In this post, I look at the fifth chapter of Robert Price’s Deconstructing Jesus. This chapter brings up some of the same concerns as were found in previous chapters. In this chapter, Price shares some possible sources that are supposed to get us as close to the origin of Christianity as possible.
Price puts a lot of weight on Q. Not only does he look at Q, he looks at Q1, the first strata of Q. For those who are confused, Q is a hypothetical document thought to be the source that Luke and Matthew borrowed from when they were not borrowing from Mark.
I don’t have any problem with there being a possible Q source, whether oral or written. What I have a problem with is acting like this is so concrete that we can put together how Q evolved over time and I especially am nervous when people try to reconstruct their theology. Price makes a big deal about the Q community not believing in the resurrection of Jesus. How can we say that when we do not have Q? Also, if it is a sayings source, why would we expect Q to describe the resurrection? We cannot tell from what we know of Q what that community thought of the resurrection.
Price spends a significant amount of time in this chapter on what he calls the “Sufi Q.” These are sayings by Sufi writers about Jesus, spread over a number of Muslim texts. This left me with my head scratching. Remember, Islam began in the seventh century AD. I find it strange that people like Price will dismiss Matthew, Luke and John as being too late but will look to second and third century gnostic texts or even these much later Sufi texts as possibly getting us to the earliest Gospel. These Sufi texts, as interesting as they are, are irrelevant to the historical Jesus and the earliest Christianity.
Price concludes by going back to Q. He compares numerous sayings in Q with some Cynic teachings. This is nothing new. But what Price claims is that, unlike Burton Mack who thinks the historical Jesus was a Cynic teacher, that Q is simply a collection of Cynic teachings unrelated to Jesus and only later being artificially attached to Jesus.
There has been much that has been written to refute the claims of Cynic origins. Craig Evans has an entire chapter on this in his Fabricating Jesus. Here is Evans’ conclusion:
Thus the evidence is impressive, even overwhelming, that Jesus was at home in a Jewish world that took seriously the teaching and stories of Scripture (what we usually call the Old Testament). There is nothing that compels us to view the teachings of Jesus in Cynic terms. (p. 122)
It is very possible that there are some overlaps with certain teachings by Cynics, but this need not be a causal relationship. Truth is truth, whether said by Jesus or by a Cynic.