In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Q

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Concordances
  • Bibliographies
  • Dictionary Entries
  • Synopses of Q Texts
  • Databases for the Reconstructions of Q
  • Commentaries
  • Surveys of Scholarship
  • Collected Essays
  • Theology

Biblical Studies Q
John S. Kloppenborg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0101


The Sayings Gospel Q, or “Q,” is a hypothetical document posited by the dominant solution to the Synoptic Problem, the Two Document (or Two Source) Hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, Mark was used independently by Matthew and Luke as a source. Since not all of the material that Matthew and Luke have in common comes from Mark, it is necessary to posit a second source, “Q” (an abbreviation of the German Quelle, “source”). The Q material, most or all of which belonged to a single written source, comprises about 235 verses or 4500 words of text and consists mainly of sayings of John the Baptist and Jesus, with two miracles stories (the healing of the centurion’s serving boy and an exorcism) and the Temptation story. Whether the baptism of Jesus belonged to Q is debated. The significance of Q consists in its focus on Jesus’ sayings, in what it lacks, and in its special emphases. Q lacks a continuous narrative, but is instead organized topically; it lacks a Passion-resurrection narrative and birth stories (although it perhaps contains some oblique references to the death and vindication of Jesus); it has only two miracle stories and is mainly interested the sayings or controversies that these miracles occasion; and while it uses such Christological titles as “Son of Man,” “Son of God” and “the Coming One,” it does not use the term “messiah.” Q is less concerned with defending a certain Christology and more interested in characterizing the “kingdom of God” and the behavior and attitude consistent with the kingdom. Note: Q texts are normally cited by their Lucan versification. Thus, Q 6:20 is the Q text located at Luke 6:20. This does not necessarily imply that Luke preserves Q better than Matthew.

General Overviews

General overviews typically discuss the reasons for positing Q in the first place and then offer an introduction to the question of what makes Q distinctive as a document of the early Jesus movement. Many overviews are directed at general readers and undergraduates and do not presuppose either knowledge of Greek or advanced biblical studies. Havener 1987, Kloppenborg 2008, Mack 1993, and Vidal Manzanares 1993 are all suitable for undergraduates and the general reader. Schenk 1981 and Kloppenborg 2005 are appropriate for a slightly more advanced readership. Kloppenborg 2008 discusses in the greatest detail the issues of the reasons for positing Q in the first place, the principles used in the reconstruction of Q, the composition of Q, and its nature as a document of the Galilean Jesus movement. Catchpole 1993 and Kloppenborg 2000 (cited under Q as a “Gospel”) are introductions that presuppose a knowledge of Greek and are aimed at advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers. Both presuppose a relatively high degree of acquaintance with the history of scholarship in Christian origins.

  • Catchpole, David R. The Quest for Q. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993.

    The volume collects, in revised form, previously published essays that are clearly written. Catchpole defends the Q hypothesis and discusses the beginning of Q, the inaugural discourse, mission charge, and various topics (prayer, Temple, faith, and the Law).

  • Havener, Ivan. Q, the Sayings of Jesus: With a Reconstruction of Q by Athanasius Polag. Good News Studies 19. Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1987.

    A readable introduction, including discussions of the synoptic problem, the genre and date of Q, and its principal contents. It also contains an English translation of Athanasius Polag’s Greek reconstruction of Q.

  • Kloppenborg, John S. Q, el evangelio desconocido. Biblioteca de Estudios Bíblicos 117. Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Sígueme, 2005.

    A Spanish translation of the first five chapters of Kloppenborg 2000 (cited under Q as a “Gospel”).

  • Kloppenborg, John S. Q, the Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Sayings and Stories of Jesus. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 2008.

    An introduction to Q, discussing the components of the Two Document hypothesis; the principles for reconstructing Q; five ways in which Q differs from other expressions of the Jesus movement; and the fate of Q and its possible use by the Didache, 1 Clement, the gospel of Thomas, and the Epistle of James. It includes an English translation of the International Q Project text of Q.

  • Mack, Burton L. The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q & Christian Origins. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.

    Also an introduction to Q that proposes a stratigraphy of Q, adapted from Kloppenborg 1987 (cited under Literary Structure and Composition), that distinguishes several layers, including a sapiential layer offering countercultural, cynic-like critique of Judean society; a later layer that, through the use of Deuternomistic theology, places Jesus and John the Baptist in the lineage of Hebrew prophets announcing God’s judgment; and a final stage of direct confrontation with Q’s Judean opponents and a mythologizing of Jesus as an envoy of the heavenly Sophia.

  • Schenk, Wolfgang. Synopse zur Redenquelle der Evangelien: Q-Synopse und Rekonstruktion in deutscher Übersetzung mit kurzen Erläuterungen. Dusseldorf, Germany: Patmos, 1981.

    A readable introduction to Q that prints Matthew and Luke in parallel, followed by a reconstruction of Q (in German) below with brief comments.

  • Vidal Manzanares, César. El primer Evangelio: El Documento Q. Documento 325. Barcelona, Spain: Planeta, 1993.

    Beginning with a description of Palestine in the first century, the author then introduces Q briefly and provides a Spanish translation of Q.

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