An informal summary by William Arnal

of John Kloppenborg’s theories

of the stratification of Q



The first thing I should say re. stratification of Q is that the best way to get a handle on it is to read Kloppenborg’s ‘Formation of Q’, which is THE basic and original argument for the layering of Q which has been so eagerly embraced by Crossan, the Jesus Seminar, Mack, etc. It takes Kloppenborg a whole book to lay out a detailed argument which, even then, isn’t accepted by everyone Two other things: First, Kloppenborg’s interest in stratifying Q arose from his desire to locate Q’s GENRE—it had nothing to do with the historical Jesus.

Second, Kloppenborg is NOT the first to attempt to find layers of tradition in Q—it has been done, in various and sundry ways, by Siegfried Schultz (only available in German) and Arland Jacobson. What distinguished Kloppenborg from these efforts was the application of a REDACTION-critical methodology, rather than a tradition-historical one. That is, for instance, Schultz assumed that "hellenistic" elements were later than "Paelstinian" ones in Q’s theology, and so attempted to cvollect together the tendencies of each stratum on this assumption. Jacobson assumed, for instance, that the use of the LXX, or the polemic against John the Baptist was late, and so traced the history of individual pericopes on this basis. Kloppenborg, by contrast, following the redaction-critical approach undertaken by Dieter Luhrmann (also only available in German), attempted to discern the organizing principles behind the collection and shaping of the Q material on literary grounds. He felt this could be done because the original wording and—more importantly—order of Q can still be discerned behind Matthew and Luke.

He deliberately wrote out of consideration any any pericopes whose

original placement or sequence in Q could no longer be determined with any

measure of confidence.

Working from these assumptions, he believed that one could determine redactional interests in Q in three basic ways: 1.the isolation of late alterations, form critically, to indivdiual pericopes and the coordination of these alterations into patterns. That is, if several pericopes throughout Q all have, as their latest alterations, forms which promote theme "x", we might assume that theme "x" was a principle behind some late stage of the document’s redaction; if several pericopes have theme "y" as a secondary alteration, but have "z" as an even later alteration, we might assume that "y" was either a redactional interest of an early stage or a theme present in the oral tradition, which was subsequently emended or redacted in accordance with theme "z"; if "z" and "x" are compatible, or appear together in such alteration, we might assume they represent the same redactional hand; and, e.g., if theme "k" appears as a late addition to one pericope, but not to any others, we cannnot confidently assign the alteration to the hand of a redactor. 2.The principles by which originally independent units are juxtaposed can be treated in the same way. If it turns out that theme "x" is promoted by the juxtaposition of large blocks of material, that suggests and confirms that it is a late and redactional theme imposed on the document as a whole; on the other hand, if theme "y" is promoted by the juxtaposition within blocks of smaller units, which are then joined together in larger blocks which do not promote theme "y" but rather theme "z", this suggests and confirms that "y" is an early interest supplanted redactionally by "z". 3. Conclusions arrived at in this way can be supported by the comparsion of Q material with parallel material in independent sources (primarily Mark, John, and Thomas). A theme judged to be redactional should distinguish Q material from parallels in these other sources, whereas themes deemed traditional might and probably should also appear in the other versions. The first theme that Kloppenborg attempts to isolate is the "the pronouncement of judgement," here following Luhrmann. From an analysis of the sort described above, he arrives at the conclusion that ONE redactional interest of Q is the pronouncement of judgment against "this generation," i.e., a deuteronomistic conception that Wisdom has called this generation (Israel) to repentance through the activities of the prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus, but these messengers have been persecuted and rejected, and so now Wisdom abandons Israel to judgement (in this case, apocalyptic judgment). Those who heeded Wisdom’s ultimate call through Jesus will, however, be saved, especially since it is Jesus himself who will serve as the arbiter of this ultimate conflagration. The evidence for this perspective as a REDACTIONAL theme comes from the analysis, pericope by pericope, of the principles behind the formation of each single block of material which most obviosuly manifests this theme; including: John’s preaching, the block on Jesus’ and John’s relationship, the controversies and woes against the Pharisees in the latter half of chapter 11, some material in chapter 12, and the little apocalypse in chapter 17 (I’m citing by Lukan location). Material in which this theme is not obviously and predominantly present is ignored for the moment. Now, each of these large blocks of material can be show to have been assembled precisely in order to highlight the deuteronomistic perspective already described, and not, it appears, for any other reason.

