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I’ve been asked to post here my request to reopen the question about scholarly consensus on the relative reliability of Jesus sayings in Mark and Q. It’s evident from the comments under the question and from one of the answers, some people have theological reasons for wanting to avoid the discussion, even disparaging the OP and offering a frivolous answer without rationale. I respect these faith-based opinions, but it seems to me the question itself clearly relates to source criticism, which the help center indicates is 'on topic', and should be reopened.

It’s also a matter of consistency. If we’re going to allow questions about the reliability of the LXX, Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls, Amarna letters, Codex Bezae, and countless individual biblical texts – as we have – then surely a discussion about Jesus sayings in Mark and Q is on-topic as well. Concerns about a critical Q text and principles of determining reliability can be addressed in the answers. Let’s reopen the question to full discussion. Thanks!

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  • I agree that it should be reopened. I think some people got hung up on my word "consensus". The core of my question is this: from the perspective of someone who believes in source criticism (as opposed to more religious perspectives), was the author of Q or the author of Mark more accurately conveying the actual words of Jesus? That is to say, someone who believes in source criticism would believe that both the author of Q and the author of Mark probably put some incorrectly attributed some sayings to Jesus. But which of the two are more likely to have accurately conveyed Jesus' words? Apr 10 '15 at 20:50
  • And I'm not necessarily looking for scholarly consensus, if different proponents of source-criticism have different views on this question. The intent of my question was more along the lines of, what are the views of believers of source criticism on this issue? That's why I accepted Dick Harfield's answer, because it at least attempted to answer this question. Now it only presented one view, but if there are other notable views on this issue (among believers in source criticism) I'm happy to hear about them as well. Apr 10 '15 at 20:57
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I am one who has been opposed to the question as is (as can be seen by the comments). And though I come from a perspective that sees the hypothesis of Q as a huge waste of time and effort, I would not be opposed to reopening if the question was edited in two respects, as I do not oppose the academic value of it. The main problems I had with the original version were:

  1. There is no extant document to analyze, nor agreed upon reconstruction of the "Q" textform.
  2. The asking for "consensus."

However, Keshav Srinivasan has now stated in a comment:

The intent of my question was more along the lines of, what are the views of believers of source criticism on this issue?

Assuming he edits the question to ask that instead, that resolves (2) and is answerable; it also in most cases resolves (1), because then the person/group being analyzed will presumably have the textform they believe is Q, which then at least we can analyze.

A summary of a person's/group's view on this can be given (assuming they have indicated enough information), and their overall reasoning stated (without necessarily verse by verse points). In this sense the question narrows focus, however there is one more hurdle faced by the OP.

The final hurdle in my mind would be how does one word the question in such a way to make a selection of a "right" or "best" answer, the one to be "accepted." Part of the "Too broad" close reasoning is that:

There are ... too many possible answers.

Such would be the case if the question is open ended of just wanting "various views," and make the question still un-openable; which I believe is Davïd's point. Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum, but a site designed to pinpoint "best" answers (at least from the OP's perspective in accepting and the community's perspective in voting). Hermeneutics questions do have a variety of answers anyway (based upon viewpoint), so BH.SE is a bit more lenient on that point I think. Yet still, the question needs to be worded in such a way that an answer can strive to meet the requirements and be worthy of "acceptance" above the other answers.

So besides the edit noted above, I believe the OP would need to rephrase it in some way that limits the scope further to what a "best" answer would provide to distinguish itself from the other postings of "views" by various people.

Just my 2 cents. (Anybody got 2 cents I can borrow to pay for this opinion?)

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  • "...I believe the OP would need to rephrase it in some way that limits the scope further to what a "best" answer would provide to distinguish itself from the other postings of "views" by various people." - This reminds me of some questions you see on Codegolf.SE where there are many possible answers. Could work!
    – Dɑvïd
    Apr 11 '15 at 8:36
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    I understand we usually want to have texts to work on, but this question is bigger, it seems to me. It's about hermeneutics, not just an exercise of hermeneutics. See more answer for more info. Thanks, ScottS.
    – Schuh
    Apr 14 '15 at 5:34
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Leave that question closed!

