Is Q the Didache?

Is Q the Didache? June 19, 2015

Alan Garrow has shared a number of videos arguing that the Didache is the source of the Q material. I have not yet had a chance to watch all of them, but I seem to recall having come across this argument before, and having found it problematic because of the similarities between the Didache and Matthew’s versions of material, in instances in which Luke’s more succinct versions are more likely to be original. But I still wanted to spread the word about them, and would be eager to see this possibility explored in detail in a scholarly article or monograph, or even in a series of blog posts that go into more detail.

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  • Paul D.

    Nice timing. I’m halfway through his Didache videos right now, having already spent the last few days doing some line-by-line comparisons between Didache, Luke, and Matthew out of personal interest. Garrow’s theory definitely has merit, and seems to be the obvious conclusion from a close examination of the text. (It is very easy to see how the structured sayings of the Didache have been reworked into Luke’s and Matthew’s sermons, and difficult to see how the opposite task could have been accomplished.)

  • Benjamin Wortham

    What an interesting thought! The Didache Eucharist formula does seem more primitive than the synoptics. I’m watching the videos.

  • I don’t think it’s very plausible now, but I haven’t watched the videos. The idea looks sorta interesting.

  • Andrew Dowling

    I can see the Didache coming from the community that produced/used Q, but the “source for Q?” Most of Q is not in the Didache.

    I think NT scholars, absent many new discoveries in recent years, are simply trying to construct castles of sand with some of these new theories, especially about Q. That Q has never been found is not extraordinary . . there are LOTS of ancient Christian documents we know about that we’ve never found copies of, including some that were very early.

    • Alan Garrow

      My paper does not claim that the Didache is a ‘source for Q’. Rather, I claim that the Didache contains some Jesus sayings that were used by Luke – and that Matthew then conflated Luke’s version with the Didache’s original. These Didache sayings qualify as an ‘extant instance of ‘Q” in the sense that they were used by both Luke and Matthew. This paper is important for the Synoptic Problem because it adds weight to the case for arguing that Matthew used Luke directly (see the previous set of videos at ). And, if Matthew used Luke directly, the shape of ‘Q’ changes drastically … and a concrete example of this freshly shaped ‘Q’ is the group of sayings in Didache 1.2-5a.

      • Jim

        Presumably Q was written in Greek? What is your proposed dating for Q, Luke and Matthew?

        • Jim

          And proposed Didache dating?

          • Alan Garrow

            To give a ‘date for the Didache’ can be a bit misleading. This is because the Didache contains material from several different authors who wrote at different times. At the risk of oversimplifying, therefore, I’d say that the earliest material was compiled in the late 40’s and that most of the text’s developments were complete by the end of the first century. My next publication will be on this subject.

        • Alan Garrow

          Q – as conceived by the International Q Project – doesn’t exist and so wasn’t written in any language. Where other sources used by Luke and Matthew are at play … ‘Q’ in quotation marks if you will … they will also very probably be in Greek. I favour a relatively early date for Luke and a relatively late date for Matthew – but beyond that I’m not yet ready to be more specific.

          • Jim

            Thank you for both of your responses. I guess I had just assumed that if Matt and Luke both used the hypothetical Q (as judged by strings of common wording in Greek), that it would have been easier if both were working off of a common document in Greek rather than a document in say Aramaic or oral traditions. I confess that I have not yet looked in detail into your series on the Matthew conflator hypothesis (something I should do soon).

      • Jonathan Bernier

        So I’m trying to work this all out in my head, including your previous work on Matthew’s use of the Didache. What you seem to be arguing is that Luke used the Didache and then Matthew used Luke and the Didache. Now, I’m wondering why in this scenario we need to talk about a Q at all. It seems to me that if it is legitimate to call Didache “an instance of Q” because it is used in common by Matthew and Luke then it would seem to follow that one could also call Mark an instance of Q. But since Q was originally defined as precisely the source for non-Markan material shared by Matthew and Luke if it can now refer also to Mark then I have to wonder at what point the term “Q” loses any analytical meaning.

        Now that having been said, I’m not at all opposed to the idea that either Matthew or Luke knew and utilized the Didache. Indeed, I have come to the conclusion on other grounds that a good portion of the Didache likely predates at least Luke if not also Matthew (sorry, but I’m still unconvinced about Matthean posteriority). I’m definitely quite open to the possibility that we might now have better access to the sources of the Synoptic Tradition then did scholars such as Schleiermacher. I wonder though whether perhaps our knowledge of the sources of the Synoptic Tradition is now reaching a point whereat the language of Q is becoming heuristically inadequate and in fact perhaps a barrier to further advances.

