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New Posting on “Q” and Christian Origins

December 9, 2010

I’ve posted comments on Q and Christian origins on the blog site of our Centre for the Study of Christian Origins (CSCO):  That posting arose from the special day-conference earlier this week sponsored by CSCO featuring John Kloppenborg.  I reiterate here our gratitude for his generosity in giving us his time and scholarship for that event.

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  1. Sorry this Question does not relate to the topic, but I wonder if you have an opinion?
    At the end of Romans in P46 the stichometric note gives an even 1000 as the line count. Did the scribe use a round number (presumably rounded up), did the scribe make it fit into an even 1000, or is it just a coincidence?

    • At the end of Hebrews in P46 the copyist’s stichoi count is 700, another round number. But for other epistles, e.g., Ephesians (316), it’s more exact. Don’t myself know what to make of this.

  2. Jean-Paul Michaud permalink

    Just a word to say that I agree completely with your remarks concerning “the inferential moves” that Kloppenborg still makes, especially in his last little book, Q,the Earliest Gospel (2008). I have taken a position on this in A. Lindemann (ed.), The Sayings Source Q and the Historical Jesus, Peeters, 2001, (“Quelle(s) communauté(s) derrière la Source Q?”, pp. 577-606) and in Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umvelt (SNTU) 30 (2005), (“Effervescence in Q Studies,” pp.61-103).

    Most recently at a colloquium on the Jesus of History at the University of Strasbourg in November, I returned to this question, saying: “With Neirynck…, I maintain that this document is a source and refuse to call it a gospel, as it has become fashionable to do, above all when, on the basis of the fact that Q does not contain the passion-resurrection narrative, one construes it as the witness of a different kerygma, namely, that of an alleged Galilean community which, even in the post-Paschal context, would have known nothing of the resurrection of Jesus (or would have contested it). This is the position which John S. Kloppenborg defends once again in the little book he has just published: Q,the Earliest Gospel. In my opinion, if there is no mention of resurrection in the hypothetical text, Q, it is not because it is a different gospel (which Matthew and Luke would have integrated without any problem into their own gospel), but simply because Q consists of traditions Luke says he received from those who had first seen Jesus with their own eyes (autoptai) and who subsequently became servants of the Word (Lk 1:2). Thus, traditions from faraway pre-Paschal autoptai, whose existence Luke reveals to us, which would have permitted many (polloi) “to compose a narrative of the things which were accomplished among us” (Lk 1:1). It is among these polloi, that we must situate those responsible for the source (Q) of the sayings of Jesus, who would have preserved from this “autopsia” the primitive colour of pre-Paschal Galilee. But, it is not a different gospel, which would give us another Jesus.” Original text, in French, “De quelques présents débats dans la troisième quête,” is already published in De Jésus à Jésus-Christ. I. Le Jésus de l’histoire (coll. Jésus et Jésus-Christ. Colloques) Paris: Mame-Desclée, 2010, pp. 189-214 (204-205).

    Thank you for taking the time to maintain your rich and interesting blog!

  3. A few follow-up comments. My query about calling Q a “gospel” is what is intended by the term. It seems to me less question-begging simply to designate it as a sayings-collection, and then probe what it’s function may have been. “Gospel” clearly doesn’t designate a genre, at least to judge by how the label gets attached to a wide variety of genres in the early Christian centuries: narratives (the canonical ones), a loosely-arranged bunch of sayings (GThomas), a theological treatise (GTruth), etc.
    If I grasp the nuance intended, those who label Q as a “gospel” mean to assert that its contents and genre comprise some distinctive view of Jesus held by some distinctive circle(s), and held in preference to, or distinction from, the sort of views that we have in the intra-canonical writings that came to be called “gospels”.
    I want to know why we require some distinctive kind of early Christianity to account for Q, when its themes and emphases seem to me quite compatible with the kinds of Christian circles that we already have reflected in NT writings (as I argue in my book, Lord Jesus Christ). What need drives the construction of the elaborate and debatable inferences that Kloppenborg and some others favor? In short, it seems to me that calling Q a “gospel” begs the question: I.e., it presumes the very thing that must first be shown, that Q functioned as a stand-alone interpretation of Jesus distinguishable from the views of other contemporary Christian circles. The circulation of Q and its free appropriation into Matthew and Luke suggest to me that it was instead simply a sayings-collection that functioned along with other texts and emphases, all of which were part of the religious outlook of the circle(s) in which Q was composed.

  4. Ed Gentry permalink

    My first, and admittedly potentially simplistic, reaction to Kloppenborg is to ask what does it mean to be a gospel? If by gospel one mean some textual witness about the things Jesus did or, in this case, said, then certainly Q must therefore be a gospel – along with Thomas too (so are we at six now?). If, on the other hand, our definition of gospel – or perhaps the general characteristics that we would we would expect of a gospel – are more specific then Q, and perhaps Thomas, may be excluded.

    So there are several approaches we could take to determine if Q, Thomas, or any other text should be considered a gospels. Genre, social usage, and canonical acceptance come to mind immediately.

    Regarding genre I’d like to suggest there is some dissonance between the genre of Q and of the four canonical gospels. Which I think is part of the point Hurtado is making (though stated differenlty). I think we can make this observation without having to define exactly the genre of four canonical gospels – or posit any potential relationship to the bio genre. A document mostly of sayings with only an ‘implicit narrative structure’ is hardly comparable from a genre perspective to canonical gospels. This again is consistent with Hurtado’s inference that Q seems to have had a different sitz-im-leben from canonical gospels. Perhaps this is why we don’t actually have an actual copy of Q.

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