Thus, e.g., John the

Baptist’s preaching consists of at least three and probably four independent units: 3:7b-8a, 9, which uses the tree and fruit metaphor;

3:8b, which speaks of children of Abraham by way of refutation of claims to ethnic privilege; 3:16, paralleled in Mark, which speaks of baptism with holy spirit by the coming one, and 3:17, which threatens judgment from this figure, using another agricultural metaphor. What links all of these slightly different conceptions? Under what thematic rubric are they drawn together? The urgency of repentance in the face of judgement. The first unit, on its own, is a simple exhortation to be good; the second is a rejection of national privilege (a rather different theme); the third, as Mark’s use of it shows, is an effort to identify Jesus as the one predicted by John; and the fourth proposes punishment for some indeterminate offense. The combination of all four has the effect, then, of promoting the idea that the offense is the failure to repent as John demanded, that national privilege cannot be used to escape this necessity, that Jesus is the one who will dole out the punishment, and that this punishment is of a future, apocalyptic variety. The whole is greater than the summ of the parts, and given that this whole is the same whole promoted, in much the same way, by the other units, suggests that this is one of the overarching redactional themes of the document. Another example: the block from 7:1-35 (more or less), which combines a variety of disparate material: the healing of the centurion’s boy (7:1-10); the various comments made by Jesus about John in 7:19-35. Even within the latter, there is FAR too much variety and inconsistency to imagine that a straightforward assessment of John is at issue: John is simultaneously derided and promoted, he is "more than a prophet" and simultaneously less than the least in the kingdom, and simultaneously Jesus’ apparent equal as a "child of wisdom."

Whence these contradictory assessments of John? And then, what on earth is the miracle story in 7:1-10 doing here? Kloppenborg’s answer is that the principle which binds the whole together is the deuteronomistic polemic which also characterizes the other units. Jesus’ statement in 7:22 suggests a theme of Jesus’ eschatological identity, but the addition of v.23 makes that identification more threatening in character. As its independent appearance in Thomas argues, 7:24-26 originally was oriented to the theme of criticism of the rich; its addition to the foregoing material, as well as its appearance on Jesus’ lips as a harangue to the crowd serves to cast John as rejected and misunderstood by the people, and has Jesus castigating them for this (in much the same way John himself castigated them in 3:8). Vv.27 and 28 appear to have been motivated by an interest in John’s status vis-a-vis Jesus, and are attached to the end of v.26 on this basis, offering slightly corrected versions of John’s status: 1. more than a prophet (v.26b) --> 2. yet excluded from kingdom (v.28, to correct such a high view of John) --> 3. yet the one predicted by Malachi (v.27, which assumes and reinforces a rather exalted role for Jesus, and at teh same time mediates between the two opposing assessments of John, offering a reason why he could be more than a prophet and simultaneously excluded from the kingdom—he is a forerunner). Thne point is that all of this activity has occured (probably in the oral tradition) prior to the incorporation of the block vv.24-28 into this larger section of Q. How do we know? a)because these interventions occur WITHIN a block of material distinct from that which preceeds it (i.e., 7:19-23) and follows it (i.e., 7:31-35), and b) because the literary interaction of these glosses is with each other, and not with any of the surrounding material. In other words, vv.27-28 were already there when the block 7:24-28 was combined with 7:18-23, and 7:18-23 had experienced a late addition (v.23) which served to orient its main theme to polemics, the same theme fostered by the juxtaposition of 7:18-23 with 7:24-28. Moreover, 7:31-35, which has still another perspective on Jesus’ and John’s relationship (they are peers, acting independently, but for the same cause), is quite obviosuly polemical, castigating this generation for foolishly failing to respond to either Jesus or John—its appearance at the end of this block serves to orient the whole mass toward the polemical theme. Finally, the otherwise unaccountable appearance at the start of this sequence of the healing of the Centurion’s boy makes when we note that the story ends with the statement, "Even in Israel I have not found such faith," a statement which does not appear in independent versions of the story, and which changes the thrust of the story from an account of Jesus’ wonderful healing abilities to a criticism of those who do not accept him (cf. the Beelzebul controversy, for the same phenomenon in Q). Thus the relationship between this and the following material is to found in the theme of Isreal’s inadequate response to Jesus. The examples continue.

After isolating this theme as an overarching redactional interest in Q, Kloppenborg moves to those blocks of material in which this constellation of themes does not seem to be present. The most striking examples include: the great sermon in ch.6; the sayings on prayer at the start of ch.11; the material on anxiety in ch.12 (cf. chs. 9-10). Kloppenborg analyzes these blocks in the same terms as he has looked at the others: to determine the principles by which they were composed and the redactional interests and intentions apparently underlying that composition. The great sermon is perhaps the easiest example. Here we have an extended speech treating of a variety of subjects—discipleship and obedience, judgment of others, responses to violence, social marginalization (the beatitudes in particular). Each such theme is developed in its own way and possibly has a significant oral prehistory prior to its incorporation in Q. Thus, e.g., 6:39 (and 40???) are joined to 6:41-42 on the principle that both deal with the metaphor of sight and the eye, although each makes a rather different point. The first concerns leadership, the second concerns judgment. They come together, however, on the basis of invoking blindness. 6:40 interprets 6:39 in terms of discipleship; again, 6:45 interprets 6:43-44 in terms of teaching and speech. It looks as though a secondary sub-theme within this material is an emphasis on teacher-student relationships and leadership roles. Anyway, the entirety of the unit, by virtue of individual interventions such as those described, as well as by virtue of its compilation as a single unit, with its programmatic introduction (the beatitudes, 6:20ff.) and its parabolic conclusion (the house built on sand), presents a fairly coherent single perspective: that of an effort to use examples from nature and typical human behaviour as well as extended logical argumentation, to argue for a counter-cultural (or anti-cultural) ethos of direct reliance on God, of the flouting of normal conventions, and so forth. Not only is this theme apparent in the composition of this block, it is shared with all of the other blocks in which the theme of judgment is absent (with the exception of temptation narrative, which constitutes the final addition to Q, according to Kloppenborg, and which is not important right now).

