Q and Messianic Expectations

This text largely follows the work of Oegema (1998).

Q and Method

The Logia source Q (Quelle: source) is relatively early and remains hypothetical, derived as a joint source of Matthew and Luke.

The benefit of close study of texts is to separate out concepts that later believers tend to conflate. Contemporary Christians often assume that terms like Son of Man and Son of God mean essentially the same thing. They do not; not only this but a term like Son of Man itself has a different meaning depending on its time and application. Sometimes it clearly implies something other than Jesus to follow him and other times combined with Jesus (including his future activity); sometimes the whole focus is what is to come and eschatological and other times it is what is present. Jesus is regarded as a prophet greater than Solomon or is the Son of Man.

As these concepts roll around, their change of emphasis, paralleling and overlapping is shown in texts.

Q is said to exist because of the similarities of texts in Matthew and Luke that do not come from Mark. Q has bever been found; it is assumed that the text is associated with a community, and that the community is Palestinian before the text was Hellenised in Matthew and Luke (redacted into Greek with Hellenistic conceptual frameworking, as well as added thinking in terms of Jesus in the communities). Q texts contain some of the earliest definitions but also shows development. The dating of Q is estimated by the concerns it shows, particularly around the destruction of Jerusalem.

Redaction is a process. It means putting something into publishable form, in writing. So whatever is received, either oral, written and fragmentary or written and making sense elsewhere, has to make sense to the writer and considered readers at this production. Something awkward may be made readable; something not relating to a fast changing situation is updated.

The earliest Christian communities were sense-making communities. Concepts were shifting all the time in line with events of developing churches and expectations. Charismatic communities change quickly, with oral traditions and meanings fast developing and texts come into production. Heterogeneity is most likely, only later at a time of stability does sifting take place and a tradition achieve boundaries.

Q and Messianic Expectation

Luke 3:16 is a key text, and it is the only one to clearly show messianic expectation in Q. It shows a royal, priestly, latter-day liberator.

When "the Son of Man" concept is given in Q, text sources expand to Luke 6:22, 11:30, 12:8, 17:24, 17:26 and 17:30.

These texts have an authentic John the Baptist. There is a need for preparation, a coming judgment, and a need for repentance even amongst the chosen people. In all this there is, if anything, an absence of christology.

In Q Jesus is regarded as more than his predecessors but the pattern is along the lines of predecessors. Texts relate to communities that they were written from and for. They were generated, of course, after Jesus' death and with stories of his resurrection. They build in prophecy. In the Q community Jesus is part of contemporaneous prophetic thoughts and a dynamic towards the parousia of Jesus as Son of Man.

Even with the redaction of Q from its Palestinian source by Hellenistic communities in the 50s and 60s it is still the case that from the earliest sources Jesus is a prophet who would return as the Son of Man. There is a basis for christology here but not yet.


As well as apostles and teachers there were prophets in the earliest New Testament generating times.

Prophecy was common as in the early source of 1 Corinthians 11:5, 12:28, 14:23-24, 29-32 and more.

They were also discriminated from false prophets, as in Matthew 7:15, Acts 13:6, 2 Peter 2:1 etc. and these approached Christians, as in 2 John 7.

So they were concerned to preserve prophecy but protect it from anyone making claims. Prophecy at a time of expectation was common; so their own prophets had to be distinguished from outside prophets.

The coming of the Latter Day was expressed in Revelation 2, 3 and 16:15.

Prophecy seems to have ended for a time by the end of the first century.

Nevertheless prophecy was a vital part of Q.

On this Luke 3:16 contains:

There may be additions here at a redactional stage of:

Coming Judgment

Here is the formation of the synoptic concept of Jesus as Son of Man and the latter day judge. The redaction states that Jesus is greater than Solomon.

Beatitudes in Q:
Ethics and Eschatology

The message is to persevere now and love enemies as the reward is in heaven and coming.

In this ethics and eschatology come together but the latter day judge is missing. It is an earthly Jesus without the parousia, the Son of Man is referred to here without direct reference to eschatology.

It suggests too the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem at Saul's time (Acts 8-9) and Rome under Nero in 64CE. This is the historical background.

These Beatitudes are more materialistic and shorter than Matthew's development, and it is difficult to say which go closest to what Jesus may have said and understood.

Extra: Messianism and the New Testament in General

The New Testament inherits and contains eschatological, christological and messianic concepts and expectations.

The Messiah concept and Christ concept do not have to be the same. The same is true of prophet and Son of Man.

The New Testament developed concepts of Messiah, evidenced by not simply seeking out Messiah quoting passages in the Hebrew Bible but quoting passages that came to be interpreted in a messianic way (59 times) and actually paraphrasing those that did include the concept of Messiah. So there is interpretation.

The New Testament's conceptual development connects resurrection and Messiahship. It is impossible to historically prove the resurrection or come closer to it through historical-critical methods or textual work. Nevertheless the belief in Jesus as Messiah developed after his death in the context of other beliefs.

Concepts developed and did so with Q that finds its way into the Synoptics of Matthew and Luke, and then the synoptics in general beginning with Mark as the earliest but where traditions were developing around different early Christian communities.

The tradition of resurrection was that of the guiding appearances of Jesus who was now no longer appearing. That resurrection effect had a big impact on bringing christology to messianic and eschatological expectation, and held its place especially when messianism began to wane. Prophecy also declined. The decline of expectant future facing activity meant the rise of tradition and a change of focus. Christology became past oriented and the Holy Spirit acquired a continuous status. The return was put off.

Reference/ Guide

Oegema, G. S. (1998), The Anointed and His People: Messianic Expectations from the Maccabees to Bar Kochba, Journal of the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Sheffield Academic Press, 147-157, translated from the German, and revised and updated, by Oegema, G. S..