Did Jesus Exit? – Part 15

Part of MJH (the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis) is that Jesus was a Jewish male. Jesus was “Jewish” in both senses of the word: he was an adherent of the religion of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people, according to MJH.

We saw in Part 14 that Mark represents Jesus as both a follower of Judaism and as a male descendant of the Hebrew people. What aboout Q? Does Q also represent Jesus as a follower of Judaism and as a Hebrew man?

I will use the International Q Project reconstruction and translation of Q to answer these questions:


Q clearly represents Jesus as being a devout follower of the Jewish faith.

Jesus frequently quotes from and makes references to the Jewish scriptures, i.e. the Old Testament:

Jesus quotes Deuteronomy (8:3, 6:13, and 6:16)
in Q 4:1-4, 9-12, 5-8, 13 – The Temptations of Jesus.

Jesus alludes to Isaiah 61:1 in
Q 7:18-23 – John’s Inquiry about the One to Come.

Jesus quotes from Malachi 3:1 in
Q 7:24-28 – John: More than a Prophet.

Jesus makes a reference to the story of Sodom in Genesis (chapters 18 and 19) in
Q 10:10-12 – Response to a Town’s Rejection.

Jesus makes a reference to the story and book of Jonah in
Q 11:16, 29-30 – The Sign of Jonah for This Generation.

Jesus makes references to Solomon, whose life was documented in 1 Kings (Chapter 10), and who was believed to be the author of three OT books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon):
Q 11:31-32 – Something More than Solomon and Jonah.
Q 12:22b-31 – Free from Anxiety like Ravens and Lilies.

Jesus shows admiration for the prophets of the Jewish tradition in
Q 6:22-23 – The Beatitude for the Persecuted.

Jesus makes positive reference to the patriarchs of Israel who se lives are described in Genesis:
Q 13:29,28 – Replaced by People from East and West.

Jesus references the Noah and the Ark story from Genesis in
Q 17:26-27, ?28-29?, 30 – As in the Days of Noah.

Jesus makes a reference to Abel from Genesis and Zechariah from Chronicles, and to unnamed “prophets” who lived between them (between the pre-historical period covered in Genesis and the end of the Old Testament history books) in
Q 11:49-51 – Wisdom’s Judgment on This Generation.

Comment on a similar passage from the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 23:35):

…scholars generally understand this as a reference to the death of…Zechariah ben Jehoiada.[4] As Abel was the first prophetic figure killed in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Zechariah ben Jehoiada was the last figure killed in those Scriptures, which conclude with 1 and 2 Chronicles, they represent the full historical scope of prophetic martyrdom.


Jesus refers to “The law and the prophets” which are the major sections of the Old Testament in
Q 16:16 – Since John the Kingdom of God.

Jesus speaks of “the law” of Moses as having authority in
Q 16:17 – No Serif of the Law to Fall.

Jesus speaks of prophets being sent to Jerusalem in
Q 13:34-35 – Judgment over Jerusalem.

Jesus appears to have had some involvement with Synagogues (Jewish houses of worship):

Jesus expected his followers to be brought before synagogues, which implies that they were Jews who would engage other Jews in discussions and debates about Jewish theology and ethics.
Q 12:11-12 – Hearings before Synagogues:
11 When they bring you before synagogues, do not be anxious about how or what you are to say; 12 for •the holy Spirit will teach‚ you in that .. hour what you are to say.

Q 11:?39a?, 42, 39b, 41, 43-44 – Woes against the Pharisees:
?39a? .. 42 Woe for you, Pharisees, for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and give up‚ justice and mercy and faithfulness. But these one had to do, without giving up those. 39b Woe to you, Pharisees, for you purify the outside of the cup and dish, but inside •they are‚ full of plunder and dissipation. 41 Purify‚ .. the inside of the cup, … its outside … pure. 43 Woe to you, Pharisees, for love the place of honor at banquets and‚ the front seat in the synagogues and accolades in the markets.44 Woe to you, Pharisees,‚ for you are like indistinct tombs, and people walking on top are unaware.

