The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Vol. 4

By Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Everett E. Harrison et al. | Go to book overview

I. Definition
II. Data
A. Arguments For Postulating Q
B. Arguments Against Postulating Q
III. Provenance and Purpose
IV. Theology

I. Definition.–A close inspection of the Synoptic Gospels shows that some material is common to Matthew and Luke but does not appear in Mark. Q (from Ger. Quelle. “spring, source”) is the name given to the hypothetical body of teaching from which this common material was derived. (On the origin of the siglum Q see W. F. Howard, Expos.T., 50 "1938/39", 379f.; supplemented and corrected by H. K. McArthur, Expos.T., 88 "1976/77", 119f.; L. H. Silberman, JBL. 98 "1979", 287f.; J. J. Schmitt, JBL. 100 "1981", 609-611.) Q also stands for the theory of Gospel origins that combines the notion that Mark was the first Synoptic Gospel to be written (so C. H. Weisse, in 1838) with the hypothesis that Matthew and Luke each drew on both Mark and non-Markan material.

The supposition of Q has, however, come under close and critical scrutiny beginning in the 1950's. Some opponents of the theory have become so emotionally stirred as to register their disavowal of the hypothesis in terms like “unnecessary and vicious” (B. C. Butler, Originality of Matthew "1957", p. 170). C. S. Petrie (Nov.Test., 3 "1959", 28-33) commented. “'Q' stands for 'quirk' and should be wholly forgotten and promptly dispatched to the limbo of forlorn hypotheses,” on the ground that the number of hypotheses about Q have predisposed scholars to doubt its existence. J. Moffatt (Intro, to the Literature of the NT "3rd ed. 1918|, pp. 194-204) listed no fewer than sixteen attempts to reconstruct the scope of Q. Other doubts regarding Q's inferred existence will be discussed later.

II. Data.–A. Arguments for Postulating Q. 1. Matthaean and Lukan Diction. Over two hundred verses (225 is the number usually assigned in recent criticism) in Matthew and Luke have similar content and diction. In several the agreement is verbally exact. Mt. 3:7-10 par. Lk. 3:7-9 have a precise agreement of 61 out of 63 words in the Greek, with only minor variations within the text. Two of the differences are clearly Luke's stylistic improvements, such as árxēsthe (“begin”) for dóxēte (“presume”), and an adverbial kaí. Other instances of such parallel reporting — and in some cases verbatim correspondences — are Mt. 6:24 par. Lk. 16:13 (27 out of 28 words identical); Mt. 7:7-11 par. Lk. 11:9-13; Mt. 11:21-23 par. Lk. 10:13-15 (in the woes on the Galilean towns 43 words out of 49 are the same); Mt. 12:43-45 par. Lk. 11:24-26: cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, p. 151.

But the two Gospels sometimes diverge in what is ostensibly the same account of Jesus' teaching. V. Taylor (JTS, 4 "1953), 27-31) examined these passages and suggested four reasons for the divergence in seven of them (Lk. 10:25-28 par. Mt. 22:34-40; Lk. 12:54-56 par. Mt. 16:2f.; Lk. 13:23f. par. Mt. 7:13f.; Lk. 13:25-27 par. Mt. 25:10-12; Lk. 14:15-24 par. Mt. 22:1-10; Lk. 15:4-7 par. Mt. 18:12-14; Lk. 19:12-27 par. Mt. 25:14-30). (1) Each evangelist had the liberty of making minor editorial alterations when transmitting the text. (2) There may be different recensions. One may cite here a few cases not in Taylor's list: Mt. 5:3f. par. Lk. 6:20f.; the two versions of the Lord's Prayer (Mt. 6:9-15; Lk. 11:2-4). G. Bornkamm (Jesus of Nazareth "Eng. tr. 1960", p. 218) used this flexibility to argue, “Q is still relatively close to the oral tradition, and remained exposed to its continuing influence.” (3) Differing diction in two parallel accounts may have been caused by overlap of Q and Matthew's special source, his Sondergut (sometimes called M). In these cases Luke would have followed Q (and it is generally conceded that Luke presents the original order of Q), and Matthew M. Thus the verbal disagreements are ascribed to Matthew's conflating of M and Q, as V. Taylor argued (Expos.T., 46 "1934/351, 68-74). J. P. Brown similarly thought that Matthew's version of Q blended material from Mark to produce “a larger sayings-document Qmt” (NTS. 8 "1961/62", 27-42; see Fitzmyer, p. 169). (4) The idea of a composite Q document has been proposed to account for the discrepancies between Matthew and Luke. The theory is that there were two editions of Q, the Aramaic source R (showing variations between Matthew and Luke) and the Greek source T (showing close agreement). This view has been criticized severely (T. W. Manson, pp. 20f.), although C. K. Barrett defended it (Expos.T., 54 " 1942/43J, 320-23). In a modified form, however, it has been refurbished in the more recent idea that Matthew's Q is a Greek production, whereas Luke's Q is a primitive translation from Aramaic (so M. Black, Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts "3rd ed. 1968|, pp. 270ff.). But this translation hypothesis is weak in view of N. Turner's strictures (Expos.T., 80 "1969", 324-332).

2. Matthaean and Lukan Sequences. The two Gospels record common teachings in basically the same order, but there are divergences, which have raised the question of


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The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Vol. 4
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contributors† v
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Q 1
  • R 27
  • S 247
  • T 695
  • U 937
  • V 963
  • W 1001
  • X 1161
  • Y 1162
  • Z 1167


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