Richard Carrier On the Non-Existence of Q

I think Carrier is on to something I hadn't considered before. If we want to be evidenced based people, then we need to be evidenced based people across the boards. We need to acknowledge there's no evidence that "Q" exists. Q (from Quelle, the German word for "source") is a hypothetical gospel considered by most biblical scholars to be a separate "source" (hence Q) for the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke). It's supposed to explain the divergences and agreements between them. But the fact is we have no extant manuscripts of Q. None at all. Full stop. Carrier:
In fact all the evidence for Q is 100% consistent with Q being a redaction of Mark, one that added a bunch of material to Mark, expanding things in Mark that were too brief or unsuited for a later author’s tastes or needs. And that means Q sounds pretty much exactly like Matthew. In fact, it’s almost certainly Matthew. Q is literally the least likely hypothesis of any that’s plausible.


If we applied Ockham’s Razor—a valid logical principle—instead of this fallacy of circular argument adopted by all Q defenders, we’d get a different result. Because what is simpler? That Matthew and Luke used two sources one of whom we can only hypothesize the existence of? Or that Matthew used only one source (and made the rest up) and Luke only used Mark and Matthew (and made the rest up)? The latter theory requires no ad hoc hypothetical sources. It relies solely on evidence and texts we actually have. It is therefore the much simpler hypothesis (because the probability of all the facts it rests on is as near to 100% as makes all odds; which is not the case when we start depending on merely hypothesized facts, which for that very reason have a significantly higher probability of being false: see Proving History, index, “gerrymandering” and “Ockham’s Razor”). And on top of that, it turns out, unlike evidence for Q, there actually is concrete evidence Luke copied Matthew (as we’ll see). So we know he did. And that leaves nothing else to explain.

Matthew and Luke don’t just coincidentally add birth and resurrection narratives with many peculiar parallels (and even some exact verbatim phrases), they also add narratives of Judas’s suicide that are peculiarly similar to each other, and John the Baptist and Temptation narratives that are often verbatim identical, and they both oddly feel a need to include a lengthy genealogy for a man from whom Jesus doesn’t even descend. And even in cases where Luke disagrees with Matthew, such as in his rewrite of the Nativity, it is conspicuously to reverse what Matthew said, as if presciently knowing what Matthew had said (see OHJ, pp. 470-73).

The most obvious explanation of all these strange coincidences is either that Luke is simply freely redacting Matthew (and often being happier with the Gentile-friendly sequence and content of Mark than the overly-Jewish content of Matthew) or Luke and Matthew were both using a “Q” that included genealogies, birth narratives, baptism narratives, temptation narratives, resurrection narratives, suicide narratives, and even a crucifixion narrative (as noted above). But that sounds so much like Matthew, that Ockham’s Razor leads to no more probable conclusion: Luke is simply redacting select content of Matthew into his redaction of Mark. There is no actual evidence for any other hypothesis.

This even explains why most of the content of “Q” consists of “sayings.” Because what we mean by Q is actually just Matthew, and most of what Matthew did to Mark was add five enormous speeches, which are in fact coherent literary products, in Greek, reliant on the Septuagint (a popular Greek translation of the Scriptures). They are not random collections of sayings. They are, like almost all speeches in all stories and histories of antiquity, the inventions of the author: Matthew. And Luke simply didn’t like that literary model. Long, ponderous speeches breaking up the action; and the heavy-handed Moses parallel in having five of them. So he broke them up, changed them up, dropped what he didn’t like or need, and used the rest as he wished. But he also borrowed and adapted lots of other stuff Matthew added, stuff about John the Baptist, the birth of Jesus, the suicide of Judas, and more. Some he took verbatim. Some he rewrote. Just as he did with Mark.

Since the above facts are then added to the even more incredible fact that there are hundreds of cases where Luke follows Matthew’s version of Mark and not Mark directly (in phrasing, grammar, vocabulary, and other elements), the notion that Luke did not use Matthew as a source is absurd. And if Luke used Matthew, there is no evidence left for Q, and no remaining justification for supposing there to have been one.