Review: Q, The Earliest Gospel

5014957John S. Kloppenborg is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion at the University of Toronto. He received both an M.A. and Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christian Literature from the University of St. Michael’s College, where he completed his doctoral work under Heinz O. Guenther on the literary genre of the synoptic sayings source. Kloppenborg has since authored numerous books, including Q Parallels: Synopsis, Critical Notes & Concordance (Polebridge Press, 1988), The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Fortress Press, 1987), Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Fortress Press, 2000), A Critical Edition of Q (with James M. Robinson and Paul Hoffman; Fortress Press, 2000), and the focus of the present review, Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus (Westminster John Knox, 2010).

Today, Kloppenborg is considered by many in the field to be one of the world’s leading experts on the Q source. The issues surrounding Q can be especially complex for the average reader who is unfamiliar with the synoptic problem and the conversations therein. Of course, this makes the task of creating a widely accessible introduction particularly challenging, as it requires beyond average familiarity with practically every corner of this scholarly discussion. It is here, I believe, that Q, The Earliest Gospel has provided something special for readers of all interest levels to engage. Kloppenborg attentively guides the reader through four fundamental questions—why should we think there was a Q? What did Q look like? What difference does Q make? And what happened to Q?—and provides the reader with ample interaction and examples to evaluate therein. This latter aspect of the book is invaluable for those who are newer to the Q conversation and provides a basis with which to weigh much of  Kloppenborg’s conclusions. Lastly, to the benefit of the reader, Kloppenborg closes the book with an English translation of the Critical Edition of Q that has been slightly modified in translation and noted where he differs with the editors.

Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus by John S. Kloppenborg is still one of the best introductions to Q on the market. Kloppenborg is well-qualified for the task and the fruit of his labor shows on nearly every page. Personally, I entered this review with an open mind but largely unconvinced by previous attempts at positing the existence of Q within the synoptic problem. Kloppenborg’s presentation was much better than the past attempts and I think that he may have even moved me forward towards his conclusion, but I am still largely unconvinced upon exit. Maybe I will give it another read with a keener ear towards evaluation. Nevertheless, if you are interested in investigating the various questions related to Q, for the first time or thirty-first time, Kloppenborg’s volume is the best entry point on the market and well worth the investment. It comes highly recommended!


I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. 

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