Q (from the German word Quelle which means source) is a hypothetical source that both Matthew and Luke consulted for their content. It is defined as hypothetical because it no longer exists but of which the majority of New Testament scholars believe once did. Its one time existence is probable based on the verbatim wording found in Matthew and Luke, particularly when they record the same events and words of Jesus. We see this in some 220 verses of Jesus’ teachings that are shared between Matthew and Luke – this amounts to almost 20% of each of these gospels (1). Professor Ehrman believes that Q is a source “that must at one time have existed (since Matthew and Luke appear both to have had access to it), that was written in Greek (otherwise Matthew and Luke could not agree word-for-word in places – in Greek — in their non-Markan sayings material), and that contained almost exclusively (or exclusively) sayings of Jesus” (2).
Since Matthew and Luke did not consult each other they must, therefore, have consulted another additional source that could have been oral, written, or combination of these two.
Miracles in Q.
A major point of emphasis in the realms of historical Jesus and New Testament studies is to investigate the true Jesus of history. That means sifting through our earliest New Testament materials, and trying to construct a portrait devoid of any later Christian constructions that there might be. Although the four gospels and the Pauline epistles are very early we are able to get even earlier than them via several mediums (creeds, pre-New Testament materials, hymns etc.). This is why Q source is rather significant as it shows the miracle status of Jesus to be in some of our earliest evidence. This means that at the very earliest time he was widely associated to have been a miracle worker, hence his status as one cannot be written off to some later Christian invention. Q source is thought to predate out New Testament gospels, and is commonly dated to the 40s or 50s AD (3).
According to Christopher Price “Mark does not stand alone in his early attestation of Jesus as a miracle worker. The so-called “Q” source, widely regarded to have been used both by Luke and Matthew despite some present day dissenters, also provides us with attestation of Jesus’ miracle working. Q, although generally considered to be a sayings source, narrates Jesus’ healing the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13). Furthermore, Q contains several statements attesting to the fact that Jesus was a miracle worker, including Jesus’ statement to the disciples of John the Baptist’ inquiry as to whether Jesus was the messiah: “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Matt. 11:4-5. See also Matthew 10:1-8; 11:20-24; 12:22-32 par. Accordingly, although demonstrating no interest in “playing up” Jesus’ miracles, Q nevertheless provides independent attestation of Jesus’ miracle working” (4).
The following are some of Jesus’ miracles found in Q:
Jesus heals the centurion’s servant. Q = Matthew 8:5-13/Luke 7:1-10
Our first miracle is Jesus’ healing of the Roman centurion’s servant. When the centurion heard of Jesus he sent to him some elders of the Jews so that they could request for Jesus to come and heal the servant. In agreement Jesus went with them. However, on the way there the centurion again sends some people to tell him not trouble himself because he, the centurion, was not worthy to have Jesus come under his roof, and instead requests for Jesus to say the word and have the servant healed. Jesus obliges, and when those who had been sent returned to the house they found the servant well.
Jesus affirms John the Baptist’s question. Q = Matthew 11:2-6/Luke 7:18-23
John the Baptist sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” In reply Jesus affirms his supernatural healing by telling them to go back and tell him of his miraculous feats: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them, and blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
Jesus casts out a demon and is accused doing so in Beelzebul’s name. Q = Matthew 9:32-34/Luke 11:14-23
On this occasion a man was possessed by a demon of which Jesus then casts out. Those around him marvel, but some accuse him: “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” Jesus knowing their thoughts challenges them and shows their mistake by attributing his power to Satan. Even further, what also provides for us a greater confidence in the historicity of this event is that alongside Q it is also attested to in Mark 3:22-27. This means that two of our authoritative sources, our earliest Gospel of Mark and that of Q, multiply attest to Jesus’ miracle.
Jesus affirms the existence of demons, and what happens to them after exorcism. Q = Matthew 12:43-45/Luke 11:24-26
Jesus tells us that: “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
On many occasions within Jesus’ ministry we see him affirming their reality and as well as casting them out with authority in God’s name, as evident in Q. As the late Rudolf Bultmann would say: “Doubtless he healed the sick and cast out demons.”
1. Bock, D. 2010. Who Is Jesus? Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith. p. 16.
2. Ehrman, B. 2015. Q and the Passion Narrative. Available.
3. Dunn, J. 2003. Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making Volume.
4. Price, C. 2004. The Miracles of Jesus: A Historical Inquiry. Available.