Questioning Q

August 12, 2014 | 25 comments

In a previous post, I looked at the hypothetical document Q, which most contemporary Bible scholars think Matthew and Luke used when they composed their Gospels.

The reason they think this is that there are 235 verses in Matthew that are paralleled in Luke but not in Mark or John.

The proposal is that there was a document in the early Church that contained (roughly) these 235 verses and that both Matthew and Luke copied from it.

That proposed document is commonly called Q.

 

Hypothetical vs. lost

Previously, I pointed out that the Q document is not simply lost.

There are lots of documents from the ancient world that we know existed even though they are now lost. We can be confident that these works existed because the ancients talk about them in their surviving writings.

But Q is not in that category. We don’t have any ancient references to it. It isn’t just a lost document; it’s a hypothetical lost document. That means we must be more cautious about its existence than the lost documents we know existed.

Here’s another reason we should be cautious . . .

 

A unique document?

If it existed, Q seems to have been a unique document. We are not aware of other documents of the same kind. In other words, Q does not fall into a recognized literary genre.

You will often hear the opposite. Specifically, you will hear that Q belongs to the same genre as the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas, which was rediscovered in 1945 in Egypt and published in 1956.

The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings that are attributed to “the living Jesus.” A few of these involve a brief dialogue with another character, but there is no story—no narrative—to the Gospel of Thomas.

Many have claimed that Q belongs to the same genre as Thomas because many of the parallel verses in Matthew and Luke are sayings of Jesus.

The difficulty is that, unlike the Gospel of Thomas, the hypothetical Q document is not simply a “sayings gospel.”

 

Narrative in a sayings Gospel?

If it existed, Q included a large number of narrative elements. These are documented by Mark Goodacre in his book The Case Against Q (pp. 170-185).

Goodacre shows that the hypothetical Q would go beyond sayings and have a narrative structure as follows:

  1. Q introduces John the Baptist, apparently before it introduces Jesus (Q 3:2), who is located in the region of the Jordan (Q 3:3; note: In contemporary scholarship, citations attributed to Q are based on the verses in Luke, so Q 3:2 is found in Luke 3:2).
  2. There, people come to him to receive his baptism (Q 3:7), and John warns them to bear fruit befitting repentance (Q 3:8).
  3. Then John begins contrasting himself and his baptism with the one who comes after him, who will have a greater baptism (Q 3:16-17).
  4. Jesus is then introduced, there is a reference to the Spirit descending on him, and he is indicated to be God’s Son (Q 3:21-22).
  5. The Spirit then takes Jesus to the wilderness (Q 4:1), where he is tested by the devil with regard to whether he is God’s Son (twice: “if you are the Son of God . . .” Q 4:3, 9).
  6. Then Jesus goes to “Nazara” (Q 4:16).
  7. Jesus then gives a major discourse (Q 6:20-49).
  8. Q then notes that after Jesus finished these sayings he entered Capernaum (Q 7:1). This is a very clear indicator of narrative structure, particularly in an alleged sayings gospel.
  9. We then have the healing of the Centurion’s servant (Q 7:3, 6-10).
  10. Then John the Baptist hears what is going on with Jesus and, apparently unable to come himself, sends messengers to ask if Jesus is the one after all. Jesus responds by pointing to the many miracles he has done and his preaching of the good news and urges John not to disbelieve (Q 7:18-23).
  11. When John’s disciples have left, Jesus speaks to the crowd, reminding them of when they went out to see John (referenced earlier in Q), and he pays tribute to John (Q 7:24-28).
  12. Afterward, Jesus pronounces woe on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for failing to respond to the wonders he did in them (Q 10:13-15).

Goodacre goes into more detail than we can here, but the point is made: This is a narrative; it’s a story. It’s not just a collection of Jesus’ sayings.

It has a geographical progression (Jordan, the wilderness, Nazara, Capernaum); it has elements pointing forward and backward (e.g., the early indication that Jesus is the one to come, followed by the later questioning of whether this is the case); there are narrative transitions between one unit and the next; and it contains at least one miracle account, while referring to many more being done.

It is only after this narrative sequence that Q would have been largely composed of sayings, and that places it in what seems to be a unique category: a work that would start as a narrative and then become a sayings collection.

