Q and the History of Early Christianity: Studies on Q

Article excerpt

Q and the History of Early Christianity: Studies on Q. By Christopher M. Tuckett. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, xv + 492 pp., $29.95.

Like E. P. Sanders, Christopher Tuckett, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, argues for an eschatological Jesus, as opposed to those who insist that Jesus was a nonapocalyptic Cynic-sage or revolutionary (the Jesus Seminar people would be the best-known defenders of this position).

This book is the author's attempt to bring together some of his thoughts about Q, many of the chapters having appeared in earlier drafts as chapters in books and as journal articles. In the 13 chapters of the finished book Tuckett discusses the existence of Q, redaction criticism and Q, the nature of Q, John the Baptist in Q, eschatology in Q, Q's Christology, the Son of Man in Q, wisdom in Q, discipleship in Q, and Q and Israel. In addition, there are chapters on wisdom, prophets and "this generation," polemic and persecution, and the Gentile mission and the law.

Despite some recent attempts to discredit the Two-Source Hypothesis of synoptic gospel origins, Tuckett remains convinced (as do I) that Q actually existed at one time. He laments the fact that Q studies in the United Kingdom are in such decline that "the vast majority of those engaged in such work are based outside my own home country!" (p. x). His "sparring partner" throughout the book is his doctoral supervisor, mentor, friend and helper, David Catchpole, author of The Quest for Q, who over a period of 20 years has been perhaps the major influence on his thoughts about Q, but with whom he disagrees on a number of points.

The opening chapter is in many ways foundational to the rest of the book. Here Tuckett carves out a position between those who see a particular group of Christians responsible for the collection and editing of the Q material in various stages, on the one hand, and those who see it as the height of absurdity to try to determine what Earle Ellis has called "the hypothetical theology of the hypothetical community of the hypothetical document Q" (quoted on p. 2). On the fact that Q doesn't exist as a separate document, an objection regulary raised by beginning students of the subject, Tuckett points out that our knowledge of all of primitive Christianity is at best somewhat fragmentary, and that with Q preserved to a large degree in more readable form in Matthew and Luke the conversation of the original document became of decreasing value. …