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The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins Paperback – April 8, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (April 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060653752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060653750
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If its premise is accepted by a preponderance of theologians, this debatable study could bring about a rethinking of the origins of Christianity. Mack presents an analysis of the so-called Book of Q , a supposed collection of Jesus's sayings that was compiled by his followers during his lifetime. Certain scholars, deducing the existence of the book, have reconstructed the putative text of this "lost gospel" during the last 20 years through a comparison of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, who, it is contended, used Q as a common basis (Q stands for Quelle , German for "source"). Mack, a professor of New Testament at the School of Theology at Claremont College in Los Angeles, concludes that "the people of Q"--Jesus's contemporaries--thought of him as a teacher, not as a messiah, and that they did not regard his death as a divine or saving event. Mack offers an earthy, colloquial translation of the Book of Q with its wisdom sayings, exhortations, parables and apocalyptic pronouncements. His portrayal of the early Jesus movement reveals a community based on fictive kinship without regard to class, gender or ethnicity. The discovery of Q , Mack argues, compels us to see the New Testament gospels as imaginative creations rather than historical accounts. $25,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB selections.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

When Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels, modern scholarship suspects, they began with two sources to which they added their own material: the Gospel of Mark and a second source called "Q" (from Quelle , or "source" in German). Mack (New Testament, School of Theology at Claremont) identifies from within the gospels themselves what a Q document might have looked like. Deducing three stages of an emergent text, he isolates what may be the earliest version of Jesus' words and their impact on the community before an organized "church" adapted them to its own purposes. Deftly written, this book reads like a good mystery, saving the payoff of Q's impact on Christianity for its final chapters. However, Mack mutes the fact that Q is a hypothesis, and not a universally accepted one, which dilutes the persuasiveness of the book. There is an early layer to the gospels; what it might look like is the conjecture Mack delivers. Still, this is readable and recommended to the theologically curious.
- W. Alan Froggatt, Bridgewater, Ct.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

An excellent read; and one of three B.L. Mack books worth your time.
Amazon Customer
Resting much of his presentation on the work of John Kloppenborg, Mack shows the likely development of the Q writings in a solid historical setting.
Stephen A. Haines
Another major shortcoming is the author's tendency to present certain viewpoints as facts rather than interpretations or theories.
Marietta E. Cameron

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on March 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
The great structure of Christianity rests on four books. Four men, living at different times and in different places, each implying they were present during Jesus' travels and travails, penned their accounts of his life. From these narratives, dogmas were set and an orthodoxy established that has lasted for two millennia. When closely examined, these stories proved to have been written long after Jesus had died. What happened in the ensuing years?

According to Mack, after Jesus died [or disappeared], followers of this teacher formed "study groups" centred in Galilee and southern Syria. They devised sayings attributed to the teacher, exchanged texts, debated meanings, and discussed what they felt significant about his pronouncements. Analysis of the four books revealed some of these writings buried within the larger story. Excavated from the Gospels, these "Q" writings have marginalised the "historical" role of the four books. There must have been many versions of "Q" composed by the members of what Mack calls the "Jesus groups". Whether they were ever collated into a single document will likely never be known, but it's clear the "gospel" writers were aware of them and utilised them.

Resting much of his presentation on the work of John Kloppenborg, Mack shows the likely development of the Q writings in a solid historical setting. With Hellenistic scholars setting the norms for education and intellectual discourse, it's easy to see how the "Q" sayings were formulated. A glance at the social upheavals of the period reveals the environment that caused them to be written. Mack weaves these threads together effectively to produce a vivid picture of the times and the course the writings followed as events unfolded.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Reader From Aurora on July 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Written in the early 1990s, Burton Mack's The Lost Gospel the Book of Q is one of the first popular discussions of the hypothetical Q document. For those unfamiliar with the author, Mack is a well-known liberal New Testament scholar and writer.

Mack's main thesis is that the existence of a Q document supports the view that the early followers of Jesus were not Christians. These early followers (or the Q community), he argues, saw Jesus, as an itinerant cynic-like sage rather than a religious figure. Consequently Mack proposes that the faith tradition we now know as Christianity was a later mythical development. I offer the following comments for potential readers.

 Mack's writing is clear, concise and entertaining (he tells a good story). Within contemporary New Testament scholarsip he is as readable as anyone.

 The existence of a Q source used by Matthew and Luke has some support amongst scholars. Beyond this minimal existential point, however, there is much disagreement. The author's musings with respect to the existence of a Q community and various identifiable layers of Q development are highly speculative.

 To make his thesis somewhat plausible Mack needs time and space - it is unlikely that a clearly false Christian myth could have developed in close proximity to the historic Jesus (i.e. his followers, and others who knew him, would likely have challenged this development). To accomplish this, Mack assumes a late dating for the canonical gospels and an early composition of other sources such as the Gospel of Thomas. Many of his assumptions are not supported by research nor widely accepted. For example, he suggests that Luke-Acts was composed in the early second century (120 C.E.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Garry L. Morey on June 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
I notice other reviews on this site that are critical of Burton L. Mack for daring to think outside the box, but such criticism won't make the argument go away. Admittedly, the existence of the Q gospel can neither be proved nor disproved, but Mack didn't dream up the Q gospel by himself. Nineteenth-century scholars had considered the concept of a so-called "sayings" gospel that was used as a source for the synoptic gospels. Mack expanded on prior research and did a more conclusive job of culling the Q material from the New Testament. Like a lawyer trying a case solely on circumstantial evidence, he does a good job presenting his argument and supporting it with logical assumptions about the historical Jesus and the people of the early Jesus movement. (Readers interested in the early Jesus movement should also read "Who Wrote the New Testament" by the same author.)
The chapter on Galilean history before the Roman-Jewish War is important to recalibrate modern thinking about the homeland of Jesus and his followers. The images we have today are mostly drawn from cinema and well-told Bible stories where Jesus wanders around a Jewish province controlled by Rome. Galilee was more cosmopolitan than Judea, which means that Jesus' teachings and sayings were not necessarily tied only to Jewish law but could have been heavily influenced by Greek philosophy as well. It is quite probable that the early followers never thought of their leader as "the Messiah." Mack develops three stages of Q, and you can see how the Jesus legend changed from a wisdom teacher to the Christ.
Mack's cumbersome writing style can be a struggle in the early chapters where he writes with the tortured prose of a college professor.
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