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The Q Source

Updated on August 28, 2012

Q Source: The Gospels

Missing Q Source

Q Not Found in Documents Attributed to Mark

According to many Biblical scholars, particularly and most notably starting with Nineteenth Century scholars, portions of Scripture called the Synoptic Gospels, involve a source called "Q."

Synoptic=taking the same point of view, or complimentary.

The Synoptic Gospels are considered to be those attributed to authors Mark, Matthew and Luke. These authors are considered Synoptic and highly complimentary together because they are basically all trying to establish and argue the same points, speak on the same topics and such within the Scriptures. Mark, Matthew and Luke all share the favoured topic of Jesus, His words and statements, His actions, etc.

As the diagram shows (and in many scholars' opinions), Matthew and Luke both use arguments/material from Mark and from the "Q" author/source. Mark does not "take from" the "Q" source, and Matthew and Luke seem to not "take from" each other, although altogether, Mark, Matthew and Luke (and "Q") all are complimentary pieces which basically agree on major points.

Because the Matthew works and Luke works "take from" Mark material and because Mark seems to be a stand-apart set of works, many scholars believe the Mark Gospels were written first as the primary documents that Matthew and Luke draw from. (not my personal opinion - I believe Matthew may have been written first, but I this hub is about "Q" mainly and I am still researching to find out if my viewpoint is valid or not).

The Gospel of John is not considered a "peer" work that is shared by all the Gospel authors and the works attributed to John are considered separate or, at least, are dealt with separately by most scholars.

The "Q" Source: "Q" comes from the German word Quelle, meaning, "source." It is basically defined as a source of "common" material to be found in Luke and Matthew but not in Mark, as already explained above. A problem exists here, however, because Q Source is considered a hypothetical is supposed to have contained the words - "quotations" - of everyone's favourite subject and persona - Jesus. The Q Source document is considered to have been separated from other compilations of text by the fathers of the early church as "Christianity" was being established. Later on, the early fathers of the church did not include the Q source in the overall body of the collection of scripures we now call "The Bible."

For more information on Q: The Sayings Gospel Q: collected essays by James McConkey Robinson, Christoph Heil, Jozef Verheyden (this is an open "Google Books" document). The link should take you right to the chapter, THE CRITICAL EDITION OF Q AND THE STUDY OF JESUS. This book appears to be entirely, legally visible through Google Books, more than 800 (almost 900) pages of information on the Q Source.

Competing Theories exist on all sorts of things related to this Q source, but most scholars, from varied Christian denominations - and scholars outside of Christian affiliation - at least do agree of the existence, in the past, of a "Q" source. (Even some lesser arguments hold their own in the explanation, simply, that "A whole BUNCH of documents exist" outside of what is commonly known as "Scriptures" and "The Bible" - that a general public is not aware of and that ancient scholars haven't told anyone about and libraries full of texts exist that church authorities did not choose to include in the volumes of works known as "The Bible." Many scholars aware of or who believe in this, automatically assume that "Q" is possible and should not be discounted). Most of the differing theories are concerned with which text was written first, in what particular order all the texts were written, or on possible agendas each author may have had for writing their text and for taking material from other texts.

The Hypothetical Case For Q:

Scholars interested in the existence of Q argue that other gospel texts, Matthew and Luke can exist independently, aside from shared material in Mark.

Part of this hypothesis asserts that, along with the point above, the verbal agreement between Matthew and Luke is extremely strong. From this agreement, it is assumed that, because Matthew and Luke do not "take from" each other to form the verbal agreements, there must exist another (Q) same source that Matthew and Luke both draw information from.

Supporters of the "Case for Q" believe that Matthew and Luke, although independent of each other, are dependent on the same other source - Q.

Also, in the text attributed to the author, Luke, this author states that he is aware of other sources written about Jesus' life and that he has essentially "investigated" in order to gain the most information possible on Jesus' life. It is believed, by scholars, that if Luke actually "researched" on the subject of Jesus, his words, actions, etc., then Luke probably came across many sources of good information about Jesus - and probably, also the Q document from the Q source.

