Saturday, May 09, 2020
Hilarion Alfeyev on Q: It simply never existed
I returned this week to my reading of Hilarion Alfeyev’s Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching (SVS Press, 2018) and was struck by his evaluation of the so-called Q hypothesis:
“What happened to Q? Why did it disappear?”…. We must answer directly: nothing happened to it; it has not disappeared—it simply never existed. There never was a “discovery” of Q. There have only been more or less clumsy attempts to invent it on the basis of the fragments remaining after the deconstruction of the Gospel text. It is plausible that the evangelists used some sources; it cannot be excluded that the collections of the sayings of Jesus existed not only in an oral, but also in written tradition; but in the form in which the Q source has been “reconstructed,” “discovered,” and “excavated” throughout the twentieth century, it is a typical scholarly myth raised to the status of dogma (80-81).
He later adds:
The pressing task of contemporary biblical studies is to be librerated from these types of myths and dogmas (81).
Such skepticism of “the assured results of modern scholarship” should not perhaps come as a surprise from one who comes from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, as does Alfeyev, given that the Enlightenment did not affect the East to the degree it did the West. Oddly enough, many evangelicals happily embrace modern Gospel source criticism, with its theories for resolving the Synoptic Problem, Markan Priority, and Q, without seeming to recognize the inherent dangers to the integrity and authority of the Gospels or drawing the clear minded conclusions taken by Alfeyev.