What is the Problem with Q?

The dominant view in over the last 150 years of New Testament scholarship is that Mark was written first, and that Matthew and Luke both used Mark as an outline from which they wrote their gospels.  This accounts for the narrative portions of the gospels.  But there is a great deal of material where both Matthew and Luke agree that is not in Mark.

In order to account for this common material, scholars have conjectured a document they call Q (from the German word Quelle, source).  This hypothetical document is used to explain the many sayings of Jesus that appear in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark.  In this theory, both Matthew and Luke used two documents, hence the name “two source theory.”  Some scholars assume that this document must have existed in one form or another.  For example, G. N.  Stanton says that “we can be reasonably certain that Q existed as a written document” (650).  Yet scholars such as Thomas Edgar vehemently deny its existence.  Edgar states that “Q has never been seen nor is there any evidence that such a document ever existed” (147).

The existence of a “sayings” gospel is a possibility in the light of two pieces of circumstantial evidence.  The statement of Papias can be taken quite easily as a collection of sayings of Jesus were collected by Matthew first, rather than the gospel of Matthew.  A problem night be then that Papias does not know the Gospel of Matthew.   Second, the Gospel of Thomas, while not a particularly help source for historical studies, does show that the genre of a sayings gospel existed. Alas, circumstantial evidence is just.  Thomas is not Q and dates well after the first century.  What Papias says may be explained in several different ways which do not imply the existence of a Q-like source document.

There is something about the idea of a source document which makes evangelicals uneasy.  We do not want to accept the idea that Matthew and Luke were scholars and editors, assembling their gospels from sources.  Most conservatives would dismiss Q immediately because it is the product of Historical Criticism (as the essays in The Jesus Crisis do).  Did God inspire Matthew and Luke to edit their sources, or write their gospels?  For the conservative scholar, Q simply is not helpful since their emphasis is on the text as it appears in the Bible.

This unease is felt over a  broad spectrum of scholarship as well.  The essays in Questioning Q, for example, wonder if relying on the existence of a Sayings source has short-circuited the idea of the Gospel writers as creative writers who should be treated as authors, not editors of their books.
Both of these warnings are well intended.  It is true that documents which “count” are the synoptic Gospels as they appear on the page of the Bible.  If the writers used sources, that may not matter much for our interpretation of the words in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  I have always tried to get students to “stay within the world of the story” and read Matthew as Matthew, not as a parallel book to Luke.

Yet the evidence is there, and as I read it Matthew used Mark and a sayings source of some kind.  Luke likely also used Mark and a sayings source, although he could have also used Matthew.  For me, it is not correct to mis-characterize Matthew ans cut and pasting sources together to create his gospel.  Rather, if Matthew used courses, he was a scholar marshaling all of his resources to create a theological document which answered some questions about the person and nature of Jesus and the idea of discipleship after the resurrection.  There is nothing wrong with the idea that Matthew (or Mark) used sources, but too much emphasis on the sources will obscure the goal – a clear reading of the Gospels.


Thomas Edgar.  “Source Criticism: The Two Source Theory,” pages 132-157 in The Jesus Crisis (ed. Robert Thomas and F. David Farnell; Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998).

Mark Goodacre, editor. Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique (Downer’s Grover, Inter-Varsity, 2004).

G. N.  Stanton.  “Q”, pages 644-650 in The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (ed.  Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight;  Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1992).

30 thoughts on “What is the Problem with Q?

  1. The Doctrine of Inspiration contemplates the guidance of the writers under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Inspiration is extended to only those portions of material extracted from any source written or verbal employed by the gospel writer, without sanctioning the entire source as being inspired.

    Some of the gospel writing betrays the obtaining of information from personal discussion of intimate things and simple observation. There is nothing that mandates the necessity of a previously written source for all that is in his gospel..

    At best, Q is hypothetical and in the end non-essential. The writer of this article on Q appropriately concludes, “…too much emphasis on the sources will obscure the goal – a clear reading of the Gospels.”

    As to “Higher Criticism,” it is generally construed that it has done far more harm than good in terms of undergirding the Word of God.