        • Alan Garrow

          You are quite right it is really confusing to use Q in two very different ways. My own practice is to use Q (without quotation marks) to denote the classic International Q Project concept and ‘Q’ (in quotation marks) to denote sayings of Jesus used by Luke and Matthew – but which don’t appear in Mark. This still isn’t ideal, but if you fail to use Q-language at all then the central point might get missed … the old category of Q needs to be drastically redefined.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            How about simply calling it “Double Tradition Material”?

            I really do feel as if the use of Q-language might be unnecessarily muddying the waters. If you tell me that the Didache is “an instance of Q” I really am not sure what you are saying. If you tell me that Matthew and Luke both used the Didache, that’s quite clear and to the point. The added confusion here is that Q, as a hypothesis, was developed to account for the antecedent judgment that Luke and Matthew wrote independent of each other. If we’re no longer talking about material used in common yet independently I’m not sure if we are any longer talking meaningfully about something we can call Q. I.e. at what point is the hypothesis bent to the point that it simply breaks?

          • Alan Garrow

            I sympathise with your basic point – the terminology is confusing – but I don’t think any of the other options are ideal. ‘Double Tradition Material’ is quite a specific thing (thankfully) – this term can only be used to describe material common to Mt and Lk but not in Mark – so it’s not a good way of describing a source. If I titled my article ‘Both Luke and Matthew used Did. 1.2-5a’ – then the implication for a much wider debate might go unnoticed. By calling the article ‘An Extant Instance of ‘Q” I hoped to signal that there is an extant text that contains saying used by Luke and Matthew … and that this has wider implications for Synoptic Problem. The diagram I use for the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis uses three ‘Q’s to try to clarify this (not easily clarified) point.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            Sorry, Alan. Somehow I failed to notice your reply until today. Please accept my apologies.

            Perhaps I should clarify: I am suggesting that one use “Double Tradition material” to describe what you call “‘Q’ in quotation marks,” and which you define as denoting “sayings of Jesus used by Luke and Matthew – but which don’t appear in Mark.” Since I am not suggesting that it refers to a source, and since you do not define “‘Q’ in quotations marks” as referring to a source, and since even the effort to talk about the matter is made remarkably cumbersome by having to distinguish between “Q without quotation marks” and “‘Q’ with quotation marks,” why not simply use “Double Tradition material” to refer to Double Tradition material and “Q” to refer to the hypothetical text used by Matthew and Luke and not by Mark. It seems to me that once when does so the confusion disappears pretty quickly.

          • Alan Garrow

            Hi Jonathan,
            Unfortunately, I do mean ‘Q’ to refer to a source or sources – with Did 1.2-5a serving as one specific example. These are sources that fulfil one basic definition of Q – a source of Jesus’ sayings used by Luke and Matthew. I can’t say the Did. 1.2-5a is an example of Double Tradition – because the DT, very specifically, is material shared by Luke and Matthew that isn’t in Mark.
            Anyway, as I say, you’re not the first person to complain – so I will continue to try to make this as clear as I can!

          • Jonathan Bernier

            Okay. I’m actually really confused now, as you earlier in this thread defined “‘Q’ (in quotation marks)” as referring to “sayings of Jesus used by Luke and Matthew – but which don’t appear in Mark.” I take it that what you mean is the *source* for such sayings, not the sayings themselves, yes?

          • Alan Garrow

            I suppose if I was being really precise I’d say, ‘Q’ denotes any repository of sayings attributed to Jesus which is drawn upon by both Luke and Matthew (but not Mark).

  • Deane

    Surely Garrow’s claim is not “the Didache is the source of the Q material”, but that the Didache is one of the sources for the Q material. That is a big difference.

    • Yes, I wanted to quickly share the videos and the intriguing suggestion they put forward, and expressed myself in a way that wasn’t as clear or precise as it ought to have been.

      • ccws

        Either way, you’ve given me some fascinating stuff to read & watch tomorrow on the train to Ohio. I know OF the Didache, but I don’t know anything ABOUT it. *loads everything onto droid tablet in case Amtrak’s WIFI doesn’t work*

  • QueenMab

    Nice nod to STNG!

  • ccws


  • Tim Piatek

    Having watched the videos, and subsequently read the published article, I’m very curious as to Professor McGrath’s opinion of the fully articulated argument presented therein. Being a layman, I can’t say that I’m fully convinced this version of the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis is the “historically correct” interpretation, and that other interpretations should be discarded, but I do find the argument a rather satisfying explanation for certain features in Matthew-Luke. A few years later, has there been much mooting of this subject in scholarly circles?