Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Q Theory

I'm currently reading James Robinson's book Jesus According to the Earliest Witness, and I am amazed at the certainty that some scholars possess regarding their views on the layering, stratifying, and editing of Q . Some scholars seem to act as if Luhrmann and Kloppenborg are right and that is just a self-evident fact to anyone with a Gospe Synopsis and a Ph.D. But, by analogy, if you think you can discover layers, tiers, and editorial work of pre-Marcan material by using Matthew and Luke, I think you are slightly too optimistic about the nature of the evidence and your scholarly abilities. The same is true for Q. And Q (if it existed!) is a jigsaw, and with a jigsaw you can imagine someone putting the corners together first, then maybe the frame, but after that you enter that part of scholarship where we have to say, "We just don't know!" Have a guess by all means, but let us not pretend to be certain of things which we have no right to be certain about. My biggest complaint about the Q-Thomas theorists is that they treat what is hypothetical as if it were factual (Q) and make what was peripheral out to be central (Gospel of Thomas).

Otherwise, Robinson's book contains an excellent chapter entitled, "Theological Autobiography" about his studies in Europe, his move from Systematics to New Testament, his work on Q, and the Nag Hammadi codices, and the story of the publication of the Nag Hammadi contains elements of subterfuge, intrigue, plots, and conspiracies that would leave Dan Brown in awe.

1 comment:

Denny Burk said...


I'm with you. I'm with Bob Stein on this one. I think everyone could stand a little dose of humble agnosticism when it comes to Q. Was it a written source? Oral tradition? A little of both? Have you seen Hermeneia's critical edition of Q? Give me a break.

Much luf,