About Mr. Holley   |   Holley Library   |   "Josephus... BoM" (1981)   |   "BoM Authorship" (1992)
"Christianity... Pagan World" (1994)   |   "Christian Scripture" (1996)   |   "Zoroastrianism " (1997)
"Mormonism & Masonry" (1998)   |   "Swedenborg & BoM" (1999)   |   "The Great Secret" (2000)
Christ & Caesars (1879)   (Eng)   |   Sayings of Jesus (1908)   |   True Authorship of N. T. (1979)
"Gospel of Thomas Pericopes" (1997)   |   Who Wrote NT? (1995)   |   Caesar's Messiah (2005)

Burton L. Mack
The Lost Gospel
(San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993)
  • Contents
  • Prologue
  • excerpts

  • "Q" Resources   "Thomas" Resources
  • Text of "Q"   Text of "Thomas"

  • Transcriber'Comments

  • Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ i ]


    (pages i-vi not copied)



    1   PROLOGUE: The Challenge

    PART 1: The Discovery of a Lost Gospel

    15   1. Finding the Shards

    29   2. An Uncommon Wisdom

    41   3. Removing the Patina

    51   4. Galilee Before the War

    PART 2: The Text of the Lost Gospel

    71   5. The Book of Q

    PART 3: The Recovery of a Social Experiment

    105   6. Dancing to the Pipes

    131   7. Singing a Dirge

    149   8. Claiming a Place

    171   9. Coming to Terms

    PART 4: The Reconception of Christian Origins

    191   10. Jesus and Authority

    207   11. Mythmaking and the Christ

    227   12. Bishops and the Bible

    237   13. Christians and Their Myth

    245   EPILOGUE: The Consequences

    259   Appendix A: Early Christian Literature

    260   Appendix B: Q Segments

    263   Select Bibliography

    269   Index


    (pages viii-x not copied)

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 1 ]


       The Challenge

    Once upon a time, before there were gospels of the kind familiar to readers of the New Testament, the first followers of Jesus wrote another kind of book. Instead of telling a dramatic story about Jesus' life, their book contained only his teachings. They lived with these teachings ringing in their ears and thought of Jesus as the founder of their movement. But their focus was not on the person of Jesus or his life and destiny. They were engrossed with the social program that was called for by his teachings. Thus their book was not a gospel of the Christian kind, namely a narrative of the life of Jesus as the Christ. Rather it was a gospel of Jesus' sayings, a "sayings gospel." His first followers arranged these sayings in a way that offered instruction for living creatively in the midst of a most confusing time, and their book served them well as a handbook and guide for most of the first Christian century.

    Then the book was lost. Perhaps the circumstances changed, or the people changed, or their memories and imagination of Jesus changed. In any case, the book was lost to history somewhere in the course of the late first century when stories of Jesus' life began to be written and became the more popular form of charter document for early Christian circles.

    It makes some difference whether the founder of a movement is remembered for his teachings, or for his deeds and destiny. For the first followers of Jesus, the importance of Jesus as the founder of their


     2  PROLOGUE

    movement was directly related to the significance they attached to his teachings. What mattered most was the body of instructions that circulated in his name, what these teachings called for in terms of ideas, attitudes, and behavior, and the difference these instructions made in the lives of those who took them seriously. But as the Jesus movement spread, groups in different locations and changing circumstances began to think about the kind of life Jesus must have lived. Some began to think of him in the role of a sage, for instance, while others thought of him as a prophet, or even as an exorcist who had appeared to rid the world of its evils. This shift from interest in Jesus' teachings to questions about Jesus' person, authority, and social role eventually produced a host of different mythologies.

    The mythology that is most familiar to Christians of today develped in groups that formed in northern Syria and Asia Minor. There Jesus' death was first interpreted as a martyrdom and then embellished as a miraculous event of crucifixion and resurrection. This myth drew on hellenistic mythologies that told about the destiny of a divine being (or son of God). Thus these congregations quickly turned into a cult of the resurrected or transformed Jesus whom they now referred to as the Christ, or the Lord, as well as the Son of God. The congregations of the Christ, documented most clearly in the letters of Paul from the 50s, experienced a striking shift in orientation, away from the teachings of Jesus and toward the spirit of the Christ who had died and was raised from the dead. It was this myth that eventually made the narrative gospels possible.

    Narrative gospels began to appear during the later part of the first century. Mark's gospel was written during the 70s, Matthew's during the 80s, John's during the 90s, and Luke-Acts sometime early in the second century. These gospels combined features of the martyr myth from the Christ cult with traditions about Jesus as he had been remembered in the Jesus movements, thereby locating the significance of Jesus in the story of his deeds and destiny. Naturally, these gospels came to a climax in an account of his trial, crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead. They followed a plot that was first worked out by Mark during the 70s in the wake of the Roman-Jewish war. The plot collapsed the time between the events of Jesus' life and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple which took place during the war. Mark achieved this plot by making connections between two sets of events


    PROLOGUE  3    

    (Jesus' death and the temple's destruction) that could only have been imagined after the war. His gospel appears to have been the earliest full-blown written composition along these lines, but once it was conceived, all of the narrative gospels used this same basic plot.

    According to the story line of the narrative gospels, Jesus was destined to come into conflict with the rulers of the world because he appeared in the world as the very son of God. This conflict escalated to a climax in the crucifixion of Jesus as the Christ, but would only be finally resolved when Jesus as the resurrected son of God appeared at the end of time to judge the world and establish a new social order as the reign or kingdom of God. In the meantime, both the resurrection of Jesus and the destruction of the temple were thought to establish the truth of God's great plan.

    The first followers of Jesus could not have imagined, nor did they need, such a mythology to sustain them in their efforts to live according to his teachings. Their sayings gospel was quite sufficient for the Jesus movement as they understood it. Even after the narrative gospels became the rage, the sayings gospel was still intact. It was still being copied and read with interest by ever-widening circles. And it was available in slightly different versions in the several groups that continued to develop within the Jesus movement. Eventually, the narrative gospels prevailed as the preferred portrayal for Christians, and the sayings gospel finally was lost to the historical memory of the Christian church.

    Were it not for the fact that two authors of narrative gospels incorporated sizable portions of the sayings gospel into their stories of Jesus' life, the sayings gospel of the first followers of Jesus would have disappeared without a trace in the transitions taking place. We never would have known about the Jesus movements that flourished prior to the Christian church. But Matthew and Luke each had a copy of the sayings gospel, and the material each copied from it largely overlapped. It was this fortuitous coincidence that made it possible in recent times to recover the book, even though the sayings now sound like the pronouncements of the son of God instead of the teachings of Jesus.

    No modern historian ever imagined that a sayings gospel had once existed, so no one went looking for it. Scholars discovered it inadvertently while poring over the gospels of the New Testament,


     4  PROLOGUE

    wandering which had been written first. As they set the gospels side by side for comparison, they noticed two kinds of correspondence. One correspondence was that the story line in Matthew and Luke agreed only when it followed the gospel of Mark. This finding meant that Mark was the earliest narrative gospel and the source for the plot used by Matthew and Luke. But the other correspondence was also of interest. Matthew and Luke contained a large quantity of sayings material not found in Mark and much of this material was identical. This correspondence meant that Matthew and Luke had used a second written document in addition to the gospel of Mark. Scholars called this document Q as a shorthand for Quelle, which means 'source" in German, for they first thought of it only as the common source for the sayings in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But once Q was recognized as a source for these gospels, it could be studied on its own. And so the book of the first followers of Jesus has come to light after being lost for almost eighteen hundred years. In keeping with scholarly tradition, I call this lost gospel Q, for it has no other proper name.

    By reading Q carefully, it is possible to catch sight of those earliest followers of Jesus. We can see them on the road, at the market, and at one another's homes. We can hear them talking about appropriate behavior; we can sense the spirit of the movement and their attitudes about the world. A sense of purpose can be traced through subtle changes in their attitudes toward other groups over a period of two or three generations of vigorous social experimentation. It is a lively picture. And it is complete enough to reconstruct the history that happened between the time of Jesus and the emergence of the narrative gospels that later gave the Christian church its official account of Christian beginnings.

    The remarkable thing about the people of Q is that they were not Christians. They did not think of Jesus as a messiah or the Christ. They did not take his teachings as an indictment of Judaism. They did not regard his death as a divine, tragic, or saving event. And they did not imagine that he had been raised from the dead to rule over a transformed world. Instead, they thought of him as a teacher whose teachings made it possible to live with verve in troubled times. Thus they did not gather to worship in his name, honor him as a god, or cultivate his memory through hymns, prayers, and rituals. They did not form a cult of the Christ such as the one that emerged among the


    PROLOGUE  5    

    Christian communities familiar to readers of the letters of Paul. The people of Q were Jesus people, not Christians.

    This discovery upsets the conventional picture of the origins of Christianity. The popular conception, based on the portrayal of Jesus in the narrative gospels, is that Jesus appeared as the Jewish messiah to reform the religion of Judaism. He challenged the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, called the people to repentance, and instructed his disciples to be leaders in a kingdom of God about to be inaugurated. Marching to Jerusalem, Jesus then cleansed the temple and announced its destruction, countered the Jewish authorities there, and was crucified in keeping with a conflict of cosmic and apocalyptic proportions between the Jews and God's plan for his kingdom. At first confused following Jesus' death, the disciples regrouped when he appeared to them as the resurrected Lord and Son of God. They then formed the first church in Jerusalem and started two great Christian missions, one to the Jews and one to the gentiles. They did this in the conviction that the miracle of the resurrection was a sign that Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom of God was true and that God's final judgment upon the world had begun.

    None of this is reflected in the sayings gospel Q. In Q there is no hint of a select group of disciples, no program to reform the religion or politics of Judaism, no dramatic encounter with the authorities in Jerusalem, no martyrdom for the cause, much less a martyrdom with saving significance for the ills of the world, and no mention of a first church in Jerusalem. The people of Q simply did not understand their purpose to be a mission to the Jews, or to gentiles for that matter. They were not out to transform the world or start a new religion.

    Q1's challenge to the popular conception of Christian origins is therefore clear. If the conventional view of Christian beginnings is right, how are we to account for these first followers of Jesus? Did they fail to get his message? Were they absent when the unexpected happened? Did they carry on in ignorance or in repudiation of the Christian gospel of salvation? If, however, the first followers of Jesus understood the purpose of their movement just as Q describes it, how are we to account for the emergence of the Christ cult, the fantastic mythologies of the narrative gospels, and the eventual establishment of the Christian church and religion? Q forces the issue of rethinking Christian origins as no other document from the earliest times has done.


     6  PROLOGUE

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    PROLOGUE  7    

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    In the case of the people of Q, oriented as they were to the teachings of a teacher, the ascription of teachings to Jesus was a particularly appropriate form of mythmaking. Teachings attributed to Jesus were invested with programmatic status and cultivated as instruction, embellished as rationale, outlined as ethical code, and used as signs of recognition. So solving the problem of "inauthentic" ascriptions does more than explain a feature of ancient sayings collections that people today find unnerving; it will show that Q was much more than a collection of ad hoc instructions for the early Jesus people. Q1's purpose in attributing sayings to Jesus and its careful design can be seen as the creation of a highly crafted and profoundly effective myth of origin. This myth of origin claimed epic and divine authority for Jesus as a founder figure without any need to entertain mythological notions of a crucified and resurrected messiah.

    Thus Q1's challenge to the conventional picture of Christian origins is more far-reaching than the making of a little room for yet another early Christian movement. The Jesus movement documented by Q cannot be understood as a variant form of the Christian persuasion basic to the conventional picture of Christian origins. With Q in view the entire landscape of early Christian history and literature has to be revised.


     8  PROLOGUE

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    PROLOGUE  9    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     10  PROLOGUE

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    PROLOGUE  11    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)




    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 13 ]

       P A R T  I      



      OF  A  LOST


    [ 14 ]


    [ 15 ]


    Finding the Shards

    In modern times adventurers, seekers of treasure, and archeologists have discovered many ancient writings in ruins, caves, and old monastery libraries. Some of these finds have been early manuscripts of well-known writings, such as the biblical texts discovered at St. Catherine's monastery in the 1850s or at Qumran in the 1940s. Others have been texts of writings known only by title because of some mention by an ancient author, but were thought to have been lost, forgotten, or burned in the creedal wars of the fourth and fifth centuries. Examples are the discovery of the Epistle of Barnabas at St. Catherine's in 1859 and the Didache, or "Teaching" (of the Twelve Apostles), in the patriarchal library of Constantinople in 1875. Others have come as complete surprises, such as many of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the ancient library at Qumran and the Coptic- Gnostic library at Nag Hammadi discovered during the 1940s.

    In the quest to reconstruct the past, every new textual discovery has been greeted with some measure of enthusiasm and many finds have created sensations. New texts are exciting to scholars because of their promise of new knowledge and enticing to others because of a sense that hidden secrets are about to be disclosed. In the case of Q1's discovery, however, there has been no announcement, little public excitement, and no sense that anything secret was about to be revealed. That is because Q was not discovered in some ancient cache. A manuscript of Q entitled "The Sayings of Jesus" did not suddenly



    come to light. Instead, the bits and pieces of this ancient writing were found scattered about in the gospels of the New Testament, and these were very familiar texts. It was by chance, in the course of tracking down the layered traditions of these gospels, that Q slowly emerged. Its existence at the bedrock of the Jesus traditions gradually forced itself upon scholars who hardly noticed the momentous significance of their discovery because the material was already so well known.

    The idea that there must have been a text like Q was first thought of over 150 years ago, but its recognition as a document with its own distinctive history had to wait for the present generation of scholars. One reason it took so long is that New Testament scholars have been haunted by the desire to reconstruct the "life" of Jesus. They were therefore preoccupied with the eventful aspects of the gospels, worried about their miraculous features, not about the teachings which they took for granted. Another reason is that, since Q referred to a written source that was used in slightly different ways by two independent authors (Matthew and Luke), reconstructing a single, unified text for study and discussion was at first thought to be impossible. And a third reason is that many New Testament scholars resisted the idea of Q because they thought there was no other example of the genre in early Christian literature and thus could not imagine why early Christians would have written such a text.

    However, as the comparative study of the gospels unfolded, the nature of Jesus' teaching eventually became a critical question. Ways to reconstruct the text of Q were developed. Another example of the genre was found, the sayings gospel known as the Gospel of Thomas. And scholars finally turned to questions about Q1's composition and content. A brief exploration of the major moments in this long history of scholarship helps in understanding how and why Q finally emerged from the pages of the narrative gospels to challenge their own account of Christian origins. In this chapter the story of Q1's discovery as a written text will be told. In the next three chapters the current scholarly excitement about recognizing Q1's genre and importance for reconstructing the history of Christian origins will be described.

    The story starts early in the nineteenth century, the century known for its quest for the historical Jesus. The quest was made possible by the rational methods of historical criticism learned in the age of enlightenment, but it was driven by a thoroughly romantic Protestant

    FINDING  THE  SHARDS  17    

    obsession. Protestant critique of the Catholic church claimed that Catholic religion was a pagan adulteration of true Christianity. In order to define true Christianity, Protestant reformers at first located its truth in the scriptures as a way to counter Catholic emphasis on post-biblical tradition as equal in importance for Christian faith and practice. But as the enlightenment dawned, other strategies commended themselves. What if Catholic Christianity could be shown as a historical development that veered away from the original intentions of Jesus and the earliest forms of Christian community and faith? Then the Protestant case would be made. The essence of Christianity would be obvious from the pristine purity of its original form, and Protestant claims to represent the true form of Christianity would have to be acknowledged. So the quest for the historical Jesus was motivated by a Protestant desire to leapfrog over the entire history of Catholic Christianity and land at the beginning where, as it was imagined, the foundations of Christianity had been laid in the life and purpose of its founder.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    FINDING  THE  SHARDS  19    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    FINDING  THE  SHARDS  21    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    FINDING  THE  SHARDS  23    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    FINDING  THE  SHARDS  25    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    FINDING  THE  SHARDS  27    

    apparatus of scholarly judgments on variant readings, parallels per saying from other early Christian literature, and a Greek concordance.

    Kloppenborg's Q Parallels is currently the standard text for reference for Q studies in America. But a parallel text is not yet a unified text. To produce a unified text, all of the variant readings must be carefully examined and decisions rendered as to the more original formulation in keeping with a complex set of criteria that includes detailed knowledge of the vocabularies, styles, and ideological preferences of Matthew and Luke as authors. This task is being performed by the International Q Project and the Q Project of the Society of Biblical Literature under the direction of James Robinson at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont. The publication of this project will be a scholarly reconstruction of the Greek text of Q that both Matthew and Luke had at their disposal when writing their gospels. When this critical text appears, the story of Q1's retrieval from the layers of textual history that effectively buried it for so long a time will finally come to a close.

    With the unified text of Q so close to the surface, coming to terms with its content and composition is already a possibility. The recent excitement over Q has produced a large number of fine studies that acknowledge its integrity and focus on its distinctive contribution to our knowledge of early Christian history. Scholars have been able to identify its genre, elucidate its content, and chart its history of composition. A brief summary of these studies in the next three chapters will set the stage for my own translation of Q in part II. The shards of a lost text have finally been pieced together.

    [ 28 ]


    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 29 ]


    An Uncommon Wisdom

    When Harnack dared to publish the sayings of Jesus in 1907 he wanted the teachings of Jesus to be read without reference to the narrative gospels. With a single stroke he thought to eliminate the problem of miracle and myth and make it possible for readers to focus on what liberal theologians understood as the essence of Christianity. The genius of Jesus, according to nineteenth-century liberals, was that of a remarkable teacher of an elevated and timeless humane ethic. Thus Harnack thought that these teachings should set the standard for a civilized world. Liberal Christians honored Jesus for his teachings and thought of themselves as fortunate to stand at the end of an illustrious history of enlightenment.

    Harnack's plan must have sounded good at the time to large numbers of Christians and scholars, for it drew upon a long inculcation of Christian sensibility that flourished during the late nineteenth century. By then the history of the human race was imagined on the model of evolutionary education. The ages of pagan superstition and cultic religion had finally succumbed to the age of reason. For Protestants, reason and faith merged in the superior ethics of Christianity, and they saw themselves as pedagogues shining in the midst of an unenlightened but educable world. Since Jesus had introduced this ethic into the world as the highest human ideal, he simply could not have been the divine and tragic figure portrayed in the gospel accounts. So Harnack's daring promotion of the teachings of Jesus apart from the



    narrative gospels must have sounded reasonable to many liberal Christians. But, as it turned out, his book was the last hurrah for the nineteenth-century Jesus.

    Harnack should have known that the liberals' Jesus was in trouble, and perhaps he did. He was fighting for reason in the midst of a growing excitement about the presence of apocalyptic language in the preaching of Jesus and the thought that Jesus was driven by the compelling conviction that the world was soon coming to its end. The book that started the excitement was Johannes Weiss's Jesus' Proclaimation of the Kingdom of God (1892). Weiss was impressed by the pronouncements of a future judgment found in the teachings of Jesus and with Jesus' announcement of a kingdom of God soon to be inaugurated. Weiss put these two themes together, kingdom of God and future judgment, and traced the source of such ideas to the apocalyptic literature of Judaism. He concluded that Jesus was a child of his time, a visionary and proclaimer of an imminent apocalyptic transformation of the world.

    Consternation reigned as liberal theologians and historians of religion tried to position themselves in the face of a growing suspicion that apocalyptic language had indeed been the order of Jesus' day. Schweitzer rode in on the crest of this wave and used the apocalyptic perspective to write his famous critique of the nineteenth- century quest. The force of his argument was due to the sense of uncertainty scholars were experiencing because of this shift in paradigm from Jesus as a teacher of humane ethic to Jesus as a radical visionary of the cataclysmic end of the world. Schweitzer's own reconstruction of the life of Jesus was an interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew from the new perspective of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet. According to Schweitzer, Jesus was mistaken about the imminent end of the world, but noble nonetheless because he had willingly sacrificed himself in an attempt to initiate the final conflagration. No one could simply ignore the apocalyptic buzz and prevail, for to counter the proposal required taking a long, hard look at the gospel texts. Strangely, no one during the nineteenth century had thought it necessary to actually study the sayings of Jesus in rigorous historical perspective. Now it seemed that the presence of the apocalyptic idiom in the teachings of Jesus could hardly be denied. Thus the relationship of the sayings of Jesus to an ethic of enlightenment, a relationship simply assumed by

    AN  UNCOMMON  WISDOM  31    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    AN  UNCOMMON  WISDOM  33    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    What to do? Q required explanation. It was the largest collection of the sayings of Jesus at hand. It therefore had to be taken much more seriously than the selection of parables scholars had been using as their data base. Q was a collection of sayings made by first-century followers of Jesus, not a modern selection of sayings by type that twentieth-century scholars had put together from different synoptic texts and traditions. A first- century collection must have had its own rationale. What if the question of wisdom and apocalyptic in the sayings of Jesus was asked by focusing on Q instead of the parables? What if the imagined historical Jesus as portrayed in the narrative gospels was not allowed to prejudice the study? What if those who made the collection of sayings in Q left some clues to help us understand what they thought about Jesus' wisdom and prophetic speech?

    A stunning manuscript discovery in 1945 made it possible to get started with such a project. Among the Coptic- Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi was, of all things, a collection of the sayings of Jesus called the Gospel According to Thomas (see the new English translation by Marvin Meyer, 1992). The Gospel of Thomas looked very much like Q, and approximately 35 percent of the sayings in Thomas had parallels in Q. Here, then, was a text closely related to Q that proved the existence of the genre in early Christian circles. It also provided yet another text of the sayings of Jesus for comparative study. Since some sayings appeared in both collections, the two texts were somehow related. Surely a study of Thomas would help with the question of Q.

    A first breakthrough occurred in 1964 when James Robinson published an article in German on the genre of Q. An English translation was subsequently published in 1971 as "'Logoi Sophon': On the Gattung of Q" ("Sayings of the Sages: On the Genre of Q"). In this article

    AN  UNCOMMON  WISDOM  35    

    Robinson drew the connection between Q and Thomas; pointed to other early Christian collections of sayings such as the parables in Mark 4, the Didache, and several Coptic-Gnostic writings; and then added examples from the wisdom literatures of ancient Egypt and early Judaism. He concluded that the genre of Q was a common form of wisdom literature. He called it "sayings of the sages" in keeping with such a reference in Proverbs 22:17 and the frequency with which similar formulas appeared in the first lines (incipits) of these sayings collections.

    If Robinson was right, those who collected the sayings of Jesus in Q and the Gospel of Thomas did so on the model of a wisdom genre. Did this mean that the wisdom sayings were more appropriate to these collections than the apocalyptic sayings and that Jesus' followers had understood them as instructions offered by a sage teacher?

    The point about Q being the sayings of a sage was not lost on scholars interested in Thomas and Q. Detailed studies began to focus on the presence and importance of the wisdom sayings in these collections. In addition to sayings that crystallized wisdom in the traditional forms of proverb and maxim, scholars also found stylistic traits, aphorisms, stock images, rhetorical units, and mythological metaphors in the idiom of ancient near eastern wisdom. Perhaps Robinson's identification of the genre of Q was correct, and the idiom of wisdom, not apocalyptic, was fundamental to the collection.

    John Kloppenborg thought it was and put Robinson's thesis to the test in a publication called The Formation of Q in 1987. Kloppenborg marshaled a large collection of wisdom literature, not only from the ancient near east, but also from Greek traditions and from the mixture of cultures that occurred during the hellenistic era. He was able to show that maxims, proverbs, injunctions, and anecdotes were the idiom of popular philosophy and education during the hellenistic age and that collections of this kind of material functioned as handbooks of instruction. Q did exhibit features typical of the hellenistic handbook of instruction and Kloppenborg argued that Q was composed on such a model. Several blocks of wisdom material in Q clearly took the form of what Kloppenborg called "sapiential instruction." But Q also had features that did not quite fit the model. Wouldn't you know? The difference between Q and the genre of instruction in wisdom had largely to do with the presence of the prophetic and apocalyptic sayings.



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    AN  UNCOMMON  WISDOM  37    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    AN  UNCOMMON  WISDOM  39    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    [ 40 ]


    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 41 ]


    Removing the Patina

    Biblical scholars always assume a community behind their texts. And New Testament scholars have always thought that the earliest followers of Jesus immediately formed a Christian congregation. That is what Luke reports, and Matthew and John. Mark's ending seems to allow for it. And Paul's letter to the Galatians tells us that Cephas and James were residing in Jerusalem as "pillars" of some group of Jesus people in the mid 50s C.E. If the importance of Jesus was his role in starting the Christian religion, or so the reasoning has been, the first followers must have been Christians. It may not have been easy to start a new religion with fishermen and such, especially when the large-scale plan required coming to see that Jesus was the Christ who came to transform the world by dying for it. But surely the dramatic events of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the appearances to the women and disciples took care of that. So the first church in Jerusalem must have blossomed overnight, or at least not later than Luke's forty days.

    When Q came into view as a text, scholars naturally began to talk about the "community of Q." Just as naturally they thought of the community of Q as the earliest form of Christian congregation. Some even used the term "church" to refer to what must have been the obvious result when people recognized Jesus as the Christ. What did it matter if they recorded his teachings in a document that did not tell all? Surely they must have been Christians.



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    the attempt to understand Q. The time seemed right for a concerted effort to read Q apart from the standard scenario of Christian beginnings and try to catch sight of the people of Q as they might have looked in their own social world.

    In 1988 the Q Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature turned to the question of the community of Q. Kloppenborg's identification of three layers of textual tradition in Q had already become an acceptable working hypothesis for the seminar, and notations had been created in order to refer to each layer. The earliest layer consisting of "sapiential instruction" was now referred to as Q1, and the "announcement of judgment" as Q2. Kloppenborg had also identified a small amount of material that had been added later than the composition of Q2, such as the story of Jesus' temptation. These later additions were referred to as Q3. I will use these shorthand designations when referring to the several layers of the Q tradition. In the English translation of the text presented in part II, the material assigned to each of these layers has been set in a different typeface.

    At the seminar, Kloppenborg and I each presented a paper on the social history of the people of Q. Careful attention to the layers of tradition in Q1's composition made it possible to move from shifts in the group's discourse to stages in the group's social history. Indications of location, dress, behavior, and attitude toward the larger social world could be identified in each stage that agreed with the kind of discourse characteristic for each layer. Analysis of the rhetoric at each stage also brought changes of audience into view, which indicated that the people of Q had experienced changes in their social circumstance. Surprisingly, both Kloppenborg and I agreed in our preliminary descriptions of each stage of the group's social history as well as with regard to the circumstances that must have occasioned the shifts in discourse from stage to stage.

    In broad outline, the social history of the people of Q began with an early period of elan, general social critique, and experimentation with countercultural behavior. Their flippant stance toward standard social conventions is captured in such sayings as "Leave the dead to bury their dead," "Do not worry... what you will wear," and "Lend without expecting anything in return." This period was followed by an attempt to turn some of their unlikely behavior into rules by which to recognize fellow travelers and exemplify an ethos peculiar to the


    movement. In the harvest instruction, for instance, there is mention of appropriate attire, a sign of greeting, and proper etiquette when being received as a guest. These early periods and the first attempts at spelling out an ethic are documented in Q1. At this stage of collection and composition the audience largely consisted of those participating in the movement. But then the group experienced a period of frustration with failed expectations. It was this failure that occasioned the language of judgment which was largely directed toward various sectors of the society that had created obstacles for the movement. This stage of social history is documented in Q2. At some later time additions were made to the collection that indicate a series of accommodations to other streams of the Jesus movement as well as to some Jewish and hellenistic values that had earlier been eschewed. Q3 exhibits a relaxation of the tensions that had accompanied earlier stages of social formation.

    But who exactly were these people and what precisely was their movement all about? Returning to the text with these questions in mind, features of its discourse were noticed that had been overlooked in earlier studies. One was that the wisdom sayings of Q1 looked strange when compared with the maxims, proverbs, and injunctions typical for the standard collection of wise sayings. There could be no doubt that the sayings in Q1 were crafted in the forms of wisdom speech and treated as sage instructions. But they did not trade in truisms, principles, and traditional proverbial wisdom. They were decidedly aphoristic, delighting in extreme cases and in imagery that was more pungent and evocative than observational and instructive. And there was a very large imbalance in favor of imperatives, injunctions, and instruction in specific details of behavior. To call this material sage advice was clearly not sufficient. Something was being recommended other than the wisdom required for well-being either in a conventional society or in a well-defined subcultural group.

    To anticipate what we shall find as we enter the world of the text In part III, the aphoristic quality of the sayings in Q1 is strikingly reminiscent of speech characteristic of the Greek tradition of Cynic philosophy. This kind of sagery did not intend an elucidation of the way the world usually works in order to recommend fitting attitudes and behavior. Instead, poignant insights explored the embarrassing moments of human relations and the pretensions that traditional wisdom



    overlooks or seeks to cover up with its rationalizations in favor of conventional social values.

    New Testament scholars had been aware of the Cynic parallels to a few of the specific attitudes and practices enjoined in Q1. As we shall see, these included such things as disentanglement from one's family, voluntary homelessness, eschewing normal standards of cleanliness, simple attire, and unashamed begging. But scholars had always discounted these similarities to the Cynics because they did not fit with the traditional picture of the Christian mission. Now, however, more than a few behavioral similarities to the Cynics began to surface. The aphoristic style in Q1 was very close to the Cynics' way of making pointed comment on human behavior, and the logic involved in recommending extravagant behavior in Q was very close to the rhetoric of a Cynic's repartee when challenged about his own behavior. The forthrightness with which social critique was registered in Q was exactly like that of the Cynics' attitude called parresia, or bold, outspoken manner. Aphoristic style, unconventional behavior, and the rhetoric of embarrassment all converged in a critical stance toward the social world that also agreed with Cynic tradition. This stance of social critique was a call for individuals to live against the stream, not a program offered for the reform of society's ills. Thus the Cynic parallels helped us see that social critique in Q1 was decidedly scatter shot and implicit, not pointed and programmatic as if Judaism, the priests, the Pharisees, or the Romans were to blame for the sorry state of the world. Specific social institutions and particular cultural or religious traditions were not under attack. Natural behavior under the circumstances was what counted, not a system of belief, or a piety, or a reconceptualization of the way the world might work if only certain leaders, institutions, or structures were not in place and in charge. The early Jesus movement was apparently not a reform movement.

    The Cynic parallels seemed to subside, however, when turning to the material in Q2. Here one encountered prophetic idiom as well as explicit appeal to epic lore familiar from the Hebrew scriptures. In contrast to Q1, the authority of Jesus was greatly enhanced by association with the mythological figure of wisdom, and by imparting to him the kind of knowledge one had to have in order to make the sweeping judgments and announcements attributed to him. A man named John entered the picture with a message of judgment, together


    with parables that dealt with exclusion and threatened people with the thought that a strict account of their deeds was being kept. The Pharisees were singled out for castigation in an extensive list of charges against them. And the theme of judgment seemed to climax in an apocalyptic announcement of the day of the son of man, an imaginary figure whose judgment would be final at the great trial to come. What could one say about finding these features in Q? Scholars a loss. All of these features were familiar themes in the design of the narrative gospels. In the context of the narrative gospels these features had meanings that supported the gospel story. Why were they popping up in Q at the second stage of composition? With Q disentangled from its narrative gospel context, these features had no narrative reference to give them significance and were very hard to understand. Some scholars thought we may have been wrong. Perhaps the people of Q had been gospel Christians all along.

    Scholarly consternation is a lovely sight to behold, especially when the panic is triggered by a major shift in paradigms. In this case, the picture painted by the narrative gospels had continued to function, unbeknownst, as the dominant paradigm for imagining Christian beginnings. The story provided by the narrative gospels was, in fact, the only model scholars had in mind for thinking about the earliest chapters of Christianity. In spite of knowing that Mark's gospel was a fiction, the setting and logic of his story still served as the frame of reference for understanding the sayings and themes in Q2, especially those that clearly overlapped with the gospels. According to the narrative gospels most of these themes should have surfaced in Q1 as reminiscences of Jesus. According to the gospels, wasn't Jesus baptized by John? Was he not an eschatological prophet of the kingdom of God? Did he not call for the transformation of Israel? Did he not tangle with the Pharisees and threaten them with divine judgment? Was he not crucified by the Jewish authorities? The recent studies of Q suggested otherwise, that Jesus was first remembered as a Cynic sage and only later imagined as a prophet who uttered apocalyptic warnings. So what was a poor, confused scholar to do? When confronted with data that does not fit the dominant paradigm, scholars reassess and repeat the experiment. Either the data must be wrong or the paradigm will have to change. Take care, proceed with caution, leave no stone unturned. Such are the signals heard from within.



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    [ 50 ]


    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 51 ]


    Galilee Before the War

    In the world of the Christian imagination Galilee belonged to Palestine, the religion of Palestine was Judaism, so everyone in Galilee must have been Jewish. Since this picture is wrong, and since Q can make no sense as long as it prevails, the reader needs to have a truer picture in mind. This chapter presents a sketch of what scholars are discovering about Galilee as a discrete social and cultural location, and about the situation that prevailed in the first century C.E. It is the historical once upon a time that sets the stage for the story of Q.

    A glance at the following map will show that Galilee was not contiguous to Judea. It was even further removed from Jerusalem than Samaria, the home of age-old religious traditions that had always been in competition with loyalties centered in Jerusalem. During the three or four centuries prior to the time of Jesus, tensions had escalated between the Samaritans, who were resident in the land when the Jews returned from exile in Babylon in 539 B.C.E., and the Jewish leaders, who determined to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. Sometime during the fourth century a parting of the ways took place when, as the stories recall, the Samaritan king Sanballat wanted to join with the Jews and help construct a temple at Jerusalem, but was rebuffed. Later in the mid second century B.C.E. the Jews won their independence from the Seleucids of Antioch, the successors in that region to the legacy of Alexander the Great, and established the Maccabean-Hasmonean dynasty of priest-kings in Jerusalem. They then set out



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    famous philosophers and poets of the Cynic school, including Meleager (100 B.C.E.), Philodemus (110-40 B.C.E.), and Oenomaus (120 C.E.). Tiberias, built by Herod Antipas on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in 19 C.E., was founded on the hellenistic model. And Sepphoris, an hour's walk from Nazareth, was a thoroughly hellenized city. It was rebuilt by Herod Antipas during Jesus' time and archeological investigations have unearthed a theater and the now-famous mosaic of Dionysus. The dates for these important pieces of evidence are, unfortunately, still disputed, ranging from the first to the second century C.E. But even if they belong to the second century they should not be discounted, for they demonstrate the extent to which hellenistic culture was taken for granted in Galilee despite an increasing influx of Jews in the period after the Roman-Jewish war of 66-73 C.E.

    What, then, can be said about a Jewish presence in Galilee before the war? Jews may have moved into Galilee at any time after the exile, and especially during the hellenistic age, as part of the movement of peoples characteristic of the times. If so, a rather strange circumstance must be imagined for Jews living in Galilee. Normally, Jews in the diaspora (living outside of Judea) formed communities of mutual support. In Egypt, for instance, they built "houses of prayer" where they met to cultivate their Jewish culture at a distance from their temple and land. But would Jews in Galilee have formed diaspora congregations or built buildings for that purpose? The customary answer has been yes, and in the course of the first century the term synagogue does begin to appear as a name for Jewish congregation both in Palestine and throughout the Roman empire. But the Greek word synagogue simply means "congregation" and so must have referred at first to the people coming together, not to the place or building where they gathered. In the Levant, at any rate, congregation had taken place for millennia at shrines, city gates, and city squares. It was during Roman times that the term synagogue became attached to the place or building in which meeting occurred and a Jewish synagogue (building) was a standard feature in cities throughout the empire. The problem is that, according to archeological evidence, synagogue buildings in Galilee appear only in the third century C.E. This documents the influx of Jews after the war, but says nothing about the situation before the war. Before the war Josephus tells of synagogues in Caesarea, Dora, and Tiberias. So there were synagogues


    in cities adjacent to Galilee on the diaspora model, and Herod's Tiberias may have had one, also on the diaspora model. But before the Roman period it seems highly unlikely that Jews moving to Galilee would have considered themselves living in the diaspora or have formed congregations on its model.

    That is because there was another model for Jewish congregation indigenous to Judea and by extension to northern Israel. Whereas the diaspora model was a form of local and independent Jewish congregation, the ma'amadoth, or priestly-scribal "stations" in the village square, were official outposts of the temple system of governance and taxation, situated in villages central to a region. They served as courts and housed scribes who oversaw the life and production of the people. They also provided a place where calls to prayer were coordinated with the temple services in Jerusalem. After the annexation of Galilee in 100 B.C.E., it is possible that a similar system was introduced into the new territory. Certainly there were official scribes in Galilee during the period of governance from Jerusalem. And Jews who had taken up residence there may have gained some prominence and control of some local Galilean town courts or congregations of elders, the form of governance typical for villages and towns in antiquity.

    So Jewish presence in Galilee after 100 B.C.E. was no doubt obvious and may have set a new cultural tone. At the very least, all Galileans were now required to acknowledge Jerusalem as the royal city in charge of Galilean affairs instead of Antioch. Galileans must have paid their temple taxes. Josephus reports that they took advantage of the thrice-yearly pilgrimage requirements to Jerusalem in order to seek a hearing for their grievances. And Jews in Galilee must have paid some attention to the laws and codes related to Jewish identity and practice. But it would be wrong to picture Galilee as suddenly converted to a Jewish loyalty and culture.

    Even if one were to imagine that local lore had kept alive memories of belonging to the old kingdom of Israel, the distinctions among Galileans, Samaritans, and Jews have to be kept in mind. The Samaritans had certainly kept alive the old traditions of "northern" Israel focused on Shechem/Samaria, but they were not for that reason Jews. And Galilee was not Samaria just as Samaria was not Judea. So even the Semitic component of the Galilean population needs to be



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    In the Christian imagination Jesus appeared on a thoroughly Jewish scene that was ripe for religious reform. New Testament scholars have therefore looked for circumstances in Galilee that would explain the popular reception of Jesus' message and the rapid expansion of the Jesus movements. Every proposal must combine an interpretation of Jesus' message with a picture of popular mentality in order to account for the attractiveness and motivation of the movement. There are four major types of explanation: (1) reformation, (2) revolution, (3) sectarian formation, and (4) utopian program. None of them fits Q, and none fits the circumstances in Galilee.

    The theory of reformation arises from the history of Christian theology. According to this view, Judaism was badly in need of reform because the temple-state was based on a priestly system of sacrificial religion that was primitive, embarrassing, and wrong. Or, focusing upon the Pharisees, the religion of Judaism has been characterized as exclusivistic, legalistic, and wrong. Or, reading the Hebrew scriptures as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, the Jews had not listened to the prophets, were a disobedient people, and were greatly in need of the messiah lest they fall under the wrath of their righteous God. But neither righteous indignation, nor Pharisaic burden, nor revulsion at the thought of a sacrificial cult are appropriate descriptions of a Galilean mentality to which Jesus may have appealed. And there is nothing in Q to support a message directed to any of these concerns.

    The theory of revolution is a twentieth-century notion. It assumes that Jesus' conflict with the Jerusalem establishment was generated by a messianic mission and interprets the gospels in the light of


    Josephus' accounts of the Jewish factions that fought for control of the temple in the Roman-Jewish war. Most explications of this scenario ride on the caveat that, of course, Jesus' "revolution" was different because it was nonviolent and aimed at spiritual reform. But this theory doesn't work. Mark's gospel was written in the 70s and his account of Jesus in Jerusalem is anachronistic, for he plays on the recent memories of the war to gain plausibility for his story. And the revolts from 66 to 73 C.E. reported by Josephus can hardly be used as examples of any earlier incidents of popular protest or of aristocratic intrigue with designs upon control of the temple system. The theory is especially flawed, however, because of its faulty assumption that a call for revolt against the Romans and/or the temple establishment in Jerusalem would have motivated Galileans to rally around Jesus. There is nothing in Q to suggest anything of the kind.

    The theory of sectarian formation is rooted in a long history of the Christian claim to be the new or true "Israel," or people of God. According to this theory, the early church emerged from within Judaism as the fulfillment of Israel's promise, as its righteous remnant, or as those who faithfully recognized Jesus as the messiah. Its twentieth-century version is couched in the apocalyptic hypothesis according to which "the Jews" were undone by signs of divine displeasure and impending judgment. All were both fearful and expectant before the coming of the messiah. Voila. Jesus appeared and those who recognized him naturally constituted the remnant of the worthy. The problem with this scenario is that neither apocalyptic hysteria nor the sense of being a righteous remnant is a plausible motivation for generating a movement in Galilee. An apocalyptic message only works as a motivation to form a sect from within the world of Jewish religious identity to which one already belonged. There is no hint of the formation of a Jewish sect in Q1. And even in Q2 where apocalyptic idiom occurs, the primary loyalty is to a Jesus movement based on some other attraction.

    The theory of a utopian program is a recent scholarly proposal. The notion is that the situation in Galilee had become desperate for the peasants. Persistent poverty, plundering, and a system of double taxation (to Rome as well as to the Jerusalem temple) had rendered many homeless and reduced the people to starving. Jesus appeared with a vision of the kingdom of God. He talked about the evil of



    riches. He said that God would provide food and clothing. He performed healings and the crowds gathered around. Unfortunately for this theory, archeological studies of Galilee and the economic history of the Levant do not support such a picture. The notion of double taxation assumes that Roman tribute was superimposed upon an already heavy tax levied by the temple-state. It is of course true that heavy taxation of produce and the payment of tribute were standard features of the aristocratic empires in antiquity. It is also true that Roman governance was mainly a matter of securing order and taking tribute. But the Roman practice in general was to use the local system of levies, not to create new ones, and to take their bite off the top as a kind of taxation. So whether there was a system of double taxation under Herod is quite unclear. It is even less clear what happened to the temple tax system in Galilee under Herod Antipas, who had no official connection with the temple establishment in Jerusalem. In the face of such uncertainties, and lacking evidence for destitute conditions in Galilee, it is best not to assume that Jesus' main attraction was the announcement of a utopian ideal.

    What then? lithe Jesus movement was not generated by a passion to reform Judaism or by a revolt against foreign powers or by an economic revolution, what was its attraction? Something other than charismatic display, ecstatic religious experience, or a message of eternal salvation must have generated the movement because there is nothing in the text of Q that reflects interest of this kind. So what may its attraction have been?

    Two lines of investigation are still open. One is that clues about the motivations of the people of Q may surely be found in the text of Q if we give it a fresh, close reading. The other is that a clearer picture of the social circumstances in Galilee may provide a setting that can help explain such motivations. As the story of Q unfolds it will become clear that two features of its sociology are inextricably intertwined. One is a rather strong challenge to individuals to dare a natural and simple life-style. The other is a seriousness that developed about loyalty to a group. The question, then, is whether such a group, based on such an unconventional call to individual freedom, could have been its own attraction. The answer seems to be yes, but in order to see why this was so we need to enlarge the picture of life in Galilee to include a number of cultural considerations.


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    A second characteristic of the Greco-Roman age was the formation of small social units variously called fellowships (koinoniai), festive companies (thiosoi), or collegia. These were created by people seeking support in pursuit of common interests ranging from ethnic comradeship and cultural conservation, through funeral societies, religious conventicles, and monastic communities, to include a variety of craft guilds organized for economic protection in the wild and wooly world of international trade. Because fellowships tended to be ethnically based, and thus seem to have been an apparently natural development, and because we are so accustomed to organizations such as clubs, lodges, and ethnic community centers in our own society, it may be difficult for us to grasp the significance of this novel development in social formation. It deserves recognition as a very important development in the social history of western culture. Fellowships substituted for societies that had been destroyed. Their novelty resided in a combination of the free association of individuals with membership controlled by elections, fees, and rules. To belong to such an association was therefore quite a different matter than belonging to a family, tribe, temple-state, or nation. Experimentation



    in the organization and function of such a fellowship was called for by the wide range of purposes to which this simple model was put. The model determined only that the members meet regularly (the average was approximately once a month), usually for a common meal, after which business and socializing became the order of the day.

    A third characteristic of the Greco-Roman age was a burgeoning preoccupation with ideas, philosophies, and the writing of literature. This phenomenon may also be understood as a quest to understand a world grown problematic because of social uncertainties. Much of this intellectual activity was expressly devoted to an exploration of social issues. National epics and local histories had to be revised and romanticized in order to compete with the illustrious histories of other peoples. A new ending had to be found for epics that had celebrated the ancient temple sites. Archaic epochs were embellished as models of ideal societies in order to gain critical leverage for assessing contemporary regimes and social arrangements. The laws of Solon and Moses, the royal bearing of Hercules, David, and Osiris, and the human representations of Gilgamesh, Adam, Prometheus, and the Seven Sages were all re-searched for guidance applicable to the present state of affairs. Treatises flourished on the topics of kingship and tyranny, the ideal ruler, and the basis for laws and humanistic ethics. In general, questions related to authority and power, virtue and justice, law and well-being, were burning issues that controlled much of the philosophical discourse and literature of the time.

    What if we let Galilee have its place in the Greco-Roman world? What if the people of Galilee were not isolated from the cultural mix that stimulated thought and produced social experimentation in response to the times? What if Galileans were fully aware of the cultural and intellectual forces surging through the Levant? What if we acknowledged that the compact and convoluted history of foreign conquests in Galilee had created disaffection for many Galileans, and a predisposition for social and cultural critique? What if the mix of indigenous, hellenistic, Jewish, and Roman cultures had disturbed the social equilibrium enough to challenge the traditional diffidence of the people in Galilee? What if we thought that Galileans were capable of entertaining novel notions of social identity? What then? Why then we would be ready for the story of the people of Q.

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 69 ]

       P A R T  I I     



      OF  THE  LOST


    [ 70 ]



    [ 71 ]


    The Book of Q

    This chapter presents the text of the lost gospel. The English translation is based on the Greek texts in Matthew and Luke, which are available in John Kloppenborg's Q Parallels (1988). In order to arrive at a unified Greek text, I have consulted the scholarship on the reconstruction of the original text as well as the work of the Q project at Claremont. I have aimed at a fresh translation, trying to catch the original tenor in the everyday language of our own time, in order to avoid the familiar ring many of these sayings have acquired from their biblical context.

    In this chapter I present two versions of the lost gospel: the original book of Q and the complete book of Q. The original book is composed only of Q1 material. The complete book of Q incorporates all three levels of Q material. In the complete version, I have provided headings both for major sections of the text and for its smaller segments. The segments have the notation QS and are numbered for easy reference. The numeration bears no relation to biblical chapter and verse, and it differs slightly from Kloppenborg's divisions of the text. For those who may be interested in locating the Q material in the Bible or in comparing my reconstruction of the text with Kloppenborg's segmentation, a chart of correspondences is given in appendix B.



    As the story of Q unfolds in part III, reference will constantly be ide to the three layers of Q1's compositional history. These layers are itinguished in the text by means of different typefaces, as follows:

    Q1 material, the earliest layer in the collection, is set in bold.

    Q2 material, the second layer, with compositional design, is set in regular, or lighter, type.

    Q3 material, the latest additions to the text, is set in italic.

    Within the text there are notations as follows:

    < > = Scholarly conjecture where textual material is no longer extant.

    [ ] = Translator's note to the reader.

    My advice is to read only the original book of Q before going on the discussion of Q1 material in chapter 6. It would then be helpful to read only the Q2 material in the complete book the second time through, in order to savor its distinctive flavor. Q2 material will be discussed in chapters 7 and 8. Finally, the whole text of the complete book should be read from beginning to end, paying attention to the shifts in mood as they occur and taking note of the overall design. The final shape of the text will be discussed in chapter 9.

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  73    



    < These are the teachings of Jesus. >

    < Seeing the crowds, he said to his disciples, >

    "How fortunate are the poor; they have God's kingdom.

    How fortunate the hungry; they will be fed.

    How fortunate are those who are crying; they will laugh."

    "I am telling you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

    If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer your other cheek as well. If anyone grabs your coat, let him have your shirt as well.

    Give to anyone who asks, and if someone takes away your belongings, do not ask to have them back.

    As you want people to treat you, do the same to them.



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  75    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  77    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  79    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 81 ]



    QS 1.  TITLE

    < These are the teachings of Jesus. >


    [The Q2 addition of the John material erased the original introduction to Jesus and his teachings. See QS 7.]

    John's Preaching        


    < John appeared in the countryside along the Jordan river. >


    He said to the people who were coming out to be plunged [into the river], "You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming fury? Change your ways if you have changed your mind. Don't say, We have Abraham as



    our father.' I am telling you, God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax is aimed at the root of the trees. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."


    "I am plunging you in water; but one who is stronger than I is coming, one whose sandals I am not worthy to touch. He will overwhelm you with holy spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his granary. The chaff he will burn with a fire that no one can put out."

    The Temptations of Jesus        


    Then Jesus was led into the wilderness by the spirit for trial by the accuser [diabolos, the prosecuting angel of the heavenly court]. He fasted for forty days and was hungry. The accuser said, "If you are the son of God, tell this stone to become bread." But Jesus answered, "It is written, 'No one lives by bread alone.'" Then the accuser took him to Jerusalem and placed him at the highest point of the temple and said to him, "If you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, 'He will command his angels to protect you,' and 'They will carry you with their hands so that your foot will not strike a stone.'" But Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall not put the lord, your God to the test.'" Then the accuser took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, and he said to him, "All these I will give you if you will do obeisance and reverence me." But Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall reverence the lord your God and serve him alone.'" Then the accuser left him.

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  83    

    Jesus' Teaching        


    < Seeing the crowds, he said to his disciples, >


    "How fortunate are the poor; they have God's kingdom.

    How fortunate the hungry; they will be fed.

    How fortunate are those who are crying; they will laugh.

    How fortunate you are when they reproach you as good-for-nothings because of the son of man [a Semitic idiom for "human being," capable of being used as a circumlocution, thus, "because of me" or "because of Jesus"]. Rejoice, be glad, you have a great reward in heaven. That is exactly how they treated the prophets."


    "I am telling you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer your other cheek as well. If anyone grabs your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to anyone who asks, and if someone takes away your belongings, do not ask to have them back. As you want people to treat you, do the same to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even tax collectors love those who love them, do they not? And if you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Doesn't everybody do that? If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even wrongdoers lend to their kind because they expect to be repaid.



    Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend without expecting anything in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of God.

    For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good; he sends rain on the just and on the unjust."


    "Be merciful even as your Father is merciful.

    Don't judge and you won't be judged.

    For the standard you use
    [for judging] will be the standard used against you."


    "Can the blind lead the blind? Won't they both fall into a pit?

    A student is not better than his teacher. It is enough for a student to be like his teacher."


    "How can you look for the splinter in your brother's eye and not notice the stick in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the splinter in your eye,' when you do not see the stick in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the stick from your own eye, and then you can see to remove the splinter that is in your brother's eye."


    "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit; a rotten tree does not bear good fruit. Are figs gathered from thorns, or grapes from thistles? Every tree is known by its fruit.

    The good man produces good things from his store of goods and treasures; and the evil man evil things.

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  85    

    For the mouth speaks from a full heart."


    "Why do you call me, 'Master, master,' and not do what I say?

    Everyone who hears my words and does them is like a man who built a house on rock. The rain fell, a torrent broke against the house, and it did not fall, for it had a rock foundation.

    But everyone who hears my words and does not do them is like a man who built a house on sand. The rain came, the torrent broke against it, and it collapsed. The ruin of that house was great."

    What John and Jesus Thought About Each Other        


    After Jesus said these things, he went into Capernaum. And a centurion [Roman army officer in charge of 100 soldiers], when he heard about Jesus, came to him begging him, "My servant is lying paralyzed at home about to die." Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." The centurion answered him, "Sir, I am not worthy to have you enter my home. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under orders, with soldiers under me. I say to one 'Go,' and he goes; to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who were following him, "I tell you, I have not found such confidence in Israel." And he said to the centurion, "Go." And when the centurion returned home, he found the servant well.



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  87    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  89    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  91    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  93    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  95    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    The Coming Judgment        

    QS 41.  THE HOUR

    "Be sure: If the owner of a house knew when a thief was coming, he wouldn't leave his house to be broken into.

    You also must be ready. For the son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect."


    "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, when one is held responsible to serve the household meals at the proper time? Fortunate is the servant whom the master finds doing just that. I tell you for sure, his master will promote him and give him charge of all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed' and begins to mistreat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the wayward crowd, the master will come on a day when he does not expect him, at an hour he does not know. He will punish him severely and consign him to the destiny of those who are unfaithful."


    "I came to strike fire on the earth, and how I wish that it were already aflame!

    Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, not peace, but a sword.

    For I have come to create conflict between a man and his father, disagreement between a daughter and her mother, and estrangement between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. A person's enemies will be one's own kin."


    He said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west you say 'It is going to rain'; and so it does. When a

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  97    

    south wind is blowing you say, 'It will be hot'; and so it happens. If you know how to read the signs of the sky, why can't you judge the signs of the times? Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?"


    "Make an effort to settle with your accuser while you are with him on the way to court. If you don't, he will drag you to the judge, the judge will hand you over to the guard, and the guard will throw you in prison. I am telling you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny."

    Parables of the Kingdom        


    He said, "What is the kingdom of God like? To what should I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard which a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches."

    He also said, "The kingdom of God is like yeast which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until it leavened the whole mass."

    The Two Ways        


    "Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will try to enter by it and will not be able.

    Once the owner of the house has locked the door, you will stand outside, knock at the door, and say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  99    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     100  THE  TEXT  OF  A  LOST  GOSPEL

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    THE  BOOK  OF  Q  101    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     102  THE  TEXT  OF  A  LOST  GOSPEL

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 103 ]

       P A R T  I I I     



      OF  A



    [ 104 ]



    [ 105 ]


    Dancing to the Pipes

    Q is packed with bright, memorable sayings. Some are pithy aphorisms, such as "Don't judge and you won't be judged." Others ride on picturesque images like gathering figs from a thornbush or what happens to tasteless salt. Exhortations that recommend striking behavior abound, as in the injunction to offer the other cheek when slapped. Succinctly phrased observations on the everyday world collide with clever conclusions about the wily ways of human pursuits. Anecdotes, parables, colorful condensations of epic lore, and pointed apocalyptic pronouncements fill the horizon of an imaginative world that stands to challenge the status quo. Q bristles with critical judgments on truths held to be self-evident and social conventions that most people would have taken for granted. Q1's challenge to its readers was to have another look at their world and dare to dance to a different tune.

    However, sorting through these sayings to find the reasons for such talk is a difficult exercise. At first one has the impression of a motley collection of ad hoc material put together in a helter-skelter fashion. One hardly knows what to make of it as a whole. The older theory about Q1's composition was based on this impression. It held that these sayings traveled separately in oral tradition, that each saying was considered an important pronouncement in its own right, and that each was added to various collections made at different times for the purpose of convenience and the preservation of sayings held to be



    sacred because Jesus had said them. Compositional design was therefore not to be expected.

    This theory still has some value, for it recognizes that Q was re-worked at several stages in a community that collected and cultivated these sayings over a long period. Many of the sayings seem out of place, appearing to reflect different periods in the life of the community. Some sayings suggest a very early period in the community's life ("Don't worry, you are worth more than the birds"), while others deal with issues and questions that could only have arisen later ("Rejoice when they reproach you; that is exactly how they treated the prophets"). And some sayings appear to have been added to the collection in order to address the situation of the community in the period after the Jewish war ("Jerusalem, Jerusalem, your house is left desolate"). But as soon as one sees that the sayings cluster and that clustering shows signs of purpose, a closer analysis is necessary.

    Recent studies have shown that it is possible to be quite precise about the reasons for the clusters and their arrangement in the larger collection. One can see blocks of material organized by theme, sayings that illustrate or comment upon others, and small units of what the Greeks would have called a complete argumentation. Frequently, the way sayings are grouped or ordered makes a point. Sometimes a saying offers a specific interpretation of a preceding unit of material, or draws a conclusion that redirects the significance of a theme and points to the next cluster. If one pays careful attention to shifts in features such as grammar, tenor, formal characteristics, and implied audience, strategies can be discerned that indicate compositional design rather than simple aggregation.

    Discrete stages in the literary history of such a collection are much more difficult to identify. That is because, in the nature of the case, rearrangements in the order of proverbial material frequently raise the design of previous collections. And, since it is always the arrangement of proverbial material that provides the literary context for interpreting a particular figure of speech, earlier connotations are easily lost.

    A breakthrough occurred when it was seen that seven clusters of sayings in Q share distinctive features that are missing in the rest of the material. Some of these clusters are carefully composed rhetorical units, and all of them address a coherent set of issues with the same

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  107    

    audience in view and the same concerns in mind. When analyzed, these compositions do not need the rest of Q in order to make sense as a set of instructions. Further study established that the scribes responsible for Q as a whole had reason not to entirely erase the design of this earlier collection. That fortuitous accident of scribal history, retaining earlier instructional material that happened to be in the form of small compositions, makes it possible to isolate an earlier layer of tradition in Q and thus an earlier stage in the history of the Q community. These seven clusters are now recognized as the remains of the earliest collection of sayings in the Q tradition, the layer of Q material called Q1. They are precious nuggets indeed.

    A thorough account of the scholarly excavation of these foundation stones is hardly possible, for the labor has been painstaking and the arguments intricate. But we need to understand the reasons scholars have marshalled for being so sure about the assignment of these clusters to the early layer of the Q tradition. Some of these reasoris have to do with the identification of "seams," places where it is obvious that sayings were added or joined to others when elaborating or expanding upon themes. In order to be certain about seams, a mastery of Greek syntax is required, but even in English translation thematic shifts are easily seen, and careful attention to the sequence of material will often reveal the logic of primary and secondary considerations in the development of themes and the conjunction of blocks or units of speech. An example is the reference to Sodom in QS 21, a saying that picks up on the immediately preceding Q1 saying about an unreceptive town and shifts to the Q2 theme of judgment on Galilean towns elaborated in the sayings that follow.

    Identifying seams where material was added to prior material is a standard procedure in the study of sayings collections and instructional handbooks of antiquity. Seams tell us that collections were frequently changed in the process of transmission by means of notations, additions, deletions, and the reorganization of material. Sayings collections, called gnomologia (from gnome, meaning "maxim"), were not considered sacred literature that should be left intact and passed on just as it had been received.

    A second set of reasons has to do with the coherence of a given layer of material in the development of a tradition. Reading through the document as a whole, different types of material that share similar



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  109    

    reconstruct the earliest period of the Q movement. The seven clusters assigned to Q1 are the following:

    1. Jesus' Teaching
        QS 12  ON HYPOCRISY
        QS 13  ON INTEGRITY

    2. Instructions for the Jesus Movement

    3. Confidence in the Father's Care
        QS 26  HOW TO PRAY

    4. On Anxiety and Speaking Out
        QS 35  ON SPEAKING OUT
        QS 36  ON FEAR

    5. On Personal Goods

    6. Parables of the Kingdom

    7. The True Followers of Jesus
        QS 50  ON HUMILITY

    Embedded in these blocks of Q1 material are a number of terse sayings that give the collection its distinctive tone. An example is the saying in QS 39 that "life is more than food." Every smaller unit of composition has at least one terse saying. Some are formulated as maxims, others as imperatives, but all have the quality of aphoristic



    speech. Most of these aphorisms function within their units as core sayings around which the unit clusters, or on which supporting considerations build. When viewed together, moreover, these sayings make a comprehensive set of sage observations and unorthodox instructions. They delight in critical comment upon the everyday world and they recommend unconventional behavior.

    These sayings put us in touch with the earliest stage of the Jesus movement when aphoristic discourse was the norm. I shall refer to this period in the social history of the movement as stage 1. The blocks of material in Q1 build upon this aphoristic core by adding arguments to confirm its insights and by developing rules for living creatively in the light of its critical assessment of the everyday world. I shall refer to the social experience reflected in the blocks of Q1 material as stage 2. To catch the flavor of discourse from the pre-Q1 period of the Jesus movement (stage 1), it will help to list the following aphorisms (paraphrased in some cases in order to highlight the point and encourage a fresh look):
    How fortunate the poor; they have the kingdom. (QS 08)

    Everybody embraces their kin. (QS 09)

    The standard you use will be the standard used against you. (QS 10)

    Can the blind lead the blind? (QS 11)

    A student is not better than his teacher. (QS 11)

    A good tree does not bear rotten fruit. (QS 13)

    Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but humans have no home. (QS 19)

    The harvest is abundant, the workers few. (QS 20)

    Everyone who asks receives. (QS 27)

    Nothing is secret that will not be revealed. (QS 35)

    People are worth much more than the birds. (QS 36)

    Life is more than food. (QS 39)

    The body is more than clothing. (QS 39)

    Where your treasure, there your heart. (QS 40)

    Everyone who glorifies himself will be humbled. (QS 50)

    Whoever tries to protect his life will lose it. (QS 52)

    If salt is saltless, it is good for nothing. (QS 53)

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  111    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    assessment is a better guide than status, and that life would be more rewarding if lived another way. In general it is clear that sympathies lie with the poor, the least, the humble, the servant, and those consigned to positions without privilege, more than with their social opposites. But more than this cannot be said without additional information.

    The aphoristic sayings just cited are phrased as maxims, which means they counted as statements that were considered generally true of the social world in view. If one now looks for aphoristic sayings that are phrased as imperatives, not maxims, a somewhat clearer picture of the better way to live begins to emerge. Instructions actually predominate in Q1, and most of the blocks of Q1 material are composed in support of instructions set forth as imperatives. Many of these imperatives are succinctly phrased and are aphoristic in character. Some of them appear to turn the observations in the maxims around and recommend a mode of behavior appropriate to the critical stance. This means that the better way of life was actually enjoined as livable. If we look for aphoristic imperatives that function as core pronouncements or clearly illustrate the theme in a cluster of Q1 sayings, the following sayings emerge (using paraphrase again to make the point):
    Rejoice when reproached. (QS 08)

    Love your enemies. (QS 09)

    Bless those who curse you. (QS 09)

    If struck on one cheek, offer the other. (QS 09)

    Give to everyone who begs. (QS 09)

    Judge not and you won't be judged. (QS 10)

    First remove the stick from your eye. (QS 12)

    Leave the dead to bury their dead. (QS 19)

    Go out as lambs among wolves. (QS 20)

    Carry no money, bag, or sandals. (QS 20)

    Greet no one on the road. (QS 20)

    Eat what is set before you. (QS 20)

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  113    

    Ask and it will be given to you. (QS 27)

    Don't be afraid. (QS 36)

    Don't worry about your life. (QS 39)

    Make sure of God's rule over you. (QS 39)

    Sell your possessions and give to charity. (QS 40)
    These admonitions build upon observations about life in the larger world and the need to be careful about accepting conventional codes of honor and ethics at face value. As instructions, the admonitions assume that the social world is an arena in which the people of Q will encounter those who are living by traditional rules. It is a jungle out there and the behavior enjoined is risky. One can expect to meet up with wolves and those who may curse and reproach you. The advice is to be cautious but also courageous. One should not respond in kind, but take the reproach in stride and with confidence that one is right. One should discard unnecessary trappings and live the simple, unencumbered life. When asked, give; when in need, ask. The challenge is not to be consumed with worry.

    One wonders at the crisp formulations of such a curious challenge. The forthright imperatives evince a sense of seriousness, but why one should take them seriously is not expressly stated. In order to understand their attraction and significance we need a fuller picture of the way of life that is being recommended. If we expand the data base somewhat, by noting the way in which these core aphorisms are elaborated in the larger blocks of Q1, a number of themes surface for repeated emphasis. The list includes such items as the following:
    Voluntary poverty (QS 38, QS 39, QS 40)

    Lending without expectation of return (QS 9)

    Critique of riches (QS 8, QS 38, QS 40)

    Etiquette for begging (QS 9, QS 27)

    Etiquette for troublesome encounters in public (QS 20)

    Nonretaliation (QS 9, QS 10, QS 20)


    Rejoicing in the face of reproach (QS 8)

    Severance of family ties (QS 19, QS 52)

    Renunciation of needs (QS 8, QS 19, QS 39, QS 40)

    Call for authenticity (QS 13, QS 35, QS 53)

    Critique of hypocrisy (QS 12)

    Fearless and carefree attitude (QS 36, QS 39)

    Confidence in God's care (QS 26, QS 27)

    Sense of vocation (QS 19, QS 20)

    Discipleship without pretension (QS 11, QS 14, QS 38, QS 50, QS 52)

    Singlemindedness in the pursuit of God's kingdom (QS 19, QS 39, QS 40, QS 52, QS 53)
    These themes point to a way of life that historians recognize as a pattern of behavior highly recommended by popular philosophers during the hellenistic and Greco-Roman periods. Q1 enjoins a practical ethic of the times widely known as Cynic.

    New Testament scholars have often remarked on the Cynic parallels to much of the material in Q1. Since such similarity often comes as a surprise to Christian readers of the gospels, accustomed as they are to hearing the words of Jesus against the background of the prophetic speech of the Hebrew scriptures, few have concluded that the Cynic analogy should be taken seriously. A Cynic look-alike Jesus would, in any case, present something of an embarrassment due to the fact that the Cynics are remembered mostly for their unlovable ways. The modern caricature of the ancient Cynics usually calls to mind the unsavory figure of Diogenes of Sinope and dwells upon his habits of biting sarcasm and public obscenities. To be cynical in modern parlance is also fraught with negative connotation. Cynicism is equated with disengaged negativity, giving up rather than confronting the challenges of life. To be cynical is never thought to be helpful when questions about the meaning of life are seriously under review.

    The modern caricature of the ancient Cynics is inaccurate and the modern use of the word cynic to describe the ancient Cynics is unfair. A more,balanced view would see the Cynics as the Greek analogue to the Hebrew prophets. Cynics played a very important social

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  115    

    role as critics of conventional values and oppressive forms of governance for approximately one thousand years, from the fifth century, B.C.E. to the sixth century C.E. Their popular philosophy produced such figures as Antisthenes, Diogenes, Crates, Bion, Teles, Meleager, Musonius Rufus, Dio Chrysostomos, Demonax, Peregrinus Proteus, Sostratus, and Theagenes -- all important figures in the history of Greek thought. Their gifts and graces ranged from the endurance of a life of renunciation in full public view, through the courage to offer social critique in high places (called parresia, or "boldness of speech") to the learning and sophistication required for the espousal of Cynic views at the highest level of literary composition. Justly famous as irritants to those who lived by the system and enjoyed the blessings of privilege, prosperity, and power, the Cynics were highly regarded for their achievement in honing the virtue of self-sufficiency (autarcheia in the midst of uncertain times. Epictetus' third discourse is a remark able revelation of a Stoic's high esteem for the Cynic's calling as an important social role even during the imagined halcyon age of the Roman imperium.

    The crisp sayings of Jesus in Q1 show that his followers thought of him as a Cynic-like sage. Cynics were known for begging, voluntary poverty, renunciation of needs, severance of family ties, fearless and carefree attitudes, and troublesome public behavior. Standard themes in Cynic discourse included a critique of riches, pretension, and hypocrisy, just as in Q1. The Cynic style of speech was distinctly aphoristic, as is that in Q1. And Cynics were schooled in such topics as handling reproach, nonretaliation, and authenticity in following their vocation, matters at the forefront of Jesus' instructions in Q1. If Jest was remembered as a Cynic-like sage, we need to make sure we understand why the Cynics behaved as they did.

    The public image was that of the lone beggar who had renounced the comforts of life to pit himself against the elements and practice the virtues of living with little. The Cynic wore a telltale cloak and carried a pouch for the day's morsels and the morrow's coins. A stick and sandals were also allowed, but that was all. A favorite form of anecdote called chreia, used these props to characterize the Cynic's resolve, depict him in the most destitute of straits, and explore the wit required to live with hunger, cold, and public reproach. Thus, when one of his students complained of the cold, Antisthenes told him to fold his cloak



    double. When a child used his hands to get a drink of water, Diogenes threw his cup away and said that a child had bested him in the contest for living simply. When someone slapped him in reproach, Diogenes asked himself out loud why he had forgotten to wear his helmet that day. We have hundreds of anecdotes that follow this form. The ancient Greeks got their point and delighted in their cleverness.

    These popular philosophers of a natural way of life did not wander off to suffer in silence. Their props were a setup for a little game of gotcha with the citizens of the town. Those who dared to give the Cynic any attention at all usually found themselves in contradiction. It mattered little whether a bystander or a passerby was generous or abusive. A scurrilous remark could be turned to advantage by exposing the underlying cultural taboo as ridiculous. An offer to help would also receive a put-down by triggering some remark about those who have and those who do not. Either way, the Cynic's purpose was to point out the disparities sustained by the social system and refuse to let the system put him in his place. According to one story, bystanders had commended a person for giving Diogenes a handout, whereupon he said, "Have you no praise for the one who was worthy to receive such a gift?" Thus the marketplace was the Cynic's platform, the place to display a living example of freedom from social and cultural constraints, and a place from which to address townspeople about the current state of affairs.

    As might be expected, the Cynic was a favorite target for ridicule. That, of course, was just what the Cynic wanted. Public performance and close encounter with the barefaced straights was exactly what the Cynic vocation called for. The Cynic response often seemed harsh and aggressive, but to make his point there was always a touch of humor as well. The challenge for a Cynic was to see the humor in a situation and quickly turn it to advantage. A large number of Cynic anecdotes feature this ability. Some examples are the following stories about Diogenes of Sinope recorded by Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of Eminent Philosophers.

    When told that people were laughing at him, Diogenes said, "But I am not laughed down."

    When asked why he was begging from a statue, he said, "To get practice in being refused."

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  117    

    When asked what kind of wine he preferred, he replied, "The kind another pays for."

    When someone said that life was bad, he replied, "Not life itself, but living as you do."

    In our time there is no single social role with which to compare the ancient Cynics. But we do recognize the social critic and take for granted a number of ways in which social and cultural critique are expressed. These compare nicely with various aspects of the Cynic's profession. For example, we are accustomed to the social critique of political cartoonists, stand-up comedians, and especially of satire in the genre of the cabaret. All of these use humor to make their point. We are also accustomed to social critique in a more serious and philosophical vein, such as that represented by political commentary. And there is precedent for taking up an alternative life-style as social protest, from the utopian movement of the nineteenth century, to the counterculture movement of the 1960s, to the environmentalist protest of the 1980s and 1990s. The list could be greatly expanded, for much modern entertainment also sets its scenes against the backdrop of the unexamined taboos and prejudices prevailing in our time. Each of these approaches to a critical assessment of our society (satire, commentary, and alternative life-style), bears some resemblance to the profession of the Cynic sage in late antiquity.

    Those who study the Cynic's wit soon discover that humor was more than an adornment to their game. Gotcha had rules, and the rules demanded that the Cynic see and take advantage of the humor in a situation. To play the game and win, the Cynic would have to accept a reproach by letting it stand as a statement that was true, a description of his behavior with which he would have to agree. "Well, you are right. I did do that. I did say that." But then, by a series of rapid mental gymnastics, the Cynic would (1) seize on some feature of his opponent's statement that revealed an assumption with which the Cynic did not agree, (2) shift to another way of looking at the situation (or to a different set of circumstances in which the statement would not apply), and (3) come up with a retort that exposed the challenger's statement as a naive cliche.

    A fine example of this strategy is found in the story about Diogenes who, when reproached for entering unclean places (probably



    a euphemism for a house of prostitution), said, "But the sun enters the privies without being defiled." The retort lets the statement of his challenger stand but shifts attention to a case in which "entrance" into an "unclean" place does not result in becoming unclean. For a moment the confusion of categories strikes one as funny. It also creates a sense of uncertainty about the assumptions underlying the challenger's reproach.

    In the anecdotes cited earlier, the critical twists from challenge to response shift in idiom (laughing at/laughing down), purpose (begging to get/begging as an exercise), classification (kinds of things/ kinds of human exchange), and quality (life in general/a certain lifestyle). The lack of fit when applying a common taboo to an inappropriate situation, or the gap between a challenge and the Cynic's response, creates humor. But the humor covers a devastating, if momentary, insight into the partiality of conventional perceptions and thereby offers a critical perspective on their underlying logic.

    Noting the Cynic's wit should not divert our attention from their sense of vocation and purpose. Epictetus wrote that the Cynic could be likened to a spy or scout from another world or kingdom, whose assignment was to observe human behavior and render a judgment upon it. The Cynic could also be likened to a physician sent to diagnose and heal a society's ills. If asked for his credentials, the Cynic might well claim to be a messenger sent by the gods. Epictetus, at least, had no hesitation in finding such language fully appropriate, although for a Greek such a reference to divine vocation could easily be made without creating mystique or claiming supernatural status.

    Thus there was method in the Cynics' madness. In fact, leading Cynics were often regarded as philosophers, and Cynicism was frequently accorded rank among the schools of Greek philosophy. The Stoics sometimes claimed the Cynics as their precursors in order to trace their own school of thought back to Socrates. But everyone knew that Cynic intellectuals did not organize schools in the grand tradition and were not impressed with abstract conceptual systems put forth to explain an ordered universe. They were much more interested in the question of virtue (arete), or how an individual should live given the failure of social and political systems to support what they called a natural way of life. They borrowed freely from any and every popular ethical philosophy, such as that of the Stoics, to get a

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  119    

    certain point across. That point was the cost to one's intelligence and integrity if one blindly followed social convention and accepted its customary rationalizations.

    Cynics had no trouble appealing to the intelligence of the people. They trusted the capacity of the average person to see through the rhetoric of common discourse and assess a human situation at its grubby level of personal desire and manipulation. Their task was not to pose as teachers of truths people did not know, but to challenge people to live in accordance with what they did know. They constantly called attention to the accidental nature of social status and the ephemeral rewards of material success. They criticized social structures of hierarchy, domination, and inequity by poking fun at the superficial codes of honor and shame that supported them. They took every opportunity to deflate the egos of the privileged. And they delighted in exposing the ulterior motive of calculated action.

    What counted most, they said, was a sense of personal worth and integrity. One should not allow others to determine one's worth on the scale of social position. One already possessed all the resources one needed to live sanely and well by virtue of being a human being. Why not be true to the way in which the world actually impinges upon you? Say what you want and what you mean. Respond to a situation as you see it in truth, not as the usual proprieties dictate. Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. Speak up and act out.

    Verve was therefore the Cynic virtue. It was generated by a sense of self-reliance, but involved the capacity for taking a lively interest in any and every encounter with another human being. Verve could also be used as a standard to diagnose human well-being, rank human achievement, and assess the merits of social systems and their cultural symbols. Nevertheless, the Cynic critique of cultural conventions finally came to rest, not on society as a system, but on the shoulders of the individual who was willing to live "according to nature." The invitation was to take courage and swim against the social currents that threatened to overwhelm and silence a person's sense of verve.

    Such a philosophy was custom-made for Galilean circumstance during the late hellenistic period. The age-old Galilean strategies for accommodating foreign rulers would have been hard pressed under the accelerated shifts in governance that were taking place. Shrugs with respect to the loyalties demanded by foreign kings, priests, and



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  121    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    considered a complete argumentation. Analogies were usually taken from the natural order, while examples were taken from life. If a complete argumentation was well done, it was thought to be persuasive. QS 39 is a complete argument on the thesis that one should not worry:
    Thesis: One should not worry about life (food) or body (clothing).

    Reason: Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.

    Analogy: Ravens do not work for food; God provides for them. You are worth more than birds.

    Example: No one can add a day to life by worrying.

    Analogy: Lilies do not work, yet are clothed.

    Example: Solomon in all his splendor was not as magnificent as the lilies.

    Analogy: Notice the grass. If God puts beautiful clothes on the grass, won't he put clothes on you?

    Conclusion: One should not worry about food and drink.

    Example: All the nations worry about such things.

    Exhortation: Instead, make sure of God's rule over you, and all these things will be yours as well.
    New notions and features of discourse enter the tradition in this argumentation in support of the movement's ethos. Especially important are (1) the reference to the rule or kingdom of God, (2) the express appeal to nature as a manifestation of the divine, and (3) the use of an example from epic history (Solomon). These features show that reflection on the movement had occurred and that a way had been found to give a reasoned account of its otherwise odd persuasions ("Don't worry about food and clothing"). It is important to see that the processes of social formation and rationalization go hand in hand, and that this is not the only block of material in Q1 in which such intellectual activity can be detected.

    Every block of Q1 material exhibits the same strategy: QS 8 moves from the aphoristic "How fortunate the poor" to a tripartite characterization of the Jesus people (the poor, the hungry, and those with reason to mourn), and finally to a blessing on those who suffer

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  123    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    mentioned in seven sayings at the Q1 level, as presented (sometimes paraphrased) in the following list:

    How fortunate the poor; theirs is God's kingdom. (QS 8)

    No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for God's kingdom. (QS 19)

    If you enter a town and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, attend to the sick, and say that "God's kingdom has come near to you." (QS 20)

    But if you enter a town and they do not welcome you... say, "Nevertheless, be sure of this, that God's rule has come to you." (QS 20)

    When you pray, say, "Father.... may your kingdom take place, give us each day our daily bread." (QS 26)

    Make sure of his rule over you, and these things will be yours as well. (QS 39)

    What is God's kingdom like? It is like a grain of mustard.... It is like yeast which a woman hid in three measures of flour. (QS 46)
    The first thing to notice is that none of these references paints an apocalyptic view of the world, the traditional scholarly understanding of the kingdom of God as discussed in chapter 2. Neither do any assume an apocalyptic view of the world as a larger frame of reference in order to enhance the significance of the activity to which the term refers. Thus the old apocalyptic hypothesis can safely be set aside. Only in the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast does the rule of God become the object for consideration, and there it is compared to the natural process of growth. In all other instances the meaning of the term is taken for granted, and its mention is ancillary to the making of other points. The other points all have to do with common human circumstances. In each case the rule stands for something that can be accomplished, something that contrasts with the conventional, meriting a change of attitude or behavior worthy of a new vision. God's kingdom can be announced, desired, affirmed, claimed, and signaled in a given human exchange. Thus the link between the notion of the rule of God and the pattern of Q1's countercultural practices is very, very strong.

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  125    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    Stoics internalized the image of the king and idealized the individual who ruled his passions and controlled his attitudes even in circumstances where others governed his existence. Their strategy was to be hopeful about the constructive influence of such individuals on society. A popular Stoic maxim was "The only true king is the wise man." Cynics were not as sanguine about the philosopher's chance of influencing social reform, but they also used the royal metaphor to advantage. In their case, taking control of one's life required extrication from the social scene. They lived "according to nature," they said, and the natural order was imagined as a realm of divine rule in opposition to the prevailing social order. As Epictetus put it, the Cynic's staff was his "scepter," his mission was to represent the great king Zeus, and the Cynic's "sovereignty" was the imperious bearing with which he "ruled" in the public arena by telling and showing others how they should live.

    The use of the term kingdom of God in Q1 matches its use in the traditions of popular philosophy, especially in the Cynic tradition of

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  127    

    performing social diagnostics in public by means of countercultural behavior. The aphoristic imperatives recommended a stance toward life in the world that could become the basis for an alternative community ethos and ethic among those willing to consider an alternative social vision. Thus the spread of connotation must be kept in mind when encountering the term God's kingdom in Q. The language of the kingdom of God in Q captures precisely the ambiguities involved in the range of connotation from ruling as behavior to rule as domain: from individual to group, behavior to ethos, practice to conceptual order, human society to divine order. The thought had not yet occurred at the Q1 level, as it did later at the Q2 stage, that the location of God's kingdom was to be found precisely in the social formation of the movement. But it is clear that an overlap had already occurred between the concept of the rule of God as an alternative realm or way of life everywhere available to daring individuals, on the one hand, and the ethos of the movement as the particular manifestation of God's kingdom on the other. That is why the language of the rule of God in Q1 refers not only to the challenge of risky living without expectation that the social world will change but also to the exemplification of a way of life that like-minded persons might want to share.

    The God in question is not identified in terms of any ethnic or cultural tradition. This fits nicely with Galilean provenance, and since the metaphors of God's rule are largely taken from the realm of nature, the conception of God in Q1 is also compatible with the Cynic tone of the teachings. The match between the Cynics and the Q people is not exact, however, mainly because the Cynics had no interest in emphasizing the divine aspect of either the natural order or the rule they represented. The people of Q, on the other hand, did emphasize that the rule they represented was the rule of God. There is little more to be learned about the nature of this God from the sayings about his kingdom, but other sayings about God in Q1 (paraphrased below) represent him as a father:
    Love your enemies, do good, and lend, without expecting anything in return. Your reward will be great and you will be children of God. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good; he sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (QS 9)


    Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. (QS 10)

    Father... give us... pardon us... do not bring us to trial. (QS 26)

    If you who are not good know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the father in heaven give good things to those who ask him. (QS 27)

    If God puts beautiful clothes on the grass... won't he put clothes on you...? Your father knows that you need these things. (QS 39)
    The concept of God as a father was widespread at the time, so the Jesus people were not laying claim to any particular tradition of religious thinking or inventing a new theology. Their conception is universal in the sense that all of nature is God's domain and all kinds of people are under his care. And yet, the way in which the Q people talked about God strikes a note of seriousness that is not evident in the earlier aphoristic materials. This seriousness is not about coming to a proper understanding of God, for the father is merely the guarantor of the better way of life demonstrated by the movement. The seriousness is about the movement itself and the care of its members. God is emphasized as being a father because the members of the movement are in need of a father's care. The Q people are not yet thinking of themselves as a family, but they are getting close.

    In Q1 the embryonic social formation of the movement has to be inferred from the nature of the discourse. In Q2, on the other hand, a vivid picture of the Jesus movement comes into view as a fully self-conscious movement. Before we move to that stage of the group's history, however, there is one more important window into the early period of socialization that Q1 provides, and this is the instruction about working for God's kingdom in QS 20. This instruction contains the saying about being sent out as lambs among wolves, a formulation that retains its Cynic flavor and is best understood as an address to individuals. However, it also contains a saying about a large harvest with few workers, a saying that implies some kind of program. And appended to the harvest saying is the injunction to beg the master of the harvest to send out laborers. Recent studies of this instruction have argued convincingly that of these two sayings, the one about the lambs and wolves is the earlier. This means that the developmental sequence discernible in Q1 as a whole is also true of this instructional

    DANCING  TO  THE  PIPES  129    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    It is clear that these instructions were formulated as guidance for a movement that had spread throughout Galilee, and that Jesus people who were not personal acquaintances might be found in other towns. Spreading would have taken place in the normal course of contact and travel wherever talk about God's rule caught the attention of persons willing to listen. Apparently, many were quite attracted to the Jesus people and their talk about the rule of God. Their diagnosis of the social situation must have made sense and their challenge to risk reproach by taking in hand what one could of one's own life must have sounded right. But as groups formed in different places and the teachings of Jesus became the topic of conversation, recognition of kindred spirits became an issue, and the arena of activity shifted from the public sphere to the house group. The earlier Cynic-like life-style, geared as it was for a critical encounter with the world, would have become inappropriate. What it meant to live in accordance with the rule of God would now have to be worked out in relation to persons and problems within the group. Thus the codification of Cynic-like injunctions as community rules in Q1 can be understood as a response to the problems of social formation. As we shall see, these problems surface in Q2 as the primary cause for a marked shift in both the discourse and the life-style of the Jesus movement.

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 131 ]


    Singing a Dirge

    A sudden shift in tone awaits the reader of Q2. The new temperament is so strongly profiled that a comparison with the sayings in Q1 is unavoidable and the contrast in mood overwhelming. It is a shift for which one has not been prepared, and the effect is stunning.

    The aphoristic style of Q1 falls away almost to the point of disappearing. Aphoristic imperatives are gone, as is the sense of confidence in God's care derived from the way in which nature provides for basic needs. In its place one hears the voice of a prophet pronouncing judgment on a recalcitrant world, a prophet who does not refrain from castigation and the sledge of apocalyptic threat.

    The shift in tone is matched by a panoply of new forms of speech. In contrast to Q1 the reader now encounters narratives, dialogue, controversy stories, examples taken from epic tradition, descriptive parables, warnings, and apocalyptic announcements. If one looks for corresponding changes in the rhetoric and style of discourse one is not disappointed. Instead of exhortation ("Don't worry"), there is pronouncement ("The last will be first, and the first will be last"). Instead of imperatives ("Love your enemies"), there is direct statement ("I came to strike fire on the earth"). Indirect address ("Who then is the faithful servant") is interspersed with direct address ("You must be ready"). Formulas of reciprocity, such as "The standard you use is the standard used against you," are tightened and shift their setting of consequence from what happens in the public sphere to what



    will happen in the kingdom of God. And all of these judgments and verdicts are rendered with an authority that does not brook appeal.

    New ideas also are encountered. The expanded horizon introduces figures from the epic tradition. A man named John enters the picture. There is reference to the wisdom of God and the holy spirit. There are two miracle stories and warnings about what to say when put on trial. The rule of God is now spoken of as a kingdom to be fully revealed at some other place and time, presumably at the end of time. And a final judgment is described replete with thrones, court scenes, banishments, and a threatening figure called the son of man.

    A listing of the major blocks of material in Q2 illustrates the shift that took place and the constant presence of the theme of judgment.

    1. John's Preaching

    2. What John and Jesus Thought About Each Other

    3. Pronouncements Against Towns That Reject the Movement

    4. Congratulations to Those Who Accept the Movement

    5. Controversy with This Generation

    6. Making Sure Whose Side You Are On

    7. Judgment on This Generation

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  133    

    8. True Enlightenment

    9. Pronouncements Against the Pharisees

    10. On Anxiety and Speaking Out

    11. The Coming Judgment
    QS 41  THE HOUR

    12. The Two Ways

    13. Community Rules
    QS 55  EITHER/OR
    QS 59  ON FAITH

    14. The Final Judgment

    The theme of judgment is very closely related to an apocalyptic imagination. The threat of coming up short in a final judgment flows like an undercurrent from the preaching of John to the parable of the talents. Many of the prophetic pronouncements, images of destruction, and the parables of exclusion take their seriousness from this apocalyptic backdrop even when it is not made explicit. It is also the apocalyptic framework that forced a reconception of God and made it possible to imagine the rule of God as a realm to be fully revealed only at the end of time.

    The inverse is also true, however, and this is an important point to understand. The apocalyptic imagination is very closely related to



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  135    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  137    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  139    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  141    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  143    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  145    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    SINGING  A  DIRGE  147    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    [ 148 ]


    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 149 ]


    Claiming a Place

    To watch a myth in the making is a rare privilege. It is especially so when the myth that emerges constitutes the core of the complex mythology foundational to one's own culture. Since that is exactly what Q2 allows us to observe, the discovery of the lost gospel is a rich find indeed.

    Mythmaking in the Jesus movement at the Q2 stage was an act of creative borrowing and the clever rearrangement of fascinating figures from several other vibrant mythologies of the time. The two figures of primary importance for constructing the mythology of Q were the wisdom of God and the son of man. These figures, together with the concept of the spirit of God, were used to link the epic traditions of Israel with an apocalyptic finale and so create a single comprehensive vision of history that put the people of Q in the right place at the right time. The role of Jesus was appropriately reconceived, and because it now had to combine the functions of a wisdom teacher with those of an apocalyptic prophet, the figure of John was introduced. Each of these important figures, wisdom, son of man, and John, enter the Q tradition at the Q2 level. Each figure is intricately related to the others and to a new significance that is given to the expanded instructions of Jesus. This chapter explains the contribution of each to the mythmaking process and shows how the myth in turn affected the community of Q.

    The figure of the wisdom of God was created by Jewish scrilles in the aftermath of the Babylonian exile. The destruction of Jerusalem



    and the exile (587-539 B.C.E.) canceled out the effectiveness of the scribal wisdom that had been generated during the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Scribal wisdom refers both to a body of knowledge and to the idiom in which Israel and other peoples in the ancient near east thought about life, ethics, and human relations. Scribal wisdom assumed the existence of a temple-state, and intellectuals in the scribal tradition imagined the perfect society on the temple-state model. With Jerusalem in ruins and its social structures destroyed, however, Jewish intellectuals of the post-exilic period were confronted with more questions than answers. To acknowledge the crisis, some said that wisdom was no longer to be found in the world. To keep the memory of wisdom alive while the long slow process of rebuilding a safe and sane society was undertaken in the so-called restoration of Jerusalem, the scribes imagined that wisdom was now to be found only with God. Naturally, there were poems about unsuccessful attempts to find wisdom in the world (Job 28). But then, gradually, other poems began to appear about God and wisdom together creating the world as an ordered habitation (Prov. 8:22-31), about wisdom appearing incognito at the city gates and crying out to be recognized (Prov. 1:20-33), and eventually about wisdom taking up residence again in the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem (Sir. 24). Thus a mythology of wisdom emerged.

    This fascinating figure enjoyed great popularity during the Greco-Roman period. A rich mythology of wisdom reflected the desire to see the world as a divine creation; the epic of Israel as a story of divine rescues; the second temple-state as the model civilization; the books of Moses as divine instruction; and the prophets, priests, and kings of the story as playing a necessary role in the divine economy for ruling a society in peace and justice. Because wisdom was personified as a woman (drawing on the mythologies of the Egyptian goddesses Maat and Isis), it was possible to imagine her actively engaged in putting the pieces of a fragmented world back together. Popular narrative themes portrayed wisdom in the act of creating, generating, building, making the rounds of heaven, seeking a people with whom to dwell, fleeing from violence, finding a house in Israel, sending messengers, rescuing, teaching, working, offering her produce, preparing meals, and, yes, even inviting her husband and her children to come and cuddle.

    One can trace some very ingenious configurations of this mythology in Jewish literature of the time. The imaginary worlds created

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  151    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  153    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  155    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  157    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  159    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  161    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    collection of sayings. But they were not ready for that, or in need of it. Their connection to Jesus was firmly in place by virtue of being in possession of his instructions. So the form of their mythology was perfectly appropriate for their movement. The relationships Jesus sustained to the grand sweep of epic-apocalyptic history were thought through solely in relation to the importance of Jesus for the people of Q as their founder- teacher. Thus every mythological association was formulated and expressed as a saying of Jesus. One can see that, in daring to ascribe such importance to Jesus and his sayings, the people of Q were in the process of taking themselves quite seriously.

    One can only be astonished at the claims these people were making for the importance of Jesus. It is a long jump from Cynic-sage to apocalyptic visionary. And yet, by filling in the stages of their social history, we can see that each incremental shift in their reimagination of Jesus does not appear drastic. Basic to the entire enterprise was the attraction of a teacher and his teachings, teachings that generated a discourse that soon created a social movement.

    The common thread from the Cynic sage to the apocalyptic visionary was an elaboration of Jesus' wisdom. The modern reader may struggle to see the connections among the many kinds of knowledge ascribed to Jesus by the Q people. But others of their time would have recognized that, throughout all of their elaborations, they continued to regard Jesus as a sage. As a matter of fact, their ascriptions of knowledge to Jesus would not have been tested on a scale of plausibility that ran from reason to special revelation, or that asked how Jesus could have known what they said he knew, as we might want to do, but rather in terms of the appropriateness of his insights with regard to their view of the world. The people of Q were very consistent in attributing knowledge to Jesus from their perspective of a countercultural assessment of the world.

    The Cynic-like aphorisms counted as gifted insight into the human, social situation. The Cynic-like injunctions were crafted as sage strategies for the survival of social critics. The elaboration of the injunctions into ethical codes for the countercultural movement drew upon a knowledge that took the form of a theology of nature. No one would have thought that strange. Epic precedence was achieved by viewing its critical principle, the line of prophets, from the vantage point of a transcendent wisdom reduced to sending envoys. The current

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  163    

    mythologies of wisdom made that possible. And the vision of a final judgment counted as wisdom because it fit the logic of the movement's need to position itself in history.

    The strange aspect from the modern reader's point of view is that Jesus was eventually pictured as knowing everything from the beginning to the end of time, including how he himself fit into God's grand scheme. Some knowledge! But this was not attributed all at once. It accrued in the course of using the sayings genre to fit all the pieces of a myth of origin together. The image of Jesus as the revealer of special, esoteric, and transcendent knowledge of all the world and human history did not evolve because the people of Q had been mesmerized by a charismatic guru. It was an accidental accumulation of wisdom created by the simple device of mythmaking in the genre of instruction. By turning every bit of collective thinking into a crystallized instruction from Jesus, the people of Q overloaded their founder with wisdom. And because he became the pivotal figure in the particular mythologized history that the group worked out, the teacher's wisdom eventually included a preposterous self-understanding. The people of Q had not yet imagined that Jesus had appeared in human history as a transcendent mythological being, but that thought could easily occur now, should circumstances change. The distinctions were already very fuzzy between Jesus and the wisdom of God on the one hand, and Jesus and the son of man on the other.

    This being the case, the people of Q had constructed a very dangerous world in which to live. Although it is true that they had managed to claim for themselves a place in the sun, the place they chose was risky because it took its bearings from history, and the final word on human history was still to come. They had imagined a final judgment in order to guarantee their threat against the world outside. But judgment is judgment, and the standard was set. So the threat of judgment came back to haunt the people of Q themselves. They were the ones who knew the standard, and that was their privilege. It was keeping the words of Jesus that mattered. But they really had to keep them now. Not to keep them would have grave consequences indeed.

    The authors of Q2 were well aware that the threat of a final judgment had to be taken seriously by the Q community. Two features of their composition were designed with this problem in mind. The first is that the organization of materials in Q2. forces the reader to



    interpret Jesus' instructions to the community (the Q1 sayings) in the light of the theme of judgment (the Q2 sayings). The second is that Jesus' instructions to the community at the Q2 level include both warnings about the final judgment and words of assurance that everything will work out all right for those who continue to keep Jesus' words. This can be shown by outlining the organization of materials as Q2 put them together.

    Table 1 shows the organization of materials in Q by calling attention to the way in which Q2 material frames Q1 material from beginning to end. The framing is detailed in that the blocks of Q1 sayings are placed appropriately among Q2 material in order to provide an interpretive context. The outline also highlights the change of address at the Q2 level and shows how it becomes a pattern by repetition. The pattern follows a cycle that begins with an address to the world at large, takes a turn to address the community in the light of the judgment theme, and ultimately comes to focus on the Q1 sayings of Jesus as community rules. These Q1 instructions were not retained by copyists because they wanted to pass on "sacred" or "received traditions," as many modern scholars have thought. The Q1 material was included because it was still valid instruction for the community. This material represented the words of Jesus that one had to keep in order to stand trial at the judgment. The codes worked out at the Q1 level were not left behind when the people of Q started thinking about judgment. Far from being passe, the Q1 instructions were now all the more important. One can see this by reading through the document as a whole to note just how serious the keeping of the Q1 instructions had become. The effect on the reader familiar only with the voice of Jesus typified by Q1 material would have been sobering.

    A final observation on the text can bring this chapter to a close by demonstrating how the people of Q responded to their own mythology. In the section on anxiety and speaking out (QS 35-37), there is a subset of three small sayings clusters that form a remarkable unit of argumentation. Disclosure, fear, and trial are the topics, and the final judgment is in view. In the last cluster one learns that the people of Q are worried about what to say should they be asked to give an account of themselves before synagogues ("assemblies" of the people, presumably of the Jewish people in a town). The advice

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  165    

    TABLE 1.

    The outline highlights two features of the design at the Q2 level. One is the way in which Q2 material frames units of interspersed Q1 material. The other is a pattern of address that shifts back and forth between the community and its public:
    Q1 = Primary instructions addressed to the community.

    Q2a = Judgmental sayings that address "this generation."

    Q2b = Instructions to the community in the light of the judgmental sayings addressed to "this generation."
    Q1   Q2a   Q2b  
            John's Preaching
    Jesus' Teaching
            What John and Jesus Thought
    Instructions for the Movement
            Pronouncements Against Towns
                    Congratulations to Persons
    Confidence in the Father's Care
            Controversies with This Generation
                    Caution on Taking Sides
            Judgment on This Generation
                    True Enlightenment
            Pronouncements Against the Pharisees
    On Anxiety and Speaking Out
                    On Public Confessions
    On Personal Goods
            The Coming Judgment
    Parables of the Kingdom
            The Two Ways
    The True Followers of Jesus
                    Community Rules
            The Final Judgment
    (QS 1-2)
    (QS 3-5)
    (QS 7-14)
    (QS 15-18)
    (QS 19-20)
    (QS 21-22)
    (QS 23, 25)
    (QS 26-27)
    (Q5 28)
    (QS 29-30)
    (QS 32)
    (QS 33)
    (QS 34)
    (QS 35-36)
    (QS 37)
    (QS 38-40)
    (QS 41-45)
    (QS 46)
    (QS 47-48)
    (QS 50-53)
    (QS 54-55, 57-59)
    (Q5 60-61)



    throughout the unit is that one needs to be careful what one says at all times, but especially about how one talks about Jesus. The clusters read as follows:



    "Nothing is hidden that will not be made known, or secret that will not come to light.

    What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. And what you hear as a whisper, proclaim on the housetops."

    QS 36  ON FEAR

    "Don't be afraid of those who can kill the body, but can't kill the soul.

    Can't you buy five sparrows for two cents? Not one of them will fall to the ground without God knowing about it. Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows."


    "Every one who admits in public that they know me, the son of man will acknowledge before the angels of God [heavenly court]. But the one who disowns me in public, the son of man will disown before the angels of God.

    Whoever makes a speech against the son of man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the holy spirit will not be forgiven.

    When they bring you before the assemblies of the people [synagogues or town meetings], don't worry about what you are to say. When the time comes, the holy spirit will teach you what you are to say."

    The first two clusters contain sayings about secrets coming to light and not being afraid of any person. The original meaning of these sayings fits well into a Q1 context as general cautionary advice. At the Q2 level, however, they have taken on a more somber tone. Now they seem to apply to the situation of conflict with "this generation" as well as to the final judgment. And they serve as points of departure for the section on public hearings that follows immediately in QS 37. By treating these three clusters as a set, we can see that there are two trials under consideration, (1) the final judgment and (2) questioning

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  167    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    CLAIMING  A  PLACE  169    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 171 ]


    Coming to Terms

    The Roman-Jewish war brought to an end a glorious epoch in Jewish history and created consternation for Jews and Jesus people alike. The war lasted the better part of ten years, from the riots and skirmishes of 66 C.E., through the battles that raged around and within Jerusalem for four years, to the fall of Masada in 73 C.E. Reading the history of the war written by Josephus, one gets the impression that the internecine conflicts within Judea and Jerusalem were as devastating to the social order as the armies of the Romans were to the city walls and defenses. When it was over, the temple was in ruins, Jerusalem was a burned wasteland, and many of the people of Judea had been uprooted and scattered throughout Palestine, Transjordan, and the cities along the coast. It was a bloody end to the second temple-state, and there was no official leadership left to put its pieces back together. There were, as a matter of fact, hardly any pieces left. What to think and do was the question.

    None of the many forms of Jewish society was unaffected by this event. The Jewish aristocracy, the priests, the Pharisees, the village councils, the scribes attached to the network of stations, the Qumran enclave, and the local leaders of diaspora synagogues had to rethink what it meant to be a Jew and how to reorganize Jewish society. Samaritans and Galileans had also been embroiled in the upheaval, caught in the middle between the Jerusalem establishment and the Romans. Erstwhile loyalties were hardly the only issue as the armies



    came and went. Whose side to be on was a practical question that wrenched every family, village, and town. Everyone was unsettled by the confusion and violence of the times. And the Jesus movements also had to find some way to weather the storm.

    Q3 provides a little window into the Q community after the war. It is too small a window to see as much of the social landscape as one would like, and it provides only hints of what it must have been like for the people of Q during the war. During that period of their history there was apparently little time for reflection or occasion for coming to agreements on attitudes and strategies appropriate for the movement. But some of the people of Q did manage to stay in touch with one another, and Q3 provides us with evidence that the movement survived. It also reveals that three or four shifts in attitude occurred in the period after the war, and these point to a particular path that the Q people had decided to take.

    In this chapter we shall look through that window. It is our last chance to catch a glimpse of the Jesus people according to Q, for the Q3 additions were the last embellishments on the document of which we can be certain before it was subsumed by the authors of the narrative gospels later in the century. It is, of course, possible that Q continued to be copied and consulted by Jesus people who resisted the attractions of the new myths created by the narrative gospels, and that they went their own way. It is also conceivable that the Q3 edition was not the last change to the document within that kind of group, and that Q continued to have its own illustrious history of revision independent of the use made of it by the authors of the narrative gospels. But if so, history passed those people by, for there are no records of a Jesus movement using only a document like Q after the narrative gospels appeared.

    What we do know is that the community of Q produced a very popular document that was widely read during the last quarter of the first century. It must have been copied many times and shared among several groups of Jesus people who were going separate ways. Mark, Matthew, and Luke each used a copy of Q independent of each other, and each made use of Q from a distinctly different perspective. So Q was still in circulation as a document at the end of the first century. But what that might say for the history of the Q community is very difficult to assess. The text of Q had been dislodged from the group

    COMING  TO  TERMS  173    

    that produced it; the period was one of vigorous social and intellectual experimentation within the Jesus movement; and the people of Q certainly were capable of shifting perspectives and entertaining new ideas. If one were to ask which of the narrative gospels most nearly represents an ethos toward which the community of Q may have tended, it would be the Gospel of Matthew. But to see that connection should not foreclose on other turns that may have been taken. Unfortunately, after Q3 we simply lose track of the Jesus people who produced the document called Q.

    What we can do is trace four fateful turns in the history of the Q document before it also slips from sight. Three of these junctures in its literary history are the ways in which it was used by each of the authors of the narrative gospels. The fourth has to do with its relation to the Gospel of Thomas. What happened to Q in relation to these other gospels needs to be kept in mind as we turn to the matter of revising the conventional picture of Christian origins in part IV of this book.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    COMING  TO  TERMS  175    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    The third and truly surprising novelty in Q3 is an attitude that the people of Q took with regard to the authority of the Jewish scriptures and the relevance of the written law. In the temptation story Jesus is pictured in debate with the accuser over the requirements of the law. In the saying on hearing and keeping the teaching of God the reference appears to be to the scriptures (QS 31). The charges against the Pharisees are effectively retracted by the Q3 addition that the codes on washings, alms, and offerings are to be kept (QS 34). And in the segment of sayings on the law, the written law stands even if heaven and earth were to pass away (QS 56). There is even a saying to the effect that remarriage after divorce counts as adultery (QS 56).

    It thus appears that the people of Q made some adjustments in their self-understanding. The period of conflict with "this generation" was past. The debate over the Pharisaic standards of piety was no longer wrenching. The community was still committed to its claim to represent the kingdom of God, but it was now aware of its own dislocation from the social and political landscape of its times. A retreat from social conflict to care for its own ethical integrity had apparently found the words of Jesus insufficient as a guide. Having already used the scriptures for the purpose of laying claim to the epic tradition of Israel, they were now reconsidered as ethical guidelines appropriate to the kingdom of God. The function of the scriptures as an epic with etiological focus on Jerusalem was a thing of the past; the scriptures' were now available for reappropriation. Thus a Jewish sensibility won out as the community settled in for the long run.

    This move toward an accommodation of Jewish sensibility, reflected in the last layer of compositional history, is a most remarkable feature of Q. Although such a move seems surprising in light of the earlier history of the Q people, it must have been an appealing solution to the confusion created by the destruction of Jerusalem. It is, at any rate, the earliest evidence for an accommodation of the Jewish law within the Jesus movement, an accommodation that, when we meet it again in the Gospel of Matthew, can be called Jewish-Christianity. Jewish-Christianity became a very popular, widespread, influential, and long-lived legacy of the Jesus movements. The community of Q had not yet become a Christian community of this kind, however, and a move to accommodate Jewish law was not the only option taken by the followers of Jesus.

    COMING  TO  TERMS  177    

    We must set the history of the Q community in the context of other groups of Jesus people who took different paths, experienced different social histories and group formations, and worked out different mythological rationales. The Christ cult, for instance, can only be understood as a Jesus movement that spread at an early period to northern Syria and Asia Minor where it quickly developed into a religious society on the model of a hellenistic mystery cult. The author of the Gospel of Mark was at home within some Jesus movement that had spread to the cities of southern Syria and tried, without success, to work out a common understanding with the local diaspora synagogues. To write his gospel, Mark used written traditions from yet another Jesus group that had experimented with a myth of origin in the genre of miracle story. And the Gospel of Thomas shows that a group very much like the people of Q, and perhaps a part of the Q movement during its very earliest phase, refused to get involved with the Q mission and then struck off on its own when the people of Q ran into opposition and began to call down judgments on "this generation." So the people of Q were only one configuration within a variety of groups that formed among the followers of Jesus. But the people of Q must have established one of the stronger traditions, because the document they produced came to be regarded by others as a very strong text.

    Strong texts attract strong readers, and strong readings intentionally subvert the original meaning of a text in the interest of creating a new vision by composing a new text. In the case of Q we have clear evidence of three very strong readings of the complete text (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) and one very strong reading of a sizable selection of the sayings in Q (the Gospel of Thomas). Q was the most important text in the hands of Mark, Matthew, and Luke as they composed their narrative gospels. Without Q they would not have been able to write the stories they did. And the Gospel of Thomas stands in the tradition of Q, subverting the original intention of its sayings in the interest of creating an entirely different ethos. A brief sketch of the way in which each of these authors purposely misread Q will be a fitting conclusion to the story of the lost gospel.

    Mark wrote his story of Jesus some time after the war and shortly after Q had been revised with the Q3 additions. If we date Q3 around 75 C.E. to give some time for the additions obviously prompted



    by the war, Mark can be dated between 75 and 80 C.E. Mark's community also had been confused by the war, but it drew a conclusion about the war's meaning that was quite different from the position taken by the people of Q. Mark thought that the destruction of the temple was exactly what the Jews deserved. He based this partially on an old Jewish idea that had been used to account for other disasters and was alive once more, namely that the failure of their leaders to respond correctly to God's intention for them had occasioned his wrath and resulted in the destruction of the temple. But also, Mark thought they deserved it because the Jewish synagogues with which his group had been in contact had rejected the Jesus movement. This forced his group to reconsider their identity apart from this link to Israel's heritage. He therefore wrote his story of Jesus to give the impression that all of the Jewish leaders had rejected Jesus and thus sealed the fate of second- temple Judaism.

    To show this he told the story of Jesus' crucifixion as if it were a plot on the part of the Jewish leaders to get rid of Jesus because he had challenged their religion, law, and institutional authority. He was able to get by with this because the Jerusalem establishment and temple were no longer in existence. He achieved this fiction by combining (1) a few traditions from the Christ cult, such as its view of Jesus' death as a martyrdom and its practice of a memorial meal; (2) material from several Jesus movements other than Q, such as the stories in which Jesus debated with his opponents, called pronouncement stories, and two sets of miracle stories; and (3) the material that comprised Q.

    For Mark, Q was extremely useful, for it had already positioned Jesus at the hinge of an epic-apocalyptic history, and it contained themes and narrative material that could easily be turned into a more eventful depiction of Jesus' public appearance. Q provided Mark with a large number of themes essential to his narrative. He was taken with the epic-apocalyptic mythology, the theme of prophetic prediction, and the announcement of judgment upon the scribes, Pharisees, and "this generation." The figure of the son of man intrigued him, as did the notion that the kingdom of God would be fully revealed only at the eschaton when the son of man (or Jesus, according to Mark) (re)appeared. Q also provided material that could easily be turned to advantage as building blocks in a coherent narrative account.

    COMING  TO  TERMS  179    

    The John-Jesus material was a great opener. The figure of the holy spirit was ready-made to connect the Q material on John and Jesus with the miracle stories Mark would use. Q1's characterization of Jesus as the all- knowing one could be used to enhance his authority as a self-referential speaker in the pronouncement stories Mark already had from his own community. The notion of Jesus as the son of God could be used to create mystique, divide the house on the question of Jesus' true identity, and develop narrative anticipation, the device scholars call Mark's "messianic secret." The instructions for the workers in the harvest could be turned into a mission charge, and the theme of discipleship could be combined and given narrative profile by introducing a few disciples into the story. The apocalyptic predictions at the end of Q could then become instructions to the disciples at that point in the story where Jesus turns to go to Jerusalem. And, as scholars know, there are a myriad of interesting points at which the so-called overlaps between Mark and Q show Mark's use of Q material for his own narrative designs.

    Naturally, Mark had to recast everything. An obvious switch is that Mark radically changed the Q material on John and Jesus. He pictured John as knowing his role as the predicted precursor for Jesus, invented a story about John actually baptizing Jesus, and used that scene to introduce Jesus to the reader and the world as the son of God endowed with the holy spirit. A very dramatic beginning. The temptation story would not work as Q had it, but it could be used in a truncated reference to make the transition from the Jordan to Galilee and dramatize Jesus' entrance there. The conflict with the scribes and Pharisees required a narrative setting and so would take place, according to Mark, in synagogues. And the mission that failed had to be revised. This turned out to be the hard part.

    To match Mark's plot, Jesus' appearance in Galilee had to be a public event in the grand style. It had to make sense as an occasion both for a successful mission and for a disturbance of sufficient gravity to launch the plot to have Jesus killed. Mark worked it out by dividing the populace into four groups. One was the people who were eager for Jesus' teachings and healings; in this sense the mission was a success. A second group, the Jewish leaders, understood enough to agree among themselves that Jesus had to be destroyed but not enough to accept his role as the king-to-be; in this sense the mission



    was a failure. A third group, the disciples, were given instructions about the future kingdom of God, but were too dense to get it straight; so in this sense the mission was one of failed instruction. Who then were the ones who knew for certain what was happening? According to Mark it was the fourth group, the demons, but they were forbidden to tell. What a story.

    One can see why Mark left out most of the Q1 instructions. There was no place in his story for Jesus to be instructing people in the ethics of a Jesus movement. And besides, it was the mythological Jesus that had to be killed in order for the story to work as a myth of origin for Mark's rejected community because that is the way Jesus had come to be imagined. Any other Jesus would not have been their Jesus. And as for storytelling, it was one thing to cast Jesus as a sovereign figure whose challenge to the authorities resulted in his crucifixion, but it would have been an even greater problem to have imagined the Jewish leaders killing him because of his Q1 teachings. A plot against the teacher of Q material would have been even more horrific than the plot Mark devised against the son of God. So he could not use the Q material as the public instructions of a teacher who wanted to be understood. The overlaps that do occur between Mark and the instructional sayings in Q are interpreted mainly as Jesus' private instructions to the disciples. These include the sayings on things hidden and revealed, the lamp, the grain of mustard, the measure, savorless salt, taking up one's cross, and the formula of reciprocity on confessing or denying Jesus. Mark was highly selective in his use of Q material and he knew what he was doing. He had no intention of writing a story to grace and highlight the teachings of Q. He wanted to write a story that put the test to Jesus, not at the beginning as was befitting for a sage, but at the end as was befitting for a martyr for the kingdom of God. He did it. Now there were two strong texts among the Jesus people: Q and the gospel that Mark wrote. With both Q and Mark in circulation, we are now poised to see what Matthew and Luke made of them.

    In the meantime, however, yet another group of Jesus people had decided to pronounce a plague on both of these houses. The followers of Jesus responsible for the Gospel of Thomas had grown accustomed to the idea of Jesus as a sage and had given a great deal of thought to his teachings. For them, the significance of his teachings lay in their capacity to enable an individual to withstand society's

    COMING  TO  TERMS  181    

    pressures to conform. They had meditated deeply on his sayings and taken seriously the challenge to disassociate from society and develop self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-sufficiency. When the Q people formed groups, started their mission, and then retreated behind a smokescreen of apocalyptic pronouncements when their mission failed, the Thomas people decided to go their own way. When Mark's community tried to imagine itself as a determining factor in the course of human history, the Thomas people thought that the legacy of Jesus had been betrayed.

    The Coptic Gospel of Thomas was a translation from a Greek original that scholars now date to the last quarter of the first century. It contains a truly amazing collection of the sayings of Jesus. When compared with Q, approximately one-third of the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas have parallels in Q, and about 60 percent are from the Q1 layer. This shows that the Thomas tradition had roots in the earliest stages of the Jesus movement and that there must have been some association with the Q people during that period. From that point on, however, the Thomas tradition is marked by a strong sense of independence. Three features of the text reveal just how independent the Thomas people were.

    The first noteworthy feature of the text is the use of dialogue in order to present the sayings of Jesus as answers to a number of questions his disciples ask. The reference to his disciples is, for the most part, collective. But Peter, Matthew, and James are mentioned, as are Thomas, Salome, and Mary. Thomas, Salome, and Mary say the right things, ask the right questions, and so are privileged to be part of an inner circle, as is James who is spoken of in his absence. These figures obviously represent the true followers of Jesus and thus reflect the Thomas group in the text. But Peter, Matthew, and "the disciples" usually ask the wrong questions and repeatedly and brusquely have to be corrected. Thus the dialogue format works both ways. It allows Jesus to instruct the inner circle in the true meaning of his teachings while also allowing the other disciples to represent views the Thomas people have rejected as wrong. A look at these other views is most instructive.

    The questions that Jesus consistently rejects as gross misunderstandings of what he represents can easily be classified in two categories. One is that concerns about the future are all misplaced. Over



    and over again the disciples ask when the kingdom will come, how it will be, and whether they will be able to enter. In every case Jesus tells them that they have completely misunderstood his teachings about the kingdom. The kingdom, Jesus explains, is already present, and if they knew who they were, namely the true disciples of Jesus, they would know not to ask. The other set of questions has to do with ritual behavior. The disciples want to know whether and how they should fast, pray, give to charity, wash, diet, and whether circumcision is required. In every case Jesus treats their questions as silly, but takes the occasion to turn the ritual reference into a metaphor of the contemplative self-awareness characteristic for his true disciples. Thus the ruse of dialogue is used to clarify the position of the Thomas people on two fronts: Jesus people who became apocalyptic, and Jesus people who worked out an accommodation with the Pharisaic codes of ritual purity. Neither the Markan community nor the people of Q would have measured up as the true disciples of Jesus according to the Gospel of Thomas.

    The second noteworthy feature of the Gospel of Thomas is the content of the teachings that have no parallel in Q. All of them are what might be called second-level elaborations on those sayings that do have a parallel in Q. In Q the compositional history reveals identifiable strata. This is not the case with Thomas. But just as there was a shift in Q from aphoristic instruction to prophetic and apocalyptic discourse, so there was a shift in the Thomas tradition from aphoristic injunctions to another distinctive style of instruction. Highly metaphoric and largely enigmatic, the teachings of Jesus to his disciples tell them that true knowledge is self-knowledge, and that true self-knowledge is a state of being untouched by the world of human affairs, a state of being in touch with a noetic world of divine light and stability.

    In relation to the world of human affairs Jesus' true disciples are to "become passersby" (Saying 42). As those who know themselves they are the "solitary ones" (Saying 49). As those in touch with the noetic world they are "from the light" (Saying 50), "sons of the living Father" (Saying 50), those who "stand at the beginning and know the end" (Saying 18), who encompass male and female in "a single one" (Saying 22), who "know the kingdom" (Saying 46), and who are "the same" (Saying 61). Jesus refers to himself as the "light from above"

    COMING  TO  TERMS  183    

    (Saying 77) who represents all that the disciples are to become. Once they see it, however, they won't need Jesus anymore: "Whoever drinks from my mouth shall become as I am and I myself will become he, and the hidden things shall be revealed to him" (Saying 108).

    It is this level of elaboration that qualifies the Gospel of Thomas as a proto-Gnostic treatise. The mythology is that of the incarnation of wisdom in the midst of a dark and senseless world. From the options available in Q and Mark, the Thomas people rejected the mythology of the apocalyptic son of man and the notion of the prophets as the envoys of wisdom or as those who predicted Jesus. They took, instead, the mythology of Jesus as the child of wisdom and son of God, detached it from its epic-apocalyptic frame, and cultivated his teachings as signatures of his self-knowledge as the incarnation of divine wisdom.

    The third feature of the text is the riddle-like feature of the sayings. According to the introduction, "These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote. And he said: 'Whoever finds the explanation of these words will not taste death" (Saying 1). With such an introduction, the author compounds the mysterious quality of the already enigmatic sayings. Not only are these secret sayings in the private property of the Thomas people, but when one gets to read them one finds riddles in need of the correct answers.

    So the text was written as a revelation document available to and understandable only by those who were privileged to be included in the Thomas community. As such a text makes apparent, the Thomas disciples were living in an imaginary world far removed from the people of Q or the Markan community. Their response to the troubled times was one of detachment. "Whoever finds himself," they heard Jesus saying, "of him the world is not worthy" (Saying 111).

    About this time (ca 85-90 C.E.), Matthew found a way to put Mark and Q together in a single account. Matthew's sympathies were with Q and it is quite possible that he belonged to a community in the tradition of Q. If so, the people of Q had continued to work on their problem of self-identification, for Matthew represents several solutions to issues still unresolved for the people of Q at the Q3 stage. It would also mean, as difficult as this is to imagine, that Matthew's branch of the people of Q had taken note of the Gospel of Mark and found it interesting. Matthew, In any case, did find Mark acceptable



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    COMING  TO  TERMS  185    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    COMING  TO  TERMS  187    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    man who "went about doing good" because the spirit of God was upon him.

    So Luke incorporated Q into his gospel, but he was not overly interested in using its contents as instruction applicable in his own day. He treated Q as a period piece, one resource among many for the historian interested in developing a picture of Jesus, the prophet-teacher. This is why Luke did not fuss with Q as did Matthew, either by systematically rearranging the sayings by theme, or by making sure that the reader got the full import of the teachings of Jesus as Christian law. Luke saw the connections between Q and Mark in the stories about John and Jesus, and so took that part of Q and merged it with Mark at the appropriate place. He also followed the Q sequence by inserting the first block of Q1 material into the story as the "sermon on the plain" before introducing the dialogue between John and Jesus. But from that point on, Luke turned Mark's march toward Jerusalem into a long and leisurely journey during which Jesus walked and talked with his disciples, sent them on their mission and received their reports, had dinner with a Pharisee, performed a few healings, instructed the crowds, received a group of Galileans, and so forth. And Q was simply interspersed as the instructions Jesus gave on the way. The historian's sense of distance put Q in its place, albeit as a historian's fiction. The reader was no longer addressed directly, as in Q, by a voice speaking with immediate authority. Neither was the reader addressed indirectly, as in Matthew, by a founder-teacher laying down the law for all time. In Luke's account, the reader is allowed to imagine Jesus talking to those of Jesus' own time. It was a glorious time, but it was past and the times had changed. The importance of the teachings of Jesus for Luke was not their relevance for all time, but the record they left of a marvelous teacher and prophet whose effectiveness was only that he enlarged the congregation of the people of God to include gentiles. Thus the church was born.

    The irony is noteworthy. Luke's treatment of Q as a document not worth saving as a handbook of instructions relevant for his own time was the very feature of his composition that made its recovery possible in modern times.

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 189 ]

       P A R T  I V     





    [ 190 ]



    [ 191 ]


    Jesus and Authority

    The discovery of Q has forced a revision of the history of Christian beginnings. It has also demanded a shift in the way we understand early Christian mythmaking. Q documents a Jesus movement that produced a myth of origin simply by adding new sayings to a growing collection of the instructions of a founder-teacher. Such a mode of mythmaking has been difficult for modern scholars to accept. Early Christian myths of origin have usually been classified as kerygmatic or narrative. Q has expanded the options and thus invites a special consideration. What we need to understand is the process by which sayings continued to be ascribed to Jesus long after he lived.

    The traditional criteria for determining the "authentic" words of the historical Jesus are no longer valid. The question must now focus on the "inauthentic" teachings. New Testament scholars know that Jesus could not have said everything ascribed to him in the vast literature produced during the first three or four centuries. A recent collection of the sayings of Jesus from early Christian literature numbers 503 items (Crossan, 1986). Of these, less than 10 percent are considered candidates for authenticity by scholars working on this question.

    The traditional quest for the authentic words of Jesus focused primarily on the criteria for determining which sayings are authentic. Sayings that occur in gnostic treatises, or in the popular literature traditionally called pseudepigraphical, or "falsely written and signed," have easily been set aside. No critical scholar thinks that Jesus said,



    "Cleave wood, I am there; lift a stone, you will find me there," as found in the Gospel of Thomas (Saying 77). No one doubts that the author of the gnostic treatise called Pistis Sophia invented Jesus' instructions to his disciples about the fall, repentance, and salvation of Pistis Sophia: "And the time came that she should be saved from the chaos and brought forth from all the darkness.... And the [first] mystery sent me a great light- power from the height, so that I should help the Pistis Sophia and bring her up from the chaos" (Pistis Sophia I, 60). And there is absolute embarrassment about the words of the child Jesus found in the infancy gospels. When slapped on the face by another child, for instance, Jesus, the six-year-old, told him to "finish his course," so that he died forthwith (Infancy Gospel of Thomas 5:1).

    The sayings that occur in the canonical gospels are a bit more tricky. Scholars have no trouble thinking that the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John were invented in the course of the community's meditations. Sayings such as "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever" or "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" are simply dismissed as "Johannine." But the sayings ascribed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels have proven to be very difficult to assign. That is because New Testament scholars have assumed the image of Jesus created by the narrative gospels and thus have found it hard to discount self-referential sayings that in any other mouth would be found highly inappropriate.

    The criteria for judging authenticity have all been forms of a single persuasion, namely, that since Jesus was a unique individual, his teachings must have been novel. The difference between the sayings of Jesus and what others might have said has therefore been the major consideration for determining authenticity. A saying with parallels from Jewish or Greek traditions of proverbs and maxims would therefore be discounted. Sayings that address the theological or ethical concerns of the emerging "church" have likewise been considered inauthentic. Studies based on such criteria have not been without value, for they have situated many of the teachings of Jesus in appropriate traditions of discourse and demonstrated the inauthenticity of the majority of sayings ascribed to Jesus. But the short lists of "authentic" words that result from such an endeavor lack coherence, fail to enhance the picture of Jesus scholars have had in mind, and do

    JESUS  AND  AUTHORITY  193    

    nothing to help explain the practice of ascribing the sayings to Jesus that scholars have called inauthentic.

    Meanwhile, consternation reigns outside of scholarly circles when people are told that Jesus did not say what Mark or Matthew or Luke said he said. Such consternation has been documented time after time in letters to the editors of newspapers in response to the published judgments of the Jesus Seminar. This group of New Testament scholars has been at work for several years preparing "the scholars' red letter edition" of the gospels (Funk, 1992), with the aim of summing up the best judgments of critical scholars in the quest for the authentic teachings of Jesus. Preliminary results of the voting with red, pink, gray, and black beads have regularly been published in the media. And then indignation is expressed by Christians who have always imagined that Jesus said what the scholars now say he did not.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    JESUS  AND  AUTHORITY  195    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    JESUS  AND  AUTHORITY  197    

    teacher's opinions on a particular philosophical or ethical issue), and dogmata (the philosophical principles of the school). But what about character? Lacking the kind of information modern biographers use to trace the course of a person's life, Diogenes provided his readers with numerous pictures of the person on this or that occasion. These he referred to as lore (to legomenon), reminiscence (apomnemoneuma), and anecdote (chreia). Reading through the eighty-two lives in Diogenes' history, it is remarkable how different the character profiles become simply by comparing these snapshot-like images and sayings.

    The chreia, or anecdote, is a particularly interesting building block of the Greek biography. It consisted of a brief hint or description of a typical situation plus a succinct formulation of a person's response. It could be reduced to the form "When asked... So-and-so said..." or "On seeing... So-and-so said or did..." As one can see, what a philosopher might have said or done on a given occasion counted as a test of character. Sayings in this form did double duty. One could check to see if they fit the teacher's espoused philosophy, and one could also assess their appropriateness as a response to a situation.

    Anecdotes were used in the schools of rhetoric as examples of effective speech. Since they contained the basic ingredients of a rhetorical situation (speaker, speech, and audience), anecdotes could be analyzed for their appropriateness to the character of the speaker to which they were attributed (ethos), their fit with the espousals or teachings of the speaker (logos), and their rhetorical effectiveness as an address to the listeners (known as pathos). Anecdotes could also be memorized, restylized, coined, paraphrased, and embellished into scenarios with full-blown speeches.

    Finding the right words when composing a speech for a certain character was considered a skill. To compose a speech, even for oneself, one needed to find the right words. The Greeks called this heuresis, or "discovery." The Romans, who learned their rhetoric from the Greeks, translated heuresis as inventio, or "invention." Either way, finding the right words or making them up, rhetoric was understood as a bricolage approach to composition, putting together materials already at hand in novel combinations. That is because a speech, to be effective, had to draw upon common language, stock figures, telling metaphors, interesting analogies, and well-known examples from



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    JESUS  AND  AUTHORITY  199    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    JESUS  AND  AUTHORITY  201    

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    This mentality was taken for granted throughout the hellenistic world, and it gives us the proper cultural context for understanding the way in which the Jesus movements treated Jesus' sayings. Jesus was regarded as a wise teacher whose sayings were a sufficient index to the ethos he represented. The metaphor used by the people of Q that corresponds to Seneca's conversatio was to "keep" or to "hear and do" Jesus' sayings. This indicates not only the importance that was placed on Jesus' sayings, but also that they were the object of cultivation in the discourse of the movement. Loyalty to the movement was registered in terms of "hearing and doing" these words. And because of the tight relation between word and deed and the notion of ethos, one's loyalty to the movement was the same as one's loyalty to Jesus whose image idealized the ethos of his school. Thus the genre of a collection of sayings was not a weak or insufficient foundation for a movement of followers in Jesus' name. It was a powerful and fully sufficient vehicle for a movement engaged in the formation of a group with a particular ethos.

    The question of attribution should now be capable of resolution but for the fact that the types of sayings attributed to Jesus changed in the course of Q1's history and the history of other Jesus movements during the early period. We have been able to account for new sayings by referring to shifts in the discourse of the movement. Such shifts can be related to changes in the movement's social circumstance, experience, and formation. These changes are clearly reflected in the layering and reworking of the Q tradition. Now we need to ask how the people of Q managed to attribute sayings to Jesus that expressed an ethos different from the image and voice of the Jesus to which they had been accustomed. Several observations will help. One would be that these shifts in characterization did not occur precipitously but took place incrementally over time. The strata we have used to chart the history of the movement's development are literary moments accidentally available to us because of compositional features of the text. In actuality, one needs to imagine a vigorous give and take as groups discussed their options, shared insights, and voiced frustrations. By slowing down the



    experimental process, one can easily imagine a normal process of attribution.

