Tag Archives: Q

Q debate: some sources

For those interested in the Q debate the following is adapted from a footnote in Andrejevs, Olegs. 2019. Apocalypticism in the Synoptic Sayings Source: A Reassessment of Q’s Stratigraphy. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. (p. 1)

For recent arguments against the 2DH, see, e.g.,

For responses to these scholars, see, e.g.,

(for Watson’s rejoinder, see “Seven Theses on the Synoptic Problem, in Disagreement with Christopher Tuckett,” in Idem, 139^47).

For classic comprehensive cases in support of the 2DH, see

For recent investigations demonstrating the viability of the 2DH, see

For additional recent statements by Q scholars, see

While a close discussion of the synoptic problem lies outside the scope of this monograph, it is perhaps worth emphasizing that the solutions of Goodacre and Watson are equally, if not more so, hypothetical than the 2DH.


Q: Where scepticism is really hip right now; and other thoughts on historical Jesus studies methods

I have recently caught up with Sara Park’s PhD contribution to New Testament studies, Spiritual Equals: Women in the Q Gender Pairs. I understand that Parks has rewritten much of the thesis to make it more palatable for a general readership: Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus: Women in Q.

James McGrath interviewed Sara Parks about her book:

Parks is a new scholar in the field and I found some of her discussion interesting insofar as it might shed some light on “the making” of a biblical scholar. (I have engaged with Sara Parks going by the blog name of Dr Sarah in comments on this blog but had not known at that time that she was a scholar of religion.)


A question that struck me as I began to read the thesis was how one could justify using a hypothetical document as a primary source for reconstructing slithers of a historical Jesus and his earliest followers. James McGrath raised the question that Q sceptics are going to ask: Does her book fall to pieces if there is no Q? Parks answers that question in her thesis and its published book version:

The gendered pairs form part of what Jesus scholars deem to be authentic material that dates back to his Galilean career. With or without Q the parallel parable pairs are sayings that text critics, redaction critics and historical Jesus scholars connect with Jesus. Their importance as deliberately gender-aware and in their way a gender levelling evidence remains.

[My transcript of Sara Parks podcast reading from her book]

Or more technically, from her thesis:

. . . [T]his project is significant whether one goes so far as to stratify Q in the footsteps of Kloppenborg, or doubts its very existence in the footsteps of Goodacre. As Schottroff writes of her work on women in the Q pairs, “the results should be equally useful for those who presume a distinction between Q1 and Q2 and for those who doubt the very existence of Q. They all may read the following discussion as a description of some central elements of the Jesus movement or of the message of Jesus.” 383 The present project is the first book-length work in English to treat the parallel parable pairs of Q with a view to the ways in which these pairs not only uncover some realities of women in the earliest Jesus movements, but also something of Jesus of Nazareth’s attitude toward them. Its findings concur with those of the French monograph to examine the pairs for this purpose, wherein Denis Fricker concludes that a pairing of female figures with male figures is a process undertaken by Jesus himself384 and that the pairs “seem to have been an original and remarkable mode of expression in the discourse of the historical Jesus.” 385 However, my findings diverge from Fricker’s where he finds the pairs “firmly rooted in Semitic poetry” and “their argumentation … in Hellenistic rhetoric. 386 I assert instead that the pairs achieve clear rhetorical uniqueness.

383. L. Schrottoff, “The Sayings Source Q” ; 384, 385, 386. Fricker, Quand Jésus Parle au Masculin-Féminin, pp. 377, 380, 79

(Parks’ thesis, 158f)

To my way of thinking it seems, then, that Q is not necessary for Parks’ exploration of Jesus’ thoughts on women as spiritual and intellectual equals with men. The addition of Q surely is an unnecessary hypothesis if scholars are convinced that the same sayings are authentic to Jesus even without Q. Yet note that even without Q there is said to be a consensus of some certainty about what Jesus actually said. It is what lies at the foundation of that confidence that strikes me as setting biblical studies apart from other historical studies.

As Parks’ thesis entered into a survey of Q sceptics, in particular Mark Goodacre, I began to anticipate a presentation of her reasons Goodacre and any revival of the Farrer thesis was mistaken. But the work has already been done according to Parks and there was no need for her to repeat it. She writes:

Goodacre has been refuted point by point by a number of scholars, including J. Kloppenborg (e.g. “On Dispensing with Q: Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew” NTS 49 [2003]: 210–236.

(p. 36)

“Refute” is an ambiguous word. It can mean either to prove a statement is wrong or it can mean to argue against a statement. Does Parks mean the former? The “point by point” phrase seems to indicate Goodacre’s case has been demolished brick by brick. If so, one might reasonably respond that Kloppenborg’s refutation has been equally “refuted point by point” by Stephen Carlson in a series of posts on his blog Hypotyposeis beginning in September 2004. Ongoing publications challenging Q in recent years additionally indicates that Kloppenborg has not “refuted” Goodacre in the sense of “disproving” the Farrer thesis.

