The term Q refers to the source, no longer extant, believed by many to have been used by the New Testament Gospel writers Matthew and Luke. [See Luke, Gospel of; Matthew, Gospel of.] Much work has been done in recent years, seeking to identify characteristic or distinctive features of Q and to see if one can discern something about the group of people who preserved this material and handed it on. Q is very Jewish in its outlook, with a strong insistence on the validity of the Law (Lk. 16.17 par.), with little if any awareness of the Christian movement extending beyond the boundaries of Judaism to include gentiles, yet full of tirades against the Jewish audience.

Apart from Jerusalem, the only place names mentioned in Q are in Galilee (Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum in Lk. 10.13–15 par.). Hence, many have presumed that Q emanates from a northern Palestinian milieu. This makes any direct relationship between Q and the Dead Sea Scrolls unlikely. There are, however, some significant parallels. For example, Q's account of John the Baptist's prediction of a coming baptism with “holy spirit and fire” (Lk. 3.16 par.) is strikingly similar to the reference in the Rule of the Community from Cave 1 at Qumran to the “spirit of holiness,” “refining” (i.e., by fire), and cleansing “like purifying waters” (1QS iv.20–21). [See John the Baptist; Rule of the Community.] This is, however, one of a number of parallels between the New Testament's accounts of John the Baptist and the Qumran texts (leading some to speculate whether John himself might once have belonged to the Qumran community). Similarly, the absolute ban on divorce in Q (Lk. 16.18 par.) can be compared with an apparently similar ruling in the Damascus Document (CD iv.20–v.5) and in Temple Scrolla (11Q19 lvii.17–19). However, such a ban is not peculiar to Q in the Gospels (cf. Mk. 10.1–12). Thus, any link with Qumran is not specific to Q.

Both Q and Qumran show a positive attitude to poverty and a disregard for family and possessions (Lk. 6.20–21, 9.59–10.16, 12.33–34 pars.; cf. the self-reference of the Qumran community to themselves as the “poor” (for example, Pesher Habakkuk [1QpHab xii.3, 6, 10] or in Pesher Psalmsa on Psalm 37 [4Q171 2.8–9, 3.9–10] as well as the existence of the community itself). On the other hand, the similarities should not be overplayed; Q Christians did not apparently form themselves into a separate community, as at Qumran, and Qumran literature tends to use the vocabulary of “poor” in a more “religious” sense than a socioeconomic one (as in Lk. 6.20). Any similarities between the lifestyle reflected in Q and in Qumran texts probably simply illustrate a broader social phenomenon of uprooting (for a wide variety of reasons) in first-century Palestine (see Theissen, 1992).

More significant may be the use of Isaiah 61 in Q and some Qumran texts. Isaiah 61.1–2 probably lies behind Q's version of Jesus' Beatitudes (Lk. 6.20–21 par.) and the saying of Jesus to John the Baptist's messengers (Lk. 7.22 par.). Q's Jesus thus presents himself as the eschatological prophetic messenger of Isaiah 61. Similar language can be found in some Qumran texts, for example, in some of the Hodayot (1QHodayota 1QH xxiii.15 [xviii.14], perhaps of or by the Teacher of the Righteousness) and above all in the Melchizedek text (11Q13), where Isaiah 61 underlies the whole text and is linked with Isaiah 52.7. [See Hodayot; Teacher of Righteousness.] A striking parallel to the Q saying in Luke 7.22 has now also been found in the Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521), where, exactly as in Luke 7.22, there is a reference to “raising the dead” alongside “bringing good news to the poor” (4Q521 2.ii; 4.12). [See Apocalyptic Texts.] It is likely that both texts presuppose a prophetic background, specifically the traditions about Elijah as one who raised the dead (1 Kgs. 19). So too the dominant place of Psalm 146 in the Messianic Apocalypse may illuminate some of the sayings in Q (cf. the beatitude about the hungry in Lk. 6.21a with Ps. 146.7, otherwise difficult to parallel in Is. 61). Q and the Messianic Apocalypse may therefore witness to common exegetical traditions, interpreting Isaiah 61 in conjunction with other biblical texts.

Direct contact between Q and Qumran is unlikely. But the common links may witness to shared traditions that can illuminate study both of Q and of the Dead Sea Scrolls as writings from different parts of the wide spectrum of Judaism we now know to have existed in Palestine in the first century CE.


  • Collins, John J. “The Works of the Messiah.” Dead Sea Discoveries 1 (1994), 98–112.
    An analysis of the Messianic Apocalypse and possible parallel traditions in the New Testament, especially in Q.
  • de Jonge, M., and A. S. van der Woude. “11Q Melchizedek and the New Testament.” New Testament Studies 12 (1966), 301–326.
    A study of Melchizedek and its links with the New Testament.
  • Theissen, Gerd. Social Reality and the Early Christians: Theology, Ethics, and the World of the New Testament. Edinburgh, 1992.
    Collected essays, including some classic studies of the gospel sayings tradition in relation to first-century Judaism.
  • Tuckett, Christopher M. Q and the History of Early Christianity: Studies on Q. Edinburgh, 1996.
    A wide-ranging study covering all aspects of current Q study and stressing its Jewish character.

Christopher M. Tuckett