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Question: Can you tell me what Q is all about?
Sure…"Q" is a mythological Star Trek character who is part of the Q Continuum - a superior race of highly intelligent beings. He is almost omnipotent but has personality quirks including arrogance, mischievous traits, and a tendency to control others. Oddly, he seems to favor the human race from earth which he feels has lots of "potential"
Missing Greek Text
No…seriously, "Q" is a mythological document that is thought to be a missing Greek text used by Matthew and Luke in compiling their gospel accounts.
The existence of Q is a hypothesis - not a theory. This is because it cannot be subject to repeatable tests. Some scholars believe it exists because Matthew and Luke share a lot of material not contained in the Gospel of Mark. This suggests a second common source called "Q."
It is thought to be a collection of sayings - not a historical narrative. For some scholars it explains why we have the "Synoptic" gospels. "Synoptic" means "one look" and describes the seeming uniformity of the gospel accounts.
"Quelle" or "Source"
In fact, Q comes from the German word, "Quelle," or source. So we have "Q" postulated as a "source" text for the gospel writers Matthew and Luke because they share so many exact wordings.
Sharing Parallel Wordings
The synoptic gospels share a large number of parallels - exact wording - between them. In fact, around 80% of Mark's verses show parallels in both Matthew and Luke. This is called a "Triple Tradition."
The Synoptic Problem
The nature of the relationships between the gospel accounts is known as a "Synoptic Problem." It was recognized early in church history. For example, Augustine of Hippo in the fifth century suggested that Matthew was probably written first. Then, Mark wrote his gospel account using Matthew as his source. Last, Luke compiled his "orderly account" (Lk 1:3).
Luke's introduction is interesting because he noted that many had already written "a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the words…" (Luke 1:1-2, ESV).
The Church Father Papias (A.D. 100-150) quoted by Eusebius the church historian, says that Mark wrote accurately concerning what he remembered. However, Mark didn't write in chronological order. Yet, Mark made no mistakes about those things he wrote down.
But, as we note in Luke's beginning address, he undertook to write an "orderly account" of what had already been written. This makes sense.
The idea of "Q" seems to have allied itself with higher criticism or liberal scholarship. In my opinion, this is just plain silly. The existence or non existence of "Q" does not reflect upon the historical, biographical value of our New Testament gospels.
We always need to remember that the books and letters of the New Testament didn't develop in a vacuum. Some think that unless the Bible was directly dictated to men by God, it can't be inspired or inerrant. But, we already know from Luke's prologue that many accounts of Jesus' life, miracles and ministry were written down very early. This is the way it should be if a man with such divine qualities should appear on earth at a certain point in history.
Remember, too, that Matthew was a tax-collector which means he was trained to take "shorthand." Such skilled writers are referred to in Psalm 45:1 as "ready scribes," "skilled writers," or "ready writers." (Why we have ignored this important fact is a mystery to me).
Gospel of Thomas
Perhaps the liberal association with "Q" is due to the existence of the Gospel of Thomas found in Egypt among the Nag Hammadi documents. This is a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus - similar to what scholars believe the Q document may have been. The dating of the Gospel of Thomas is somewhat uncertain, however. Some feel it was authored between A.D.100-150. Others believe it could not have been authored earlier than A.D. 200 due to its location with other Gnostic gospels dated after A.D. 200.
Anything Non-Biblical Goes…
However, for New Agers or liberal thinkers who believe that anything outside the New Testament must have merit, they may want to read the following from Gospel of Thomas 44:
"Jesus said, 'Whoever blasphemes against the father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven either on earth or in heaven'" (Bumbulis 1995, 2)
Oops…sounds like the New Testament!
Yet, in this same source well-known NT scholar, James Dunn, points out that the Gospel of Thomas seems to have undergone much Gnostic redaction.
For example, in Gospel of Thomas 2 we read: "He who seeks should not stop seeking until he finds, and when he finds, he will be bewildered and when he is bewildered, he will marvel, and will reign over the All."
The "All" in the passage noted above makes a regular appearance in true Gnostic literature. Therefore, it is likely the original accounts of the teachings of Christ devolved into Gnostics twists and turns as the centuries passed.
Anti Women Bias
Last, a text that runs counter to a common, accomodating "feminist" acceptance of Gnostic literature is found in Gospel of Thomas 114:
Simon Peter said to them, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
This should put to rest the idea that Gnostic literature is favorable toward women! Hmmm…
Case Against Q
Mark Goodacre, author of The Case Against Q and lecturer at the University of Edinborrough, states there are 10 reasons to question Q. Briefly, some are:
No one has ever seen Q.
No one had ever heard of Q in ancient literature.
Q has a narrative sequence which contraindicates a "Sayings Gospel."
Occam's Razor (entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity).
The phenomenon of fatigue (when an author inadvertently makes minor changes.
The legacy of "Scissors and Paste" scholarship 100s of years ago.
Recognizing Luke's literary ability to reorganize materials logically.
(Goodacre 2003, 1-3)
It is amazing how many books and at best, theories or hypotheses, are presented by those writing about a document that doesn't really exist for us to examine. I think we need to focus our attention upon those things that DO exist that God says are important.
The Bible's definition of "faith" comes to mind:
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:1-3, NASB).
The educated gospel author, Luke, already tells us there are other narratives and accounts of Christ's life and ministry. Luke's account gives me an orderly reorganization of these others. By faith that's all I need to know. The remainder is interesting speculation.
Bercot, David, ed. 1998. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
Bumbulis, Michael J. Is the Gospel of Thomas Reliable?
Goodacre, Mark. Ten Reasons to Question Q. http://www.ntgateway.com/Q/ten.htm.
Goodacre. Fallacies at the Heart of Q. http://www.ntgateway.com/Q/fallacy.htm.
Gospel of Thomas. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gospel_of_Thomas&printable=yes.
Q Document. Wikipedia.
Authors Valorie Mays Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA having specialized in early church history. Ken holds the M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
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