[Excavating-Q] Disappearance of Q
- Wieland Willker asks about the disappearance of Q.
First, is its "disappearance" an argument against Q. Hardly. We know that
various other documents disappeared: the earlier letter Paul sent to the
Corinthians (unless there is a bit of it preserved in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1); the
letter to the Laodiceans (Col 4:16). Moreover, there are single manuscripts
or citations of documents that have turned up by sheer luck, that we would
not even have suspected to have existed, since they are not mentioned in
patristic literature (Secret Mark, for example--there are, by the way, new
photography showing the margins just published in *The Fourth R*). From the
point of view of logic, the fact that Q has gone missing is not particularly
probative *if* there are other grounds for concluding to its existence. For
example, we do not have an independent copy of the Two Ways document that is
now found embedded in the Didache, the Doctrina Apostolorum, and the
Apostolic Constitutions. But the document can be reconstructed from these
three. Yes, the "original" has gone missing, but sensible analysis of
successor documents strongly suggests that it existed.
Second, why did it go missing? Herr Willker's suggestion that is was simply
happenstance is a good one. Dieter Luehrmann pointed out the since virtually
all of our literary remains of the Jesus movement from the first couple of
centuries comes from Egypt and is preserved because of physical conditions
in Egypt, the failure of Q to be copied in Egypt would guarantee its
disappearance (except in successor documents).
G.D. Kilpatrick argued that Q disappeared because it was completely (or near
completely) absorbed by MAtthew and Luke. By this logic, of course, Mark
should also have disappeared. J. Dunn wondered whether it wasn't recopied
because it was seen as somehow too susceptible to gnosticizing distortions.
But one then wonders why John survived, since its earliest commentator was
In the end I don't find the attempts to provide a logic for Q's
disappearance very convincing, since those logics inevitably create many
problems in accounting for the transmission of other documents and they try
to create "reasons" (rather selectively) for the accidents of history. In
any case, the disappeance of Q is no more probative for its original
existence than the disappearance of the original Two Ways document.
(I discuss this issue briefly in ExQ, pp. 367-68)
This is the _Excavating Q_ Seminar (Oct. 23 -- Nov. 10 2000).
Please send your messages to Synoptic-S@...
Please send all other correspondence to Synoptic-S-Owner@...