The Lost Gospel Of Q—Fact Or Fantasy? -- By: Eta Linnemann

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 17:1 (Spring 1996)
Article: The Lost Gospel Of Q—Fact Or Fantasy?
Author: Eta Linnemann


The Lost Gospel Of Q—Fact Or Fantasy?1

Eta Linnemann *

Imagine flying to a non-existent island on an airplane that has not yet been invented. Even if this impossible trip were to take place during the thirteenth month of the year, it would not be as fantastic as the tale, recently christened as scientific certainty by some NT scholars, concerning the so-called lost gospel Q and the earliest Church.

The story of Q (short for the German Quelle, meaning “source”) is not exactly hot-off-the-press. It began over a century and a half ago. At that time it was part of the “two-source” theory of gospel origins. In the wake of Enlightenment allegations that the gospels were historically unreliable, it was suggested that their origins were instead primarily literary in nature. Matthew and Luke, the theory went, composed their gospels not based on historical recollection but by using the dual sources of Mark and a hypothetical document called Q.

The theory was not without its difficulties, and it is no wonder that many Anglo-Saxon scholars—B. F. Westcott (1825–1901) would be a good example2 —as well as formidable German-speaking authorities like Theodor Zahn (1838–1933) and Adolf Schlatter (1852–1938) declined to embrace it. But it gained ascendancy in Germany, and to this very hour it enjoys a virtual monopoly there and widespread support in many other countries.

The much-publicized Jesus Seminar has pushed Q into popular headlines of late. But behind the Jesus Seminar’s exalted claims for Q lies an interesting history. Key players in the Q revival include Siegfried Schulz with his 1972 study entitled The Sayings Source of the Evangelist.3 Schulz speaks of a Q-church in Syria which hammered

* Professor Dr. Eta Linnemann is retired but continues to serve Christ in her writing and teaching all over the world.

out Q’s final form in the AD 30–65 era.4 The “gospel” they produced—later absorbed into the canonical Matthew and Luke—lacked Christ’s passion, atoning death, and resurrection. The upshot of Schulz’s work: a primitive “Christian” community produced a “gospel” lacking the central foci of the four canonical versions: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Q was suddenly no longer an amorphous “source” but a discrete witness vying for recognition with its canonical counterparts.

In some ways Schulz had been scooped by the slightly earlier study of James M. Robi...

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