The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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Q: The Second Source of
Matthew and Luke

When we have eliminated all Markan material from Matthew and Luke we still find another 200 or so verses that both these gospels have in common. We see that in more than a few cases these common passages have almost exact verbal correspondence. One example:

Matthew 3:7-10
But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them:"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stone God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Luke 3:7-9
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him,"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Although the evangelists had placed the episode of John the Baptist's sermon in different contexts (in Matthew it was a warning to the Pharisees and Sadducees while in Luke it was a general warning to all the Jews) the word for word correspondence of the preaching rules out independent oral sources. The common source must be a written one. And since both Matthew and Luke were written in Greek (thus the word for word correspondence is in Greek) the original source must be in Greek as well. For it is most improbable that both Luke and Matthew would have hit upon so exact a translation from an original source document in Hebrew or Aramaic. [1]

The common source for Luke and Matthew is normally referred to as "Q". The normal explanation for this is that it comes from the German word Quelle which means "source" or "spring". For those interested in the details a table is provided that lists common verses from Matthew and Luke generally agreed by scholars to have come from Q. These verses contain mainly the sayings Jesus' with almost no narrative at all. [2]

The original Q is already lost but there is very little doubt that it once existed. Some scholars have raised the question as to why such an important document was allowed to disappear. The discovery at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945 of Gnostic gospels previously unknown to modern scholars such as The Gospel to the Egyptians and The Gospel of Truth show how completely a gospel could be suppressed when it becomes associated with a heretical sect. [3] A possible, but by no means the only possibility, answer to this is that Q could have eventually become associated with a heretical sect (the Nazarenes?) and was eventually suppressed and suffered the same fate as the above Gnostic writings.

For the alternative idea that Luke copied Matthew[a] or Matthew copied Luke is extremely unlikely. There is little correspondence between Luke and Matthew in their order of presentation of the Q material. (See table of Q) If both Matthew and Luke followed the order of gospel of Mark (see Table of the Synoptic Order) so closely, why would they ignore the other's arrangement of the Q material so completely? This lack of correspondence suggest that the two evangelists did not have access to the other's gospel. Both independently used Mark and Q as their source material.

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Notes

a.In recent years, however, some British scholars (Michael Goulder & Mark Goodacre being the major figures) have questioned the existence of Q. The main difference betweent this latest attempt to dispense with Q, and those in the past, is the acceptance of Markan priority by Goulder and Goodacre. (The reader will note that most of my arguments on the sources, especially their relevance for the authorship of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, are based on Markan priority.) For those interested in this issue I recommend "The Case Against Q" by Mark Goodacre, Trinity International Press 2002. There is also a website set up by Mark Goodacre on this book.

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References

1.Guignebert, Jesus: p13
Martin, New Testament Foundations I: p143
2.Guignebert, Jesus: p35
Parmalee, Guidebook to the Bible: p111
3.Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels: p15

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