The “Q” and Imagine A Dream

I consider the Australian, Robert Brinsmead, to be a dear friend and mentor. The outstanding growth of his consciousness with regard to God’s justice within humanity calls into question all religious theology in general and Christianity in particular. I recently found the following facinating pieces among his many offerings at, and had to share them here. ~hh

JESUS ACCORDING TO THE “Q” – The Earliest Portrait of the Historical Jesus

Author: Robert D. Brinsmead

The Significance of the “Q” Document

For some time it has been accepted by the historical Jesus scholars, whether Catholic, Protestant or Jewish, that Mark was the earliest of the four NT Gospels. It was written by an unknown Gentile Christian source around 70 AD. Some 15-25 years later, Matthew and Luke, written also by unknown sources, both copied Mark. They also added sayings of Jesus that were drawn from another common but unsighted source. It was the German scholars who first coined the term “Quelle” (meaning “Source”) to identify this unsighted source material used by Matthew and Luke. It now simply goes by the name Q.

One hundred years of Jesus scholarship has confirmed the existence of an early “Sayings Gospel” thought to have been in circulation during the 50’s of the first century CE. We are indebted to a number of scholars who in very recent years have been able to carefully and painstakingly reconstruct the Q. James M. Robinson is one of these scholars. The following outline draws heavily, but not exclusively, from his recent book, Jesus: According to the Earliest Witness.

The scholarly methods used in the reconstruction of the Q have been as rational and as scientific as the methods used by the cosmologists who actually discovered the existence of the planets Uranus and Pluto before they were sighted, or by Einstein who theoretically discovered that E=MC2 long before it was demonstrated to be true, or by physicists who have discovered a sub-atomic world that no one, including themselves, has ever seen. We say this in answer to the objection that the existence of the Q must be uncertain on the grounds that it has never been seen.

The Content of the Q Document

The Q was essentially a Sayings Gospel. It preserved the core sayings and teaching of the historical Jesus in their earliest form. The people responsible for this Sayings Gospel obviously felt that the most significant thing to record about Jesus was what he said. There is very little said about what he did, and less to indicate who he was.

· There is no apocalyptic element in the teaching of Jesus according to Q – nothing said about the end-time with its widely expected cataclysmic events.

· There is no mention of any of the great nature miracles – like stilling the storm, walking on water, feeding the multitude.

· There is no mention of the apostles.

· There are no religious practices advocated – no religious fasting, no observance of Israel’s purity code, no ceremonial, sacrificial or ritual observances. Jesus is simply an itinerant sage who is neither a religious reformer nor founder of a religion.

· There is nothing said about the organization of the Christian Church.

· There is nothing said about Jesus death and resurrection even though Q was obviously written and in circulation after these events.

· There is no Christology in Q – nothing said to foster the veneration of Jesus’ person as the Savior of the world. Rather than laud him, Jesus simply wants his hearers to do what he says. (Evidently his followers eventually came to think it was far easier to venerate Jesus than to do what he said.)

· The focus of Jesus’ sayings is on this world as the domain of God’s creation rather than on the next world or the hereafter.

The Way of Life Advocated in the Q Document

Q contains simple yet radical “way of life” sayings:

· Jesus taught an active and practical love of one’s enemies that would mirror his Abba Father who sends rain upon good and bad people alike. In the historical context of a hated Roman occupation that the Jewish people were anxious to resist with violence and bloodshed at the first opportunity, Jesus teaching would have seemed quite disloyal to the national aspirations. It also flew in the face of the bitter and sometimes bloody factionalism that was rife among his own people.

· No retaliation, revenge or pay-back justice.

· Forgiveness should be endlessly and unconditionally extended to others.

· Never be judgmental of others, and beware of being confident and smug about being in the right.

· Trust in the Abba Father’s care and reflect in your life his overwhelming generosity to all.

· Rejection of family ties that compete with or hinder any of the above.

The Methodology of Jesus’ Mission According to the Q

The mission methodology of the Q is so odd that it gives us some insight into why some people, including Jesus’ own family, said he was mad. He sent “workers” into the Galilean villages with these rather bizarre instructions –

· No shoes – go barefoot.

· Carry no food or extra clothes.

