[K:JNWTS 20/2 (Sep 2005) 67-69]

Book Review

Mark Goodacre and Nicholas Perrin, eds. Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004. 201 pages. Paper. ISBN: 0-8308-2769-2. $19.00

The mystic which Q holds over the liberal academy is now beginning to manifest itself in conservative evangelical and Reformed circles. The irony of this seduction to higher critical methodology anchored in synthesis not antithesis is a testimony to the poor state of academic exposure ad fontes ("at the sources") in these circles. Evangelicals are ever the Johhny-come-latelies, now aspiring to the recognition of the establishment guild which has held a tyrannical lock on New Testament source criticism for over 125 years (since H.J. Holtzmann, 1832-1910). Not even the late William Farmer, who crusaded against "mythical Q" from the 1960s, could dislodge this academic and 'scholarly' pap.

Goodacre and Perrin to the rescue—or attempted rescue. This is a technical and difficult book, but it is nevertheless a very important book. Here are young specialists in New Testament source criticism who are not afraid to say "the emperor has no clothes"—i.e., the theory of Q is an academic croc—a myth, a fraud, a hoax, an invention of fertile minds who simply cannot accept the common sense historicity (let alone the divine inspiration) of the Synoptic gospels. All of this has been said before summarily and simply (Guthrie, Tenney, Harrison, Stonehouse), but this compact volume says it forcefully, contemporaneously and with meticulous attention to the minutia of the discussion. That makes this volume one for specialists.

But there is one essay which every evangelical and Reformed pastor and seminary student should read because it is a tour de force of the philosophy behind the evolution of Quelle theorie ("Q Theory"). The "Introduction: Reasons for Questioning Q" by Nicholas Perrin (pages 1-12) is a miniature masterpiece in summarizing the elements which spawned the Q chimera. First, Q emerged from German romanticism (19th century)—an era of rhapsodic deification/divinization of volksreligion ("folk religion") as the most pure, most natural of mankind's eternal longings. Stripping away the post-primitive religion of the hierophants, sycophants and other modern 'agenda' mongers would bring us back to 'pure religion and undefiled'. Second, in the same romantic vein, Jesus of Nazareth was regarded as the siren genius—a great, if not the greatest, "teacher of timeless truths". Aha! The Jesus without dogma emerged with the face of a 19th century German romantic.

As these disparate strands were formulated in the Schleiermacher (the quintessential German romantic) and post-Schleiermacher era, one thing was lacking—an organizer of the romantic myth into a cohesive reconstruction (??a romance) of the Synoptic gospels. H.J. Holtzmann was the man called to the liberal critical vanguard for such a reductionism as this.1 To the nascent romanticism of his time, Holtzmann added a dash of imperious German idealism (Hegel) and projected a gospel behind the gospels—a 'sayings of Jesus' source which he labeled L (for 'Logia'). Holtzmann's L recreated Jesus, via his 'words', in the image of 19th century neo-Kantians. (The reader is beginning to realize that philosophy and culture dominate this theorizing—not truth or the Bible. In other words, the emergence of Q [Holtzmann's L renamed] is culturally conditioned, contextually generated and peculiarly 19th century in ethos.) Neat! Jesus becomes just like post-Enlightenment 19th century liberals. This bit of snake oil was sucked up by the academic dupes of the age as the 'assured results of the scientific investigation' of the origin of the Synoptics. And thanks to B.H. Streeter, it all became 'gospel' in the English-speaking world in 1924 (The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, Treating of the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship and Dates).

But Peerin concludes: ". . . theories like Q, spun in the loom of modernity, should be held up to the light of one of the more useful insights of postmodernity, namely, that cultural conditions can impose themselves heavily on scholarly methods and conclusions" (8). "What makes this swelling fascination with Q particularly unsettling is the fact that Q has never been found. We have no manuscript of Q, no attestation in the early Church Fathers or elsewhere that such a text ever existed. We have no hard evidence at all for Q" (9-10). Touché!

James T. Dennison, Jr.