What interests me here is a scholar’s confidence in academic consensus as if consensus itself is a secure enough foundation for one’s work. No doubt consensus on certain foundations is important when it comes to expecting one’s work to find peer acceptance. Yet many lay outsiders, at least, want the scholars to explain how we know certain things, or what is the logic and evidence that underlies a consensus. Too often too many biblical scholars at this point resort to telling the unwashed of the necessity to learn several ancient languages and undertake years of training in specialist qualifications. But I submit that we don’t get those sorts of answers when it comes to questions about history in nonbiblical areas. We have, for instance, very good reasons (certain kinds of independent and contemporary writings) for believing Socrates existed and taught as some kind of “sophist”. The evidence is not bedrock solid (the surviving manuscripts are late, for example) and a few have at times raised the question of his existence but on balance (especially when we factor in the explanatory power of subsequent literary references on top of the earlier sources) we can say that multiple independent and contemporary sources testify to his historicity. That sort of evidence is strong enough to allow us to overcome scepticism for the moment and accept Socrates’ historicity. Scepticism demands good, clear answers. Scepticism has served us well since the Enlightenment, I think. (I’ll address certain appeals to postmodernist challenges below.)

Where scepticism is really hip right now

So my ears pricked when I heard Sara Parks and James McGrath appearing to belittle the role of scepticism. read more »

Scrutinizing the Case for Q: Why Luke Sidestepped the Baptism of Jesus by John

Jesus Resurrecting the Son of the Widow of Naim (oil on canvas) by Bouillon.
Jesus Resurrecting the Son of the Widow of Nain (oil on canvas) by Bouillon.

Michael Kok is addressing the arguments for and against Q on his blog where he explores the “history and reception of New Testament writings”. In his latest post he raises the question of whether Luke knew Matthew’s account of the baptism of Jesus. Unfortunately his comment policy does not encourage responses from outsiders hence this post.

My own view is that Q is too easily dismissed with assertions like “it is only a hypothetical document” and “Occam’s razor suggests Luke knew Matthew” without actually investigating the arguments in its favour. The questions debated by those who are more aware of the arguments also can often by narrowly focused; historical inquiry ought to begin with a clarification of the broader context of the evidence being evaluated.

I argue below that an anti-Marcionite agenda explains well the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s baptism scenarios.

Before comparing the Gospel of Luke with anything it is worth clarifying what we understand by that Gospel and the scholarship surrounding its genre, its development and its appearance in the historical record. If we find the arguments of Joseph Tyson plausible then we begin with the probability that our canonical gospel emerged in two stages: first a proto-Luke; followed by a heavily redacted treatment of that earlier document to give us our Luke-Acts. Tyson does not dispute Q, by the way, and his model does have “Luke” use Q and Mark, but at the same time he brings together a wealth of other scholarship relating to the question of Luke’s development and emergence in the record that is of relevance to Kok’s discussion.

It is relatively uncontroversial to suggest that an early form of the Gospel of Luke began at 3:1, which has been described as “a very good place to begin a gospel”:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene . . . .

This is also the place where Marcion’s gospel began. Marcion’s gospel did not include the John the Baptist narrative, however. The opening verse was followed with Jesus’ entry into the world (probably starting at Capernaum) preaching the gospel.

For readers not familiar with Marcion: The Marcionite “heresy” flourished in the early/mid second century and taught that Jesus was sent by a Higher God than the lesser Creator God of the Jewish Scriptures. Marcionite teaching held that the Law and Prophets had nothing to do with the true Messiah and were in fact given to the Jews by a fickle god and prophesied of some other earthly messiah of relevance to the Jews only and who was of no account beside the Son of the Highest God.

Although the “tradition” of the Church Fathers held that Marcion’s gospel was a mutilated form of the Gospel of Luke we really don’t know whether or not the original form of Luke contained the baptism episode. The “proto-orthodox” had a motive for arguing Marcion deleted the passage; Marcion had a motive for arguing his gospel was the original one. (One can explore more deeply the related evidence on either side at this point but I am skimming the surface of the argument for the sake of a relatively short blog post.)

If the subsequent stage of the Gospel of Luke was indeed an anti-Marcionite embellishment (as Tyson and several other scholars have argued) — and the evidence for this canonical version of Luke only makes its appearance after the mid-second century — then it is surely safe to conclude on chronological grounds that the “canonical redactor” did indeed know of the Gospel of Matthew.

Further, it is surely relatively safe to think that our redactor had an interest in shaping the baptist scenario to rebut Marcionism.

The question to ask then is whether canonical Luke functions as an anti-Marcionite document, and in particular to ask whether the treatment of Jesus’ baptism functions the same way. If so, does the suggested political context (anti-Marcionite) explain Luke’s differences from Matthew’s baptism scenario?