    • I think I’d agree with your conclusion Lynn Lamy, that at best “Q is hypothetical and in the end non-essential.” However, my question to is, does the Q document “cloud” the reading of the Gospels, or does it enable us to have a “clearer” reading of the Gospels? In our discussions regarding WHY even study the Synoptic Problem, one of the goals is to be ready to answer the questions that may come up and be stretched in our faith. Being able to see the Q document as it is, and being “careful not to place too much emphasis on the document” [plong] would only affirm the truth that we [christians] hold on to [Inspiration of Scripture]. Just because something has done more harm than good, let’s not throw it out, but rather, see how we can best utilize the tools we have to see the Gospels as clearly as we possibly can.

    • “At best, Q is hypothetical and in the end non-essential.” It is, if Matthew was written first. If so, then Luke’s source for the sayings of Jesus is Matthew. If Mark was written first, then there is a significant boy of material in Matthew and Luke which must be explained. Luke still have made use of Matthew, or vice versa even if Mark is first.

      To me, Q simply stands for “the things that Matthew and Luke have in Common” and it is somewhat hopeless to try and reconstruct it as an actual published document. On the other hand, if we could prove that there was a common sayings source which was “published” before Matthew and Luke wrote, then we push the whole “words of Jesus” debate back another decade or more. The sayings would have been set in writing perhaps a little as 10-15 years after the death and resurrection. So it is tempting to work on a reconstruction of the Sayings Source for apologetic reasons alone!

  2. Even though the book of Mark was written first, I do think it is a problem that Matthew and Luke used Mark to help write each of their books. If the Q is a hypothetical document, then how can we trust it in explaining the sayings of Jesus that appear in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark? The definition of the word hypothesis is a mere assumption or guess. That document is just that then, I can not bring myself to actually believe that book at all. Since scholars can not prove its existence I agree with Edgar when he “states that Q has never been seen nor is there any evidence that such a document ever existed” (147).
    I believe that God inspired Matthew and Luke to write their gospels. Matthew 15:4 says, “Jesus Himself confirmed that Scriptures were from God. He quoted the Law revealed through Moses and said it was what God commanded” (NIV). Matthew 22:29-32 states, “He said the Scriptures were spoken by God” (NIV). “He promised the men who penned the New Testament that the Spirit would guide them into all truth” John 16:13 (NIV).
    I agree that “relying on the existence of a Sayings source has short-circuited the idea of the Gospel writers as creative writers who should be treated as authors, not editors of their books.” When I read the gospels, I remembered some of the similar writings that were in the other books. However, I always read them as the book itself and not making parallels to the other gospels.

    • I agree with Cary Boehm. I must go back to my previous point and that is this. For Matthew and Luke to have used a previously written peace of canonical scripture to indeed write what the Holy Spirit led them too, is indeed and in fact not a problem at all. This utilization of previously written scripture produces the opposite effect in that it solidifies the legitimacy of the source used to write Matthew and Luke. What then can be said to bring these books into question, when it is primarily the source of a writing that causes it to be legitimate or not?

  3. Cary, I agree with some of what you’re saying, but if there is a problem with Matthew and Luke using Mark as a source, then all three books are rendered useless. It not only puts the authority of the two in jeopardy, but also makes us question Mark as a legitimate writing. We would then have to rely on John as our primary source for our understanding of Jesus, and, as much as I love the book of John, we would miss a mass of information of the Person if Jesus and the interaction of His disciples. For example, we could not rely on Peter’s profession of Christ, which is a center point of the synoptic gospels.
    Who is to say there is no such thing as a hypothetical Q document? Although I am not a biblical scholar by any means, I simply cannot see any other way these two gospels could have been written. While an emphasis on a sayings source clouds the impact of the gospel, a clear understanding of the way the authors sourced their books is essential to understanding and accepting the gospels as factual literature. As soon as they are believed as books of Christian basis, they are automatically pegged as nonfactual and people forget the importance of their sourcing. They are inspired, but they are still legitimate literature.

    • I agree with you Joe Johnson, that we could rely just on the gospel of John as a primary. We need all three of the gospels in order to look at the life of Christ. We do need to make sure people have a concrete understanding of how the authors got their sources for their books. People always want the facts of everything. If they do not have facts, they will not believe something is true.

  4. I think that the biggest problem in looking at “Q” for the solution of the problem with synoptic gospels does lie in the fact that we do not want the gospels to be written from some “secular” source that is not in the Bible. It almost implies that there could be some error because that source is not in the Bible. If Q was completely true and recorded the history and story of Jesus then why is it not found in the Bible? Why is it not included in the cannon of scripture? Then the question does remain that since it is not included in scripture, does that mean that their source is not completely factual? Are the gospels that we hold to as “without error” sourced from a imperfect source?

    Every document of history does contain certain fallacies and prejudices. In fact, it is said that “history is written by the victors” (Winston Churchill). However, with scripture, you are not only relying on the historical accuracy by man, but also on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and his guidance through the process. 2 Peter 1:21 says: “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” So to have a Q source for the synoptic gospels is not a huge problem. God can work in whatever way he chooses. Whether this means a literal, verbatim speaking of what he wants in his Word or an inspired, moving alongside of the writer for what to be found in his Word. I do not believe it is strange to think that God could use historical sources and tell them what was true and what is not, and also to give them the correct recollection of what Jesus said.

  5. Brent – “written from some “secular” source that is not in the Bible.” I do not thing that Q is a secular source, and I am not sure anyone would say that. As Q us usually described, it is a sayings document created by the followers of Jesus, usually Matthew is the the best guess for a source of this material.

    As a conservative evangelical who is generally OK with Q, I think that it would have accurately preserved the sayings of Jesus for the thirty odd years after the life of Jesus until the gospels are actually written.

  6. Looking back at my upbringing in the church I never remember anyone saying things that would allude to the fact that every word written in the gospels was not directly inspired (by God) from mind to paper/scroll by the author who’s name was in bold at the top of the page. So I understand how thinking about the gospel writers putting together things from other sources, or using other sources as even reference would make us feel uneasy in the sense that it is a relatively new concept to most of us, and because it seems to play with our idea of inspiration and what that looks like. I think I used to think of the inspiration process from what I had head as almost a possession where the author is under a trance and just rights down everything God tells him in this trance (2 Peter 1:21), but reading Blomberg and hearing P Long’s opinions, the gospel writers using a “Q” source doesn’t seem so impossible to fit with what I believe about inspiration. Cary’s point that the Scriptures themselves say that they are from God, to me, does not interfere with the possibility or even probability of a “Q” document or something similar. Blomberg states, “Gospel criticism is not inherently an alternative to belief in the inspiration of the texts…rather, it is a study of the ordinary human means of writing that God’s Spirit superintended so as to ensure that the final product was exactly what God wanted to communicate to his people” (81).

  7. Also, I would like to add from our reading in Luke, Luk 1:1-2, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, (2) just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us” It seems the Greek word here used for “compile” means to set in order, which to me also fits with the idea of the Gopel writers using information available at the time and with their own writing, all under the direction of the Holy Spirit to compile the accounts.

    • @Britalia – this is a point of importance – if Luke is trying to create a historical document which reflects what really happened, it seems to me that he would have used all available sources. He claims to, I see no reason to think that he was faking a real history.

  8. I like what Britalia has to say about this posting. So much of being brought up in the church has an affect on my worldview, and understanding of the scriptures. It’s been interesting to see some of the childish, or seemingly ridiculous ideas that I have applied into my explanations of the scriptures and have rarely questioned them. While some truth may be in the views we have, it’s very important to challenge our thinking.
    I see no problem with someone summarizing from another text and still being divinely inspired by Christ. It makes sense to me that God would inspire the writers to take certain aspects from an outside source that he really wanted to be made clear in His Gospels. Like Brent said “God can work in whatever way he chooses.”

    • As many people have stated in some sort of way, this “Q” document is a hypothesis. But my question goes to this statement that was made, “We do not want to accept the idea that Matthew and Luke were scholars and editors, assembling their gospels from sources.” (Long).

      As a good student knows to convince your side of the arguement you will want a plethora of sources that agree, and respond with the same information you have. Couldn’t Matthew and Luke be doing just that, being good students to inform the world who this Jesus is?

      • Jed’s right, and furthers my point. Using Mark as a source is not a problem at all. It is a form of solidifying your document (in Matthew and Luke’s case).
        P. Long would you agree that the utilization of more accepted Documentation to further your own that is of the same objective? If so, then wouldn’t Matthew and Luke be doing exactly what they should be? If not, then what would be the alternative course of action?

  9. First off I really still do not understand as to why who wrote what when matters in the long run. I do not know if it is just because I am missing the point, or if there really isn’t one. Because I do have to comment on this subject I will say that I agree with what Jed has to say. It would make sense to me that if Mark was written first and Matthew and Luke followed, for Matthew and Luke to be “good students… inform[ing] the world who this Jesus is.” When writing a major paper for class, you do not just look into one source and know that you have all the eveidence; you look into multiple sources so as to better your knowledge and understanding of the topic, so as to write a better paper. I feel that Matthew and Luke are writing so that others “may know the certainty of the things you have been taught,” (Luke 1:4). Matthew and Luke to me, were written so that we may know that what is recorded in these gospels is true.

