John S. Kloppenborg

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John Seargeant Kloppenborg (born 1951) is a Canadian professor of religion who has authored numerous books and articles based on New Testament scholarship. He is the Chair of the Department and Centre for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto and a participant in The Context Group.[1]

His work includes research on the origins of and sources for early Christian writings including the Q document, thought to have been one of the first written collections of the teachings of Jesus. Kloppenborg has also written and taught about the different versions of the proto-biblical texts and the meaning and uses of the specific parables of Jesus.


Kloppenborg received his M.A. (1977) and his Ph.D. (1984) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from the University of St. Michael's College (a constituent college of the University of Toronto). He has taught and conducted research in Toronto, Windsor, United Kingdom, Helsinki, Jerusalem, Cambridge, Calgary, and the United States in Claremont, California. He is one of the general editors of the International Q Project.

General Summary of Contributions to Near East and Biblical Scholarship[edit]

John Kloppenborg is an original research scholar whose work on the origins of Christianity, the ancient manuscripts of ancient Christians and the history of Second Temple Judaism is often cited by other scholars and authors. He has researched and written most substantially about the Q document, also known as the Synoptic Sayings Gospel. This document is thought to be one of the oldest circulating sources of the sayings of Jesus. It is thought to be prior to, and to have been known to the authors of The Gospel of Matthew, The Gospel of Luke as well as to the author of the (non-synoptic) The Gospel of Thomas. This work touches on the Synoptic problem.

Kloppenborg has also done original research and written on the social world of the early Jesus movement in Jewish Palestine, the societies of the eastern Roman Empire and the social significance of the parables of Jesus. Other areas of interest have been the letters of the New Testament, especially the Letter of James, and the culture of the Graeco-Roman world as relates to such matters as: religion, spirituality, cultic associations, ethnic sub-groups and their ancient organization, professional societies and the general conditions of the societies in the Near East during the time of Second Temple Judaism, the time of Jesus and the formation of the Bible as we know it.

Tenants in the Vineyard[edit]

Published in 2006, Kloppenborg's book, The Tenants in the Vineyard: Ideology, Economics, and Agrarian Conflict in Jewish Palestine, titled after the "tenants in the vineyard" parable attributed to Jesus by the New Testament, provides an analysis for the critical reader of the Bible of this very difficult parable. The bible citation for the parable is Mark 12:1-12 and it is also recorded in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (65). In his book, Kloppenborg models a new approach to the parables of Jesus. He discusses the ideological interests engaged by the parable in modern times and over the history of the Christian Church. Next, he explains the conditions of the society in which the parable was first laid out, especially in regards to ancient viticulture. In his conclusions, Kloppenborg notes that the parable has ironically been interpreted from the viewpoint of those in power in politics and society rather than as a literary parable or as an "anti-power" parable, as it may have read in the original texts. He shows that the editing in Mark's version of the story takes it beyond the useful idiom common to Jesus' other parables. Kloppenborg also includes a second volume documenting historical papyrus dealing with ancient viticulture and agrarian conflict.

Critical Edition of Q[edit]

Published in 2000, by James M. Robinson, Paul Hoffmann, and John S. Kloppenborg, 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 is a groundbreaking, though still controversial, work of scholarship.

Containing a lengthy introduction by bible scholar James M. Robinson and a foreword by the three editor scholars: Robinson, John S. Kloppenborg and Paul Hoffmann, this hefty volume provides a redacted version of what the original Q document might have looked like whether it was written in Greek or Aramaic. The Critical Edition of Q is the product of the International Q Project (IQP), a program inaugurated at the Society of Biblical Literature in 1985 that has sought to establish an accessible critical edition of the source shared by Matthew and Luke.

Their work also seeks to "document the major turning points in the history of Q research, with particular attention to the problem of establishing a critical text of Q" (xix). Putting aside "a purely hypothetical Aramaic source" of Matthew and Luke, which would mean that "Q would never be more than a hypothesis," Robinson claims, in the introduction, that such approaches have been "completely replaced by objective criteria, based on empirical observation of Matthean and Lukan redactional traits" (xix). The bulk of the text is the critical text of Q (1-561), which concludes with a concordance of Q (Greek words [563-81]). The volume also contains a discussion of divergences from the Lukan sequence (lxxxix), text-critical notes (xc-cvi), and end-pages (cvii). The critical text itself is formatted with eight columns on facing pages presenting by column: 1) any Markan parallel to Matthew, 2) any doublets found in Matthew, 3) the text in Matthew that is deemed to be derived from Q, 4) the critical text of Q, 5) the text in Luke that is deemed to be derived from Q, 6) Luke's doublets, 7) any Markan parallel to Luke, and 8) any parallel from the Gospel of Thomas, the Coptic of which is provided but also retroverted into Greek. As footnotes, the Thomas and Q texts are translated into English, French and German.

The editors intend this volume to be functional as a standard research tool for the study of Q despite the continuing controversy over the validity of the text actually existing; this is the most comprehensive effort to provide such a tool nonetheless.


  • The Sayings Gospel Q in Greek and English with Parallels from the Gospels of Mark and Thomas, Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology vol. 30 with James M. Robinson and Paul Hoffmann
  • Documenta Q edited by James M. Robinson, John S. Kloppenborg, and Paul Hoffmann, with contributions from the International Q Project
  • The Tenants in the Vineyard: Ideology, Economics, and Agrarian Conflict in Jewish Palestine (2006)
  • Apocalypticism, Antisemitism and the Historical Jesus: Subtexts in Criticism Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series, vol. 275 with John W. Marshall (2005)
  • Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000)
  • The Critical Edition of Q with James M. Robinson and Paul Hoffmann (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress; Leuven: Peeters, 2000)
  • Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World with Stephen Wilson (1996)
  • Conflict and Invention (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press Int'l, 1995)
  • The Shape of Q: Signal Essays on the Sayings Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994)
  • Scriptures and Cultural Conversations: Essays for Heinz Guenther at Sixty-five Pp. 211 (1992)
  • Early Christianity, Q and Jesus Ed. with Leif E. Vaage Pp. 265 (1991)
  • Q-Thomas Reader (1988) with Michael G. Steinhauser, Stephen Patterson, and Marvin W. Meyer
  • Q Parallels: Synopsis, Critical Notes & Concordance (1988)
  • The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Minneapolis, 1987)