· Carry no scrip. (Satchel, bag)

· Carry no purse with money.

· Carry no protective stick. (To ward off dogs or robbers)

· Greet no one on the road.

· Beg for food and lodgings at a house.

· Pronounce the arrival of the kingdom of God to the house sharing bread and hospitality.

· Heal the sick in the house of the host.

As bizarre as the above methods may seem, in the historical context of the recent execution of John the Baptist and the suspicion of any subversive activity by the powers that be, workers plying the roads looking like lonely, bare foot and defenceless beggars would be less likely to arouse the suspicion of the authorities.

The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man in Q

The Q contains two oft-repeated phrases that uniquely belong to Jesus: these are the kingdom of God and the son of man.

On the lips of Jesus the kingdom of God –

· Is something that has already arrived, and not something which is merely imminent.

· Its arrival is joyfully announced as “gospel” and celebrated with eating and drinking.

· It is not something that is apocalyptic or cataclysmic as in John the Baptist and the popular Jewish expectation.

· It is not something that is revealed or demonstrated in any outward show, but is rather like yeast hidden in the dough or seed germinating in the ground. It is manifested in ordinary people doing very ordinary or human things.

· It is something that people were entering in Jesus’ day.

It is easy enough to translate the phrase “kingdom of God” as the rule, domain or empire of God, but the real substance of its meaning only becomes apparent when we look at the meaning of the other expression, “son of man.”

In recent years, some Jesus scholars have demonstrated quite conclusively from Jesus’ own Aramaic language that the term, “son of man”, so often on the lips of Jesus, was not a title. It simply meant “son of humanity” or “this man.” That understanding is now almost universally accepted by contemporary Jesus scholars, whether Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. We might summarize the main features of Jesus “son of man’ sayings as –

· An expression of Jesus’ solidarity with the entire human race.

· The implication that his source of authority was an enlightened human consciousness.

· Courage to do the human thing no matter what custom, culture, religion, law, Scripture or political correctness might dictate. (Some may call this love, compassionate, unconditional acceptance of others, mercy, non-judgmentalism – attributes that an enlightened human consciousness will recognize as supremely human. There are a number of powerful reasons why, on the evidence, I prefer to subsume it all under the term, “doing the human thing.”

· A teaching to indicate that any man can recognize that he is also a son of man as Jesus was. (With apologies to the sexist language, women are of course included in this human solidarity/equality)

· A teaching that ordinary people doing the human thing is the only means by which the Abba Father or the kingdom of God can come to expression.

People simply doing the human thing, therefore, are the kingdom of God.

Some Inconvenient Questions

· How is it that none of the creeds of the Churches, whether the early ecumenical creeds, the Roman Catholic creeds or the Protestant creeds say a single thing about the teaching of Jesus?

· Should not the authentic teaching of Jesus take precedence over the Church’s teaching about Jesus?

· Is the distinctly non-religious nature of Jesus sayings compatible with the elaborate religious rites, orders, hierarchies, offices, garments, books, vestments, days, places, sacraments, prayers and dogmas?

· Is the Jesus of history really the same as the Jesus of the Creeds, or has the Jesus of history been embellished, reshaped, packaged, religionized and venerated to become the Jesus of faith?

· If the Jesus Sayings of the Q were nailed to the door of the Church as a monk once nailed a protest against Indulgences to the door the Church, how would the Christian religion survive?

Just asking!


Web Published – August 2008

Copyright © 2008 Robert D. Brinsmead



Author: Robert D. Brinsmead

 I have a dream…” Martin Luther King Jr.

 “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” John Lennon, Imagine

 Violence in the Name of the Sacred

 I dreamed again…

 All over the earth it seemed that people were divided by a multitude of sacred things. Whilst some were divided over the issue of sacred rocks, others were divided over the issue of sacred animals. Others again were divided about sacred places.  Then there were sacred times, sacred food, sacred water, sacred ceremonies, sacred garments, sacred books, sacred dogma, sacred mediators and all kinds of sacred institutions to guard and promote whatever  was deemed to be sacred.

 All over the earth people were condemning, despising, banishing, imprisoning and killing other people whose sacred things were different. It seemed that the more devout people were, the more they mistreated those deemed to have sacralized the wrong rocks, animals, places, times, and water, food, garments, dogma, books and what have you. And all this inhumanity, of course, was done in the name and for the honour and glory of their Transcendent One.