Jesus and the Jewish Temple: Just one reference in Q:
Q 4:1-4, 9-12, 5-8, 13 – The Temptations of Jesus.

Jesus and Passover: No references in Q.
Jesus and the Sabbath: No references in Q.

Jesus was Baptized by a Jewish apocalyptic preacher:
Q 3:2b, 3 – The Introduction of John:
2b John in the wilderness .. 3 all the region of the Jordan .
Q 3:7-9 – John’s Announcement of Judgment:
7 He said to the crowds coming to be‚ baptized: Snakes’ litter! Who warned you to run from the impending rage? 8 So bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not presume to tell yourselves: We have as «fore»father Abraham! For I tell you: God can produce children for Abraham right out of these rocks! 9 And the ax already lies at the root of the trees. So every tree not bearing healthy fruit is to be chopped down and thrown on the fire.
Q 3:16b-17 – John and the One to Come:
16b I baptize you in‚ water, but the one to come after me is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to take off. He will baptize you in holy‚ Spirit and fire. 17 His pitchfork «is» in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn on a fire that can never be put out.
Q 3:21-22‚ – The Baptism of Jesus:
21‚ … Jesus … baptized, heaven opened ..,‚ 22‚ and .. the Spirit … upon him … Son … .‚

Jesus shared the Jewish belief in a coming Messiah:
Q 7:18-23 – John’s Inquiry about the One to Come:
18 And John, on hearing .. about all these things‚, 19 sending through his disciples, said‚ to him: Are you the one to come, or are we to expect someone else? 22 And in reply he said to them: Go report to John what you hear and see: The blind regain their sight and the lame walk around, the skin-diseased are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and the poor are given good news. 23 And blessed is whoever is not offended by me.

Jesus was an advocate of prayer, a practice promoted in the Jewish scriptures and the Jewish faith:
Q 6: 27-28, 35c-d – Love Your Enemies:
27 Love your enemies 28 and‚ pray for those persecuting‚ you, 35c-d so that you may become sons of your Father, for he raises his sun on bad and good and rains on the just and unjust‚.
Q 10:21 – Thanksgiving that God Reveals Only to Children.
Q 11:2b-4 – The Lord’s Prayer.
Q 11:9-13 – The Certainty of the Answer to Prayer.

Jesus believed in Angels, which is a belief promoted by the Jewish scriptures:
Q 12:8-9 – Confessing or Denying.
Q 15:8-10 – The Lost Coin.

Jesus promoted serving and obeying God, a central value of the Jewish scriptures and the Jewish faith:
Q 16:13 – God or Mammon:
13 No one can serve two masters; for a person will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

Q makes it clear that Jesus believed in the divine inspiration and the historicity of the Jewish scriptures, including not only the Pentateuch (the first five books of the O.T. attributed to Moses), but also the historical books and the books of prophecy in the Jewish religious tradition.

Jesus also believed in angels, and he promoted prayer and obedience to God, which were important Jewish beliefs and practices. Jesus believed in a coming Jewish Messiah. Jesus appears to have been a disciple of John the Baptist, a Jewish apocalyptic prophet and teacher who was clearly a devout follower of the Jewish faith. Thus Q, like Mark, represents Jesus as a devout Jew, as a follower of the religion of Judaism.

In the next post in this series, I will consider the question ‘Does Q represent Jesus as a male descendant of the Hebrew people?’

G&T Rebuttal, Part 6: Chapter 7
Rape them Atheists!
Great Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics by a Christian
G&T Rebuttal, Part 6: Chapter 7
  • Testinganidea

    You seem to assume that the gospels and Q were written as “history” or at least trying to relate facts about historical individuals. But this seems circular as that is what you are trying to prove. The “fact” that Harry Potter is described as English and needing glasses in multiple books by multiple writers (fan fiction) does not establish his historicity. Ned Ludd, fictional founder of the Luddite movement, appeared in multiple newspaper articles and “wrote” many leaders yet he never existed. How does showing that sources may agree on attributes of a character show that the character was historical?