How does that compare to other ancient sayings collections?

 

Actual sayings collections

There were sayings collections in the ancient world—and not just Thomas. Proverbs and Sirach spring readily to mind.

It is common for such collections to have a brief statement at the beginning about who originated the sayings, but in none of these cases is there a big narrative about that person.

Proverbs does not begin with a biography of Solomon but with the simple statement, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (Prov. 1:1).

Sirach does not begin with a biography of Sirach but is prefaced by a brief, non-narrative introduction by his grandson, who translated the book from Hebrew into Greek.

Thomas begins with the statement, “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.”

In none of these cases do we have anything like the lengthy, complex narrative that can be reconstructed from the Q material.

Ancient Judeo-Christian sayings collections appear to have been just that: sayings collections, not sayings collections preceded with an extensive narrative about the person from whom the sayings came.

 

More caution on Q

If there was a Q document, it does not appear to have belonged to a known genre of Jewish or Christian writing from the time.

This means that we have extra reason to be cautious about whether it existed. Not only are we talking about a document that is lost and hypothetical, it is also of an otherwise unknown, unattested type.

It would be one thing to propose a lost document that fits a known type—which is why Q advocates frequently appeal to the Gospel of Thomas as a parallel, though the comparison does not hold up. It is another thing to propose a lost document that does not have any parallels in the relevant ancient literature.

We thus have another reason to be cautious about the existence of Q and another reason to look at alternative explanations of the 235 verses Matthew and Luke have in common—like the idea that one Evangelist used material from the other.


Jimmy Akin was born in Texas and grew up nominally Protestant. At age 20 he experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, Jimmy started an intensive study of the Bible, but the more he immersed himself in Scripture, the more he found it to...

The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church
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Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Michael Rogala - Chicago, Illinois

". . . If there was a Q document, it does not appear to have belonged to a known genre of Jewish or Christian writing from the time . . ."

The above doesn't make sense. Since it is an unknown source, we wouldn't know if it belonged to a particular genre. But the likelihood that it was of Jewish/early Christian interest is, tho circumstantial, probable because who else would be interested in making such a record.

August 12, 2014 at 11:08 am PST
#2  Michael Rogala - Chicago, Illinois

Forgot to say, Goodacre is pretty legitimate, tho I haven't read this particular book of his. Looks like a good discussion is brewing.

August 12, 2014 at 11:15 am PST
#3  Jimmy Akin - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Michael: The claim is that that we don't have any copies of Q itself, not that it has been utterly lost.

The majority of Q advocates hold that almost all of the document was used by Matthew and Luke, allowing us to have a good picture of what the original contained.

That picture, as Goodacre illustrates, does not fit existing Jewish and Christian genres that were in use at the time (e.g., sayings collections).

August 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm PST
#4  Charles Kaupke - Villa Park, California

Michael:
Why does the sentence you quoted not make sense? It seems to make sense to me.

You said that since we don't know the source, we can't possibly know its genre, as if identifying a document's genre depended on knowing the document's source. But you can know the genre of a work of literature simply by reading it.

August 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm PST
#5  Steven Way - Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

I don't know if others have already thought of this, but here's my alternative theory to the hypothetical so-called "document Q." Since Jesus stayed around for 40 days after the Resurrection before His Ascension, what if He used that time with the Apostles to remind them of all the things that had happened, personally instructing them on what to write? This seems very likely to me.

August 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm PST
#6  Mike Conard - Oceanside, California

Jimmy,
Please let me know if my following hypothesis might be supportable based on your extensive research on the topic.

Could it be that the verses in "Q" were the "notes" that St. Matthew himself took in Aramaic during his discipleship with Jesus? I've read that the claim that the Gospel of St. Matthew originally being written in Aramaic more likely referred to the things that St. Matthew "jotted down" during his time with Christ, and then later translated into Greek for his official and full Gospel account. If this is indeed the case, it seems likely that St. Luke would have sought after this source, he being the analytically-focused author (c.f. Luke 1:1-4) and physician that he was. It may also explain why the lost and hypothetical "Q" doesn't follow any known literary genre of the time, since any notes or even possibly "journal entries" St. Matthew recorded would not have been in any literary form.

