And so it is out of that deep concern, I think, that Irenaeus and others began to try to unify the church, and, and create criteria like, you know, these are the four gospels. These are what we believe, these are the rituals, which you first do. You're baptized and then you're a member of this community. It would be absurd to suggest that the leaders of the church were out to protect their power. This is not a position of power, it's a position of danger and courage.
And those people were concerned to try to unify the church. So it would be ridiculous to tell the story of the early Christian movement as though the orthodox were, you know, power mad, and trying to destroy all diversity in the church. It's much more complicated than that. The sociologist Max Weber has shown that a religious movement, if it doesn't develop a certain institutional structure within a generation of its founder's death, will not survive.
So it's likely, I think, that we owe the survival of the Christian movement to those forms that Irenaeus and others developed. You know, the list of acceptable books, the list of acceptable teachings, the rituals. The big change, though, comes at the end of the story. According to this book, Mary and Joseph tried to hide in a cave, only to find that it was full of massive, fire-breathing dragons. The book starts with Baby Jesus playing in a pool of water and turning clay into living birds. Soon after, somebody bumps into Jesus. Instead, he curses half the town with blindness.
In the morning, the bedbugs are patiently waiting outside the door for John to let them back in. In particular, Peter pits himself against a man named Simon Magus, a sorcerer who upsets God. Peter comes to town to confront Simon in the weirdest confrontation ever. The dog does, but Simon is not impressed. Simon, wanting to prove that he is the true messenger of God, flies up into the sky and challenges Peter to do the same.
So Jesus pulls Judas aside and tells him because Judas is the only one who gets it. Women who have had abortions get it much worse. And just for good measure, their eyes are repeatedly set on fire. High-interest lenders sit in a pitch full of blood. And homosexuals are repeatedly taken to the top of a cliff and thrown down for all of eternity. Many scholars believe it was a literary source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Some date the saying in Q to the A.
Many of the sayings found in Q are also in the Gospel of Thomas. In fact, even though no copy of this gospel has survived independently, some nineteenth-century scholars found fragments of such an early Christian composition embeded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But, into this common narrative outline, Matthew and Luke each insert extra sayings and teachings of Jesus.
And although Matthew and Luke do not put these sayings in the same order, nevertheless they each repeat many of the same sayings, sometimes word for word.
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Since for other reasons it seems unlikely that either Matthew or Luke could have copied from the other, how can this sort of agreement be explained? The answer appears to be that Matthew and Luke each had two sources in common: the Gospel of Mark and another gospel, now lost, a collection of sayings known only as Q.
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Although no actual copy of Q has ever been found, many scholars are convinced that such a document once circulated in early Christian communities. Since it was difficult to get excited about something that did not exist, Q remained a hypothesis that lingered on the edges of scholarly research. But in , a chance discovery in Egypt provided surprisingly new evidence that rekindled interest in the possible existence of Q.
The Nag Hammadi library provided valuable evidence for the existence of the sayings collection known as Q. Robinson and his team are accomplishing this by a highly detailed literary analysis of Matthew, Luke, and Thomas. Their painstaking work goes "verse by verse, word by word, case ending by case ending.
One scholar, Burton Mack, has advanced a radical thesis: that at least some Christian communities did not see Jesus as a Messiah; they saw him as a teacher of wisdom, a man who tried to teach others how to live. For them, Jesus was not divine, but fully human. These first followers of Jesus differed from other Christians whose ritual and practice was centered on the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
Their did not emerge as the "winners" of history; perhaps because the maintaining the faith required the existence of a story that included not only the life of Jesus but also his Passion. Q, as I see it, is not a gospel, it's a hypothesis.
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When scholars first began to study the gospels of the New Testament, literarily, they discovered that Matthew and Luke both used Mark as the core, sort of the basic story line that they tell. Because Mark is completely incorporated - 16 chapters - into both Matthew and Luke. But they both also used other sayings, parables, and stories and so forth. And scholars observed that there's a part of the sayings in Matthew that are exactly identical with sayings in Luke.
In fact they're identical in Greek. So if you were translating Aramaic, and if I were translating Aramaic, they'd come out different, these translations. So you would only have Jesus speaking identical sayings in Greek if you had a written translation in Greek of his sayings.
And so scholars suggested that there must have been, besides Mark, something else written down that would have been a list of the sayings of Jesus, translated into Greek. And they called that "Quelle" which means source in German. And they call it for short, "Q. We can reconstruct it because we guess that there was such a written source, but nobody has seen it, and it certainly in my mind is not a gospel. It's a very good and well-founded hypothesis.
