I confess to having a certain love affair with the hypothetical document known in New Testament studies as Q. It’s true no one has ever found the document and some speculate that it may reflect an oral tradition rather than a written one but it has a certain romantic appeal for me. Some studies can stretch the speculation beyond just a document or oral tradition to what the stages of development were, the communities involved and more. So I really enjoyed reading this comment from the brilliant John P. Meier in his book A Marginal Jew. As usual he brings a huge dose of sanity in this proposed daily devotional thought for all exegetes. I put in bold my favorite part.
“I must admit, though, that the affirmation of Q’s existence comes close to exhausting my ability to believe in hypothetical entities. I find myself increasingly skeptical as more refined and detailed theories about Q’s extent, wording, community, geographical setting, stages of tradition and redaction, and coherent theology are proposed. I cannot help thinking that biblical scholarship would be greatly advanced if every morning all exegetes would repeat as a mantra: ‘Q is a hypothetical document whose exact extension, wording, originating community, strata, and stages of redaction cannot be known.’ This daily devotion might save us flights of fancy that are destined, in my view, to end in skepticism.” (A Marginal Jew: Mentor, Message and Miracles, vol. 2, p. 178)
If you would like a good introduction to Q consider the book by John S. Kloppenborg, Q, the Earliest Gospel. As an introduction it is great but I disagree with the Christology Kloppenborg derives from Q. But as you may have guessed not everyone is sold on the idea. One of the best books against Q is by Mark Goodacre, The Case Against Q. For more see the bibliography in the link in the first line of this post which is a hyperlink to a companion website for Mark Allan Powell’s Introducing the New Testament. All titles mentioned in this post are pictured below.