Thanks for your time, and God bless.

August 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm PST
#7  Christine Hurdle - Seattle, Washington

One thing I noticed in reading the Gospel of Thomas was how many sayings or parables run roughly parallel to sayings found in Luke and Matthew (I don't know if these are "Q" sayings but I seem to remember they were). The Gospel of Thomas is often portrayed as "gnostic" (which it's not) and lacking in the passion narrative, etc., but what surprised me was how much of it was actually close to the synoptic gospels. Yes, it is a bit odd at times, but I think fascinating, and likely early, mid to late 1st century, from the Eastern Churches. I am a little off point here; I am saying that there are a number of pieces to the Gospel puzzle we don't have. And I do think some sort of "Q" document could have been lost based on the fact that we have many similar passages in a number of separately written gospels. There could have been multiple variations/versions of "Q". Fascinating.

August 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm PST
#8  Jason Miller - Santa Paula, California

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support the idea of a single source document. No references to it anywhere. It is pure speculation. The real sources of course are the witnesses - so in that sense, "Q" is all the info provided by them in separate accounts. It seems so obvious, but that is indeed why there are similarities. The writers talked to many of the same people, including those who had similar recollections of the events. This ridiculous theory is like saying all the newspaper articles about 9/11 came from a single source because they share so many similarities. Give me a break. It must be nice to work in a field where these "researchers" don't have to stand by rigorous scientific methodologies. I have to use control groups, sound design, solid stats, and replicable findings if I am to get anything in a decent behavioral science journal. These con artists just need to come up with something that sounds controversial, cutting edge, or thought provoking. Then they use their degree to give their ideas a stamp of respectability. It must be really nice being able to pull in a large tenured salary using such cheesy methods. Maybe I can write a book to demonstrate that Beatles and the Rolling Stones wrote songs from the same source - Elvis Q. They obviously got everything from that missing source!

August 13, 2014 at 1:04 am PST
#9  Roger Loucks - Branchport, New York

I've been looking forward to this follow up after your first post on the subject. I wasn't disappointed. (Do you take request for a third post???) I have three questions.

I was not familiar with Mark Goodacre, so I googled him. He has his own website (http://markgoodacre.org) with links to his books. Since I don't have his book, I read the reviews which are also linked to his site. One review states that James H. Ropes and Morton Enslin in the United States and Austin Farrer and Michael Goulder in the United Kingdom initially proposed this idea, but the reviewer I read states that Goodacre's case is more compelling and readable than the others. I'm going to assume that this idea has been out for some time and is currently hotly debated. I'm pleased, since I've never been convinced by the arguments for Q.

So after that long and wordy introduction (Sorry), my first question is where does the synoptic problem now stand, i.e. Assuming Goodacre's argument is true, is Mark still considered the first written gospel?

Second, is Mark considered the first written Gospel for the simple reason that it is the shortest Gospel and "less" developed theologically? (As a corollary do many scholars postulate a late date for Luke, sometime after 70 AD, for the sole reason that there is a reference to destroying the temple which occurred in 70 AD.)

My last question touches on the Gospel of Thomas. I have a copy of the Nag Hammadi Library edited by James M. Robinson. I read the gospel for the first time yesterday. Many of the sayings are similar to the other gospels. Many are just plain odd. Then there are those which are just flat out bizarre, e.g.

[ (114) Simon Peter said to them. "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life."

Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."]

So do any scholars seriously think that the gospel of Thomas was Q or was written earlier than the gospels?

August 13, 2014 at 5:15 am PST
#10  Allen Ward - Orlando, Florida

Thanks Jimmy. There is no "Q" source. In all of the 7 centuries of the Church Fathers writings there is no, nada , zilch, none, not even one mention of a "Q" source.

August 13, 2014 at 6:23 am PST
#11  Matthew Seymour - Long Beach, California

The only Divine Book is the Holy Bible. So much bickering back and forth among Christians about which book should be in it... Protestant bible or Catholic Bible? Wasn't this issue settled!?

And Q? Thank you, Jimmy, for your efforts. But I ask my brothers and sisters, why is there still so much confusion among us?