 It seemed that those who were religiously committed were not civil, and those who were civil were no longer religiously committed.

 Then there arose a sage of obscure parentage from an obscure village in an obscure province. Except for having a simple and remarkable wisdom, he was a very ordinary man who refused any title of honour except to be called ben Adam in the Hebrew tongue of his ancestors or bar nasha in the Aramaic tongue of his people. In either case, it only meant that he was just a son of [ordinary] humanity. His full name was Joshua ben Adam in Hebrew or Yeshua bar Nasha in Aramaic.

 Josh or Yesu began teaching a strange new thing called the good news of the kingdom of the Abba. (Abba was another Aramaic word which meant dearest papa or daddy). Anyhow, this was a message about a new kind of universal brotherhood. He invited the somebodies and the nobodies, the politically correct and incorrect, the insiders and the outsiders, the elite and the marginals to celebrate its arrival with eating and drinking together, without distinction of creed, class or gender, and without any of the old animal-like pecking order of superiors and inferiors.

 In this new brotherhood/sisterhood, no one would hold anything against anybody on the grounds of any thing, especially in regard to silly or trivial distinctions between things deemed sacred and profane, clean and unclean.

 The sage said that people were the sole bearers of the image of the transcendent Abba and the only sacrament of his presence – and nothing else was sacred. Henceforth the only way to honour and serve any Transcendent reality was to honour and serve one another, but especially people who were sick, poor, ignorant, despised, lonely, forsaken, cast out, oppressed and needing any kind of human help. In this new order of humanity, the only way anyone could love or reverence the Unseen Abba was to unconditionally love, forgive and minister to ordinary people as the bearers of the Abba’s image and presence.

 The teaching of this sage was deemed to be so dangerous by both the religious and civil authorities of his day that he was hurriedly executed for blasphemy and sedition. What he said could not be put to death, however, and his spirit lived on proving that there is something stronger than death. This spawned a movement that proclaimed his greatness.

 At first they said he was the Messiah of his own tribe. As his fame spread to the Greco-Roman world of that day, his legend also grew. He was given the title son of God, a title that was identical to inscriptions on the coins bearing the image of Caesar Augustus. He was even said to be virgin born like Augustus, Alexander the Great and all the great heroes and divinities of Greek mythology. By the fourth century the movement that bore his name had become a great Institution. It used its full authority to proclaim that the humble peasant was God Almighty in the highest and most absolute sense

 The creeds and dogmas of this great religious Institution were now totally focused on the worship of this man. Those creeds and dogmas said absolutely nothing about his message. The man had replaced the message. The iconoclast had become the icon. Soon this great Institution was condemning, banishing, flogging, burning and killing legions of people in his name with pogroms, burnings, Crusades and Inquisitions.  It set up more sacred things than ever in his name. It created more sacred books, sacred creeds, sacred garments, sacred ceremonies, sacred water, sacred meals, sacred times, sacred places, sacred relics, sacred traditions and myths than any of the old shamans could have shaken a stick at. And it imposed this plethora of sacred things on millions on pain of temporal punishments and eternal damnation.

 Could anything be more antithetical to this humble sage, this ordinary man – because son of man was all he ever claimed to be – than this hierarchical Institution that was so chock full of so many sacred altars on which to slaughter so many innocent people?


 Then there arose a wind of awesome destructiveness. I was amazed that it did not blow down a single tree, destroy a single flower or hurt a single person. But it blew away every single myth, legend and sacred thing that had been erected in Josh’s name and every other name. The wind seemed to be laughing as it swept all this stuff up in its furious path, and I thought that it sounded like the laugh of Josh when he knocked over all that religious stuff at the temple in Jerusalem so long ago (That’s another story, that I can’t stop to explain just now).

 When this wind had passed, nothing remained but the clearest light of a candle in the dark. It was the light kindled by Josh so long ago and nothing had been able to put it out. And the only sacred thing left now was ordinary human people doing very ordinary human things for one another. 


Web Published – August 2008

Copyright © 2008 Robert D. Brinsmead

Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 1:22 pm  Comments (2)  

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