, International Q Project, 2001 http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~kloppen/iqpqet.htm)
- This hypothetical lost text—also called the Q Gospel, the Sayings Gospel Q, the Secret of Q, the Synoptic Sayings Source, the Q Manuscript, and (in the 19th century) The Logia—is said to have comprised a collection of Jesus' sayings. Acceptance of the theories of the existence of "Q" and the priority of Mark are the two key elements in the "two-source hypothesis". (See also the Gospel of the Hebrews and Streeter).
- D. R. W. Wood, New Bible Dictionary (InterVarsity Press, 1996), 739.
- Stephen Hultgren, Narrative elements in the double tradition, Walter de Gruyter Pub., 2002 p. 4 - 5
- Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, Oxford University Press, p.80-81
- Streeter, Burnett H. The Four Gospels. A Study of Origins Treating the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship, & Dates. London: MacMillian and Co., Ltd., 1924.
- Pierson Parker. The Gospel Before Mark. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.
- William R. Farmer, The Synoptic Problem: a Critical Analysis, Macmillan, 1981 p. 196
- Everett Falconer Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, Wm. Eerdmans 1971 p. 152.
- The Lost Gospel: The Book Q and Christian Origins, Macmillan Co. (1993, paperback 1994).
- "Britannica". Britannica. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
- Honoré, A. M. "A Statistical Study of the Synoptic Problem." Novum Testamentum Aug. 10-July (1968): 95–147. On page 96 Honoré compares the similarities between the three Gospels with the number of words in common.
- *Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford. p. 84. ISBN 0-19-515462-2.
- Delbert Royce Burkett, Rethinking the Gospel Sources, Volume 2: The Unity and Plurality of Q, Society of Biblical Lit, 2009 pp. 47 - 48
- Dunn, James D. G., Christianity in the Making Volume 1: Jesus Remembered. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003. page 159
- Luke 1:1–4
- Robert L. Thomas & F. David Farnell, The Jesus crisis: the inroads of historical criticism into evangelical scholarship, Kregel Publications, 1998 pp. 136 - 140
- See Tuckett, C.M. "The Existence of Q." Pages 19-48 in The Gospel Behind the Gospels: Current Studies on Q. Edited by R. Piper. Leiden: Brill, 1995 (esp. p. 20).
- Adieu Q .
- David Barrett Peabody & Allan James McNicol, One Gospel from Two: Mark's Use of Matthew and Luke, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002 pp. 1 - 6
- Pier Franco Beatrice, The Gospel according to the Hebrews in the Apostolic Fathers, Novum Testamentum, 2006, vol. 48, no2, pp. 147-195 (@ ingentaconnect.com)
- James R. Edwards, ''The Hebrew Gospel & the Development of the Synoptic Tradition'', Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009 pp. 209 - 247. Books.google.ca. October 16, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
- Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ Trinity Press, SCM 2000 p.207- 210
- Mark Goodacre (January 10, 2003). "Ten Reasons to Question Q". The Case Against Q website. Retrieved June 8, 2009.
- Powell, Evan (February 17, 2006). The Myth of the Lost Gospel. Symposium Press. ISBN 0-9770486-0-8.
- Pierson Parker (Dec., 1940). "A Proto-Lucan basis for the Gospel according to the Hebrews". Journal of Biblical Literature 59: pp. 471–478. JSTOR 3262407.
- Lillie, Arthur (2005). The Gospel According to the Hebrews. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 111–134. ISBN 978-1-4253-7051-0.
- Ste. Jerome, On illustrious men 1:4.
- Ste. Jerome, On illustrious men 3:1.
- Edwards (2009). p. 228.
- ANDREW GREGORY Prior or Posterior? Cambridge University Press 51:3:344-360.
- Austin M. Farrer, "On Dispensing with Q" in D. E. Nineham (ed.), Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot (Oxford: Blackwell, 1955), pp. 55–88, reproduced at http://NTGateway.com/Q/Farrer.htm.
- For example, Michael Goulder, "Is Q a Juggernaut", Journal of Biblical Literature 115 (1996), pp. 667–81, reproduced at http://ntgateway.com/Q/goulder.htm.