Simple. Bible. End of story.

August 13, 2014 at 9:26 am PST
#12  Wesley Vincent - Pomfret Center, Connecticut

Accepting the academic opinions of the radical, anti supernatural, scholars seeking the "historical Jesus" is like accepting Nazi genetic research related to the inferiority of Jews. Interestingly, both hail from the same place, Germany. Pathetically, the New American Bible, revised study edition has accepted modern speculative scholarship resulting in anyone with a brain realizing that either the scholarship is wrong or the Bible and Christianity are fictitious.

August 13, 2014 at 9:56 am PST
#13  Jimmy Akin - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Roger: Thank you for your kind words. Responding to your questions:

1) If there was no Q document, that does not settle the question of which Gospel was written first. Historically, the most common view was that Matthew wrote first. Today, the most common view is that Mark did.

Goodacre is an advocate of the Farrer Hypothesis, according to which Mark wrote first, Matthew expanded it, and then Luke used both Matthew and Mark.

This is not the only such position, though. Another, known as the Wilke Hypothesis, is that Mark wrote first, that Luke expanded, and that Matthew used Mark and Luke.

There are other views as well that also assume Mark wrote first, as well as views that hold Matthew or even Luke wrote first (though the latter are very rare).

I have an article on the Synoptic Problem that will be coming out in the September/October issue of Catholic Answers Magazine. See that for more.

2) Brevity and level of theological sophistication are not particularly strong arguments concerning when the Synoptics were written.

Advocates of Markan priority tend to appeal to other factors, claiming--for example--that it makes more sense if you assume Matthew and Luke supplemented Mark than Mark jettisoned large and important portions of Matthew and Luke and then added a handful of elements of very minor elements that are nowhere near as important.

There are other arguments for Markan priority, but they go beyond what can be done in a combox. See Goodacre's book for some of them.

3) There are scholars who think that Thomas was written in the same timeframe as the canonical Gospels, though I am unaware of anyone who thinks that it was identical with Q. It does not have much of the alleged Q material in it (e.g., the healing of the Centurion's servant, the Testing in the Wilderness, or the ministry of John the Baptist).

The better arguments is that Thomas dates to the second century. If you'd like a thorough argument for that see Goodacre's book "Thomas and the Gospels."

Hope this helps!

August 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm PST
#14  Matthew Seymour - Long Beach, California

My own personal theory:

Gospel order was this:
1) Matthew
2) John
3) Mark
4) Luke.

This makes sense, if you think about it. Matthew, the writer to the Jews (this came 1st, introducing the Gospel before the others such as John) was a direct disciple/Apostle, of the 12. Then John came next, speaking more of Divine Sonship, also one of the 12 - and younger than Matthew. Then Mark, a friend of Peter. And finally, Luke, a good patron of St. Paul.

August 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm PST
#15  Roger Loucks - Branchport, New York

Thank you for your very detailed response! I'm looking forward to reading your article in the Sept/Oct edition of Catholic Answers.

PS- If you are ever struggling for future ideas, additional post on this or similar topics would be greatly appreciated!

August 13, 2014 at 3:43 pm PST
#16  Jimmy Akin - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Roger: No problem!

I am planning a third post in this series. Today I made the main graphic for it (a visual way of showing the problem with Q from this post).

I'm also planning on writing a good deal more on the subject over time. For some months I have been conducting a major study of the Synoptic Problem, and--like every such study I do--it's meant to take literary form in some way (or set of ways).

August 13, 2014 at 6:39 pm PST
#17  Jimmy Akin - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Roger: BTW, I should mention that, while I think Goodacre's arguments have merit, I don't think that they uniquely support his preferred theory (Farrer). The main line of his argument in "The Case Against Q" could equally well support the Wilke Hypothesis, though he doesn't go into this fact.

August 13, 2014 at 6:46 pm PST
#18  Roger Loucks - Branchport, New York

Thank you Jimmy! Even though the Synoptic Problem doesn't directly, or for that matter indirectly, affect the faith, I find the arguments fun and insightful. Something akin to reading a good detective novel. It seems that I can look forward to addition posts on this topic. Yeah!!!! In the meantime, if the prices on Goodacre's Q and the gospel of Thomas books are reasonable, I'll order them. Thanks again!

