A Scientific Solution for Q, the Synoptic Problem, and the Textual Origins of the Jesus Memory Tradition Discovered

It’s going to take some time for the scholarly community to review my five hypotheses and the related evidence I’ve compiled, which will be released publicly on Zenodo later today or tomorrow.

I’ve been circulating early drafts among dozens of scholars privately. None have yet to respond except with perfunctory acknowledgement of receipt.

But scholars will eventually respond. Trust me, they will.

I’m certain lots of people are going to call me crazy, once they see the totality of the proofs. That’s fine. They can call me whatever they want.

But my hypotheses are scientifically correct and my reconstruction is true. I should say, true on the whole. Not perfect in every tiny detail, but overall historically, factually, scientifically correct.

And provable. And disprovable. Which is why I’m putting my hypotheses and proofs out there for the scholarly community and the public to read, all open access.

The solution boils down to five hypotheses. Once I conceived those five hypotheses, following the principles of Open Science and Open Access, I archived my solution on Zenodo on July 1st, embargoed it, gave it a permanent DOI, and then started to tell others what I had found while continuing to build out my proofs.

One colleague cautioned me against using conclusive scientific language like “prove” when dealing with the gospels.

And I totally get that. I’m a Humanities scholar and a Religious Studies scholar by years of academic training, research, publishing, and teaching experience.

In Religious Studies, as opposed to the Sciences, we tend to do all of this intense labor and then just chalk everything up to opinion, especially when it comes to religion. It’s just easier to get along with everyone that way.

The day I came up with the full solution, it was so elegant and simple, I was astonished. That day and in the days since, my brain has felt like it’s on fire, like Pascal and the writing in his jacket.

Usually people think of Religion and History as completely different from Math and Science, but they’re not.

It’s all Human Science and Human Data. All of it.

Human DNA is data. Human interactions are data. Human history is data. Texts are data. The reception of those texts is data, just like signals sent from one node to another.

The data for the earliest history of the Jesus movement is extremely complicated data, but it is still data. Data that can be compiled and tested.

With these five hypotheses, all the data of the earliest Jesus texts came into perfect resolution.

Once I put the Gospel of Marcion in its correct place, like a layer of a Plinko board, or like a evolutionary-biological stratum, or like a geological layer, everything else fell perfectly into place.

Jesus and the memory of his teachings have a living integrity, like a virus, a living idea that would spread and grow. I remember one of my especially brilliant Seminary professors, Paul Bassett, using that virus metaphor one day. It stuck with me.

Now I’ve proven that it’s true.

The Gospel form is essentially the viral DNA of the earliest Jesus Movement.

What I call the New Q (Qn) is the first example we have, the first we can reconstruct, that provides that DNA sequence.

Calculus was my best subject in high school. Got a 5 on my AP test. My college advisor, Greg Crow, told me I should major in math. He was right in a certain way. I majored in religion instead, and now I’ve solved the core problem of the Gospels and Christian origins like a math formula for the first time ever.

It’s going to take some time for scholars and the world to catch up, but I know I’m right.

While I’ve self-archived my solution on Zenodo for the historical record, I’ve continued to expand and polish my proof, which is essentially a growing, open access, open invitation book proposal.

Most Bible scholars and the general public are going to be utterly astonished once they realize what’s just happened.

Most scholars don’t think you can really solve Q, the Synoptic Problem, or the origins and transmission of the earliest Jesus memory texts in a compelling, overwhelming, and definitive way. But it just happened.

Welcome to the new world, where Religious Studies and Christian Origins is now Science, Open Science.

Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess.

But these five scientific hypotheses are out in the wild now. They can’t be contained.

They are like a virus in their own right, a living idea brimming with potential.

If the Scientific Proof for Jesus and the Gospels seems like it would destroy my faith in God, it hasn’t.

It’s only strengthened my faith in Jesus (as a real historical person and a revolutionary Jewish teacher) and in god.

Jesus of Nazareth was apparently real. His community of early followers was real. Their shared memories of Jesus were real, even if we can’t really get much specific detail or texture about the events those memories narrate. The reality of the shared memory and collective textual-ritual performance of the early Jesus movement in Judea around 50-65: that is the reality of Qn.

