Thursday, December 02, 2010

My Favourite Qs

I am always surprised when people expect me to want to denigrate Q. As it happens, I am a big fan of Q -- I even "like" it on Facebook.   So it is good to see Jim Linville bringing up the question of the existence of Q as a possibility for a Science Fiction section at the Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco next year.  And James McGrath invokes my name in the expectation that I may not be convinced.

Actually, I am a complete sucker for the comparison between fictional Qs and had a go at it back in my 2001 introductory textbook, The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, Chapter 5:
“Q”, the letter used for the hypothetical source that allegedly lies behind much of Matthew and Luke, sounds mysterious and intriguing. On our way through the maze, here is something that has a sense of the thrilling. To many, the term “Q” quickly conjures up images from James Bond or Star Trek. Perhaps, the reader will think, this “Q” will be like the James Bond character “Q”, played by Desmond Llewellyn, ever able to provide some suitable new gadget appropriate to the occasion, equipping us ready to help us out of some implausible yet dangerous situation. Or perhaps it will be like the “Q” of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an ever powerful, strangely illusive, oddly irritating presence always lurking on the sidelines to divert us from conducting our affairs in the way we would like.
Without doubt, the study of Q does carry a thrill for many scholars and students of the New Testament. Some think that this lost source provides us with a window onto the earliest years of the Christian movement, and the work of uncovering Q is now often likened to the work of excavating material in an archaeological dig. Not surprisingly, the “discovery” in modern times of this lost document has led to something of an industry in New Testament scholarship, attempting to reconstruct its wording, its theology, its history, its origin. But before any of this is possible, there is a prior question, a question sometimes ignored, that requires careful attention: what is the evidence for this hypothetical document? How do we know that Q existed? Is the hypothesis based on solid ground or might the Q of Gospel scholarship turn out to be as fictional as the Qs of James Bond and Star Trek?
A little predictable, perhaps.  But no one else was making the comparison at the time, and it was irresistible.


Scott F said...

"oddly irritating "

Love it

Jack Daniels said...

I was once in the habit of calling Qoheleth "Q", but that didn't go over well in a OT section of a regional SBL meeting in '99. A lot of OT folks were pretty sore about it.

Ian said...

Beautiful, did you make the cover, Mark?

Mark Goodacre said...

If only! I saw it here:

Mark W. Waterman said...

The title of a Japanese best selling novel 2009 by Haruki Murakami is "1Q84." But it has nothing to to with Dead Sea Scrolls. lol

Daniel Graves said...

Here in Canada, we have an excellent arts and culture program on CBC Radio called "Q"(the CBC is our national public broadcaster - The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio-Canada).