    • I am with you Crystal!
      I don’t fully understand what this “Q” hypothesis is all about. I understand what it is. I just don’t get why we are studying this. I understand that this hypothesis is a valuable document, but is it necessary to worry about? Probably not, but for the sake of the assignment I will try to sound smart.
      I think the “Q” hypothesis is a valid hypothesis. I don’t think it is extreme or even too postmodern to think about. I think it was smart for Matthew and Luke to use Mark as a source for their writings. Using a reliable source such as Mark is the best way to solidify your book. I would bet that P. Long would love it if when we write those Research Papers that we would use legitimate resources. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I think that if the “Q” source was illegitimate then the eyewitnesses who were around when Matthew and Luke were written would have made a fuss about how wrong it is and wouldn’t have let it get to the whole canonization process.
      This whole discussion would be much easier to talk about if the Gospel writers would have simply had a cite page at the end of their books. Where was Ms. Seeley when we needed her to put some red ink at the end of their documents???

    • Check back a couple of posts, or read the chapter in Blomberg again, Crystal! There are several very important reasons why this matters, and people who ignore it and “roll their eyes” are not what we need in the church today. Christians need to take this very seriously since how these documents came together may very well undercut the truth of the Gospel. I am sure you believe – but why you believe is just as important.

  10. @Crystal F “Matthew and Luke to me, were written so that we may know that what is recorded in these gospels is true.”

    This is a statement of faith, and it seems to me that you want to say “I believe, and that is that.” I am OK with that, but let us take it a step further. There are some obvious places in the first three gospels where the text says different things. What does the voice say at Jesus’ baptism? What does Jesus way to the rich man? In both cases you have a singular event, but it is recorded in two different ways. Why? Are the three gospels creations of the later church with no connection the real Historical Jesus? Are these contradictions? It is important to have an answer for these very real historical problems! it is all well and good to say you have faith, but you need to be able to explain some problems — I get the sense that you would rather ignore the whole thing.

  11. All throughout my life as well, I have never thought about questions like these. Like David said, it is probably a good thing that I am being challenged in this way. In my opinion Luke and Matthew did get some information from a second source. With all we know maybe the Holy Spirit was that second source. I don’t think that it is out of this world to think that there could have been a second “earthly” source either. I disagree with Thomas Edgar because there is obviously some evidence that a document could have existed because of the 235 verses that are found similar in Matthew and Luke. As long as God’s hand was involved in either of these cases, I think the Gospels are full of truth and without error despite some of the questions still in the air. Matthew and Luke most likely used Mark as a source. The only difference would be that Q is not is the Bible. With the argument of Q not being inspired I think we then would have to figure out where/who it actually came from or just believe that God’s hand was at work in creating both of the Gospels to provide us with an accurate story of Jesus (2 Peter 2:21).

  12. I have never heard of the source known as Q until I came to GBC. If the Q document is a real possibility was it written during the time when Jesus was on earth or was it written in the short time after the ascension, but before the writing of the Gospels? Many people in recent history believe that Mark’s gospel was the original source for Matthew and Luke. The Blomburg book brings to light one specific point in which Matthew and Luke have no verbal order similarities in their first and second chapters. At this point it is thought that they “are relying on their distinctive sources or traditions at this point” (Blomberg 232). It can be more understandable for the early writers to base what they write down on things that are memorized. I would not make me uneasy if God possibly allowed His word to be recorded in a “source document”.

    • I completely agree with Tuttle and the quote he used from the book questioning the source’s motives and intentions. I have never heard of any of the Synoptic Reasoning or reasonings that proved if they were right until I came here to GBC. Again, i’m glad that we have the chance to pursue our interest in the Gospels to further our understandings. The fact that there really is no proven evidence as to whether there was a “Q” document or not makes things harder to believe. I don’t know if i agree with the fact that things were simply repeated in the Gospels so “we may know that what is recorded in these gospels is true.” (Melissa Dunn) We shouldn’t have to have repeated lines and quotes throughout the Gospels to prove that it is right, I think that we should believe that anyway, for non-Christians I don’t think that restating what has already been said would change my mind either.