August 14, 2014 at 6:11 am PST
#19  Chris Owens - Strathcona, Minnesota

Hey Jimmy,

Great article clarifying an important subject for biblical scholarship.

Just wanted to pose my own personal opinion that harmonizes modern scholarship with tradition - and meets the criterion set by the PBC (back when it had some authority):

The so-called Q source is nothing other than Hebrew Matthew. This upholds Matthean priority (as is traditionally held), as well as explains why Matthew would have "borrowed" from Mk and Lk - since they both originally were written in Greek, the translator would use the Greek gospels as an aid in translating Hebrew Matthew.

So, there you go! Problem solved.

August 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm PST
#20  Michael Rogala - Chicago, Illinois

I think Charles what I said, was that even without knowledge of the source, the content suggests that the genre would be either Jewish or Christian or Jewish-Christian, because who else would have invested interest in recording such specific material.

I think that is what I said . . . if not . . .that is what I meant.

August 15, 2014 at 8:45 pm PST
#21  Robert Risner - Kansas City, Missouri

Steven: If Jesus had instructed the apostles, given them a abstract of his life there would be more consistency between the gospels and parts wouldn't have been left out.

Mike: Matthew very likely didn't take notes. He was probably illiterate as were nearly all of the apostles who are not the authors of the books that bear their names.

Jason: I won't even address your ramblings. You wouldn't listen anyway.

Allen: Lack of mention by early church fathers of Q proves nothing. They also referenced books that are no longer in existence. No copies survive, but because of their inclusion in church commentaries, we know they existed. Conversely, just because Q ISN'T mentioned, isn't enough to prove that it didn't exist.

Matthew: It's rather obvious that you've never read any scholarship work on the bible, including anything addressing it's inconsistencies. The Bible we have now is because it's become what the Catholic Church wanted it to be and say. It didn't just pop up one day, it evolved over the centuries.

Good night gentlemen.

August 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm PST
#22  Lori Pieper - Bronx, New York

I am writing as a historian who isn't a Biblical scholar, but who has experience in a related area: the study of medieval texts of saints' lives.

To me, none of the traditional theories of Gospel composition touted by scholars are all that impressive. As Jimmy pointed out, that Markan priority, the use of Mark by Matthew and Luke, and
"Q" as a single separate source, are hypothetical scenarios. And the underlying hypotheses have a few credibility problems.

For instance, scholars assume that if there is similar material, sometimes with very similar wording, in Matthew and Luke that isn't in Mark, then there is a previous tradition or document underlying both of them. This actually is a perfectly logical and natural assumption, one that scholars don't hesitate to adopt in other situations. However, I can't understand why it is scarcely ever adopted to explain the whole of the Synoptics. If this assumption can be used for two Gospels, why not for three? Why is it such a stretch to suggest that the similarities in Matthew, Mark and Luke can be explained by similar traditions underlying all three -- that is, the Apostolic kerygma and other eyewitness testimonies?

Unfortunately, the traditional scenarios (Markan priority, etc) are so entrenched in scholarship that people just can't get beyond them. For one thing, these scenarios tend to presume a late origin for the Gospels -- because if they were written in a period when living eyewitnesses were available, why would the evangelists been so hard up for sources that they were forced to resort to copying from each other?

But modern scholars of a progressive /secularist bent are much more comfortable with a late origin, because it permits them to say that anything they object to in the Gospels is simply made up. In many of these scholarly versions, Mark just invented things, and the other evangelists followed suit. (the early form critics, Burton Mack and others today).

Another thing: if you hypothesize something like a whole Gospel source, you should provide some evidence. And, as Jimmy pointed out, in the case of Q, there's no evidence.

If it just stopped at the one hypothesis, this might not be such a problem. But in the case of Q, this simple supposition has given birth to some really wild hypotheses about Christian origins, all based on the idea of various "redactional layers" in Q. This gives rise to the idea of a "Q" community, which is thought to be the "original" group of Christians, and a Jesus who put forth little aphorisms or sayings, and was never crucified - because Q doesn't mention the crucifixion (actually, it does -- remember "take up your cross and follow me"? But this is metaphorical, they say, and of course, it's a late redactional layer).