    • Bradley Bowen

      I don’t simply assume that Q and the gospels were written as history.

      They appear to me and to most NT scholars to be biographical historical writings. They do not read, to me, like novels or other forms of fiction. They do read more like biographical writings. I’m not an expert in literature, and certainly not an expert in ancient literature, so I’m not certain or fully confident of my own judgment on this matter. But this is a conclusion that is based on facts and evidence, and is thus NOT a mere assumption on my part.

      Furthermore, I realize that appearances can be deceiving, so I am investigating a line of reasoning to see whether other available facts and data support this preliminary and uncertain hypothesis. I also understand that someone could write a fictional account of a fictional person’s life and do this AS IF they were writing historical biography of a real person (either because the author was deceived or mistaken on this point, or because the author was trying to deceive others, or even simply because adopting such a literary style would make their fictional account more exciting or compelling reading).

      I’m relating what I take to be one key argument presented by Bart Ehrman in his book Did Jesus Exist? I don’t think his argument is circular. If Q, Mark, M, and L are independent documents or traditions, then corresponding details about Jesus’ life and beliefs does provide additional evidence that there was an historical Jesus, and that these writings are historical and biographical in nature.

      I agree with your point that similarities in how different writers describe a character/person are not sufficient to establish the historicity of the character/person in question. Other considerations are at play here: (1) the apparent historical quality of the writings, and (2) the independence of the writings. With these additional considerations, Ehrman’s argument could, at least in theory, work.

      I’m still doubtful that his argument does in fact work, but it all depends on further facts and evidence concerning alleged similarities in how these sources characterize the life and teachings of Jesus. I don’t yet have a firm position on whether Ehrman’s argument is a good and strong argument. That is TBD at this point, as far as I am concerned.

      • Testinganidea

        You state that the Gospels appear to you to be biographical historical writings. I am not sure what characteristics supports this claim.
        Can you refer me to a single biographical historical  writing of the period that:

        1- does not have the author dropping put of narration mode to make comments on the events he is writing about

        2- repeatedly has the supernatural events as the focus of the stories not an embellishment to a story that would be almost unchanged without it

        3- does not discuss at length the physical description and sex lives of its characters

        4- does not explicitly mention different sources the author uses for different sections 

        • Bradley Bowen

          I think it is a good thing for you and other skeptics to question and challenge assumptions that are widely held by NT scholars. I am certainly open to questioning the widely-held assumption that Jesus existed as a flesh-and-blood person.

          But my approach, in general, is to accept most of the widely held assumptions of NT scholarship, and then to see whether a strong case for skeptical views can be made that is based, in part, on those assumptions.

          Here is a brief overview of NT scholarship on this question:

          “…Until recently it was the conviction of many scholars that the Gospels are a unique kind of literature. In part this was due to the belief that they, as ‘popular’ writings, could not be compared with contemporary Greco-Roman literature. This belief has been waning, and now a number of scholars argue that the Gospels belong within the genre of ancient biography.

          “The Gospels share with ancient biography some general similarities of content, form, and function. In content, they focus on the life of one person, especially that person’s public career. In form, they fit, to various degrees, the pattern of ancient biographies that frame a person’s public career with narratives of origin and youth, at the beginning, and death, at the end. In between, biographical presentation could be chronological, but not necessarily so. The subject’s words and deeds were used to illustrate character, and various short genres, such as the pronouncement story, were incorporated into the biography for this purpose. In function, many ancient biographies were concerned with praising their subject as an exemplar of the virtues to be honored and emulated in the community. The Gospels have a similar function for the Christian community, while serving other functions as well.

          “The genre of the Gospels continues to be a subject of debate. Adela Yarbro Collins, for instance, denies that Mark is a biography. Although it may be concerned with the identity of Jesus and presents him as a model, these are not its main purposes. Basically, it recoreds events that changed the world–eschatological events. Thus she classifies it as apocalyptic history.

