An Extant Instance of ‘Q’

  • Alan Garrow
  • New Testament Studies, May 2016, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/s0028688516000072

The discovery of set of Jesus' sayings from the pre-Gospel period

What is it about?

For more than a century mainstream scholars have proposed the existence of Q - a source of Jesus' sayings known to Matthew and Luke, but since lost. Indeed, in recent decades an extraordinary collaborative effort has attempted to reconstruct the wording of this lost document. But what if the fundamental assumptions of the International Q Project are flawed? What if the relationship between Luke's and Matthew's Gospel was different from that always previously assumed? Q might then look altogether different. And, if that were the case, examples of this mystery document might not be lost after all. Following this line of reasoning, this article proposes that an instance of 'Q' (a string of Jesus' sayings used by both Luke and Matthew) is preserved in an ancient text discovered in Constantinople in 1873: the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, or, Didache.

Why is it important?

Since its discovery in 1873 the Didache has always been recognised as an important for the study of early Christianity. It has seldom been imagined, however, that this primitive set of practical instructions might (in significant sections) predate, and be a direct source for, both Luke's and Matthew's Gospels. If this is the case, then it is no longer possible to treat the Didache as an important, but essentially peripheral, text - instead it becomes a player at the very centre of the action in the unfolding story of the first followers of Jesus.


Dr Alan Garrow
University of Sheffield

This article is a companion to 'Streeter's 'Other' Synoptic Solution': The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis' - in the previous edition of *New Testament Studies*. Video versions of both these articles are available via

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Alan Garrow