The “Q” Myth In Synoptic Studies -- By: Lewis A. Foster

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 07:4 (Fall 1964)
Article: The “Q” Myth In Synoptic Studies
Author: Lewis A. Foster

The “Q” Myth In Synoptic Studies

Lewis A. Foster

The “myth” concept has come to occupy a startling role in the pursuit of Biblical studies. The use of the term in the subject of this paper, however, is not the current technical language of the theologian, but the old Webster second meaning “a person or thing existing only in imagination.” Webster’s first meaning also finds pertinent application to the present study: “a story, the origin of which is forgotten, ostensibly historical but usually such as to explain some practice, belief, institution, or natural phenomenon.” The purpose of this paper is to show that the term myth as defined above describes proper objections to the current place of “Q” in Synoptic Studies; viz., (1) there is no such document as Q, but it exists only in the imaginations of its advocates, (2) it was created to explain the phenomena of similarities and differences observed in the relationship of the first three Gospel narratives and (3) the origins of this suggested Q have been well nigh forgotten but its real existence has been assumed and propagated with disregard for establishing its reality. Demythologizing is a real need here. Not the Biblical account, but the scholarly theories of origins and sources need to be rid of mistaken myths which becloud the inspired and trustworthy presentation of the Son of God found within the Scripture.

Although the two document theory has long held a popular place in the reconstruction of Gospel sources, a denial of Q’s existence has not been unheard of, even among those who advocate an interdependence among the Synoptic writers. As early as 1934, James Hardy Ropes wrote:

It is commonly held that Matthew drew much of his matter from an earlier compilation of Jesus’ sayings also used by Luke and nowadays sometimes dubbed “Q.” But of such a book no ancient writer seems ever to have heard, and the grounds on which its existence is inferred by modern scholars are far less secure than is commonly represented or supposed…1

In any case it ought to be repeated that ‘Q,’ if it ever existed, is a pure inference, a strictly hypothetical document. No ancient writer known to us appears to have so much as heard of it, to say nothing of knowing it by personal inspection.

This theory of a second written source, devised to explain the resemblances of Matthew and Luke seems first to have occurred to the mind of man, or at least to have been published to the world, just one hundred years ago.”2

In recent years Morton Enslin is an example of a Liberal who has sought to rid the field of the Q hypothesis.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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