New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Password:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
 
 
Book reviews >

QUESTIONING Q

SPCK £19.99(0-281-05613-7)Church Times Bookshop £18

AT an early stage in New Testament studies, every student will be introduced to Q, the hypothetical source (Quelle) of the material that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have in common, and which is not in Mark. The hypothesis is 200 years old, and has spawned countless studies and refinements.

But it has also become more than a technical solution to the enigma of the relationship of the first three Gospels. Such a source (if it existed) must have been ancient — perhaps our earliest, and therefore most authentic, source of information about Jesus. Moreover, it apparently consisted entirely of sayings: it had no narrative, no crucifixion, no resurrection. In which case, those who compiled and preserved it were presumably content with the picture of Jesus it presented — hence the popularity in modern Jesus-studies of portraits of Jesus as primarily a teacher of (often subversive) “wisdom”, or as an itinerant philosopher similar to the Cynic preachers of the pagan world.

But did Q exist? Very early scraps of papyrus have turned up in Egypt with fragments of the other Gospels, but none of Q. No ancient author ever refers to it. All we have is reconstruction by modern scholars, devised primarily as an answer to the problems created by the intricate relationship of the Synoptic Gospels with each other.

But this reconstruction seems now on the way to becoming a “Gospel” in its own right. With the aid of a computer in California, an international team of scholars claim to have established, and are now publishing, a “critical text”. “Questioning Q” seems to have become an occupation open only to outsiders — eccentric scholars who refuse to accept the consensus and its now far-reaching implications.

Yet the theory still has opponents. Is their position no longer tenable? Or might it be the case (as these authors argue) that the very success of the Q hypothesis has made its proponents oblivious of its vulnerability; indeed has made them lose the habit of seriously engaging with contrary arguments at all?   

This collection of essays by eight American and British scholars is a serious attempt to have the question reopened. They recognise that abandoning Q would be nothing less than a paradigm shift for New Testament studies. But at the very least their arguments demonstrate the fragility of the hypothetical structure that is taken as established by the great majority of scholars. Their project is a wholesome reminder that, despite two centuries of labour and ingenuity, the origins of our four Gospels still remain beyond the reach of any certain knowledge.

Dr Harvey is a former Canon and Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey.

To order this book email details to Ct Bookshop


Job of the week

House for Duty Priest in Charge

North West

DIOCESE OF CARLISLE Black Combe Benefice St. Michael and All Angels Bootle; St. John The Baptist Corney; St. Mary's Whitbeck; St Mary's Whicham The Bishop of Carlisle seeks to appoint a House...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

Not only dancing in the aisles

Not only dancing in the aisles

From skateboarding to real ale, churches are being used to engage with their localities in ever more imaginative ways. Pat Ashworth reports  Subscribe to read more

Question of the week
Should churchpeople resist the proposed liberalisation of Sunday trading laws?

To prevent multiple voting, we now ask readers to be logged in. This is free, quick and easy, honestly. Click here to login or register

Top comment

Listen to the Spirit - on the bus

A new initiative offers an appealing means of encouraging prayer, says Richard Chartres  Subscribe to read more

Wed 10 Feb 16 @ 14:41
Church research advises smiling to bring in visitors https://t.co/zfNq7w7Hj8 https://t.co/HpKfXpw50x

Wed 10 Feb 16 @ 12:08
RT @greenbeltOur Partners @ChurchTimes are hosting @BloxhamFestival of Faith & Lit 19-21 Feb. @SarahGPerry tickets available here https://t.co/5sOVqWIoZT