Scholars will explode the myth of The New Testament – University of Copenhagen

University of Copenhagen's newssite
Forward this page to a friend Resize Print Bookmark and Share

News > All news > 2010 > 2010.1 > Scholars will explode ...

21 January 2010

Scholars will explode the myth of The New Testament

Bible scholars across the world have for many years believed that two of the Gospels of the New Testament - The Gospel of St. Matthew and St. Luke respectively were partly based on the content of a supposedly lost scripture referred to as "Q". In a new research project, researchers from the Faculty of Theology will attempt to establish that this lost scripture never existed.

Q: the x factor of the New Testament

Bible of Christian III. Photo: GNU licenceThe Gospel of Mark constitutes the oldest of the four gospels in the New Testament and is dated to approx. 70 A.D. The Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke have for many years been considered as contemporaneous, and have been dated to 80-90 A.D. The two later gospels both contain material which also appears in the gospel of St. Mark and Bible researchers therefore believe that the older gospel has provided a common source for the two later ones. However, the two later gospels also share a considerable amount of content which is not to be found in the Gospel of St. Mark. A fact which has lead scholars to conclude that the authors of the later gospels must have had access to a second common source: the hypothetical lost text known as the Q document.

The Gospels as re-written Bible

The Research Project at the University of Copenhagen, which has just been granted 4.7 million kroner by the Velux Foundation, has been titled "The Gospels as re-written Bible". During the next tree years a group of scholars will map the development of the four gospels in order to establish that the Gospel of Luke is not, as believed so far, a contemporary of the Gospel of Matthew, and that the shared content of the two is not to be explained by the existence of a lost scripture, but by the fact that the author of St. Luke's Gospel used St. Matthew's Gospel as well as that of St. Mark as basis for his own scripture.

- "Several circumstances render it probable that the two later gospels were not written at the same time - but that the Gospel of St. Luke was in fact written 30-50 years after the Gospel of St. Matthew. And in the light of that, it is far more likely that the author of St Luke's Gospel was familiar with and used the Gospel of St. Matthew" says head of the research group, Professor Mogens Müller.

According to Professor Müller, the hypothesis of Q is widely accepted among theological scholars:

- "In most textbooks the idea that the gospels of Matthew and Luke should bear witness to a now lost source is treated as almost a fact. Probably a majority of New Testament scholars believe in Q. But as we will attempt to show, the hypothesis has severe flaws and should be replaced by a more obvious one".

The fourth gospel 

The mapping of the internal chronology of the gospels will also include the question of the fourth gospel - the Gospel of St. John - which according to Professor Müller is a difficult one:

- "There seems to be points of contact between the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John but the direction of influence is not unambiguous. We will examine if it is possible to understand the book of John as another source for the Gospel of Luke which in that case is to be seen as the youngest of the four gospels".