Faculty Member Completes Research

Ron Jolliffe finishes 2 decades of work

By: Becky St. Clair

Ron Jolliffe, professor of English at WWU, recently completed nearly 20 years of research on a document referred to as “Q.”  

Q is the nickname for an early collection of Jesus sayings that was used in the composition of the biblical books of Matthew and Luke.  It was the work of a Jewish follower of Jesus in the middle of the first century.  The nickname Q comes from the first letter of the German word, “Quelle,” which means “source,” as in a source for the sayings of Jesus.

“This is significant because much of the rest of the New Testament seems to have been written with interest in the views of Gentile followers of Jesus,” says Jolliffe.

Jolliffe began his work on this project shortly after defending his dissertation in 1989.  Along with approximately two dozen other members of the Q Project, Jolliffe was assigned a section of the 220 verses of Q.  

Each of the researchers’ work was to collect, sort, and record all arguments related to the differences in wording between certain sections of Luke and Matthew.  Jolliffe’s job was to do this for the verses found in Luke 11:39-52 and their parallels in Matthew 23, and then to write an assessment of the arguments presented and to propose a conclusion about the reading of Q for each of the variations in this section.

“As Q arises out of that portion of the early church composed of Jews who became followers of Jesus,” explains Jolliffe, “it is an interesting window to provide enriched viewing to set beside the predominantly Hellenistic converts to the Jesus movement.”

Since Q no longer exists, the Q Project’s working definition is the shared sections of Matthew and Luke that have similar wording, but no parallel in the gospel of Mark.

Jolliffe and his fellow researchers project that a thirty-five volume set will result from their work on the Q Project.  Jolliffe will be listed as the author of the two volumes he completed.  The entire thirty-five volume set will be called Documenta Q and will be published by Peeters Press in Leuven, Belgium.

Jolliffe explains that there is a good description of the Q hypothesis in the original green-cloth-bound Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 5, found among its introductory articles.

“That commentary’s positive assessment of the usefulness of the Q source in solving the challenge of the literary relationships among Matthew, Mark, and Luke played a role in my original interest in gospel sources,” he says.

Though the general editor of the project asked Jolliffe to write another volume for the set last fall, Jolliffe declined, stating intentions to move in a different direction with his writing.  His only continuing responsibility on the Q Project will be to check over, correct, and approve the work of his editor.

Jolliffe has been a faculty member at WWU since 1989, and has been working on this project since that time. The Documenta Q volumes are being made available as they are published, and can be purchased online at the Peeters Press website (see below for link).

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