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Meditation 228
The Q-Verse

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I wrote in Meditation 219 of that strange verse found at Luke 14:26:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

I suspect that most people, whether Christian or not, find this inconsistent with their perception of Jesus. Unlike many other sayings attributed to Jesus, it is not a passage which is widely quoted. One wonders if the same sentiment is expressed elsewhere.

Turning to Matthew 10:37 we find:

"He who loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

That is similar, but expressed a lot more acceptably. (However, if you read verses 35-36 which precede it, you will find it considerably less moderate.)

Now, neither Matthew nor Luke were written down until many years later. Depending on point of view, they were either written from an oral tradition, or from memory. If you are not a bible literalist, it is reasonable both passages have their origin in the same original words, which were amended by faulty repetition over several decades until the current versions were locked in by writing them down.

Given those assumptions, which is more likely to represent the original - Luke's message of hate, or Matthew's message of relative degrees of love?

If the early Christians were promoting a religion of love, then is it more likely that a message of love would transmute into one of hate, or that a message of hate would transmute to one of love?

In my view, the latter is more likely, and Luke's version is probably closest to the original.

Many scholars believe that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all based on the same original source - a lost document known as the Q-Document. Perhaps it existed, perhaps it is a theoretical academic construct. But if we had access to the Q-Document, we might get closer to the original words.

There is another ancient document which at least some bible scholars think is based on the Q-Document, and that is The Gospel of Thomas from the Apocrypha. Some will even claim Thomas is the Q-Document.

The Gospel of Thomas is relatively short, consisting of a little over a hundred sayings attributed to Jesus, but no connecting narrative. There are those who suggest the four biblical Gospels were originally in the same format, a list of sayings with the story added over time.

If we look at Thomas, verse 55, we find:

"Jesus said, "Whoever does not hate his father and his mother cannot become a disciple to Me. And whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters and take up his cross in My way will not be worthy of Me."

And this is quite similar in words and sentiment to Luke. Interestingly, if you go on to Thomas 101, (an exercise for the reader - Thomas is attached) you will find a very similar passage. Apparently, Thomas thought it worthwhile to list this idea twice.

On balance, if there was an historical Jesus, then he did indeed say something pretty close to the words as reported in Luke and Thomas. And that is the Q-Verse.