Estimated to date back to the very early Jesus movement, the lost Gospel known as Q offers a distinct and remarkable picture of Jesus and his significance—and one that differs markedly from that offered by its contemporary, the apostle Paul.
Rather than privileging Jesus’ death and resurrection as the salvific events, highlighting his battles with demons, or concentrating on his messianic program of healing, this “Sayings Gospel” presents Jesus as a prophetic critic of unbelief and a sage with the wisdom that can transform. In Q, the true meaning of the “kingdom of God” is the fulfillment of a just society through the transformation of the human relationships within it: debt relief, mutuality and reciprocity, nonretaliation, and the total rejection of the long-standing Mediterranean honor and shame codes.
Though this document has never been found, Kloppenborg offers a succinct account of why scholars maintain it existed in the first place and demonstrates how they have been able to reconstruct its contents and wording from the two later Gospels that used it as a source: Matthew and Luke. Presented here in its entirety, as developed by the International Q Project, this Gospel reveals a very different portrait of Jesus than in much of the later canonical writings, challenging the way we think of Christian origins and the very nature and mission of Jesus Christ.
John S. Kloppenborg is a world authority on Q and Professor of Religion at the Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto. He is author of Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel, The Tenants in the Vineyard: Ideology, Economics & Agrarian Conflict in Jewish Palestine, and coeditor of The Critical Edition of Q.
1. What Is Q?
Why Q was posited in the first place: a corollary of the conclusion that Mark is the earliest of the three canonical Gospels, that Matthew and Luke used Mark and used Mark independently of one another.
2. Finding the Lost
Why suppose that the material common to Matthew and Luke was written and not oral? Was it written in Greek or Aramaic? How does one reconstruct Q? What about the possibility that either Matthew or Luke omitted some of Q? What if both omitted some of Q?
3. What a Difference a Difference Makes (Why Q Matters)
Q, as a Sayings Gospel, privileges Jesus’ words over his death and resurrection and offers a coherent picture of the kingdom of God as that which transforms and redeems human existence. What kind of Jesus is found in Q? A prophet, a sage, or a cynic? Is Q’s image of Jesus and discipleship reconcilable with other forms of the Jesus movement?
4. Q, Thomas, and Other Gospels
Why did Q disappear? Q and the Gospel of Thomas. Q and the Letter of James. The legacy of Sayings traditions in the early church.
Appendix: The English Text of Q (International Q Project)