If you’ve studied early Christianity and the origins of the biblical gospels at all, you’ve probably heard of the lost sayings gospel known as Quell (the German word for ‘source’), or simply Q for short. Scholars analyzed the texts of the three synoptic gospels and determined that both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke used the Gospel of Mark as the source of their narratives, but then included material from other sources, including a large body of the sayings of Jesus that are common to the two books. The source of these common sayings is the lost gospel that has come to be known as Q.
For a non-scholarly description of the process that led to the reconstruction of Q, along with details of how it itself was added to over time before being used in Matthew and Luke, I recommend the book “The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q & Christian Origins” by Burton L. Mack. Mack’s book also includes the full text of the reconstructed gospel, retranslated from the Greek originals of Matthew and Luke.
Unfortunately, Mack intentionally chose to “aim at a fresh translation,… in the everyday language of our time, in order to avoid the familiar ring many of these sayings have.” Mack’s translation is even more dull and lifeless than the New International Version (NIV). I’ve always wanted a version of Q based on the poetic verses of the King James Version (KJV), with minimal modernization, that harmonizes the verses from Matthew and Luke. I’m going to attempt to do this here, in what will hopefully be an interesting new series. I will follow Mack’s sections and verse numbering. Here is the first part:
QS 3. The Appearance of John
John the Baptist came to the wilderness along the Jordan River, preaching “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven is near.”
He was the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah as “a voice calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
QS 4. John’s Address to the People
John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing.
“You offspring of vipers!” he said to them. “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones Yahweh can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
QS 5. John’s Prediction of Someone to Come
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me, one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, is coming. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into the barn, and then burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Next Section: The Temptation of Jesus