Excerpt from the Foreword
What Is the Sayings Gospel Q?
A Sayings Gospel, in distinction from a Narrative Gospel, contains mainly sayings ascribed to Jesus, with hardly any of the stories so familiar to us from the four Narrative Gospels of the New Testament.
The Sayings Gospel Q is even older than the Gospels in the New Testament. In fact, it is the oldest Gospel known! Yet it is not in the New Testament itself — rather, it was known to, and used by, the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the eighties and nineties of the first century when they composed their Gospels. But then it was lost from sight and only rediscovered in 1838, embedded in Matthew and Luke.
After all, Q is a product of the Jewish Jesus movement that continued to proclaim his message in Galilee and Syria for years to come, but from which practically no first-century texts have survived. The New Testament is mainly a Gentile collection, and hence only preserves the sources of Gentile churches.
This is clearest in the case of Matthew, the canonical Gospel that grew out of the Q movement, marking the point when it finally merged into the Gentile churches. Matthew 3-11 is primarily oriented to vindicating the Jewish Gospel Q, whereupon Matthew 12-28 simply edits and copies out the oldest Gentile Gospel, Mark. The Great Commission with which Matthew concludes (Matt 28:18-20) makes this Gospel an ecumenical text; It not only authorizes the Gentile church's mission ("make disciples of all nations"), but also the Jewish church's focus on the sayings of Jesus found in Q ("teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you").
Conversely, the Gentile Gospel that most fully represents the final triumph of Gentile churches, Luke, has simply imbedded Q into the Markan Gentile Gospel. And Luke continued with a second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, where the history of the Gentile churches very soon tends to become the history of the chuches as a whole.
One can identify Q sayings in Matthew and Luke by a rule of thumb: Sayings (and a few stories) that occur in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark, or in Matthew and Luke in a very different form from that in Mark (for example, the temptation story in Matt 4:1-11, parallel Luke 4:1-13; see Mark 1:12-13), probably come from Q.