          “Luke, too, might be regarded as history, for it is part of a two-volume work that includes Acts. This could make some difference in our understanding of Luke, for biography presents a person’s deeds and words as illustrations of character, while history is interested in a person’s achievements in so far as they had consequences for society. Yet ‘during the late Hellentistic period history and biography moved closer together with the increasing emphasis on character in historiography. Biography and history became more and more difficult to distinguish.’ [quoted from The New Testament in Its Literary Environment, by David Aune, 1987] The fact that one genre can be embedded in another might also suggest that Luke can be regarded as a biography even if Acts, and Luke-Acts as a whole, is placed in another category.”

          Above passage is from “The Gospels and Narrative Literature” by Robert Tannehill, from The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, p.68, Abingdon Press, 1995.

  • ImRike

    Since I started following this series, I have been wondering about the title: Did Jesus exit? Do you mean “exit” like die on the cross and not be resurrected, or shouldn’t it rather read: Did Jesus exist? I’m a bit confused…

    • Bradley Bowen

      I meant ‘exit’ as in died on the cross.

      My main interest is in the question ‘Did Jesus rise from the dead?’.
      Obviously, if Jesus never lived as a flesh-and-blood person, then Jesus did not die on the cross. If Jesus did not die on the cross, then the case for the resurrection of Jesus cannot be made. If one could know with certainty that Jesus did not exist as a flesh-and-blood person, then one could also know that Jesus did not rise from the dead.

      However, I don’t believe that the answer to the question ‘Did Jesus exist?’ is one that can be known with certainty. So, for me, the question is best understood to be ‘What is the probability that Jesus existed?’. I suspect the correct or best answer is that there is a significant chance that Jesus did exist, and also a significant chance that Jesus did not exist.

      I would like to be able to put a rough estimate on those probabilities (e.g. ‘The probability that Jesus existed is about .4′ ). Once a rough estimated probability is assigned to the existence of Jesus, this can be used as a baseline for determining a probability that Jesus died on the cross. If, for example, the probability that Jesus existed is about .4 (four chances in ten), then the probability that Jesus died on the cross cannot be any greater than .4, and would presumably be somewhat less than .4 (like: .3 or .2 ).

      Since the death of Jesus on the cross is basically a necessary condition for the claim that ‘Jesus rose from the dead’. The probability that Jesus rose from the dead cannot be any greater than the probability that Jesus died on the cross. If the probability that Jesus died on the cross could be shown to be about .3 (three chances in ten), for example, then the probability that Jesus rose from the dead could be no more than .3, and would presumably be significantly lower than .3 (like .1, one chance in ten).

      • Pofarmer

        the chance that anybody rose from the dead is signifigantly lower than 1 in 10.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Yes, depending on what you mean by ‘rose from the dead’.

          Actually, people are delcared dead and then come back to life all the time. So, it all depends on what you mean by ‘dead’.

          Christians who believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus, believe that Jesus died on the cross on Friday afternoon (between 3pm and 6pm), and remained dead (with no breathing, and no heartbeat) until early on Sunday morning when he came back to life (between 3am and 6am). So, they believe that Jesus was physically dead for about 36 hours.

          This now appears to be physically possible, under certain circumstances (i.e. if the body is kept very cool, and body temperature brought back up in such a way as to avoid triggering the brain’s natural tendency to self-destruct when re-oxygenated after being deprived of oxygen).

          In any case, the longer Jesus was “dead” (without breathing and without a heartbeat), the less likely it is that he would be able to come back to life from natural causes.

          One BIG problem for the case for the resurrection is that even if we assume Jesus’ body was placed into a stone tomb, as the Gospels tell us, no one remained inside the tomb to observe Jesus’ body for the next 36 hours. Thus, for all we know, Jesus’ heart was beating and he began breathing again within a few seconds or minutes after his body was placed in the tomb.

          In that case, the best explanation for the ‘apparent resurrection’ of Jesus is that he came back to life from natural causes; which is something that happens quite often.

          • Pofarmer

            Yes, but what you’re talking about isn’t the miraculous resurrection claimed by Christianity. Things similar to what you are claiming have been raised for eons.