Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Priority of Q?

Drayton's got me musing now. A total one-off, I realise. But still, it's a teaser.

You're probably aware that Drayton Parslow, being the good Funambulist Baptist that he is, is convinced that the most perfect collection of God's words to us - at least if you happen to be an Anglophone - is the King James Version of the Bible. Although not the Apocrypha, obviously. He scorns my view that more modern versions are more accurate, as what could be more accurate than perfect? In Drayton's view, finding an earlier Greek New Testament text, say, would be further from the truth, especially if the reading differed more from the KJV than the Textus Receptus.

And I say to him - how can this be right? Surely if the text is earlier, then it is closer to what the original writer wrote - and so more like the word God spoke to the original author. To which Drayton responds that God is the original author, and the KJV is the normative text, not the version that Luke or, as it may be, John the Elder, wrote down.

And I was going to have another go at him and then I thought to myself... what about Q? If it existed, is Q then more authentic than Luke or Matthew?

For those who have real lives, and who couldn't be bothered to click the link above, I should probably explain that Q is the putative source of the material that is in Matthew and Luke's Gospels, but not in Mark. So for example the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, the Wise and Foolish Builders.

So let's say that somewhere in the Sinai desert, an Arab goatherd wanders into yet another cave and finds Matthew's study. His first edition is in pride of place, with evidence that a lot of copying has taken place. But in a neat pile, preserved by the dryness and steady temperature of the cave, there are a few other scrolls. When they are investigated they turn out to be Mark's Gospel; Q; a nativity narrative including the Magi, the scribbled note "no clue as to how many Wise Men - best be vague" and a list of resurrection appearances. A short letter to Matthew from Luke contains the enigmatic comment "well, maybe it was a plateau then?"

What would go into the next version of the English Bible? Matthew? Q plus the other fragments? My gut feel says Matthew, because that's what the Church decided. But I'd put Q in the Appendix, to be on the safe side.


  1. The argument for King James version being the authorised authority for scripture has some legs.

    A King commissioned it, even though he was Scottish. And he had an axe to grind because Queen Elizabeth saw of his mother. So, why not get some geezers to write a version that he could authorise, in English and make it the sole authority for scripture. Not the word of God, but the Word of King James.

    And, at least 450 years later, his name remains on the lips of orthodox types, who believe that the word of King James outweighs the word of God.

  2. I confess I have been reading the wrong things. I saw 'Q' and immediately imagined a connection to a Scandinavian mystery novel I'd just finished (even though I generally don't like Scandinavian mystery novels) and thought this was going to be about the Q in the fictional Copenhagen police station.

    Now that I've got it straight, can I just point out that although there are more historically accurate versions of the Bible, there are few if any with more beautiful English than the KJV, so it should have a place on the shelf even if the others (or at least some of them) are there too.


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