Early Beliefs (Q)
- To: Synoptic
On: Early Beliefs (Q)
As a promised codicil to my previous response to Tony Buglass, I here
take up my response to a line he quoted from Dunn, "The most obvious
explanation for these features is that the Q material first emerged in
Galilee and was given its lasting shape there prior to Jesus' death in
Jerusalem. That is to say, it expresses the impact made by Jesus
during his Galilean mission and before the shadow of the cross began
to fall heavily upon either his mission or the memory of his teaching."
As some will know, I have for some years (SBL 2006, 2008, and we will
see about 2010) been suggesting that Mark is a stratified text, and
that its earliest layer, necessarily the earliest consecutive account
of Jesus, does not mention his Resurrection (here in agreement with
Adela Yarbro Collins) or include many another point of later doctrine.
There would thus be some interest in seeing what that earliest Markan
narrative DOES include or imply about the original teachings of Jesus.
And if the earliest Q were indeed compatible with what I take to be
those original teachings, I would go do far as to reconsider my
previously negative view of the reality and importance of Q.
There has been much enthusiasm of late, not only for Q, but for the
idea that a stratified Q (due to Kloppenborg 1987) shows that Jesus
was originally a mere teacher of virtue, not an apocalyptic thinker or
any of that other upsetting stuff which, embarrassingly enough for the
thoughtful modern Christian, never came true in the form predicted. Q
then becomes a text to rescue Christian faith in the 21c; no mean
But there are problems.
The first problem for that Nice Jesus idea is: why then was Jesus
arrested by the Jerusalem authorities and executed by the Romans? Did
they pick up all the nice people they could find, including the
beatific holders of lambs and children, and put them to death? That
Jesus is a pretty nice guy, I grant you, but I find those Romans
administratively incomprehensible. Personally, I tend to lose
enthusiasm at this point.
But to continue anyway: The next problem, and specifically the problem
with the stratified Q is, does its first Kloppenborg layer really
present such a Jesus, a Jesus "on whom the shadow of the cross is yet
to fall?" Never mind Mark; that would be an interesting result merely
on its own merits.
My lab test of that proposition is via Arnal "The Q Document" in
Jackson-McCabe (ed), Jewish Christianity Reconsidered (2007). I here
avoid mentioning that Kloppenborg 2008 (Q, the Earliest Gospel)
apparently sets so little store by the 1987 stratification theory as
scarcely to mention it. But no matter; enough for the present that
Arnal 2007 finds it cogent. We can test his proposal in isolation of
anything Kloppenborg says or does not say.
I confine myself accordingly to Arnal's own exposition, p122f. under
the heading The First Stage of Q's Composition (Q1). "The document's
first layer and earliest written stage (Q1) presents Jesus as a
teacher of unusual wisdom and exhorts obedience to his radical
teaching and emulation of the lifestyle that accompanies that teaching
(see Q 14:26-27, 17:33)."
OK, there is our test. I will now transcribe the passages in question,
from Kloppenborg 2008 with double brackets rendered as single brackets:
Q 14:26. [The one who] does not hate father and mother cannot be my
disciple, and [the one who] does not hate son and daughter cannot be
Q 14:27. The one who does not take one's cross and follow after me
cannot be my disciple.
Q 17:33. [The one who] finds one's life will lose it, and [the one
who] loses one's life [for my sake] will find it.
Surely never, in the long history of the humanistic sciences, can
cited passages so signally have failed to live up to their
advertising. I grieve to report it, but the shadow of the cross seems
to fall heavily on 14:27, and the necessity - not the possibility, but
the necessity - of martyrdom for the follower of Jesus appears to be
the whole point of 17:33. We have here not, after all, the Nice Jesus,
the petter of lambs and the blesser of children and the consoler of
the poor, but the Via Crucis.
What seems to have emerged from this lab test is that the earliest
layer of Mark, as reconstructed by myself, does provide the sort of
teaching Dunn and Arnal envision as early and Galilean - a teaching
not shadowed by the cross, and consisting of simple and universally
followable ethical prescriptions. A teaching stunningly new (Mk 1:22,
2:21f) but also popular and thus doable (Mk 2:2, 3:7f).
But the earliest layer of the supposed Q, as reconstructed by
Kloppenborg, does not.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst