The Father William Most Collection
Burton Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
Burton Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins (Harper, San Francisco)
Mack is Presbyterian minister, Professor of NT Studies at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont CA
Cf. S. J. Patterson "Q- The Lost Gospel," in Bible Review, October 1993, pp. 34-41, 61-62.
He says that Q is wisdom sayings, a collection of aphorisms ascribed to a teacher or sage. These pithy sayings were the earliest strata of Christian tradition, which later got put together into things like the sermon on the Mount. He says that Q is a hypothesis that answers most questions, and so a scholarly consensus is building that assumes the veracity of Q. He thinks Jesus was a Cynic type philosopher. He did not emerge from Jewish tradition.
Q has no mention of virgin birth, nor is Jesus a martyr figure. It is possible Jesus was crucified, but that is not in the context of Q as we know it. Perhaps Jesus died as part of an anti-Roman protest along with other Galileans. Mack says he is not very interested in the historical Jesus, but in the early Christians. Jesus is the creation of the Q community. By 70 there was a shift from wisdom to narrative. The focus came to be on who Jesus was, rather than on what he taught. The Q community was interested in what they called the Kingdom of God, an egalitarian social order. Present concerns about the historicity of the Jesus story are a sort of cop-out. Mack told National Catholic Register, for issue of May 9, 1993 (interview with Gabriel Meyer) that, "Christianity is no less 'mythological ' than any other religion. Joseph Campbell put it well when he wrote that the central problem of Christianity is that it historicized its myth.... If we didn't have to believe in the Gospels as creedal narrative, we could allow our missionary triumphalism to fall away and join the rest of the human race. We could use our stories more playfully. We could experiment with them. We might actually be able to rise to the challenge of our time and understand what we and the Christian heritage genuinely have to contribute to the human enterprise."