Friday, October 7, 2011

Whither Schrodinger's Cat?

So I've really had it up to here with all this "Q" nonsense.

"Q", which is the first letter of the German word, "Quelle", meaning "source", is the product of some scholarly idea about the overlap of certain Biblical texts.  According to the theory, the Gospel of Mark was written "first" (before any of the other Gospels), and Matthew and Luke basically stole from Mark and then embellished with their own details.  So everything that is in Mark, Matthew, and Luke actually came from Mark.  But there's also some events and conversations that appear similarly in Matthew and Luke but not Mark.  

So the question became: Where did Matthew and Luke get their stuff?  Anything that's unique to Matthew, or unique to Luke, is fine.  Anything that's in Mark, Matthew, and Luke obviously (obviously) came from Mark.  What about the stuff that's only in Matthew and Luke?  Well, the "scholarly wisdom" of the day says, there must be another source that they both drew on, some kind of "proverbs of Jesus" or "list of things Jesus said once" or whatever.  And since we don't really know much about it except that it's a source for Matthew and Luke, we'll just call it "Quelle", or "Q" for short.

Which I guess is sort of okay.  I mean, okay, so you notice that there's some interesting overlap in Matthew and Luke, and you wonder if maybe there's another document out there that they both knew about and relied upon.  Interesting thought.  But I really feel like that's as far as it goes.   Because the thing is, Q has never been discovered.  Ever.  No one found it in a clay pot at Qumran or stuffed between the mattress and boxspring in Pilate's house or tucked into Peter's crypt under the Vatican or hermetically sealed in the Virgin Mary's hope chest. 

So, we actually can't know if this Q thing exists "in real life".  There's a possibility that it does.  But like Schrodinger's cat, there's also a genuine possibility that it doesn't.

And therein lies the problem.  Because people don't say, "So, Q.  Maybe.  Wouldn't it be great to find that someday?" No no.  People talk about it like it's an actual, real thing.  Like they've read it.  Marcus Borg, in a conversation with N.T. Wright, declares that Q has only a brief narrative portion and the rest is all wisdom sayings.  Phillip Jenkins claims that Q does not contain a birth narrative.  Biblical "scholars" cite it all the time, relying on it to provide support for their arguments about...whatever.  People devote their entire scholarly careers to it.  They serve on boards and panels that attempt to exegete it.

It's ridiculous.

Just once, I'd like Marcus Borg or Phillip Jenkins to place a copy of Q in front of me and show me that it doesn't contain a birth narrative.

It's astonishing to me how much we can put onto the existence of Q when we know nothing about it and have no guarantee that it even exists.  What we do know is that the Holy Spirit did not see fit to place it in the canon.  So either, it doesn't exist and we're wasting our time on a figment of our scholarly imagination, or it does exist but it's really not that important in the grand scheme of things or it would be in the canon and so we're wasting our time on something that's of little to no value.


No comments:

Post a Comment

My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23