  13. In response to the post I really admired this statement, “For me, it is not correct to mis-characterize Matthew ans cut and pasting sources together to create his gospel.” Even if they did use outside sources to put together their book I think it is important to note the different styles in which each author wrote in the gospels and why they were writing. To whom were they writing to, and what was their main focus in their gospel? The reading in Blomberg chapter 11-12 covered some of this. Blomberg lists three key themes in Matthew on page 237, First, Jesus is the hope of Israel. Second, through him blessings will be extended to the Gentiles, and third Jesus is the legitimate king and ruler.” Matthew orchestrated these themes through showing Jesus was the Messiah in many fulfilled prophecies. Where as Blomberg states on page 243, “Luke’s greatest interest involve universal, Gentile themes.” My main point here is that regardless of the sources used to create the text each author had a specific audience and purpose in writing the way they wrote.

  14. Is it really a bad thing that we don’t know which one was written first? I mean it might make a difference but we really will never know. And I really don’t think it matters because we have the Bible it is today and it was made that way for a reason. I really don’t understand the “Q Hypothesis”. I agree with Crystal on I don’t think it should really matter as to what this hypothesis is talking about, I mean it’s good to research these things but in the end is it going to really matter? I also agree with what the rest of what Crystal was saying about Matthew, Mark and Luke. I also agree with the rest of what she said where Matthew and Luke to me, were written so that we may know that what is recorded in these gospels is true.

  15. The “Q” hypothesis is just like any other research. One starts with a hypothesis and then tries to prove if it is true or false. This research is beneficial in several ways. It provides information that may have never been exposed, and it draws attention to a different perspective. There are potential hazards of research like biases. The focal point for the “Q” is what Matthew and Luke have that Mark doesn’t. It is clear that these two Gospels have a lot more information in them. Some have commented that Matthew and Luke must have been good students. From reading Matthew and Luke one can perceive that they edited previous material and explored further. Some have written this “Q” document completely off. The “Q” is just another tool in exploring the Bible. If anything it provides more evidence that proves Jesus’ narrative to be true. One problem area may be that some assume that because the “Q” focuses on Matthew and Luke that Mark may have or may not have been inspired.

  16. I really like the point that Joe P makes about the ‘Q’ document being a legitimate source, if it does in fact exist. If it wasn’t, then the people around would have caused some kind of uproar about the scripture not being accurate, and therefore not ever allowing them to be in the bible. It does make sense that there could be a document ‘Q’ that was used for Matthew and Luke because of all of the extra verses that aren’t found in Mark that they have in common. I’m not too sure why the this question is such a big deal in the first place. I guess the situation does hold some apologetic value and the need for proof of certain things. The Christian religion is based on faith. I don’t know if proof is needed for ‘Q’ for some to put their faith in Christ, but I believe that if skeptics let that stand in their way, chances are they will find something else that doesn’t look quite right. I believe that even if there was a document ‘Q’ that was used for Matthew and Luke, that it was also God-inspired, because God would not allow information that wasn’t inspired by Him to be put in the bible.

  17. I really like the point Mellissa is making, I mean yes if you are going into theology and you want to look and dig deeper into knowing which gospel was written first go for it. However, the way I look at it is that none of us were there, how will we ever know FOR SURE what was written first? When reading this article it talked about a conservative scholar, I think I would take sides with them on their beliefs about the “Q hypothesis.” In the reading it states “For the conservative scholar, Q simply is not helpful since their emphasis is on the text as it appears in the Bible.”I agree with this statement 100%. I too do not look too far into something that I do not need to, I have the Holy word of God and I know everything that is in it is for a purpose!

  18. In all the classes I have taken here at GBC, I have never heard of the Q source. I get what it is an all but I do not see why we have to argue over it. It is my understanding that this document, though not found anywhere in scripture, summarizes the texts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I do not see an issue with this. Was the bible not written by man who was 100% inspired to God. I feel like as long as there is nothing inerrant in this document, then we do not have any worries at all.

    I love what Joe said about how Seeley should have been there to put red ink all over these writings of the gospels. It is hard to tell where the writers got their sources from. I again go back to 2 Timothy 3:16 and how the Bible is 100% inspired by God but written by man. We hold that the writings of the synoptic gospel came from key eye witnesses.