If it isn't gospel then what is it? For example, whoever collected the sayings of Q wasn't interested in the death of Jesus, wasn't interested in the resurrection of Jesus. They thought the importance of Jesus was what he said, what he preached. Now other people thought, "it's not enough to have the sayings of Jesus. You have to tell about his death and his crucifixion and his resurrection, that's the important thing.
But originally these are probably rather distinct pictures. Charlotte Allen wrote: the thirty-five-member Q Project has put in fifteen years of painstaking work, assembling the requisite passages from Matthew and Luke, breaking them down into "variation units" in order to assess the tiniest differences of wording and order, and amassing an enormous computer database of years' worth of scholarly opinion as to whether particular variations represent genuine Q material or creative rewriting by either or both evangelists. The reconstructed text as a whole follows the sequential order in which Q material appears in Luke who is thought to have tampered less with Q's structure , although the wording of the reconstructed passages is derived about 50 percent from Luke and 50 percent from Matthew.
The Peeters publication of those thousands of pages of material began last spring with the Lord's Prayer reconstruction. A volume on the temptation of Jesus was scheduled for this fall. Further volumes will appear at the rate of four a year for the next fifteen years or so, with each roughly page volume taking up perhaps a hundred words of Q. In addition, the project expects to issue in a one-volume translation of the reconstructed Q, designed for the public, and a one-volume critical edition of the Greek text, for scholars.
The detailed reconstruction work is impressive, but nagging questions remain for any observer. Is it truly possible to turn a hypothetical document into a real document? Charlotte Allen wrote: The roughly parallel verses in Luke and Matthew that scholars have identified as Q material their techniques and their reasoning will be discussed in greater detail below do not include the Gospel narratives of Jesus' passion and resurrection, which seem to have come from other sources, written or oral.
Therefore Q partisans contend that the authors of Q knew nothing about the way Jesus died or about the stories of an empty tomb -- or if they knew, they did not care. Hence there was no atonement doctrine in Q theology. And because belief in Jesus' resurrection is the core belief of Christianity even very liberal Christians profess faith in the Easter event, if only as a metaphor for renewal , the people who wrote Q must have been adherents of Jesus' in Palestine who were not "Christians" -- unless, as Robinson and others observe, one stretches the word to include anyone who admires Jesus.
Scholars used to refer to members of the Q community as "Jewish Christians," a term that can sometimes lead to confusion. The preferred designation nowadays for the group of which they were a part is the "Jesus movement. Because of their interest in this community, a favorite text among Q scholars is the so-called "mission" speech, in which Jesus instructed his disciples not to take food, knapsacks, money, or extra clothes with them on the road but to depend solely on the hospitality of strangers.
Why is the Q community deemed to have been Galilean? Because Jesus did most of his preaching in Galilee, and Q mentions certain towns he visited near the Sea of Galilee: Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida. Their residents most likely remembered his sayings and tried to live by them. What's more, Jerusalem, where the memory of Jesus' crucifixion would have been too potent to ignore, is some distance south of Galilee -- hence the lack of a passion narrative in Q.
Asgeirsson and other scholars involved in the project surmise that Jesus' followers started collecting his sayings even before he died, giving them an authenticity and immediacy that the Gospels' passion stories lack. Some scholars believe that the oldest parts of Q may date from as early as the year 50, twenty years after Jesus' death, putting them among the earliest Christian or Jesus-movement writings in existence. Other depictions of Jesus from the decades after his death -- Jesus the resurrected redeemer, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the lord of the apocalyptic future -- might represent equally valid perceptions of the way the real Jesus conducted himself, but in the eyes of its advocates only the Q text records a sustained living voice.
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If one accepts this logic and follows it through, one is forced to conclude that this non-Christian Jesus -- the Galilee-based wise man who displayed no interest in the end of the world, resurrection, or redemption -- is about as "historical" a Jesus as modern scholars are likely to retrieve.
It is no wonder that Mack believes that the publication of the reconstructed Q text could undermine Christianity as strictly defined. Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
The Gospel of Philip: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Gnosis of Sacred Union
Q Bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham! Q Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore not bearing good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Q b I baptize you with water, but the one coming after me is stronger than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to remove; he will baptize you with holy spirit and fire; Q whose winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. Robert Fisk.
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