These spiritual sentiments certainly aren’t meant to convey the idea that Jesus is the only way, or that everyone should convert to Christianity or that the gospels were historically accurate or that Jesus was really a demigod or god or anything like that.

Qn actually predates Christianity as we know it. Qn was written prior to 70 CE, the date when the second temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Qn doesn’t really have much of anything to say about Jesus being divine. There’s still mythical overlay, but not as obsessed about deifying Jesus that way post-70 CE texts increasingly did.

Incidentally, it’s kinda important that “Christianity” and “Christian” weren’t even terms or concepts until more than 50 years after Qn, well into the 2nd century, as we see in the letters of Pliny, Acts, and 1 Peter.

Christianity and its texts certainly evolved in response to Qn, but like the gospel traditions themselves, the Jesus traditions kept growing and growing, always assimilating new ideas and adapting to new settings and situations.

The author of the early version of the Gospel of Mark actually tried to write Qn out of history, amazingly enough. That’s why I call it the “Anti-Qn.”

Thankfully, other authors disagreed. The persons or scribal networks that produced the early versions of the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew both preserved Qn, saving it by repackaging it within the Gospel of Mark as a more encompassing framework.

Those writers saved Qn by smuggling it into its arch-rival’s composition. Quite brilliant, actually.

That’s why the Gospel of Marcion is so crucial. Even though it was destroyed and made piecemeal by people who treated Marcion as a heretic, their dedicated animus actually ended up saving his Gospel for posterity.

That Gospel was essentially the Early version of Luke, a simple and early synthesis of Mark and Qn.

Early Luke was the Gospel that saved the original Gospel.

Now Marcion’s Gospel gives us access to that Gospel that in turn gives us access to the original/earliest Gospel, Qn.

I’ll continue explaining and building out my proofs, but the solutions are already compelling.

I realize this probably sounds like hype or bullshit. It isn’t.

Again, it will take the scholarly community some time to consider my hypotheses and analyze and test my work, but they will.

This is a really big deal, and I’m not going anywhere. I’ll continue working every day to expound and explain the scientific truth that I’ve uncovered and discovered. More than anything, I am hoping for a diverse network of scholars to take a serious interest in these proposals and work with me to build out these hypotheses and their implications.

There will be lots of corrections to make, even to my own work. There will be plenty of debates. Some of Qn will still remain fuzzy and unrecoverable. That’s the beauty of working on this project in an open, regularly revised, digital book. Not every word or thought has to be perfect. Our insights and our analyses can grow and evolve.

I was a preacher in a Black Church in Kansas City for four years, a PhD student at the University of Virginia for ten, and a professor, lecturer, and librarian / information scientist in the years since.

This feels like everything has come together, in my life and for the whole world.

With everything going on in society right now, COVID, a new Civil Rights movement, the timing couldn’t be better.

Qn is a Gospel by the Poor and for the Poor. Qn is a Gospel of Justice and the overt critique of the abuse of wealth and power. That is its message.

Mark and later Gospels tell us it was Jesus causing a scene in the Jerusalem temple that got him killed. Far more likely, it seems to me, was the trouble that his movement and critique of power had caused. Jesus became a person to get rid of. And that’s what they did to him.

But, as it turns out with lots of movements in history, killing the founder only made the movement spread and grow more. You can’t kill the memory of a real mensch, even with a hammer and nails, even with the public humiliation of a cross.

Tertullian, who ironically preserved lots of Early Luke (i.e., Marcion’s Gospel or GMarc) for us, also said that martyr’s blood is seed, like a dandelion. Destroy a mensch, and his movement will survive him, and his myth will be taken up by the wind, the Spirit, and spread over the whole world.

The rediscovery of Jesus and his community’s earliest shared textual-memory tradition is essentially a participation in those events, and in that way also a repetition of those events.

In a way, it’s as if history today is coming into full alignment with history then, like this is the discovery we as humanity needed to have at this moment in time.

It feels kinda cosmic, and it’s exciting as heck. Or maybe I’m just a holy fool.