- See, for example, Mark Goodacre, The Case Against Q: Studies in Marcan Priority and the Synoptic Problem (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002)
- "Ten Reasons to Question Q". Markgoodacre.org. January 10, 2003. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
- Robert L. Thomas Three views on the origins of the Synoptic Gospels 2002 p255, and p322 "Farnell 's third axiom notes, quoting Linnemann, that the reason for four independent Gospels stems from the legal principle of Deuteronomy 19:15b: "[O]n the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.""
- Reconstruction of Q by the International Q Project.
- The Sayings of Jesus in The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles - Clayton N. Jefford - Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved April 29, 2012.
- The Many Deaths of Judas Iscariot: A Meditation on Suicide - A. M. H. Saari - Google Books. Books.google.ca. July 26, 2006. Retrieved April 29, 2012.
- David M. Scholer: Q Bibliography Supplement. Society of Biblical Literature Seminar papers. Scholars Press, Atlanta 1965-2003,ISSN 0160-7588. 127.1991, pp. 1ff.; 128.1992, pp. 1ff.; 129.1993, pp. 1ff.; 130.1994, pp. 1ff.; 131.1995, pp. 1ff.; 132.1996, pp. 1ff.; 133.1997, pp. 750–756; 134.1998, pp. 1005–1012
- Thomas R. W. Longstaff, Page A. Thomas: The Synoptic Problem. A Bibliography 1716–1988. New Gospel Studies 4. Mercer, Macon 1988, ISBN 0-86554-321-6
- Frans Neirynck, J. Verheyden, R. Corstjens: The Gospel of Matthew and the Sayings Source Q. A Cumulative Bibliography 1950-1995. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 140. 2 volumes, University Press, Leuven 1998, ISBN 90-6186-933-1
- Klaus-Stefan Krieger: Was sagte Jesus wirklich?. Vier Türme, Münsterschwarzach 2003, ISBN 3-87868-641-2
- John S. Kloppenborg: Q, the Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville 2008, ISBN 9780664232221
- Adolf von Harnack: Sprüche und Reden Jesu. Hinrichs, Leipzig 1907
- Athanasius Polag: Fragmenta Q. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1979/1982, ISBN 3-7887-0541-8
- Frans Neirynck (Ed.): Q-synopsis. The Double Tradition Passages in Greek. Studiorum Novi Testamenti Auxilia 13. University Press, Leuven 1988 (2nd expanded edition 1995, 2001), ISBN 90-5867-165-8
- Marcus J. Borg, Thomas Moore (Eds.): The Lost Gospel Q: The Original Saying of Jesus. Ulysses Press 1996, ISBN 1-56975-100-5
- James M. Robinson, Paul Hoffmann, John S. Kloppenborg (Eds.): The Critical Edition of Q. Synopsis Including the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Mark and Thomas with English, German, and French Translations of Q and Thomas. Managing Editor: Milton C. Moreland. Peeters Press, Leuven 2000, ISBN 978-90-429-0926-7 / Fortress Press, Minneapolis 2000, ISBN 978-08-006-3149-9
- James M. Robinson, Paul Hoffmann, John S. Kloppenborg (Eds.): The Sayings Gospel Q in Greek and English with Parallels from the Gospels of Mark and Thomas. Managing Editor: Milton C. Moreland. Peeters Press, Leuven 2001, ISBN 978-90-429-1056-0 / Fortress Press, Minneapolis 2002, ISBN 978-08-006-3494-0
- James M. Robinson (Ed.): The Sayings of Jesus: The Sayings Gospel Q in English. Fortress Press, Minneapolis 2002, ISBN 978-08-006-3451-3
- Paul Hoffmann, Christoph Heil (Eds.): Die Spruchquelle Q. Studienausgabe Griechisch und Deutsch. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2002 (2nd edition 2007 / 3rd edition 2009), ISBN 3534164849
- James M. Robinson u.a. (Eds.): Documenta Q. Peeters, Leuven 1996ff. (up to now eleven volumes: Q 4,1-13 , Q 6,20f. , Q 6,37-42 , Q 7,1-10 , Q 11,2b-4 , Q 11,39-44 , Q 11,46-52 , Q 12,8-12 , Q 12,33f. , Q 12,49-59 , Q 22,28.30 ), ISBN 978-90-6831-788-6
- Maurice Casey: An Aramaic Approach to Q: Sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Cambridge University Press 2002, ISBN 0521817234
- Harry T. Fleddermann: Q: A Reconstruction and Commentary. Peeters Press, Leuven 2005, ISBN 9042916567