Aside from being a beloved — well, a reoccurring character in the Star Trek franchise, there is also in our world a mysterious entity known as “Q.” Or rather, there isn’t. Time and time again in my conversations with people who are somewhat up-to-date on Biblical textual criticism, “Q” comes up. But what is Q?
Unlike the seemingly undefeatable Borg, who are first introduced in the episode titled “Q Who,” the “Q” document/manuscript that is reported to exist and threaten all that Christendom holds dear in the inspiration of scripture is not actually very threatening. Primarily because… it doesn’t exist.
It is dangerous to make absolute claims of this type, especially in regards to manuscripts, because, as more and more searching is being done, more and more manuscripts are being found. Currently, modern scholarship has access to over 5,800 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. Many of these are only fragments, but what also is important is how early we can date some of these manuscripts. There are manuscripts in our possession that we can date to at least as early as 125 AD, if not earlier. This is absolutely incredible! There is no other work for which we have anywhere even close to this kind of attestation. For the Bible, we have thousands upon thousands of manuscripts, and some of these are incredibly close to the original writings.
Why does this matter? Well, in modern, unbelieving scholarship, there is a desire to undermine the Bible’s claims. It is that simple. One of the ways these scholars attempt to undermine the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is to claim that they come from this single source, “Q”. This would deny the independent attestations these gospels’ claim to be of the life and teachings of Jesus. This theory promotes the idea that whoever wrote these gospels simply modified this source document to fit whatever they were trying to preach or sell.
If this were true, it would mean that the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke really are not independent witnesses of the same events, but the writings of men with independent agendas based off some single document. Since this would prove there was a lot of tampering with the text, it would deny these books a place as scripture or as reliable attestations of the events they record. “Q” is said to be that ultimate source from which the other synoptic gospels are derived.
As in Star Trek, “Q” is this pesky idea that keeps floating around and has been generally accepted in the academic community. Muslim apologists in particular love the idea of “Q” and will quote Bart Erhman till the sea runs dry. There is only one tiny problem. Actually, it is barely a problem at all, so it’s really not worth mentioning but… “Q” doesn’t exist!
“Q” is a theory – a theory derived from a presupposition that the Bible cannot be the Word of God so, despite the textual evidence, there needs to be an explanation that would bring the conclusion that is being sought. This is bad science. Q doesn’t exist (have I mentioned that before?).
Again, I understand the dangers of making such an absolute statement because I cannot know everything that is buried where, but I think it is an incredibly safe conclusion to make based off the hard, tangible data. For those who worship science and empiricism, this is for you. As mentioned before, we have over 5,800 Greek manuscripts. This does not include other translations or other ancient works where scripture is quoted (the early church fathers, for example). Plain and simple, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke were derived from a single source document, “Q”, we would have found it already.
So as not to be accused of distorting the facts, I want to reiterate that not all 5,800+ manuscripts are complete, nor do all of them have Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This also doesn’t matter. The Bible was mass-copied all throughout history, so the likelihood of “Q” not being copied itself to a point where we would have at least found a fragment is so improbable it defies reasonable belief.
If one believes the the Roman Empire existed, that Hannibal crossed the mountains with elephants, and that “Et tu Brute?” was uttered in a final gasp, then disbelief in the veracity of the Bible is not only silly, but intellectually dishonest. To deny the Bible to be the independent attestations that it claims to be, and that we have ample evidence with which to back up that claim, is the same as if someone looked at the colosseum in Rome, touched it with their hands, then stuck their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes, and just kept yelling, “It’s actually a Ferris wheel! It’s actually a Ferris wheel!” But the ruling elites have issued their edict: “You will be assimilated.”