  19. I will admit that i stopped reading the comments after about half way seeing as i was tired and wanted nothing more than to go to bed… that being said, sorry if I overlap an already mentioned topic. Joe Johnson, I disagree with your following statement: “Who is to say there is no such thing as a hypothetical Q document? Although I am not a biblical scholar by any means, I simply cannot see any other way these two gospels could have been written.” If we assume that Matthew was written by the Disciple, “Q” would most likely not be necessary or if it was in circulation at the time, probably didn’t matter much to Matthew seeing as he saw and experienced everything first hand. This would make Luke’s writings based on Matthew reliable. The fact of the matter is, the existence or lack thereof of the “Q” document does nothing to strengthen or weaken the validity of scripture. Because of this, I personally see no reason to stress over it’s existence or not. Believe in its existence or not, it does nothing to change the salvation plan of God. We as Christians have better things to do than to argue the existence of a hypothetical document. Christ’s lasts words to His disciples were to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” not “go and discuss moot points that have nothing to do with the mission that I and the Father have accomplished here”

  20. To start, I am a former graduate of GBC in the Interdisciplinary Studies B.S. program, having graduated and then moved out to WA in 2004. My studies then and since have taken me far beyond theology and into psychology, neurology, history, etc. though I still remember fondly the consistent semesters of classes in theology and/or bible with P Long and Dewitt. I was brought to this conversation thread by a posting exchange on Facebook with Long and after some thought really couldn’t pass up a chance to say a couple things.

    The entire discussion seems to revolve around two underlying positions, especially near the end. For the sake of brevity I’ll call them “scholastic” and “faith-based”, though by no means do I mean to imply the necessity that one precludes the other.

    The “scholastic” position is one of scholarship and the oft-maligned academia, where it is just as important to determine the why and how of the so-called biblical documents as it is to determine the meaning or message. Superficially this position is tied to the field of biblical theology, in which the history, socio-cultural issues and the means of documentation are taken into consideration for the purpose of interpretation. For those unaware of the various subfields of theology, please look up the distinctions and/or be prepared for the 400 and 500 level theology courses. Some of the most fun I ever had at GBC.

    The “faith-based” position is almost completely concerned with the message of the gospels, where the entirety of scripture is boiled down to the so-called “great commission” and the death/burial/resurrection of the Christ. As Mr. Magnuson opined, he sees “no reason to stress over it’s existence” that being the Q document, as Christians “have better things to do.” An oft-repeated phrase I’ve heard down the years is “I know Jesus and that’s all I need.” These kind of comments are not simply denials of scholarship and history, but a very real position with a profound impact on Christian apologetics. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

    The issue of the Q document is far more an issue for the “scholastic” crowd than the “faith-based” group. This has to do with the position held on inspiration and the rarely mentioned issue of preservation. For the latter, God divinely directed select human beings to write down exactly what He wanted said and through divine power has kept these words preserved so as to transmit certain truths about humanity and the universe. The how of this is nothing to stress about as it is God and He “works in mysterious ways.” Essentially it boils down to trust in the preconceived notion of a deity placed within the confines of a particular interpretation of holy scripture. It is not simply an issue of whether Matthew and Luke used Mark and a “sayings document.” Rather, if these individuals did not receive from God’s mouth to their ear and down to quill on papyrus, then doubt is seemingly an inevitable conclusion as to the authenticity of the gospels.

    The “scholastic” response is, as P Long has stated, quite a bit more nuanced. Faith in this position is not the sum total of knowledge, but its consequent, a Kierkegaard leap into the uncertain after being shored up with worldly knowledge. (I apologize profusely if I’m mis-characterizing Long’s position.) Here the issue of God’s inspiration is tied up with the very real human element that God had to work with and the issues of history that inevitably come up, like errors/changes in transmission of documents. Here the hand of God becomes less a dictatorial controller, but a tiller on a ship, moving with the sea but still guiding towards a particular end. The Q document then is an inevitable consequence of dealing with a time where oral tradition far outdid written material and as a means of dealing with the differences and similarities of the gospels.

    The “faith-based” position is without much nuance, in fact those who use it often pride themselves in having a “simple faith of a child.” However, history is replete with stories of various religious positions being left behind when adherents did not adequately prepare and understand the slowly churning increase of human knowledge. Whether the “scholastic” position leads to doubt and the diminishing of faith is a topic for another day, but to completely ignore the contributions it brings seems to also ignore Jesus’s injunction to be “wise as serpents” (Matt.10:16).

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