So we are left with two apparently self-sufficient types of material: that which uses wisdom form to argue a counter-cultural message of direct reliance on God, and which does NOT appear interested in deuteronomistic polemic at all; and that which focuses on deuteronomistic polemic, but which does not appear that interested either in the wisdom idiom or in the naturalistic message of unediated access to divine providence. This impression is fostered by formal considerations. The wisdom-like material employs wisdom-like FORMS: clusters of aphorisms and imperatives with motive-clauses, highly structured into extended arguments. The polemical material employs loosely thematically organized narrative forms known as chreia. We might be left with the impression, then, that Q is actually TWO separate documents, but for two considerations. The first is that Matthew and Luke agree in several places on the sequence of Q material across this thematic divide. That is, the order of the material in Matthew and Luke suggests that these types of material had already been combined by the time they accessed Q. Second, and much more important for the purposes of relative dating of these strata, the two themes do not, on closer examination, turn out to be completely independent of one another after all. Certain blocks of the wisdom-like material, although they appear, as a whole to have been composed with these wisdom-like thematic and formal principles as a basis, have been GLOSSED, i.e., added to, with material obviously deuteronomistic in perspective. That is, theme "y", although overarching, repeated, and clearly at least one organizing principle, has been redacted or added to, albeit lightly, from perspective "z", which corresponds thematically to the overall redaction of the deuteronomistic/polemical material. The best example of this phenomenon is Q 6:23b: "for so their fathers did to the prophets," a deuteronomistic addition to a sequence of beatitudes which had been collected, and juxtaposed with 6:27-33 etc., on the basis of their inversion of accepted standards of behaviour (particularly, how to react to enemies and ill-treatment with affection and non-violence), and not on the basis of condemnation in prophetic terms. So 6:23b is later than the rest of the block, but fits perfectly with the themes of 3:7-9, 16-17; 7:1-10, 19-28, 31-35, etc. This phenomenon does not occur in reverse; that is, we have no later wisdom-like interpolations into polemical blocks. This suggests that the deuteronomistic redaction was added to and was subsequent to the wisdom-like one.

Kloppenborg sees the Temptation narrative as essentially unique in Q. All of the other material whose original order in Q can be discerned and is therefore amenable to redactional analysis fits fairly easily into one of the two major redactional groupings he finds in Q: either the inversionary wisdom stuff, or the polemical-deuteronomistic stuff. The Temptation narrative does not appear to serve either interest. Moreover, it stands on its own in a way much other the other material does not: it essentially makes its point on its own, without meaningfully standing in thematic juxtaposition with the surrounding material. Even more strikingly, in terms of form it is unique in Q, standing as the only true narrative in the document (7:1-10 and 11:14 are narratival, but still conclude with a pithy saying and so are fairly typical of the apophthegmatic form of the rest of Q2). Other distinctive features: mythic motif; explicit biblical quotations (only elsewhere at 7:27); title "son of God" (only "son" at 10:22); different understanding of miracles (here they are deeds of Jesus rather than events of the kingdom); characterization of devil as "diabolos." These lead him to the conclusion that the story is late interpolation to Q. Kloppenborg then tries on various hypotheses about the redactional significance the story, and concludes that it represents a "testing story" which serves to establish the character of the sage, as appears in other ancient literature. In his view, this represents the first step Q takes in the generic direction of biography, a process completed finally with Q’s incorporation into Matthew and Luke.

So "Q3" is just that single pericope, which serves to establish Jesus as a sage in preparation for his teaching as contained in the rest of Q. In a more recent paper ("Nomos and Ethos in Q" in Gospel Origins and Christian Beginnings), Kloppenborg adds the suggestion that Q 11:42b ("this you should have done...") and 16:17 were glosses added by the hand responsible for the addition of the temptation narrative. The reasoning behind this is Q2’s failure to be much interested in legal matters, obedience to Torah, etc.; its criticism of the Pharisees is constituted by ridicule, not by disputing their particular understanding of the Law. So 16:17 glorifies the Law in a way we would not expect from either Q1 or Q2, and 11:42b betrays an exegetical concern matched in the Temptation narrative.

by William Arnal