No, I am not talking about the guy from Star Trek or that guy from James Bond or even the letter Q. I am talking about the mysterious/imaginary (never been found I might add) source document for the synoptic gospels. I am not an expert. I am going to start my master’s degree program this summer complete with Hebrew and Greek language studies. But I do have a brain and reason and common sense to guide me, and I have some complaints about some things I have read from Biblical textual scholars. For those who don’t know, there is a line of thinking that says that Mark and Matthew and Luke all used a common source known as Q. I have always had a problem with this idea since it doesn’t make any sense that three people who are either eyewitness or connected to eyewitness would need a reference document to keep their stories straight. Let me explain one of the common sense reasons why I think Q is not a valid idea.
To reiterate the first point. If Matthew, Mark and Luke were written by their namesakes, there is no real need for them to have a document telling them what happened when. It is easy to explain some of the issues that force people to assume that there must be a “Q” source if these guys are who they are supposed to be. Let’s imagine for a minute that you have been with someone who changed your life for three years. You have experienced incredible things that you could never have imagined before and can never forget. You and a bunch of others hang out together constantly (day and night) for this entire time. Have you ever been to camp or on a mission trip or some other bonding experience with a group of people? What happens when you get together and tell your stories? Someone tells the story best (usually the center of attention guy, you know the type) and everyone else laughs or cries or whatever as they relive the moments described. Usually the same guy tells these things and most people come to remember the event as much by the retelling of it as the event itself. This very thing is common in my family. There are some of those times that we had together that have been told and remembered so often that if you cornered each one of us in isolation from the others you would probably get the same story almost word for word from each of us.
So let’s carry this line of thinking back with us to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. (John isn’t in this discussion because as far as I know, no one accuses him of using the “Q” source, but the same logic would apply to those stories that he includes in the same manner as the other books.) Who would you imagine was the “best storyteller” in the group? I have a personal hunch that it was Peter. Think about it. He was always mentioned first in the lists of the disciples. He was always opening his mouth; oftentimes without thinking ahead. When the disciples sat around at the end of a long day, Peter was probably the one retelling the stories of all the things they had done. I can picture it now, one of them says, “Remember that crazy, naked guy at the graveyard. . .” and Peter takes over with his gripping reenactment of the tale. This certainly went on for the three years that they walked with Jesus. I would also be willing to guess that it went on even more after Christ was ascended to heaven. If tradition is right and Mark wrote down Peter’s accounts of the life of Jesus for his gospel, then this starts to make a lot of sense. Matthew obviously was there for these same stories, but had his own perspective and memories to add to the mix. Luke may have been a part of the group for some time, but he also tells us that he interviewed people to get the information and he undoubtedly had run across Mark before (they did both travel with Paul at some point). He might have used Mark’s gospel as source material, but I don’t see why he would need some crazy “Q” document instead. The differences between them can simply flow from their different styles and in the case of Luke, additional information that was given by those not at those “storyteller’s sessions”.