Free Online Bible Library | Q

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“Q,” an abbreviation of Ger. Quelle, “source”; a symbol and term applied to the hypothetical source document of the “Sayings of Jesus” and other discoursive materials found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark or John. The “Q,” “Quellen” or “Redenquellen” hypothesis was only one of a number of such theories proposed in the 19th cent. by the scholars of the Ger. higher critical schools. From the time of G. F. Lessing (1729-1781) on, the ferment of the so-called “synoptic problem” concerning the apparent discrepancies in style, content and chronological order between the gospel traditions of Matthew, Mark and Luke was a center of hot debate in N Ger. university circles. The hypothesis of a possible unknown “Q” source was greatly advanced by the work of various Scandinavian scholars on the epics and legends of the Norse peoples. The discovery of the Sayings of Jesus from Oxyrhynchus was thought to prove the plausibility of the contention. The form of the contents of the “Q” tradition was subject to arguments within the speculations of the various critical schools, but in the main it was thought to have consisted of collections of sayings, dialogues of Jesus with His disciples and the Pharisees, and a stricter chronological order. It was assumed to have lacked the events of passion week, the account of the resurrection and prob. any discussion of Jesus’ birth. The general hope of the 19th- and early 20th-cent. scholars who sought to reconstruct “Q” was to regain a historical perspective upon the life of Jesus. No doubt much of the motivation and energy of the hypothesis was lost in the newer existential views which have arisen since the First World War. As with all such views it demonstrated the essential void from which humanistic thought must provide a neutral platform to examine the Scripture. Its vaunted objectivity collapsed in scholasticism. Although some features of the “Q” hypothesis did bring to focus the crucial problems of the inner relationships of the gospels, its effect is now mainly in the past.

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