(THE LOST GOSPEL Q, Original Sayings of Jesus. Ulysses Press, Berkeley, CA.1996).
WHAT IS THE LOST GOSPEL?
In reality this gospel is not lost, but is a hypothetical document consisting of over 200 verses found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. After 150 years of professional scrutiny the majority of reliable scripture scholars today accept the hypothesis of some type of lost document (referred to as Quellen, the German word for source) to explain the linguistic similarity, at times with identical syntax, of the parables and words of Jesus recorded by Matthew and Luke. When studied separately from the rest of gospel material the Quellen afford us a different and acknowledged as a more historical Jesus.
In the same way that the four gospels have been found to be the products of varied very early church communities, Mark for the Christian community of Rome, Matthew for that of Antioch, the Lost Gospel is identified with Galilee and environs and hypothesized to represent their oral traditions about Jesus before he ventured to Jerusalem with his message. Its passages reflect an Aramaic origin, the language of Jesus. They appear to be “…written by Jesus’ contemporaries and preserving his original words” (Jacket of THE LOST GOSPEL).
It needs to be emphasized that the publication in question is far from an amateurish attempt to promote a controversial view of Christian scriptures, but echoes the opinion of the majority of serious New Testament scholars.
An abbreviated quote from the small tome’s jacket will entice those interested to look farther into the prime source up to our time for the historical Jesus.
“A sacred handbook for his earliest followers…is a window into the world of ancient Christianity. It contains the original Sermon on the Mount, Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as aphorisms, and Jesus’ guidance on living a simple and compassionate life….older than the four traditional Gospels, older than the Christian church itself….Lost for two thousand years, no copy of this Gospel has ever been found. But for the past one hundred and fifty years, historians and theologians around the world have been rediscovering the fragments. Working like archaeologists, they have dug through the many layers of the New Testament to finally uncover the original Gospel upon which key elements of the Bible are based.”
A look at the book’s Preface by Marcus Borg the famous New Testament scholar puts the hypothesis of the Quellen in the context of the New Testament. “Like all editions of the Lost Gospel Q, the present one is a reconstruction from non-Markan material shared in common by Matthew and Luke.” (p. 20). Some of Borg’s observations:
“Written in the 50s of the first century, only a couple of decades after the death of Jesus, Q is significantly earlier than the four Gospels of the New Testament. Mark, the earliest of these, was written around the year 70; Matthew and Luke followed a decade or two later; and John probably in the last decade of the first century….Only the genuine writings of Paul, most of which were also written in the 50s, are as early as Q. But his writings were not Gospels, but letters….Therefore Q is not only the first Christian Gospel, but the earliest written form of the Jesus tradition….By the early 1900s, Q had become widely accepted by scholars involved in the study of Christian origins….some scholars do not accept the Q hypothesis. But most do. My impression is that at least 90 percent of contemporary Gospel scholars do. It seems to them (and to me) a necessary hypothesis.”(p.13-15). “…it provides evidence for an early Christian community that did not make the death and resurrection of Jesus central to its message. Q contains no passion narrative, no death and resurrection stories…For this community, what mattered most about Jesus was not his death and resurrection; the community did not stress ‘believing’ that ‘Jesus died for our sins and rose again.’”
“…What glimpses does Q have of Jesus? A caution: Just because the Lost Gospel Q is relatively early, we should not think of it as a near transcript of events and teachings going back to Jesus himself. As noted earlier, Q is the product of a developing tradition, and some of the material in it is unlikely to go back to Jesus…With that caution in mind, what picture of Jesus emerges?”
Borg enlarges on some elements that will only be listed here:
“ He was a wisdom teacher with a metaphoric mind-…
“…he was a radical cultural critic…sharp and passionate social criticism….is directed against wealth and against the ruling elites (religious political and economic); indeed, the Jesus of Q threatens Jerusalem (the home of the elites) with divine judgment.”
“…we would discern that Jesus was a religious ecstatic….”
“…we would surmise that he was a healer and exorcist. Though Q has only one healing story, it contains sayings about both healings and exorcisms.”
“…the Q community spoke of Jesus as the Wisdom of God (that is, as the Sophia of God), and as the Son of God (though not yet in the ontological sense).”
“…the Jesus of Q spoke of both an apocalyptic eschatology and a sapiential eschatology.(pp. 13-19).
The introduction written by Thomas Moore, the author of Care of the Soul and The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, holds a Ph.D. in religious studies and lived as a Catholic Monk for twelve years. He shares with us his impressions of the closest image we have today to Jesus, seen as a Galilean prophet giving witness arguably to the most momentous divine message after Jesus himself to humankind: that God is his and our father. Moore’s comments on Jesus:
“…the pure voice of the Gospel Jesus, offers us an extraordinary opportunity to approach with an open mind, fresh ears and new understanding the good news of the mysterious kingdom that Jesus announced…
“…listen actively and individually to a real voice, to catch the nuances and perceive the personality.
“…Q offers us a glimpse of the Gospel’s soul and not merely its message…by realizing the depths of one’s soul, by realizing the absolute communal nature of human life….” (pp. 9-10)
Why is a separate window into the gospels to isolate the historical Jesus from the crucified and risen Christ so important when the basis of faith in Jesus has historically been Christ, the crucified and risen lord?(See Factual Jesus) The Vatican Council II developed during its arduous 4 years a working theological framework that today enables us to put the historical Jesus in a proper perspective. In a subsequent post we will go into the significance of this perspective in light of Vatican II’s sanction of history(See: Science of History) as a source for theology and a new view of God’s revelation to humankind where Jesus constitutes its pinnacle.