Most scholars believe that Matthew and Luke drew on Mark for the basic outline of Jesus’ life. Where Matthew and Luke share sayings not found in Mark, it is assumed they drew on a now-lost collection of Jesus’ sayings that scholars call Q, from the German Quelle (source). See Stephen J. Patterson, “Q—The Lost Gospel,” BR 09:05; Eta Linnemann, “Is There a Gospel of Q?” BR 11:04; and Patterson, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Q,&rd BR 11:05.


The Gospel of Thomas is an apocryphal gospel that includes 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. See Helmut Koester and Stephen J. Patterson, “The Gospel of Thomas—Does It Contain Authentic Sayings of Jesus?” BR 06:02; and Patterson, “Now Playing: The Gospel of Thomas,” BR 16:06.



Throughout this article, the English translations of biblical texts are my own.


The term “early church” is used here in its conventional sense, namely of those who understood Jesus after his death as God’s vindicated agent.


The present version of 1 Thessalonians 2:14–16 has Paul speak of the death of Jesus without mentioning the cross, making the Jews at large completely responsible for Jesus’ death. Birger Pearson (“1 Thessalonians 2:13–16, A Deutero-Pauline Interpolation,” Harvard Theological Review 64 [1971], pp. 79–94) has convincingly shown that this passage in 1 Thessalonians is a late emendation to the letter, clearly not Pauline. The fact that Paul elsewhere emphasizes the crucifixion and the cross of Jesus proves that he knew who killed Jesus.


Paul does this in fulfillment of his claim in 1 Corinthians 9:20 that he “became a Jew to Jews, to those under the law like one under the Law…to those without the Law like one without the law.”


As far as I can see in the Israelite-Jewish history, followed by Christian example to this day, there has never been nor is there a group claiming orthodoxy or orthopraxy that has not been initially a minority group and opinion, denounced and often even persecuted as being of false and heretical teaching and practice.


The Jewish Bible, starting with its first chapter, is a document with very strong universalistic sections. Many of the biblical and Jewish traditions are very dialogical indeed. There is no doubt that over the centuries many converts from paganism joined Judaism. It is still debated, however, among scholars how widespread such conversions were and whether any conscious and organized effort existed that caused or supported such changes. Evidence and arguments for positive answers to these questions are in Dieter Georgi, “The Early Church: Internal Jewish Migration or New Religion?” Harvard Theological Review 81:1 (1995), pp. 35–68.


Josephus, Jewish War 2.261–263.


Josephus, Jewish War 1.33, 7.427–432; Antiquities of the Jews 13.65–73.


The redaction of the sayings in Q blurred the border between the past of the historical Jesus and the future beyond his death. The death and resurrection of Jesus were simply neglected and Jesus was presented as still speaking in the present, as the voice of divine wisdom eternal—just as biblical and Jewish wisdom circles had presented patriarchs, prophets and other wise persons as incorporations of wisdom, God’s consort.