Book review: The Lost Gospel Q

by Marcus Borg


From the introduction by Thomas Moore: “The haunting, inspiring and challenging words of Jesus have now been with us for two thousand years. During all that time they have been used to moralize, instruct, defend and condemn as well as to lead and guide. As scholars have pointed out for over a century, the four Gospels are riddled with the interpretations, biases and agendas of their editors. Amid the clutter of age-old conflicting readings, it often seems difficult to hear an original voice and to take to heart the wisdom of one of the world’s greatest teachers.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Q, here’s the idea: Matthew and Luke were written with the book of Mark open in front of them. 50% of Mark is repeated in Luke, and 90% is repeated in Matthew. But there are enough other commonalities between Matthew and Luke to determine that they shared another source, and this source appears to be a “sayings” Gospel. Just the words that Jesus taught. No such book has ever been found, so scholars have named this hypothetical book “Q,” meaning “Source.”

Written in the 50’s only a couple decades after Jesus’ death, presumably by his contemporaries, this is as close as we can get to Jesus’ original teachings, away from the supernaturalism and moralizing of later Gospels. Q is the sacred “soul” of the Gospel message. Most of its sayings are about how to live “the way” that Jesus taught. Q is the Gospel for Liberal Christians.

Once past the introductory sections, Borg’s book provides just one saying per page, sometimes with a bit of historical commentary. This is a short little book that you can read in a couple hours. Or, if you prefer reading one saying per day, the book would provide daily inspiration for three months.


  1. I bought Q on the basis of your review, so thanks for that!

    One thing worth mentioning is that the hypothesis of Q is strengthened by the discovery of the codices, which are like little cheat sheets that the wandering evangelists carried around with them in the earliest days of the AD 30’s and 40’s. One saying per little sheet and they carried a bunch of them. It makes perfect sense that Q was a collection of codices, then the writer of Mark fleshed it out with narrative, then Matt and Luke with further narrative work.

    I like the idea of reading what the earliest preachers carried around with them…..there’s a sort of purity to it…..and less noise than the full blown stories of the synoptic gospels.

  2. Good point about the codices, Bruce, thanks for bringing that out!

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