    At any given point in the process the group must have been familiar with a particular image of Jesus. At this point, attribution of sayings in kind was possible by any of the usual means customary for the times. We might note, for instance, that much of the material added to the collection in the course of elaboration and growth was proverbial, already at hand in the cultures of context. Adding such material would not have required great ingenuity. Slight shifts in characterization would also have been possible as long as they were felt to be elaborations or embellishments appropriate to the image already in place. If one could imagine that the Jesus of the familiar sayings could also have said such and such, that would be enough to allow consideration of the comment. At some later point, supposing that the accumulation of sayings contained an intolerable ethical tension, it might be necessary to recast the character of Jesus by speech attribution and other narrative devices. As we have seen, that is exactly what the people of Q had to do, and did do.

    The most important observation, however, is that the image of Jesus shifted in tandem to changes in the sayings attributed to him. There is no indication that the people of Q were interested in or worried about the personality of Jesus. Jesus was important as the founder-teacher of the movement but only in relation to the function of his teachings within the movement. The attributed teachings were the expression of the group's ethos and behavior. They were also the standard by which the voice and image of Jesus were continually recast. His character and role were enhanced in keeping with the expansion of the community's discourse. When the discourse shifted to include an epic-apocalyptic perspective, for instance, authorization was achieved by imagining Jesus as wisdom's child. The authority of Jesus was firmly attached to the authorship of his instructions to the community, but authorship was not understood as we moderns understand it. In the modern sense of the term, the Jesus people were the authors of the sayings they attributed to Jesus. But as they understood what they were doing, it was a matter of inventing appropriate speech-in-character. They did this in order to authorize the agreements they reached on the ethos of a discourse appropriate to their times.

    JESUS  AND  AUTHORITY  203    

    Thus the history of the Q community can be traced by noting the shifts in its discourse documented in its collection of the sayings of Jesus. A first stage comes to light with the aphorisms of Q1. Noting that Q1 is composed of blocks of material that elaborate aphoristic material into rationalized codes, the aphorisms must reflect the discourse of the preceding period. Judging from these aphorisms, the discourse of the first stage was playful and the behavior public. Individuals were challenging one another to behave with integrity despite the social consequences. A shift toward imperative forms of address indicates that some kind of association was practiced by these people. Another indication of this interest in association is the way in which the terminology of the rule of God is used. There are also a few hints that moments of encounter were used to construct human relationships, not merely to display individual virtue. If we ask about the character of the speaker of this kind of material, it has its nearest analogy in contemporary profiles of the Cynic-sage. This is as close to the historical Jesus as Q allows us to get, but it is close enough for us to reconstruct a beginning of the movement that is both plausible and understandable. One should not underestimate the attraction of a Cynic- like sagery capable of enticing individuals into forming a discursive association.

    The blocks of material in Q1 represent a second stage. The aphoristic discourse of stage 1 was codified. Selected imperatives were elaborated as community rules by formulating argumentations to support their importance and reveal their appropriateness. Much of the material attributed to Jesus at this stage was proverbial wisdom taking the form of stock figures and comparisons. The public arena was still the setting for this kind of behavior, but there is also evidence that a network of small groups must have formed. There are signs of recognition and instructions concerning "reception" at a house that offers hospitality. A sense of expansion and growth is obvious, although there is no indication of a program to reform society or a demand for the conversion of would-be members of the movement. This shift in discourse was easily attributed to Jesus. No attempt was made to recast his profile by narrative or descriptive means. And yet the voice of Jesus was quite different from the speaker of the aphorisms. Jesus' voice was now that of a founder-teacher giving instructions for the manner of life that should characterize his school. In the parlance of



    the Greek school traditions, Q1 represents Jesus' principal teachings or doctrines (doxai, dogmata).

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    JESUS  AND  AUTHORITY  205    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 206 ]



    [ 207 ]


    Mythmaking and the Christ

    An explosion of the collective imagination signals change, and the first Christian century experienced just such an explosion. It marks the time as uncertain and it registers an outpouring of human energy and intellectual activity in the production of myths. Christians were not the only people creating new myths. The literature of the time is famous for its fantastic worlds and imaginary explorations of legendary figures. But Christians were the ones who managed the mythology that western culture eventually accepted as its own.

    Christians have never been comfortable with the notion of myth or willing to see their own myths as the product of human imagination and intellectual labor. This strong resistance is not due to a perversity peculiar to Christians but is a peculiarity integral to the Christian myth itself. The Christian myth was generated in a social experiment aware of its recent beginnings, and because the myth was about those beginnings, early Christians imagined their myth as history. The myth focused on the importance of Jesus as the founder figure of the movements, congregations, and institutions Christians were forming. Thus history and myth were fused into a single characterization, and the myths of origin were written and imagined as having happened at a recent time and in a specific place. Christians of the second, third, and fourth centuries found themselves troubled by the resemblance of their myths to both Greek and Jewish mythologies.



    They could distance themselves from these other cultures and distinguish their myths from the others only by emphasizing the recent historical setting of their myths and the impression given by the narrative gospels that the myths really happened.

    So they carried on a running debate among themselves about what to call their stories of Jesus. There were two terms in Greek that constantly came to mind as the appropriate descriptions for such stories, namely mythos and logos. These were considered dangerous, mythos because it was commonly used for imaginary inventions, not histories, and logos because it was the common term for a story about the Greek and pagan gods. Christians consistently eschewed the term mythos and they used the term logos only in a specific connotation. Logos was used in the sense hellenistic Jews had given the term when referring to the way in which wisdom was present in the written and remembered epic of Israel. Instead, by clever linguistic finesse, the historical development of which we do not have the leisure to follow in this book, Christians used the Greek term pistis, which means both "faith" and "faithfulness" as well as "trust" and "trustworthiness," in ways that eventually made it possible to use the Latin term credo ("believe") for a succinct summary of the main events in narrative gospels. Credo first was used as a verb, since those who would be Christians were asked to say that they "believed" the gospel story in its shorthand version as a "statement of faith." But soon the statement of faith itself was called credo, or the creed basic to the Christian faith.

    No other religion demands that its adherents say they believe in their myth. And, as a matter of fact, it is not necessary to believe in a myth or a story for it to have its affect upon the imagination. As with any story, myths project an imaginary world in which a people see themselves reflected at a distance. Idealization and the abstraction of values create images that take on objective status, but they actually function as concentrated symbols of the forces at play in a people's social experience. These forces need to be acknowledged, managed, and shared with the next generation of its members. It takes a lot of living together and talking to achieve a common mythology and use it for cultural inculcation.

    A myth projects the agreements that have been reached about the proper way to do things and what to value in human relationships. By a marvelous use of metaphor, dislocation, and visual transformation,


    myth combines these agreements with a people's memory traditions and recasts its history as a storied world. The world it describes functions to remind a people that they are not the first to have lived where they do and the way they do. Although a myth is the product of a people's social experience and best judgments, it tells a people that the world they live in is not their creation but has already been inhabited. The codes, arrangements, and patterns of authority are already set. Myths frequently tell about the time when those arrangements first were made.

    Once a myth is in place and the social world is stable, it is possible to take the myth for granted and depend upon it being there in everyone's mind. One can then tell other stories that play upon the larger frame of reference. The mythic world can become a field of play for further imaginative elaboration, reflecting upon the relationships it proposes among the agents of its story. Other stories set in current time and place can then be used to explore the details, complexities, and limitations of a significant human relationship or exchange by assuming the larger mythic world as backdrop without ever having to mention it. Think of the cinema and the way in which it satisfies or tweaks us by telling a story that works out right, or one that presses the limits of our sensibilities about human and social relationships. The standard for a story to be good, or to engage us fully in the exploration of some human relationship, is always some myth we hold in common, such as the American dream, or the taking of the West, or the mountain man's quest.

    But when the patterns of a society change and cultures collide, a myth already in place comes under considerable pressure. Because myth is an imaginary construct, and because it is dense in symbolism and peopled by extravagantly ideal figures, the mythic world itself can be explored and rearranged in the hopes of finding some new perspective that can clarify the times.

    In the course of Christian history, to take one example of a series of social and cultural shifts, the Christ has been refigured many times over. In the period before Constantine, when bishops were taking their place as the leaders of the churches, the Christ was commonly depicted as the good shepherd who could guide the flock to its heavenly home. After Constantine, the Christ was pictured as the victor over death and the ruler of the world. During the medieval period,



    when the church was the primary vehicle of both social and cultural tradition, the story of Christ's ascent from the cross (or the tomb) to the seat of sovereignty, judgment, and salvation in heaven focused the Christian imagination on a Christ of a truly comprehensive, three-decker world. Somewhat later we see the Gothic Christ appear, and then the Christ of the crucifix, the man of Galilee, the cosmic Christ, the feminine Christ, and so on. In every case, the rearrangements were necessary in order to adjust the mythic world to new social constraints and cultural systems of knowledge.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    The history of the Q movement demonstrates that several mythologies of Jesus as a divine agent were possible without any recourse to martyrological notions. The mythology of Jesus as an envoy of wisdom, or even as the manifest incarnation of wisdom's child, was not generated by any experience or notion of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. It was, as we have seen, generated in the course of myth-making in the genre of the teachings of a teacher. The discovery of Q also cautions us about the traditional view that Christianity emerged as a reformation of the religion of Judaism. Even the appeal to the epic of Israel was an ad hoc strategy that was not integral to the primary motivations of the Jesus movement. Other ideological resources were as much in play, including popular forms of hellenistic philosophy and the mythology of wisdom. The attraction of the new community was not rooted in a plan to reform a religious tradition that had missed its calling, or in a clarion call to start a new world religion based on a recent revelation, but in the enhancement of human values experienced in the process of social formation itself.

    In the midst of the large, unmanageable world of confusing cultures and social (histories, a small group of like-minded individuals



    would have been its own attraction. Such a group would have provided a forum for new ideas. A sense of critical distance from the world would not have meant that positive attractions within the group were lacking or that constructive proposals for ordering their social relationships would not have been forthcoming. Heady thoughts such as representing the rule of God as an alternative to the kingdoms of the world were possible. But at the core of this attraction was the idea that a mixed group of people could represent the best of the heritage of several ethnically exclusive cultural traditions and claim to be a new kind of community.

    The evidence for a multiethnic constituency in the Q traditions is sparse, mainly because the Jewish-Galilean issue dominated the terms of the group's response to social rejection, not because the Q communities were closed to persons who were not of Jewish ethnic extraction. The mood of the group was not generated by ethnic loyalties, and evidence of a multiethnic, multicultural mix, prepares us for understanding the spread of the Jesus movement to settings where the mix of peoples surfaced for celebration and then became an issue, as well as for the eventual formation of a network of Jesus-Christian groups as a new hellenistic religion. Mark, Thomas, Luke, and even Matthew provide strong evidence for the mix of peoples characteristic of the Jesus movements, and the mythology of the Christ cult is understandable only on the basis of a multiethnic, cross-cultural movement.

    The Q people were not the only group that formed within the Jesus movement. To take five additional groups as an example of the experimental nature of the Jesus movement, there is some evidence for (1) a group of Jesus people distinguished by its allegiance to Jesus' family, (2) Jewish followers who took up residence in Jerusalem for a time, (3) the people who designed sets of (five) miracle stories as their myth of origin, (4) the Jesus movement in which Mark was at home and in which the pronouncement story genre was highly developed, and (5) the tradition within which Luke was at home, a tradition with a sketchy history but one in which a distinctively human view of Jesus prevailed. All of these groups, with the exception of Luke's, are discussed in my book, A Myth of Innocence (1988), from which the following brief descriptions are taken.


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    at the level of the recharacterization of Jesus' mythological role were stupendous. The move turned a prophet-teacher into a divine sovereign. No longer would Jesus' authority be experienced as a voice of instruction and judgment from the past. He would now be a king who would execute his authority over the congregation in the present, and since resurrection meant ascending into heaven, the Jesus people came to think of Jesus as a god. The Christ was installed as ruler of God's world and lord of God's people. With such a dramatic mythology focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ, the congregations of the Christ no longer needed to cultivate the memories of Jesus as a teacher.

    The Christ myth created a much more fantastic imaginary universe than anything encountered in the Jesus traditions. The myth is also curious and ironic from a modern historian's point of view. A Jewish question about the social constitution of the Jesus movement was answered by a combination of Greek and Jewish narrative logics, neither of which would have been attractive to the other culture's traditional mentality. That irony is strong evidence for the multiethnic mix and multicultural ethos of the new congregations. Note that the God in question need not be thought of as the private property of the Jews, although Paul as a Jew thought of God that way. Christians probably thought of Jesus' father as the God of overlapping epic traditions common to Jews, Samaritans, and Galileans alike. There is also no indication that the Christ people thought of Jesus as having been killed by the Jewish establishment or that God's vindication of his martyrdom therefore intended a judgment on the Jews. In distinction from the narrative gospels, the kerygma did not situate the death and resurrection of Jesus in a specific time and place. The kerygma was simply "that" Christ died (for the kingdom) and was raised (as its king). The logic would not have worked equally for all parties of the mixed congregation if the tyrants who killed Jesus had been named and blamed. Thus the "event" of the cross and resurrection was dislodged from social circumstance and placed in a thoroughly mythological once upon a time. Hellenized Jews could think of the myth in terms of the wisdom tale; Greeks could imagine the resurrection on the model of apotheosis or of the translation and transformation of a hero into a god.

    The evidence from Paul's letters is that the congregations of the Christ were attractive associations and that their emerging mythology



    was found to be exciting. A spirited cult formed on the model of the mystery religions, complete with entrance baptisms, rites of recognition (the holy kiss), ritualized meals (the lord's supper), the notion of the spiritual presence of the lord, and the creation of liturgical materials such as acclamations, doxologies, confessions of faith, and Christ hymns. It was a new religious society celebrating freedom from cultural traditions and the personal experience of transcending social constraints by means of induction into a mythic world centered in a symbol of transcendence and transformation.

    It was in the Christ cult, not in the Jesus movement, that the Christian notion of conversion as a personal transformation emerged. The notion seems simple, but it depends on a highly developed collective imagination that sharply distinguishes the ethos of a community from its larger social world. In the case of the congregations of the Christ, a spirited ethos and its mythic world were joined and conceptualized on the Greek model of a sphere of being, most often called a cosmos (ordered "world"), sometimes an aeon (vast, all-encompassing "age"). Christians imagined that their ethos was a cosmic order of existence created by the Christ and that therefore there were two aeons available for human habitation. The difference between these aeons was variously described as new/old, heavenly/ worldly, spiritual/fleshly, or even divine/demonic. It was this conceptuality that allowed Paul to develop the notion of the church as the body of (the cosmic) Christ, and describe the experience of joining a Christian congregation in terms of conversion, forgiveness, freedom, transference, transformation, and new creation. Such a conceptuality is further evidence of the strong sense of identity achieved in these groups. But of course, inhabiting such a mythic world, even as an ethos that required social congregation, was dangerously close to living in a bubble world whose only attachment to social reality was a flotation on the surface of its currents.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 226 ]



    [ 227 ]


    Bishops and the Bible

    Q1's fate was sealed when Mark wrote his story and Matthew and Luke merged Q with Mark's account. Mark's story was attractive for several reasons. It created a character for Jesus strong enough to integrate images of Jesus within the Jesus movement with the Christ myth. It also settled on a single narrative logic to link Jesus up with an epic past and render a full account of the way in which this Jesus related to well-known historical events of the time. Despite the fact that Mark's Jesus was overloaded with fantastic mythological roles, Mark succeeded in creating the picture of a person who took his place in full public view and engaged the full spectrum of the people and powers of his time. It was this historical placement, achieved by the narrative device of the incognito son of God, that fascinated readers of all persuasions and laid the foundation for the Christian epic, the biblical account of human history that eventually became the charter for the Christian church. Because of Mark's accomplishment, Q1's mythology became obsolete.

    Q as a book of instruction was another matter. Mark did not relegate Q to the sidelines as a source for the teachings of Jesus. Q continued to be read along with Mark until at least the turn of the century and apparently enjoyed a wide reading in various circles, as both Matthew and Luke attest. When Matthew and Luke each found a way to work Q into their expanded versions of Mark, however, Q as a separate document may have lost some of its attraction.



    The merger of Mark and Q was possible because of the view, common within the Jesus movement, that Jesus had been a teacher. Because of Mark's plot and its motif of secrecy, Mark was not able to incorporate instructions of the Q1 type, but he did not reject the image of Jesus as a teacher. Mark's Jesus was a teacher whose instructions consisted of private, esoteric knowledge. So the-later insertion of Q into the narrative framework of Mark was just another elaboration on the theme of Jesus the teacher, another reconfiguration in a series of profiles that stretched back to the picture of the teacher created by Q1. Matthew and Luke were able to merge Mark and Q because of this fundamental persuasion.

    It does seem strange, however, that Q became the lost gospel merely by absorption into the gospels of Matthew and Luke. That has been the customary scholarly view. But if Jesus continued to be honored as a teacher, and if Q was a standard collection of his teachings, why didn't Q continue to be used as a handbook of instructions alongside the narrative gospels? Why was Q not included among the texts that eventually became canonized as the New Testament? Duplication of material was not a problem in the formation of the New Testament. If four narrative gospels were not too much, a separate collection of the teachings of Jesus surely would not have overloaded the collection. And Q was a strong text, much stronger than others that were included, such as the so-called letter of James, that one wonders how Q could have been overlooked. The contents of Q were obviously acceptable to authors whose gospels were included.

    Thus the question of Q1's omission from the selection of texts that compose the New Testament needs to be addressed. This is because, as the reader is now aware, the consequences of its loss were enormous. By excluding Q, the process of canonization effectively erased direct access to the genre of instruction forged during the first chapters of Christian history. Thus the reasons why Q dropped from sight need to be understood. Only then will our story of Q as the lost gospel come to an end and the stage be set for a concluding reflection on the significance of its recent discovery.

    We can gain a bit of leverage on the question by turning it around. What was the purpose of collecting the writings in the New Testament in the first place, and what were the principles of their selection? We begin by noting that the question of Christian texts appropriate

    BISHOPS  AND  THE  BIBLE  229    

    for use in the Christian church became an issue around the middle of the second century and continued to be debated until sometime during the fourth century. At that point, when the Christian church was recognized as an institution of the state, the texts regularly in use became the "norm," or what we have called the biblical canon of the church. The canon of the Bible was never an issue taken up for official action by any church council, however, so there is no statement even from the fourth-century church of the reasons for its formation. Canon is our word for the end result of a long history of practice.

    To get at this history we must survey the literary production of Christians during the first two centuries and compare it to lists of early Christian writings recommended for use in the churches. Such lists began to appear at the end of the second century, and the writings included in these lists are essentially those we recognize as the New Testament. What is striking about the comparison is the severe reduction of a large, spirited literature to a very small set of gospels and letters. Q is not the only document from the early period of Christian history that does not appear on these lists.

    Much of the literature from the first century has not survived in its original form. But judging from the Jesus traditions that were brought together in the gospels, from the editions of Q and the Gospel of Thomas, the Christ cult materials reflected in the letters of Paul, books included in the New Testament such as the letter to the Hebrews, lore in the Acts of the Apostles, the mention by later authors of works now lost, and the highly developed treatises of the second century that presuppose earlier efforts, what we have in the New Testament is only a small portion of what must have been a very rich and sizable production. If we include the literature we know about from the second century, a period during which some of the New Testament writings (such as Luke-Acts, Jude, and 2 Peter) derive as well, the body of literature for comparison with the New Testament is immense.

    The range by type of literature is also impressive. We have miracle story sets, pronouncement story sets, various collections of the sayings of Jesus, narrative gospels, infancy gospels, hymn books, instructions for community practice, liturgical prayers, devotional prayers, sermons, meditational treatises, ethical treatises, theological



    treatises, philosophical treatises, commentaries on the Old Testament, apocalyptic allegories, gnostic treatises of many kinds, letters, exchanges of correspondence, acts of the apostles, martyrologies, and polemical writings against the Greeks, the Jews, the Romans, the Gnostics, the Marcionites, and other Christian persuasions. So we dare not assume that the writings in the New Testament are a sufficient documentation of Christian beginnings.

    Why gospels and letters? There are only two exceptions to this twofold classification for inclusion in the New Testament. The two exceptions are the Acts of the Apostles and the Apocalypse of John. These exceptions can be explained when the logic of the gospels and letters is clear.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    BISHOPS  AND  THE  BIBLE  231    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    BISHOPS  AND  THE  BIBLE  233    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    BISHOPS  AND  THE  BIBLE  235    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)



    church was willing to go in its accommodation of gnostic forms of Christianity. John, not Thomas, would be the acceptable patron of these traditions. And, wonder of wonders, included among the writings attributed to John one finds an apocalyptic vision born of the most orthodox piety. What a fitting conclusion to the epic rationale of the church's apostolic mythology.

    With this selection of texts in place, it is no wonder that Christians have always imagined the birthday of the church on the Lukan model. It is therefore also no wonder that the discovery of Q in modern times has created some confusion. According to the myth of apostolic tradition underlying the canon of the New Testament, there is simply no place for Q and the first followers of Jesus who were not Christians.

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 237 ]


    Christians and Their Myth

    The discovery of Q may create some consternation for Christians because accepting Q1's challenge is not merely a matter of revising a familiar chapter of history. It is a matter of being forced to acknowledge an affair with one's own mythology. The disclosure of a myth is deemed academic as long as the myth belongs to somebody else. Recognizing one's own myth is always much more difficult, if not downright dangerous.

    The reason for this is the way myths work their magic. Myths are guardians of cultural identity and work best when taken for granted. Left undisturbed, a myth makes it possible to assume that others agree in advance on the rules that govern the daily round. Should a myth ever be named and questioned, the collective agreements basic to a society's well-being come unglued and people feel unsettled.

