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The Lost Gospel


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Burton L. Mack is John Wesley Professor of the New Testament at the school of Theology at Claremont and the author of The Lost Gospel: The Book Q and Christian Origin and A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins.


If its premise is accepted by a preponderance of theologians, this debatable study could bring about a rethinking of the origins of Christianity. Mack presents an analysis of the so-called Book of Q , a supposed collection of Jesus's sayings that was compiled by his followers during his lifetime. Certain scholars, deducing the existence of the book, have reconstructed the putative text of this ``lost gospel'' during the last 20 years through a comparison of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, who, it is contended, used Q as a common basis (Q stands for Quelle , German for ``source''). Mack, a professor of New Testament at the School of Theology at Claremont College in Los Angeles, concludes that ``the people of Q''--Jesus's contemporaries--thought of him as a teacher, not as a messiah, and that they did not regard his death as a divine or saving event. Mack offers an earthy, colloquial translation of the Book of Q with its wisdom sayings, exhortations, parables and apocalyptic pronouncements. His portrayal of the early Jesus movement reveals a community based on fictive kinship without regard to class, gender or ethnicity. The discovery of Q , Mack argues, compels us to see the New Testament gospels as imaginative creations rather than historical accounts. $25,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB selections. (Apr.)

When Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels, modern scholarship suspects, they began with two sources to which they added their own material: the Gospel of Mark and a second source called ``Q'' (from Quelle , or ``source'' in German). Mack (New Testament, School of Theology at Claremont) identifies from within the gospels themselves what a Q document might have looked like. Deducing three stages of an emergent text, he isolates what may be the earliest version of Jesus' words and their impact on the community before an organized ``church'' adapted them to its own purposes. Deftly written, this book reads like a good mystery, saving the payoff of Q's impact on Christianity for its final chapters. However, Mack mutes the fact that Q is a hypothesis, and not a universally accepted one, which dilutes the persuasiveness of the book. There is an early layer to the gospels; what it might look like is the conjecture Mack delivers. Still, this is readable and recommended to the theologically curious.-- W. Alan Froggatt, Bridgewater, Ct.

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