Two-source hypothesis

File:Synoptic problem two source colored.png
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written independently, each using Mark and a second document called "Q" as a source.

The Two-source hypothesis is a hypothesis that was made in the 19th century. It tries to explain what is called the synoptic problem in Christian theology. This problem is that certain parts of the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke have texts that are very similar. The hypothesis claims that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written based on the gospel of Mark, and lost source text, called Q. The Q is for German Quelle, and means source. The lost document was likely a collection of Jesus' sayings, very probably written in Ancient Greek. The hypothesis is widely accepted among Christian scholars.


There are two major problems with this hypothesis:

  • There is something that is called minor agreements. These are parts of the text, where both Matthew and Luke agree, but where Mark does not. To explain this, many people believe that Matthew and Luke did not use the text of Mark as it was included in the New Testament, but rather an earlier version. Some people even say that they did not use the same version of this earlier text. This could also explain why the text in Mk 6,45-8,26 is missing from Luke.
  • The two source hypothesis requires a second source, called Q. The problem is that this source is not mentioned in the many fragments of early Christian texts that were found, or in the early Christian Church tradition.