    The Christian myth is particularly vulnerable to unsettling questions. Most myths take place once upon a time in an irreal world. Like all stories, they allow the listener to suspend judgment while watching the story unfold. Christian myth claims to be history and asks its adherents to believe that it is true. As long as there is no other data from which to construct a different account of the same chapter of history, the Christian myth can work much the same way as other myths. Christians can simply bracket the story of Jesus from the rest of human history and treat it as an exceptional moment, realizing that the events recorded are fantastic but allowing the story to stand.



    If, however, the history yields to other explanations and the fantastic features of the gospels are explained as mythic, the Christian gospel will be in very deep trouble, and Christian mentality will have to renegotiate both its real and imaginary worlds. That is exactly where Q enters the picture.

    Q challenges the New Testament account of Christian origins by offering another, more plausible account of the first forty years. The Jesus movement is a more believable group of people than the disciples and first Christians who are depicted in the narrative gospels. Q provides a documentation for the Jesus movement that the narrative gospels cannot provide for the congregational fiction they project. This is serious business, because the gospel story is the cornerstone of the Christian's mythic world. Christians understand the gospel as the story of events that generated the Christian church and invite personal imitation. The gospel functions as the source for the special knowledge Christians claim, as the cluster of symbols that focus Christian meditation, and as the script for ritual reenactment in both individual experience and congregational liturgy. The gospel is firmly in mind in western culture. It is the story that has determined the shape of Christian mentality.

    When Christians recall the gospel story, they do not think of four distinct narrative accounts, but of an amalgam of the four stories. For nearly two thousand years, these stories have been merged in the iconography and liturgical rehearsals of the church. The church has never been bothered by having four different accounts of the same story. Each account has been regarded merely as another telling "according to" a different witness, or apostle.

    The invitation to merge the four gospels into one gospel story is integral to the design of the New Testament. When, during the fourth century, the writings to be used in Christian congregations became widely available in a single codex or manuscript, a conceptual fusion took place that effectively effaced the huge ideological differences among the various writings. From that time on the four gospels collapsed into a single narrative world of the life of Christ according to the bishops' myth. The letters took their subsequent place as the apostolic interpretation of that single gospel story. It is this coalescence of disparate writings that justifies speaking in the singular about "the gospel" as Christians imagine it.


    Thus the New Testament was not put together as an ad hoc collection of writings for the purpose of conserving the earliest records of Christian beginnings. It consisted of a highly select set of writings, carefully arranged. The criteria for selection and arrangement were discussed in the preceding chapter, including the observation that the selection represented several streams of Christian persuasion and reveals the bishops' desire to fashion from them a universal church. We can now ask about the consequences of that strategy for the Christian imagination. What the bishops achieved in putting together that unlikely collection of writings, whether it worked for them according to their institutional plans or not, was an astounding literary success. Their selection became the New Testament, and the New Testament became the textual foundation for Christian myth and ritual in all of its many manifestations.

    Notice how the apostolic myth supports the merger of all the writings into one account of Christian origins. If the four narrative gospels differ merely because they are the accounts of four different disciples, and if the letters were all written by disciples who became apostles, the various preachments throughout the New Testament are bound to have weight as formulations made during the apostolic period. This really means, mythically, that "witnesses" to Jesus recorded their experiences soon after his death and resurrection. It works. The selection and arrangement of writings in the New Testament project a single history and make of the several writings one book.

    Given this arrangement, it is all but impossible to read the narrative gospels in any other light than that provided by the apostolic interpretations of the significant events. Even Mark would be read now through the eyes of Peter and Paul. What irony. We have seen that Mark combined martyrological motifs from Paul's Christ myth with various traditions about Jesus from the Jesus movement in order to write his gospel. This combination produced the passion narrative, a novel interpretation of Jesus' death that did not agree with the views of either tradition he used. But now, included as one of the gospels in the New Testament, the differences between Mark and his sources could no longer be seen. Mark would be read as a witness to the synoptic story on a par with the other three evangelists, even though each of the other three had gotten their start from Mark and had changed his story to agree with their own views. Mark's passion



    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    The Jesus movement represented by Q is hardly a match for Christianity as a world religion. Even after the development of an essentially timeless imaginary universe, best expressed in the visual form of triptychs, the Bible still functioned as the textual record and authorization of the events to be memorialized and reenacted on liturgical occasions. With the Bible repositioned by the reformers, and the notion of history given privilege in the enlightenment academy, the claim of the church on the gospel as history finally surfaced as an important question. It is in this arena, the arena for understanding the relation between myth and history, that Q registers its challenge.

    The challenge will have to be taken seriously because Q is integral to the history of the formation of the gospels. Had Q been discovered as an independent text extraneous to the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, or as a separate writing within the New Testament, such as the letter of James, it might be discounted as a document from some mistaken, heretical side branch of the "true" Christian tradition. But Q is foundational to the very composition of the narrative gospels. Take Q away and they fall into fragments without narrative or instructional significance.



    A remarkable irony can serve as a final observation on the nature of Q1's challenge from within the New Testament. Q was not only essential to the gospels as a source for the teachings of Jesus, or as a precursor mythology upon which the narrative gospels were built. In the course of developing their mythology at the Q2 level, the authors of Q used a clever intertextual reference that caught the attention of the authors of the gospels and eventually determined the logic by which not only the gospels but also the New Testament canon were linked to the Hebrew scriptures to form the Christian Bible. This textual reference was the use of the Malachi citation to predict the appearances of John and Jesus. It has been mentioned that Mark made programmatic use of the John-Jesus story to introduce his gospel and that Matthew and Luke followed Mark and embellished his account. Mark used the Malachi citation (Mal. 3:1) in combination with a forceful prediction from Isaiah about a voice crying in the wilderness (Isa. 40:3) to introduce John at the very beginning of his story. Matthew and Luke undid this combination, using the Isaianic prediction to introduce John at the appropriate point toward the beginning of their stories, while reserving the Malachi prediction for its proper annunciation by Jesus, just as Q had it (Matt. 11:10; Luke 7:27). We can now make the observation that these references to Malachi helped determine the structure of the Christian Bible.

    During the period of canon formation, the early Christian writings were not the only scriptures of importance to the church. The epic literature of Israel was also under constant discussion as a record of the history of divine intention that Jesus and the church "fulfilled." The Christian claim to novelty could only be forceful if its recent origin could be seen as the perfection of ancient ideas. But, of course, the Hebrew scriptures belonged to the Jews, not to the Christians. Thus the Christian appropriation of the epic of Israel became an issue of fundamental significance for the church. It had to be read as a story that somehow anticipated the Christ, and it had to be arranged to interlock with the New Testament.

    In the process of making the Hebrew epic one's own, Christians rearranged the order in which the Hebrew scriptures occurred in the Jewish Bible. The Jewish order was, first the law (or Torah, the five books of Moses), then the prophets (including the "early prophets" from Joshua through the histories of Samuel and the Kings), and


    finally the writings (including the Psalms, the so-called wisdom literature, Esther, and Daniel). Of great significance is that the postexilic histories of Ezra-Nehemiah and the Chronicles were placed among the writings at the very end of the collection. Thus the Jewish epic ends with the edict of Cyrus about building a house for the Lord in Jerusalem and the call to "all the (Lord's) people" to "go up." Christians reversed the order of the prophets and the writings in order to end with Malachi. Eureka! One reads the Hebrew epic to the end, reads about the messenger to come, turns the page, and hears the voice of John (or Jesus) saying that Malachi's prophecy is coming to pass. What a neat connection between the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament."

    In the arrangement of the writings in the New Testament, any of the three synoptic gospels could have been placed first to gain this same effect. But Luke and Matthew would have been the most likely candidates for first position, because they were more compatible with the church's instructions than Mark. Matthew's gospel was, in any case, the preferred gospel for citations of the teachings of Jesus, and Luke's gospel properly belonged closer to its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. (John's gospel did not fit well into the epic-apostolic logic of the arrangement and so was placed last of the four, even though this separated Luke's gospel from his Acts.) And so the story of Q1's legacy reaches beyond the appropriation of Q by Matthew to end with Matthew's favored status as the first book in the New Testament. Q had provided the very logic by which the Old and New Testaments were linked together in the making of the Christian Bible.

    What a legacy! And what a discovery! We are now ready to ask about Q1's chances for making a difference in the modern world.

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 244 ]



    [ 245 ]


    The Consequences

    Q1's challenge strikes to the heart of the traditional understanding of Christian origins. Lying at the bedrock of the earliest traditions about Jesus and his first followers, Q documents a Jesus movement that was not Christian. The Jesus movement that produced Q cannot be shunted aside as a group of people who missed the dramatic events portrayed in the narrative gospels. They cannot be dismissed as those who mistook Jesus, failed to understand his message, or misunderstood their mission to found the church. The reason they cannot be dismissed is because they were there at the beginning. Q reveals what Jesus people thought about Jesus before there was a Christian congregation of the type reflected in the letters of Paul, and before the idea of a narrative gospel was even dared. When that thought did occur, it was Q that the authors of the narrative gospels used as a foundation upon which to build their own novel myths of origin.

    Q is the best record we have for the first forty years of the Jesus movements. There are other snippets of early tradition about Jesus, but they all generally agree with the evidence from Q. As remembered by the Jesus people, Jesus was much more like a Cynic-teacher than either a Christ-savior or a messiah with a program for the reformation of second-temple Jewish society and religion. In addition to Q we have evidence for the early Jesus movements in the pre-Markan pronouncement stories, the pre-Markan miracle story sets, the Gospel of


     246  EPILOGUE

    Thomas, and the parables. All of these traditions about Jesus demonstrate a remarkable independence from the congregations of the Christ and provide evidence for a revised history of Christian beginnings that does not agree with the traditional Christian imagination based on the gospels.

    As we have seen, the narrative gospels can be described both as a further development of the Jesus traditions and as a reserved acknowledgment and cautious appropriation of the Christ myth that first emerged in northern Syria and the Pauline churches. The underlying logic of the Christ myth was a martyrology. A martyrology was fastened on for reasons specific to the congregations of the Christ in which a most unlikely mix of Jesus people was in need of "justification," or rationalization by means of a myth of origin. How the Christ myth answered that problem has been discussed in chapter 11. Once it was in place for that purpose, the myth of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ was then further embellished as a symbol of a personal transformation and spiritual presence. The genius of the narrative gospels was their appropriation of the martyrology of the Christ that did not require an acceptance of the cultic implications of the Christ myth.

    In the light of Q, the congregations of the Christ now have to be explained as emerging from the Jesus movements. The direction of development cannot be the other way around. Q reveals a vigorous movement that was not generated by a belief in Jesus as the Christ whose death and resurrection dramatically changed the course of history. There is no indication that any of the Jesus movements were interested in salvation by personal, spiritual transformation on the model of the Christ event.

    As for the narrative gospels, they were composed much later at crossroads in the history of the Jesus movements where various social and ideological issues of self-definition and external challenge influenced the way in which Jesus was reimagined. Despite their appropriation of the Christ martyrology to compose a passion narrative as the climax for their story of Jesus, the narrative gospels take their place in the rich history of mythmaking characteristic of the Jesus movements. Mythmaking was already far advanced in the Q tradition, as we have seen, and this had been achieved without any recourse to the Christ myth. The narrative gospels developed that tradition

    EPILOGUE  247    

    and continued the process of mythmaking along essentially the same lines. Jesus' importance for the Jesus traditions was that of a founder-teacher, not that of the Christ who died and was raised. The fantastic portrayal of Jesus in the narrative gospels was the result of a layered history of imaginative embellishments of a founder figure, not historical reminiscence, not a meditation on the way in which spiritual life was generated from a crucifixion.

    Merely readjusting the conventional picture of Christian origins will not suffice to meet Q1's challenge. Q1's challenge is not a matter of shifting emphases within the Christian imagination as if, for instance, it would be better to think of Jesus as more of a teacher than a messiah. Q1's challenge is absolute and critical. It drives a wedge between the story as told in the narrative gospels and the history they are thought to record. The narrative gospels can no longer be read as the records of historical events that generated Christianity. Q puts us in touch with the earlier history of the Jesus movements, and their recollections of Jesus are altogether different. The first followers of Jesus did not know about or imagine any of the dramatic events upon which the narrative gospels hinge. These include the baptism of Jesus; his conflict with the Jewish authorities and their plot to kill him; Jesus' instruction to the disciples; Jesus' transfiguration, march to Jerusalem, last supper, trial, and crucifixion as king of the Jews; and finally, his resurrection from the dead and the stories of an empty tomb. All of these events must and can be accounted for as mythmaking in the Jesus movements, with a little help from the martyrology of the Christ, in the period after the Roman-Jewish war.

    Thus the story of Q demonstrates that the narrative gospels have no claim as historical accounts. The gospels are imaginative creations whose textual resources and social occasions can be identified. The reasons for their compositions can be explained. They are documents of intellectual labor normal for people in the process of experimental group formation. Q positions the gospels as period pieces from the later phases of the Jesus movements and thus challenges the traditional imagination of Christian origins as portrayed in the narrative gospels.

    The question now is whether the discovery of Q has any chance of making a difference in the way in which Christianity and its gospel are viewed in modern times. The question is quite serious, because


     248  EPILOGUE

    neither in the university, nor among knowledgeable people in our society, nor among the Christian churches have the results of biblical scholarship ever made much of a difference. One reason is that critical biblical scholarship is pursued as a classical discipline that generates its own discourse within a narrowly prescribed field of study. But the main reason is that, as we have seen, New Testament scholars have traditionally seen their role as contributing to a theological enterprise, a clarification of Christian origins that supports Christian belief. New Testament scholars still regularly refer to the first church in Jerusalem forming shortly after the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. That is the reason why the discovery of Q1's significance took so long to be realized and why the traditional view of Christian origins has prevailed even in scholarly circles. As a result, biblical scholarship has been read mainly by theologians and Christian ministers, not by scholars in the humanistic disciplines, and seldom with interest and understanding by the literate public. Nevertheless, the discovery of Q might be an exception to the rule. Q is hard evidence from the earliest period of Christian beginnings, a new text that has recently come to light, one that tells a different story. And Q can now be read by anyone interested in the question of Christian origins.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    EPILOGUE  249    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     250  EPILOGUE

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    EPILOGUE  251    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     252  EPILOGUE

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    EPILOGUE  253    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     254  EPILOGUE

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    In order to understand ourselves and register reasons for our social options, cultural analysis will have to include a comparative evaluation of mythologies. And that means having a close look at our own mythology.

    Q should help with this analysis by breaking the taboo that now grants privilege to the Christian myth. That is because the story of Q gives us an account of Christian origins that is not dependent upon the narrative gospels. That is a great advantage. Christian mythology can now be placed among the many mythologies and ideologies of the religions and cultures of the world. The Christian myth can be studied as any other myth is studied. It can be evaluated for its proposal of ways to solve social problems, construct sane societies, and symbolize human values. The gospel can be discussed as an enculturating mythology, and the question of its influence in American culture can be pursued without the constant interruption of questions and claims about the historical truth of unique events.

    Some may find such a conversation difficult, but others may well find it exhilarating to accept Q1's challenge. Q enters the arena of public discourse at a time when all Christians are engaged in a turbulent quest to redefine commitments and rearrange traditional Christian values. Christians are actively engaged in sorting through the rich archives of myths, teachings, and attitudes that have defined their religion, trying to locate the symbols that may constructively address the problems of our time. The quest is turbulent because the world has come alive with problems for which traditional cliches no longer work.

    Christians have been known for their global visions and their concern for other peoples. They have also been known for taking a critical stance, often called "prophetic," over against political and social systems seen as unjust and oppressive. Christians do this best while standing within some Christian community. But Christians enjoy this privilege because Christian communities do not have to produce a Fully fledged working society. The church as a social institution

    EPILOGUE  255    

    has only to produce other Christians and inculcate Christian ideals. So Christians invariably end up living in two social worlds, the community of Christian values and the work-a-day world of the society in which they actually live.

    In our time, Christians of all persuasions have been forced to think about the tensions created by this strange division of identities and loyalties. Reactions range from the political action committees of the moral majority and their attempt to make society conform to Christian standards, to retreat into therapeutic enclaves and/or the washing of one's hands characteristic of privatistic and apocalyptic views of personal salvation. Neither extreme commends itself to Christians caught in the middle who worry about the effective difference they had hoped Christianity might make in the world.

    (part of this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     256  EPILOGUE

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    EPILOGUE  257    

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)


     258  EPILOGUE

    (this page not reproduced, due to copyright restrictions)

    Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins -- All rights reserved.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 259 ]

    APPENDIX  A                
    EARLY  CHRISTIAN  LITERATURE                

    (view larger image of chart)

    [ 260 ]

         APPENDIX  B
         Q  SEGMENTS

    The Lukan Text and Parallels
    QS 01
    QS 02
    QS 03
    QS 04
    QS 05
    QS 06
    QS 07
    QS 08
    QS 09
    QS 10
    QS 11
    QS 12
    QS 13
    QS 14
    QS 15
    QS 16
    QS 17
    QS 18
    QS 19
    QS 20
    QS 21
    QS 22
    QS 23
    QS 24
    QS 25
    QS 26
    QS 27
    QS 28
    QS 29
    QS 30
    QS 31
    QS 32
    QS 33
    QS 34
    QS 35
    QS 36
    QS 37
    QS 38
    QS 39
    QS 40
    QS 41
    QS 42
    QS 43
    QS 44
    QS 45
    QS 46
    QS 47
    QS 48
    QS 49
    QS 50
    QS 51
    QS 52
    QS 53
    QS 54
    QS 55
    QS 56
    QS 57
    QS 58
    QS 59
    QS 60
    QS 61
    QS 62
    11:16, 29-32
    14:11; 18:14
    54; 68; 69
    95; 6:2
    78; 46
    73; 14:2
    2; 92; 94
    39:1; 89; 102
    5:2; 6:3; 33:1
    21:3; 103
    20; 96
    5; 101
    3; 51; 61; 113
    S37, 38, 39
    S58, 59

    (remainder of this text not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

    Transcriber's  Comments

    Burton L. Mack, D.D.

    Vernal Holley and Professor Mack

    Whether or not Vernal Holley ever finished reading Burton L. Mack's The Lost Gospel remains unknown -- perhaps he did not. Vernal passed away in the summer of 2000, leaving his personal notes and unpublished manuscripts in disarray. After printing a limited edition of his 1994 booklet, Christianity, The Last Great Creation of the Pagan World, Vernal expanded his planned research into Christian origins, but his final published text (The Great Secret, 2000) comprised only a small part of Vernal's writings on the subject. He had progressed past his initial interest in the pseudonymous Jewish theorist, Abelard Reuchlin, and was prepared to consider the scholarship of a more reputable biblical authority, such as Mack.

    Selections from Mack's The Lost Gospel are presented here as a representative sampling of the issues Vernal Holley was studying in his final months. He was aware of the "Q problem" and would have been very interested in comparing and contrasting the "Q" sayings with those portions of the Gospels he had already attributed to the inspiration and/or composition of Flavius Josephus. However, Vernal was interested in more than just scriptural authorship attributions. He was also deeply concerned with the implications arising from discovering the true origins of Christianity. One particular paragraph from Professor Mack's page 246 would certainly have caught Vernal's interest:
    In the light of Q, the congregations of the Christ now have to be explained as emerging from the Jesus movements. The direction of development cannot be the other way around. Q reveals a vigorous movement that was not generated by a belief in Jesus as the Christ whose death and resurrection dramatically changed the course of history. There is no indication that any of the Jesus movements were interested in salvation by personal, spiritual transformation on the model of the Christ event.
    Vernal Holley came to realize that any modern search for the "historical Jesus" was much like the effort involved in peeling back the layers of an onion. With the removal of each historical overlay, cumulative deconstructions of Christianity are carried out -- until very little remains at the center of those discarded layers. The "belief in Jesus as the Christ whose death and resurrection dramatically changed the course of history" thus ends up being only an embryonic potential, occupying that demythologized center place. The experience of many centuries has shown the realization of that potential, in the many Christian sects and the vast array of beliefs, practices and social orders generated within those numerous sects. But Vernal would have instinctively bypassed the accumulation of the ages, and doubtless would have concluded that "Jesus" never equalled "Christ," and that the resultant church-supporting mythology has been a greatly disturbing human mistake.

    In our pondering the word "disturbing," another relevant quotation may come to mind:
    Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all."
    Gospel of Thomas, log. 2        
    Had Joseph Atwill's recent book on Roman-Christian origins been available, prior to Vernal's demise, he would certainly have read that modern writer's similar New Testament authorship conclusions (regarding Josephus, the First Jewish Revolt, possible NT composition attributions, etc.) with relish. His inclination would have been to compare and contrast Atwill's conclusions with those published by late 20th century scholars like Burton L. Mack. Unfortunately we will never know what Vernal's final determinations might have looked like. Would he have discovered the "disturbing" answers he was looking for, at the center of the Christological "onion?" Or, would he have simply concluded that "Jesus" not equalling "Christ" was the empty, theological dead-end he had suspected would mark the termination of his life's quest?

    Most of Vernal Holley's later manuscript writings have been missing since 1998-99. If his texts and notes on New Testament origins can ever be located, relevant excerpts will be appended to these comments.
    return to top of page