I think a case can be argued that they do indeed. read more »

Scholars will explode the myth of The New Testament

University of Copenhagen
 From the University of Copenhagen News

Scholars will explode the myth of The New Testament

Bible scholars across the world have for many years believed that two of the Gospels of the New Testament – The Gospel of St. Matthew and St. Luke respectively were partly based on the content of a supposedly lost scripture referred to as “Q”. In a new research project, researchers from the Faculty of Theology will attempt to establish that this lost scripture never existed.

The Gospels as re-written Bible

The Research Project at the University of Copenhagen, which has just been granted 4.7 million kroner by the Velux Foundation, has been titled “The Gospels as re-written Bible”. During the next tree years a group of scholars will map the development of the four gospels in order to establish that the Gospel of Luke is not, as believed so far, a contemporary of the Gospel of Matthew, and that the shared content of the two is not to be explained by the existence of a lost scripture, but by the fact that the author of St. Luke’s Gospel used St. Matthew’s Gospel as well as that of St. Mark as basis for his own scripture.

Contact for this story is Professor Morgens Müller, Faculty of Theology.

See the full article here.

The poor and Q — collapsing already

Hoo boy! Half my examples in my old “poor and Q” argument were from the earliest chapters of Luke — yet of course there are good reasons for treating these as later additions to the original gospel. I’m wonder if any attempt to divine the origins of the gospels from textual studies is doomed given the strong likelihood of so many layers of redactions they were subjected to. Who is to say that the literal poor theme in Luke was not the work of a later redactor — or even original and with further accretions being added from the same “school” in response to various dialogue challenges. If there are reasons for taking Luke as initially dominant in Asia and part of the quatrodeciman types, an area in some rivalry with the Rome — wonder if there might be some grounds for a poor vs rich type “dialogue” there. But I’m just making all this up … thinking aloud only……

Another Q versus literary competence argument

My copy of George Kennedy’s “New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism” has just arrived today. Can’t recall what footnote originally compelled me to purchase it online however many weeks ago, but already I’m impressed with one little gem.

A doctrinaire insistence on source criticism tends to underestimate Matthew’s abilities as a writer and the perceptual sensitivity of his intended audience; rhetorical criticism can help to redress that estimate. (p.42)

and before that:

He was surely not deliberately leaving his readers clues to unravel his use of sources. (p.42)

That last sentence says heaps. Do we really think that one well enough versed in Greek to compose a gospel that would last 2000 years so limited that they found it too much effort to adjust wording of their sources to fit the thematic contexts of their larger composition?

Kennedy in this section focuses on the apparent contradiction in the Sermon on the Mount that appears to begin with Jesus addressing his inner circle of close disciples only yet concluding as if he had been addressing the larger multitude.

The explanation to Kennedy is really elementary, my dear Watson:

In classical oratory, apostrophe, or the turn from the nominal addressee to someone else, is even more common than in modern public address. What perhaps should be envisioned in Matthew, as in Luke, is that Jesus first looks at the disciples and then begins to refer to the crowd in the third person, shifting abruptly to the second person in 5.11. (p.41)

Kennedy further points to the obvious intended audience throughout the rest of the Sermon — that Matthew clearly intended his Sermon to be read/heard as a speech, and among it audience were “the poor, the grief-stricken, the meek, those contemplating divorce, all Jews who will pray.” (p.40)

There is much, much more to Kennedy’s exposition of Matthew’s rhetoric, but I have chosen to isolate for the purpose of this moment this sole point, which is worth my digesting for before moving on and reading much else.

The poor and Q — literary vs historical paradigms

One point used to support the case for Q is Luke’s ‘more primitive’ version of the beatitudes:

‘Blessed are the poor/hungry’ is said to be less (spiritually) developed than Matthew’s ‘poor in spirit/hungry for righteousness’.

On the other hand Luke’s ‘poor’ and ‘hungry’ seems to me to fit in seamlessly with his preceding motifs. Compared with Matthew Luke could be said to be tailoring a gospel for the literal poor:

  • in place of kings and wise-men we have lowly shepherds at Jesus’ birth, and an old man and a widow at his circumcision;
  • rather than in a house or inn the infant Jesus is found in a manger;
  • Mary describes herself as lowly;
  • Jesus opening message in Nazareth is said to be specifically sent ‘to the poor’;
  • in this same opening message Jesus honours a leprous and a widow gentile;
  • John the Baptist demands sharing with and care for the poor and hungry;
  • Jesus’ genealogy is not traced through the wealthy and wise Solomon but through Nathan.

So when we read in this context “blessed are the (literal) poor and hungry” is it not simpler to see Luke’s beatitude being born of the broader themes of the gospel than to postulate that it’s variation from Matthew’s points to an earlier form? So why the preference to see the beatitude as a “more primitive” version of Matthew’s “poor in spirit” and as evidence of a prior source, Q? One reason may be the preference for scholars to find intermediary evidence for Jesus between the late first century gospels and the time of Jesus; another complementary one may be the reluctance to read the gospels as literary works in their own right and through the framework of literary analysis, preferring to treat them rather as “historical records”. Both reasons suggested here would suggest a paradigm bias underlying the scholarship.


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