But wait a minute--how in heaven's name can you determine what the various redactional layers of a text are when you don't even have the text? Good question!

What we have is simply what Matthew and Luke made of the original text of Q -- presuming there was one. And Matthew and Luke often differ greatly in their wording of the same material, such as the Sermon on the Mount, or even just the Beatitudes. Even presuming you have the text, you need evidence of redaction. Discovering an intermediary text can be evidence, but no one has done that for Q.

Here's an example of what I mean, from my own experience.

I wrote my doctoral disseration based on my newly discovered text of a late 13th c. life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), called the Anonymous Franciscan. There was a small fragment of this text available previously, but I found the whole thing in a neglected manuscript (this type of discovery always impresses professors). I was able to confirm from the whole text something that previous scholars had suspected, that the Anon Fran. was based on an earlier work called the Valenciennes Life, because the wording on both is very similar; but I also noted the addition of three types of material:

(a) previously unknown testimonies from witnesses from Elizabeth's canonization process (the most important part for my purposes)

(b) a series of miracle stories, some known from other works on the saint and others not.

(c) Stories about Elizabeth's royal relatives in Hungary.

I further hypothesized that this material was added to the Anon. Fran. in two redactional layers, and that (b) and (c) were added last. Unlike what is permitted to a biblical scholar, I had to have some actual evidence for this supposition. Fortunately, I had some.

There is a little MS in the Biblitheca Laurenziana in Florence, which has very short notices of Franciscan saints, among them an epitome of the life of Elizabeth based on the much longer Valenciennes life. (I like to refer to this as the "Readers' Digest" version of the life). One of my colleagues working in the same area had already confirmed that another life in this collection was an epitome of a known life of Bl. Umiliana dei' Cerchi, so the scribe clearly made a practice of summarizing longer works.

And what do you know? The Bib. Laur. life contained the series of miracle stories of (a) -- but no trace of the material in (b) and (c). Thus I felt assured that the scribe of this MS. had worked from a full-scale version of the Valenciennes life that had the first series of stories, but not the last two Q.E.D.

I could also have hypothesized a third redactional layer, i.e. that the c) was actually the last layer, and that (b) was added separately, but couldn't do it without evidence.

Now, if I had to have this intermediate document to prove my case to my professors' satisfaction, shouldn't biblical scholars have to do the same?

I could go on and on. I have found a few recent scholars have bucked the whole trend of evangelists as mere copyists, and are now hypothesizing similar sources underlying all the Synoptics. One recent attempt is Rethinking the Gospels Sources by Delbert Burkett. I'd recommend looking into this, Jimmy, if you haven't already.

As for my own theory of Gospel origins, I'm still working on it.

August 16, 2014 at 8:19 pm PST
#23  Lori Pieper - Bronx, New York

I should add that though Burkett thinks all the Synoptics are based on some earlier texts, he has to call the base text "Ur-Mark" (i.e. primitive Mark), because he just can't get away from that all-pervasive ghost of nineteenth-century German scholarship.

August 16, 2014 at 8:44 pm PST
#24  Lori Pieper - Bronx, New York

Aaackk, mistake from it being so late when I wrote this. It should read:

"The Bib. Laur. life contained the series of miracle stories of (b) -- but no trace of the material in (a) and (c). Thus I felt assured that the scribe of this MS. had worked from a full-scale version of the Valenciennes life that had the (b) series of stories, but not the other two. Q.E.D.

I could also have hypothesized a third redactional layer, i.e. that (a) was actually the last layer, and that (c) was added separately, but couldn't do it without evidence."

August 17, 2014 at 2:16 am PST
#25  Lori Pieper - Bronx, New York

Robert, where do you get your idea that a Jewish tax collector for Rome wouldn't have been literate? This seems very unlikely on the face of it for the work a tax collector had to do. Even if general literacy was as low as 10% (and historians are not even agreed on that), Matthew would almost have had to be among the 10%. I've also read that a number of business documents have survived from the period that were written in Aramaic, so he wouldn't even have had to know Greek!

August 17, 2014 at 2:28 am PST

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