Thursday, May 17, 2012

Completing The Case Against Q

I finished Mark Goodacre's The Case Against Q.

In what I read yesterday, Goodacre took a look at the alleged document Q, from which Matthew and Luke supposedly drew.  Q has narratives near the beginning but then it becomes a bunch of sayings.  And Q also presumes elements of Matthew's narrative, without actually telling the stories in which those elements initially appear.

For Goodacre, it makes more sense to say that the commonalities between the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew (the commonalities not found in Mark, that is) are due to Luke using Matthew, and not to both of them drawing from a Q source.  The reason that the reconstructed Q source has narratives at the beginning and then becomes a bunch of sayings is that Matthew had narratives at the beginning and then relied on Mark's Gospel to finish up his story.  Remember that Q is stuff that does not appear in the Gospel of Mark.  (Yet, as Goodacre points out, there is a scholarly belief in a Mark-Q overlap, in which Q tells a version of a story that Mark has.  This is posited because there are times when Matthew and Luke agree with each other and not Mark in telling a particular story.)  So, when believers in Q look at the commonalities between Matthew and Luke (that are not in Mark) to reconstruct the Q source, they take the shared narratives at the beginning, but at a certain point Matthew draws from Mark for his narrative and so there are no more narratives to put into the Q source.  Goodacre's point is this: Wouldn't it be easier to say that Luke just used Matthew, than to say that both drew from a Q source that started with narrative and became sayings, incidentally right at the point of the story where Matthew started relying primarily on Mark? 

The same can be said about the times when Q presumes elements of Matthew's narrative: Why not conclude that Luke draws from Matthew itself, rather than a document that mentions elements of Matthew's narrative without specifically introducing us to those elements in an initial story?

Believers in Q have appealed to the Gospel of Thomas, which is a Gospel of sayings, to argue that there could have been a document like Q, which has a lot of sayings but not much narrative.  But Goodacre has two problems with this argument.  First, Q has narratives.  And second, there is a specific ideological reason that the Gospel of Thomas predominantly consists of sayings: because it holds that Jesus' teachings are what bring salvation.

Good book.  And I did not mention Goodacre's discussion of Jesus-movies in this book.  I may sometime read a book that Goodacre wrote specifically on that topic, for I love Jesus-movies!


  1. I enjoyed Mark's book too - but I remain a secret Greisbach fan. It seems to me that The Gospel of Mark is able to be performed as a drama of length about 2 hours, where Luke and Matthew are much longer.

  2. There are churches that actually do perform the Gospel of Mark! There was a local Presbyterian one here that did that during holy week.


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