Saturday, 5 June 2010

Q - you are making it up now, aren't you?

I've previously commended Larry Hurtado's book - here, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, and rightly so, it is a very good book.

However, when serious scholars start devoting whole chapters to Q I begin to think the world has tilted somewhat.

I don't have a problem with Q, I know what it is, and that's not a soft-porn mag trying to pass itself off as a music mag! Q is the hypothetical 'document' used to explain the agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark in solving the Synoptic Problem. (In passing, I don't think Matthew, Mark and Luke had a synoptic problem, it is all our own.)

The problem I have is when you publish a critical edition of Q and start giving chapter and verse numbers to passages in this edition of Q, see e.g. JS Kloppenborg eds. The Critical Edition of Q, pub 2000.
If Q existed as a 'document' the only evidence we have for it is in the text of Matthew and Luke, and it is beyond me how you can reconstruct a 'critical edition' of such a hypothetical document.

Hurtado wrties, 'The christological categories used in Q are somewhat like those of the Synoptic Gospels generally.' P. 250 (emphasis mine)
How can anthing of Q be only 'somewhat like' or 'generally' related to the Synoptics? The only access to Q we have is those same Synoptic Gospels, or more particularly, Matthew and Luke. If Q is not exactly like or specifically the same as the text of Matthew and Luke then we really are making it up!!!

I don't mind anyone using Q to resolve the relations between the Synoptics. I wouldn't mind if Hurtado had commented over 3 or 4 pages that nothing in the hypothetical Q document was distinctive in terms of evidence of Jesus devotion from what is known elsewhere in the first century. But I fear that Q scholarship has circled Pluto and is heading for deep space where any kind of control or restrain is not applied.

No comments: