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Archaeologists Find Q

QThe earliest collection of the sayings of Jesus, written down in Hebrew by Jesus’ disciple Matthew, has been found.

These sayings, older than our gospels, now leave us with unprecedented questions: if they disagree with the gospels, which do we follow? Should we add this to the Bible?

Biblical scholars and students of history will be delighted that manuscript fragments of the until-now-speculative Q have been discovered. The papyrus pieces, clearly written in first-century Hebrew, are referred to by the Hebrew letter ק (Qoph). [The first word on the manuscript is קהל (“crowd”)].

Unprecedented inter-disciplinary cooperation between Western archaeologists, Jewish and Christian Biblical scholars, and with the assistance of both Israeli and Palestinian authorities, have led today to the announcement that we have the earliest copy of this until-now-conjectural Q.

The Q source (…from German: Quelle, meaning “source”) is a hypothetical written collection of Jesus’s sayings (logia). Q is (part of) the “common” material found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark.”

Peer-reviewing completed, the announcement has been embargoed until 1 April, and so, as we are one of the first countries past the date line, this is going to be one of the first places that you will read it.

Location Q
Location where ק was found
ק was a highly unexpected find made last year in Jaffa by student volunteers, the majority of whom were helping to excavate the twelfth-century B.C. Lion Temple area and Persian period buildings. Because there were so many volunteers, some were assigned to go over some excavations from the Roman period.

Prof. Ida Claire has been overseeing the international group of scholars. “This is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime event. Possibly once in a century,” she said. The manuscript consists solely of sayings of Jesus, and there are many similarities to The Gospel of Thomas which was only discovered last century.

Dr. Richard U. Shure has been translating the document, and he has been able to conjecture some of the missing elements. R.U. Shure has long thought that Eusebius in the fourth century is correct in recounting the second-century Papias, that Saint Matthew collected the sayings of Jesus and wrote them down in Hebrew: “περὶ δὲ τοῦ Ματθαῖου ταῦτ’ εἴρηται· Ματθαῖος μὲν οὖν Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνετάξατο, ἡρμήνευσεν δ’ αὐτὰ ὡς ἧν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος”. [“Matthew collected the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted/translated them as best he could”]. “Here then,” says Dr Shure, “is the oldest copy of what Jesus actually said.”

The find will completely revolutionise New Testament scholarship. Renowned radical theologian, John Dominic Crossan, is expected to make a statement later today when the 1st of April rolls round, lifting the embargo in his timezone. But conservatives won’t have it all their own way. It will take some time for the full text and its possible translations to become available to the non-professional and online. There appear to be references to journeys to India. This may alter dialogue with Buddhism completely, not to mention Hinduism. And there may be further controversial material about marriage, much in the news now days.

Dominican theologian, Father Justin I Dea, sees two theological problems on the horizon. Aware that there are differences between ק and what Jesus says in Matthew and Luke, which teaching should Christians follow? “From the reconstructions I have seen so far,” says Fr Dea, “there are teachings which differ from our Gospels, and there are teachings that our Gospels have omitted. Do we follow what the Church has taught is inspired? Or do we follow what is probably more original?” Secondly, we have never had access to material closer to Jesus than the four Gospels. All other documents date later and are less reliable. “Putting it bluntly – should ק be added to the Bible?”

A copy of the text will be sent to the meeting of the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete, Greece, in June 2016. Another copy is going to the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council beginning in a couple of weeks. “A lot will rest, of course, on the Vatican’s response. Calling an ecumenical council would be extremely expensive,” says Mr Bill M. Lader, a philanthropist who has funded much of the research. “But at the end of the day, I am thrilled with the interest in this discovery. It is a memorable day on the calendar!”

I hope, if you appreciated this post today, that you share it (facebook and so on). And do remember to like the liturgy facebook page, use the RSS feed, and sign up for a not-very-often email, …

If you are interested in follow-up on this story, you can read more as it develops on the official website of ק.

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121 thoughts on “Archaeologists Find Q”

  1. Jesse Billett

    This is embarrassing for me, since I have tended to agree with those who argued that there were simpler and more convincing ways to explain the parallels between the synoptic gospels than to posit a hypothetical common source. Indeed, I bought right into the whole “pooh-pooh-on-Q” position as a theology student. My New Testament instructor, a Dutch Salesian priest, Prof. Scip ‘t Zisst, famously said in a lecture, “If somebody claimed to have found a genuine copy of Q, there would be no reason to read it. It would just be a set of quotations from Matthew and Luke.” He tended to say outrageous things like that as we got near the end of the spring term. Maybe the grading was getting to him… at that time of year…

        1. 😉 Easter Season Blessings, Jesse, from 5 letters: “Dutch Salesian priest…near the end of term, the grading getting to him”!

          1. Jesse Billett

            And to you, Bosco! Thanks for the delicious fun, which I relished all the more for having fasted from blogs (even yours, which was hard) during Lent.

            “5 letters”? Too subtle for me. What did I miss?

          2. B-o-s-c-o = 5 letters; cryptic crossword clue. You have been missed, Jesse. Easter Season Blessings.

  2. James Oppenheimer

    It is much too early to speculate on this. It may well turn out to be a forgery. The circumstances of its discovery leave that possibility wide open. Dating the material will also help.

    Incredible claims demand incredible proofs, so look for this to be kicking around the scholarly community for years before a real decisive result is achieved.

    And of course, there is the matter of it being promulgated on April first. “Justin I Dea” indeed!

    1. Robert MacFarland

      I agree. We see in the foreword of the King James Bible the phrase “Diligently Considered”.
      Nothing should be ‘added’ to the Bible on a ‘whim’.
      Also…this say’s some.of it is similar to the Gospel of Thomas…Many of us who study the Bible and understand the ‘Spirit’ of the Bible, ‘have read’ other books claimimg to be biblical….and find most of them to be quite ridiculous in their content, some bordering on absurd and retarded.
      Those of us who are ‘His Sheep’ tend to know the ‘Shepherds’ voice and are not easily fooled.

      1. On the other hand, Jesus called us sheep for a reason. I once heard a priest on Good Shepherd Sunday say in his homily: “if you’ve ever worked with sheep, you know that Our Lord was not being very complimentary.”

    2. yes, and who is this Dr Shure?? I cannot” find anything about them on line….

      “R.U. Shure” this isn’t a joke?

  3. Jean underwood

    This if true is totally mind blowing, could it mean that there could be even earlier manuscripts out there

    1. Robert MacFarland

      Certainly Possible. In many books of the Bible, there are references to things being ‘revealed’ at the correct time.
      God told Daniel.to ‘write’ what God told him, but that Daniel would not understand the very words he was writing, because it was not yet the correct time. God can certainly produce new manuscripts, but it is also possible that many things we already ‘know’ in scripture, could be ‘revealed’ more thorougly as events ‘unfold’ in our lives and in world events.
      This is not ‘changing’ God’s Word….God is giving us understanding…uncovering what is already there.

  4. Jean underwood

    This if true is totally mind blowing, could it mean that there could be even earlier manuscripts out there

  5. I was really excited to read this at first, and really amused that the text started with a qoph, but now the April 1st date is really bothering me. Is this real?

  6. As soon as I meet fr. “Justin idea” and dr. “R U shure” I’ll introduce you to a reporter named ceymour pruf who did a story on flying pigs. Happy April fools to you too!

  7. Brenda Greenwald

    Fascinating. The paragraph stating “Dr. Richard U. Shure has been translating the document…” says they were written down in Hebrew, but the text displayed in this article is Greek.

    1. Thanks for seeking clarification, Brenda. That quote was from Eusebius, who obviously wrote in Greek. It was not a quote from the document Q – that translation is not public yet. I hope that helps to make sense. Easter Season Blessings.

  8. Definitely not Q for the simple reason that there was never any question that Q must be a Greek source. Are we to stop shunning Semitic primacists now? What gives?

  9. It’s a joke–look at the references to April 1st.

    They are talking about “Q” anyway. Do you really think they found it, lol?

  10. William Moorer

    There is something (several things) fishy about this report: “R.U. Shure”;
    “Prof. Scip’t Zisst”; “Bill “em Later”? The only generally known scholar is John Dominic Crossan. Who’s legs are being pulled here?

  11. I can see the Reader’s Digest version of this manuscript being released and entitled: Q TIPS.
    It certainly will rival sales of THE MESSAGE.

  12. Ok, am I the only one seeing the obvious joke here? A cleric named I Dea, ( idea) and another researcher named R U Shure, ( are you sure) ? Come on people it’s a set up! Has to be!

  13. Manuel Silva Esterrich

    Lol…Good one guys. I studied with Prof Ida Clare and Dr. Innan Ameof Jesus who then made a paper with Rev. Holly Spireet.

    Lol. Check the date.

  14. Look, this takes second prize for the best April 1 contribution, after the devolution of the treble section of King’s College Choir and replacing them with choral scholars and a tank of helium and some rubber balloons.

    But it is well worked through and I think the philanthropist Bill U Lader would be proud.

  15. Alasdair Coles

    Dating is often important …

    Might we suspect that, once it’s translated, we will be told that it gives a much earlier citation than previously envisaged for Sponge Bob Squarepants?

  16. When Ida Claire, R.U.Sure, Justin I. Dea, and Bill M. Lader (discussing costs) all publish on April 1… I’ll wait until N. Creed Able and Dr. Vay Pours weigh in…

  17. Jaylen Braiden

    Something tells me this is a April Fool’s Joke. Go over the names of the academics again: Professer Ida Claire, Dr. Richard U. Shure (R. U. Shure?), and
    Fr. Justin I. Dea. I think we’ve been fooled

  18. Thank you for sharing this new found information….. l pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you to share with us your findings further. ..Anything the Lord has said or says l have ears to listen !

  19. Since the quoted scholars are Ida Claire, R. U. Shure and Justin I Dea I must appreciate that even Liturgical papers can appreciate April Fools day!

  20. Ha-ha, seriously? This is an April Fools gag. With names like, Prof. Ida Claire (i.e. I declare),R.U. Shure (are you sure), and Justin I Dea (just an Idea). I hope no one is falling for this!

  21. J. Georg Hamann

    This looks like an April Fool\’s joke.

    \”These sayings, older than our gospels, now leave us with unprecedented questions: if they disagree with the gospels, which do we follow? Should we add this to the Bible?\”

  22. Stephen Davis

    Can we really we that we can trust Drs. Ida Claire, R. U. Shure, or Fr. Justin I. Dea?What are their credentials? And what are Bill M. Lader’s motives?

  23. If this is true, then it’s one of the more profound finds in all of Christendom.

    I declare, Bosco. Are you sure about all this? I’ve been made to feel foolish in the past.

  24. I dunno… April 1st, and Dr. R. U. Shure (are you sure?) maybe that name’s just simply a quirky coincidence, but no I’m not ‘shure’…

  25. Francisco Mardones

    You have read the Hebrew version of Matthew, the Shem Tov?. It has subtle but important differences with versions translated from the Vulgate.

  26. Scott Freedlun

    Pretty hilarious if anyone thought this was real considering they used a photo of the Nash Papyrus as the image of the find.

  27. I love a good gag, but the problem is that this is already circulating in Spanish and will have ramifications for the Latin American church: it will be used as “evidence” by certain false Messianic rabbis, who teach that the NT was originally written in Hebrew and use that notion to justify their rewriting of the Bible. There are already 3-4 of these “Hebraic” versions in Spanish, and they take out the trinity, salvation by faih in Christ, the personlity of the Spirit, etc, because the mythical “Hebrew original” did not contin those ideas. This hoax about Q will bounce around the web for decades as “evidence” tht they were right all along.

    For that reason, may I ask the site to explain that it was a joke?

    Jokes are fun, until someone gets hurt!

  28. i hope this is in no way connected to the apocryphal ‘dum-koph’ scribblings of the gospel of judas.while his double-entry bookeeping ledger was found to be coded in cuneiform, this notebook ,it is thought,was meant to be a llegible record to help make the case against Jesus from his own words.

    1. Bill Kinsland

      Hey…April 1st…APRIL FOOLS! Look at the sources…”Dr. R.U. Shure”…and “Dr. Ida Claire” (Aunt Pitty Pat)…HaHa…good one!

  29. Thomas Jay Janson, DDS

    Didn’t the “Onion” publish something like this just recently?

    Really: Prof. Ida Claire; Fr. Justin I Dea; R.U Shure; and Bill M. Lader as the Philanthropist. All could have been taken right from a game of “Clue”.

    April 1, 2016 would leave us Clueless!

  30. April 1st will truly be a day that goes down in history. At last fools who believe in Hebrew manuscripts with titles based on German words will have a leg to stand on!

  31. I would love to have time to comment on this discovery but I am in a rush to catch a plane to England. Apparently, I have been selected to play for Manchester United in a European Champions’ League game later this week. (Wayne Rooney eat your heart out!)
    I too, am obviously a late discovery!
    God bless you, Bosco, for making us smile in what is too often a humourless world.

  32. It’s a dang shame that something like this is even posted on the web, let alone not accurately READ by you folks.

    NOT funny in the least bit Rev. Peters

    “Father Justin I Dea”????

    No such person.

  33. Gillian Trewinnard

    Sorry if this has already been said – I just didn’t have time to read all of the comments and I’ve only just come to this post. Someone is quoted in the post as saying that the gospels are the closest we come to Jesus because everything else in the NT is later. Surely the seven letters of Paul accepted as authentic are earlier than the earliest gospel by a couple of decades? While these do not tell the story of Jesus’ life like the gospels do, there is a lot we can infer about the early followers of Jesus and how they regarded him.

    1. The allusion, Gillian, was to apocryphal gospels, which all date later than the four canonical gospels. There’s no disputing your point about the Pauline letters. Easter Season Blessings.

  34. Grant M. Bakewell

    A clever joke for April fools, which gets me to think again about sensational claims, speculative hypotheses, and what difference it finally makes whether Jesus actually went to India, or just seemed at times to be speaking as a guru or avatar of the divine-human relationship, as many Hindus have come to understand. But now it’s time to return to minding my own “p’s and q’s” for Easter 3C. Thanks, Bosco, for your great work. Peace+

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