If you compare the 3 synoptic gospels you can see what Matthew and Luke got from the earlier gospel of Mark. It’s pretty clear they both had it at their sides as they dipped their quills in the inkpot.
There are also pages of almost identical parables etc that they share but which are not in Mark, so, hey! perhaps there was another source (“Quelle” in German, hence the “Q”) that they shared too. Anyone with a notepad and pencil can soon work out what it said. (It’s 235 verses long). Or buy a copy worked out by someone else like I did (i). The existence of Q was first suggested in 1838. The only reason for carrying out this apparently pointless exercise is that, by definition “Q”, Mark (and the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas) are earlier documents, written closer to the time of the events they purport to describe, so eye-witness accounts of these events would be fresher in peoples’ memories. (The gospel writers weren’t actually there themselves.) They may also be more accurate because there’s been less chance to put a gloss on them or to twist them slightly to better suit the needs of the particular early Christian church they written for. (Spin existed before 21st century politicians and PR men became so good at it!) The gospels weren’t written by isolated hermits living in caves but by early literate Greek-speaking members of different branches of the church in different places spread out round the Roman empire. They had their own local issues to deal with and mainly oral tradition to rely on to guide them. Getting everything they knew down on papyrus helped clarify matters and unify the earliest believers, many of whom prioritised their own visions and dreams, and were frankly heretics.(ii)
So, that’s the significance of “Q”: it’s the earliest source of Jesus’ teachings and therefore the most reliable account of Jesus’ life and words we’ll ever get.
Dates: (CE, Common Era; same as AD)
Death of Jesus: ca. 33 CE
“core” of Thomas: pre-50 (iii)
Q: 50’s CE (iv) or 50-70 CE (v)
Thomas and the Synoptics: 70-100 CE
The absence of many features from Q and Thomas alike may imply that Matthew and Luke added them later and so they are less credible; or it may be that the basic storyline of Jesus’ life, death resurrection etc were common knowledge and were therefore taken for granted.
Exploring such scholarly reduction of the bible to a core – to a residual authentic Jesus – minus all the later chaff that has stuck to him, is the aim of the Zingcreed project.
Taking it even further:
“Q” itself has been divided into layers like geological strata, early, mid and most recent. See Kloppenborg (vi) and Burton Mack (vii) for details. I may come back to them later if I ever get round to reading them. They are frequently referred to by other writers. (Added later:)
“Q was a written document from Galilee, which by the time of the Judean-Roman war passed through at least 2 recensions(…..): Q1 or wisdom Q and Q2 or deuteronomic Q. (ix p.71) Q1 contains sharply formulated aphotisms; Q2 views John and Jesus as prophets who are rejected but will be vindicated by the Son of Man. (etc.)
Ten Differences between “Q” and the later synoptic gospels:
(1) No nativity story
(2) Only one miracle
(3) Jesus is never called the Messiah or Christ or the annointed
(4) There are no stories about Jesus’ death or trial
(5) The resurrection is not mentioned, Jesus was “taken up” in the same way as Elijah and Enoch
(6) Jesus’ death is not seen as an act that brings salvation
(7) No disciples are named
also (8) Believers should embrace the Kingdom of God by living a radical lifestyle that includes
- (a) love of enemies
- (b) unlimited forgiveness
- (c) nonviolence
- (d) confidence in God’s care
- (e) freedom from anxiety about food or clothing
- (f) while watching out for the hypocrisy of reputed leaders and the temptations of emulating elites.
(9)Jesus’ audience are the marginalised people, the poor the hungry and the weeping
(10) Follow Jesus’ commands and expect rejection, failure, and split families. (viii)
(i) Miller, R.J. “The Complete Gospels. The Scholars Version”” 4th edition Polebridge Press (2010)
(ii) Pagels, E. “Beyond Belief” Vintage (2013)
(iii) Ehrman, B. “Did Jesus exist?” Harper (2012) p. 82
(iv) Ehrman, op.cit. p.81
(v) Miller, op. cit. p.260
(vi) Kloppenborg (details to be added later)
(vii) Burton Mack (details to be added later)
(viii) Miller op.cit. p.258-259
(ix) Oakman, D. “The political aims of Jesus” Fortress Press (2012)
Related Zingcreed Posts:
What Jesus said in the oral tradition