The case for the existence of Q or a Q document is also made strong by the fact that it can be proven that a number of authors of Scripture weren't "original creators of literature" but were copyists and scholars. Therefore, much of what is attributed to certain authors is not their original ideas but the collective ideas of scholars - continually copied forward until a sanctioned volume of "Scriptures" was decided upon...which are supposed to be "the best of the best" works of ancient authors, those believed to be inspired by divine events and spirits, etc.

Interesting? Or Confusing? Think Critically !!


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    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 6 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      ... or his brother, Andrew - or Q might've been anyone around that time period with sufficient schooling... there are a lot of histories to examine.

    • Jakob Dailes profile image

      Jakob Dailes 6 years ago from Panama City Beach, FL

      Q might've been Saint Peter. I used to have a theology book that said Peter attributed a lot to Matt, Mark, and Luke. I could be wrong, tho, since Peter is probly as possible a source as any other Apostles (other than Judas of course).

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Theology4Reality, thank you for your comments and what I deem as support on this hub. I'm not as confident with my beliefs on the Q theories as I am about other things I write about and - this being a controversial item (Q is still heavily debated at this time by experts in a wide variety of disciplines) - I hoped to raise questions but not rile anyone up who hasn't heard about the Q details before. By all means, send me a message. I'd love to hear from you. There's a lot more information on Q than I've been able to cover so far. I'm always open to sources of information - even argument, if it will help me write better hubs and articles, learn more, and be aware of important information.

    • Theology4Reality profile image

      Theology4Reality 7 years ago from Calgary

      The concept of "Q" has quite a history, and scholars have fiddled with the "Q" document concept for some time now, at one point, fringe scholars claiming the Coptic Gospel of Thomas as also using "Q" for its source. (fringe scholars, for example, such as the Jesus Seminar)

      I am still out as to whether Matthew and Luke used a similar source or not, but I could send you a message which may be able to help, so as I don't hijack your hub.

      It is definitely a good hub, and I hope this will raise many questions for you to continue to answer, for both you mythbuster, as well as your readers!

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 8 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hello dahoglund. I think recognition of the possible (probable) Q source is something a LOT of us have to start looking into more. I've actually had a chance to read through other text not found in the "Canon" called The Bible and there are a LOT of great works out there.

      BJBenson - yeah, the Q thing was a bit of a test topic for me to write on in this location. I discuss "Q" source theories with other peers (academic debates, etc) but not so much with those who weren't really aware of this unusual (probable) source for Matthew and Luke. Perhaps I'm not very good at explaining in layman's terms on this issue and that's why this hub was a little hard to understand? Let me know if you have specific questions or if you see some parts I should iron out, eh?

    • BJBenson profile image

      BJBenson 8 years ago from USA

      I know a little about the bible and I this "Q" stuff is a little new to me. I can tell you the Bible is not complete. So any new thing you can add to my knowledge is greatly welcome. I will say as one of your Fans. This Hub was a little hard to understand. Maybe just me having a bad day.I wiil check back in a day or so.Thanks.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I have run across the theory about "Q" but am hazy about it. I will have to look into it more. Thanks for your insights.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 8 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hey Ivorwen, I managed to add another module as your comment came in lol. I hope part of the 2nd module will help with your question my opinion, no. Rather, if you mean "surveying an audience about beliefs on Jesus," then, no, I don't believe the Q source existed in that way or that the other Synoptic Gospels originated in the way you're thinking of. Good question tho...and comment back if you feel I didn't quite "get" what you were asking or if I responded without what you feel is understanding enough about your question. I definitely just interpreted what I could of your question because it is very brief text :)

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Could the Q source have been as simple as interviewing the same people and who the intended audience was? The Q source is a brand new concept to me.