The Q Gospel (c. AD 50) or Q document is where Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, “the weeping and gnashing of teeth” and about a fourth of the gospels of Matthew and Luke come from. It was written in Greek, probably about 20 years after Jesus died on the cross. That makes it one of the earliest things written about Jesus.
No copies of Q have been found, but scholars can piece together at least part of it. By carefully comparing the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, most scholars believe that Luke and Matthew took 40% or so of their verses from Mark and about 25% from an unknown source, called Quelle, German for “source”, Q for short.
The wording and order of the Q verses in Luke and Matthew are so alike that Q was most likely a single written work, not an oral tradition, one that was written in Greek, the same language that Luke and Matthew use.
Papias of Hierapolis, in the year 125 or so, said:
“Matthew compiled the Sayings [of Jesus] in the Aramaic language and everyone translated them as well as he could.”
Aramaic was the old language of Babylon, the language Jesus mainly spoke.
Q is mostly made up of sayings, but it is probably not the Sayings that Papias had in mind: Q does not appear to be a translation. The writing style is too Greek. Some of its sayings do, though, rhyme when put into Aramaic.
Q may have been an ordinary gospel, not a sayings gospel: because Luke took his plot from Mark, he only needed Q for its sayings. Matthew may have more of Q, but the only verses we can be sure of are those that closely match Luke.
Jesus according to Q:
- Baptized by John the Baptist.
- Teaches in parables and sayings, mainly to poor country people near the Sea of Galilee.
- Talks about the Kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, calls himself the Son of Man and all but says he is the Son of God.
- Has disciples but none are named.
- Condemns the Pharisees (but not the scribes).
- Casts out demons.
- Works miracles, but only one particular miracle is recorded (the centurion’s son in Luke 7:1-9).
- Will come back on Judgement Day.
There is no Virgin Birth, no Crucifixion, no Resurrection. But then again, even in the gospels we do have, very little of that content makes it into the sayings themselves.
Q was probably written in the 40s or 50s: earlier than Luke and Matthew, probably earlier than Mark, but not all that much earlier than the letters of Paul. Paul, unlike what we have of Q, talks about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead.
Some scholars, like Burton L. Mack, say that Q was written in stages and try to work out which parts were written first, wanting to discover the Jesus of history, not the Jesus of religious myth. But they cannot agree on which parts, if any, came first.
– Abagond, 2014.