The Real Reason We Can't Find Matthew And Luke's Gospel Known As The Q Source

The Bible — the holy text of the Christian faith — has been around in one form or another since A.D. 400 when version 1.0 was likely compiled by St. Jerome (via Learn Religions). Since that time, the four Gospels (accounts of the life of Jesus) have been a standard part of the canon. Three of these — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — are so similar in tone and sequence that scholars collectively call them the Synoptic Gospels. In fact, they're so similar that there's a 100-year-old debate raging about just how they are related.

The most popular theory goes like this: The Gospels of Matthew and Luke have a lot in common. They don't always agree with the order of events, but they pretty much tell the same story. Mark has a lot in common with Matthew and Luke, but the latter two never contradict Mark's narrative, therefore Mark was written first and Matthew and Luke used it as a source. But there's still a bunch of stuff Matthew and Luke agree upon that isn't in Mark, therefore there must be another source both used. That hypothetical source is Q (via Bible Odyssey).

So does that mean there's a missing Gospel — a truer account of the life of Jesus?

The events of the Gospels take place around A.D. 30. The Gospels were written nearly a century later. Academic scrutiny of them wouldn't happen until the Renaissance, and the Q hypothesis wouldn't be put forward until the 19th century (via Bloomsbury Collections). That's nearly 2,000 years between the idea of the Q source and when it would have been lost if it did exist.

One theory is that Q source is buried beneath the sands of time, and the only vestiges left remain in the books of Matthew and Luke. Of course, the Q hypothesis isn't the only one out there. The Augustinian hypothesis holds that Matthew was the first Gospel which both Mark and Luke used as a source (via Biblical Nuggets). This has been the prevailing theory since the time of Iranaeus in the 2nd century.

Another theory posits that the Q source never existed. Therefore there must be another reason the Synoptic Gospels are so similar to each other.

So either the original was lost like so many Greek plays or it never existed like the Mandela Effect of remembering the "Shazam" movie starring Sinbad. Either way, the closest we'll get to reading it is in the Gospels.