I have contributed to the skein of comments at the closed question, and opined on this Q&A in chat. Only fair, then, to contribute here, too.

I believe the question as posed ("Which is considered more reliable about Jesus' words, Mark or Q?") is far too broad for the Q&A format we work with here on BH.SE. It flags up an interesting issue, and one that in some form would be worth addressing on BH.SE, but more likely in a series of questions rather than in one colossal and waddling behemoth that threatens to drop dead under the weight of its own ungainly mass.

My chat suggestion was that a particular passage be chosen for discussion. There are plenty to choose from. At least that would permit for a reasonable framework for discussion which otherwise would spin quickly out of control.

Still, there are drawbacks even to this approach. As Craig Evans points out in his chapter on Source Criticism in Searching for Meaning: An Introduction to Interpreting the New Testament (ed. by Paula Gooder; SPCK, 2008; W/JKP, 2009), specifically with reference to the Q/Mark debate,

One of the greatest problems in attempting to select a Gospel passage to explore in order to illustrate source criticism is that the issues raised depend upon which passage is being explored. (Page 31)

In terms of Schuh's plea, above, I would make the following points:

  • While some participants on BH.SE may have "theological reasons" for thinking this a futile question, it is important to be clear that source criticism is practiced by scholars of faith of different kinds, and none. "Faith-based opinions" and "source criticism" are not inherently antithetical.
  • The "consistency" concern is a slippery one. The "LXX, Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls, Amarna letters, Codex Bezae", etc., all have one significant distinction from Q: they all actually exist and are available for investigation. This is not a trivial point. The very existence of Q is disputed, and denied by significant New Testament scholars (see the Evans piece linked above: I'll single out E.P. Sanders as one leading example -- not that his own position is exactly mainstream!). Any form of this question will suffer for having this factor ever lurking in the background.

Having said all that, I would welcome a circumscribed Mark vs. Q question, dealing with a particular text that would at least allow contributors to focus on one facet of the problem. There could be follow-up questions which could handle texts offering different angles. But my own vote would be against re-opening the question identified by OP.


can o' worms

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    I may not have phrased my question in the best way, but at its core I don't think the question is too broad for the site. I'm not asking for an analysis of all the passages or anything. What I'm asking is, among those who accept the existence of Q, do they believe that the author of Q more faithfully relayed the actual words of Jesus, or do they believe that the author of Mark did? That is why I accepted Dick Hartfield's answer, because it at least gave the view of Crossan on exactly this issue. But if other Q-accepting scholars have different views, I'd want to hear theirs as well. Apr 11 '15 at 1:07
  • @KeshavSrinivasan - I think this discussion is nicely refining things! I see what you're saying in your comment here, and that helps. My hunch is that Q-accepting scholars might find the question of proximity to Jesus' ipsissima verba meaningless, but it would be worth having a Q&A about that.
    – Dɑvïd
    Apr 11 '15 at 8:55
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I propose the following question:

What is the consensus among scholars who support the Two-Source hypothesis about the relative authenticity of the sayings of Jesus in the Q source and those in the Gospel of Mark?

This is a question that informs the process of hermeneutics, not a question for hermeneutical exercise. It does not include texts for dissection, nor does it require a definitive Q text. Answers that argue the validity of the Two-Source hypothesis itself would be off-topic.

It’s a broad question about what scholars of a particular school-of-thought think about the ‘authenticity’ of the Jesus sayings in the two sources. Answers may therefore address source-critical issues (if a particular proposed text is thought more or less authentic than others, for example) or various degrees of authenticity (per @David’s comment about ipsissima verba Jesu, ‘the very words of Jesus’, versus ipsissima vox, etc.).

The ‘best answer’ would be the one the OP believes offers the best supported case for their answer, that provides the best insight into what 2SH-supporting scholars think about the authenticity of Jesus sayings in the sources, and what are the issues involved.

The question for us, it seems to me, is to decide whether such a question is within the scope of BH.SE. Our typical questions involve doing hermeneutics, but are questions about hermeneutics also on-topic? I hope so – I’m very curious to find out the answer(s). Thanks!

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    Questions about hermeneutics are definitely also on-topic. Apr 19 '15 at 22:00

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