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Christian scriptures

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The Gospel of Q; All sides to the controversy

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Overview:

There is a widespread belief among post-Christians, liberal Christians, some mainline Christians, and secularists that the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke:

bulletWere not named "Matthew" and "Luke."

bulletWere not eye witnesses to Jesus' ministry in Palestine.

bulletRelied on a growing oral tradition of the early Christian movements concerning Jesus' teachings.

bulletCopied much of their material from a pre-existing document.

The German researchers who pioneered in this work called this lost document "Quelle" which means "source". This is usually abbreviated as "Q" as in the "Gospel of Q."

The Gospel of Q remains a hypothetical document. No intact copy has ever been found. No reference to the document in early Christian writings has survived. Its existence is inferred from an analysis of the text of Matthew and Luke. Much of the content of Matthew and Luke were derived from the Gospel of Mark. But there were also many passages which appear to have come from Q.

Many theologians and religious historians believe that Q's text can be reconstructed by analyzing passages that Matthew and Luke have in common.

If the Gospel of Q exists, it might best be regarded as a reconstructed Gospel. Many believe that it was written much earlier than the four canonical gospels in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament): Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. It may have been the first of the 40 or so Gospels that were written and used by the early Christian movements.

The Gospel of Q is different from the four canonical gospels in that it does not extensively describe events in the life of Jesus. Rather, it is largely a collection of sayings -- similar to the Gospel of Thomas.  Q does not mention events like Jesus' virgin birth, his selection of 12 disciples, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension to heaven, etc. It represents those parts of Jesus' teachings that his followers remembered and recorded about 20 years after his death. "He is presented as "a charismatic teacher, a healer, a simple man filled with the spirit of God. Jesus is also a sage, the personification of Wisdom, cast in the tradition of King Solomon."1

If the Gospel of Q did exist, then it is extremely important to religious liberals. It may contain the earliest descriptions of beliefs, behaviors and expectations of one group of Jesus' followers. Many liberals are convinced that the canonical Gospels contain extensive material that is not historical, including descriptions of non-existent events in Jesus' life, words that he did not say, teachings that he did not make, and actions that he did not take. Having access to a document written decades before the canonical gospels may allow liberal theologians to separate what they regard as fact from fiction in the Christian Scripture's descriptions of the life of Jesus.

To most religious conservatives, the Gospel of Q is a non-issue. As Eta Linnemann comments, it doesn't exist and:

 "...is nothing but fantasy....Such totally subjective arrangements, depending on dubious suggestions about the historical background, amount to novelistic trifling with early Christian origins." 2

To those who believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible to write error-free text, it matters not one iota whether some of the Gospel content was derived from an earlier document. The Holy Spirit has guaranteed that the books chosen to be in Bible are all inerrant -- at least in their autograph copies: the copies hand-written by their authors.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletDoes the Gospel of Q exist?; its relationship with the canonical gospels
 
bulletInternal structure of the Gospel of Q
 
bulletImplications of the Gospel of Q

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Books about the Gospel of Q:

bulletBurton Mack, "The lost gospel: The Book of Q & Christian origins," HarperSanFrancisco, (1993). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

bulletMarcus Borg, Ed., "The lost gospel Q: The original sayings of Jesus," Ulysses Press, (1996). Read reviews/order this book

bulletJ.S. Kloppenborg, Ed. "Conflict and invention: Literary, rhetorical and social studies on the sayings gospel Q," Trinity Press, (1995). Read a review/order this book

bulletJ.S. Kloppenborg & John Verbin, "Excavating Q: The history and setting of the sayings gospel," Fortress Press, Read a review/order this book

bulletA.D. Jacbson, "The first gospel: An introduction to Q," Polebridge Press, (1992)  Order this book

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The Amazon.com web site lists the following books on the Gospel of Q:

If you see a generic Amazon ad here, please click on your browser's refresh icon.

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References used:

  1. Marcus Borg, Consulting Editor, "The Lost Gospel Q: The Original Sayings of Jesus," Ulysses Press, Berkeley CA (1996) , P. 15 & 28. Read reviews/order this book
  2. Eta Linnemann, "The lost Gospel of Q: Fact or fantasy?" at: http://www.inexes.com/

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Copyright © 1998 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Most recent update: 2013-JUL-12
Author: B.A. Robinson
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