Q = Quelle in pre-1880 German geography books

A bit of fun here. Students of the NT will be aware of the discussion about the origin of the siglum ‘Q’ to describe the putative source (Quelle) of the double tradition in the synoptic gospels, the material common to Matthew and Luke but not shared with Mark. Mark Goodacre has a nice post briefly summarising Frans Neirynck’s conclusions that the term Q originated in Eduard Simons’s 1880 book, Hat der dritte Evangelist den kanonischen Matthäus benutzt (Bonn: Universitäts-Buchdruckerei von Carl Georgi), who used ‘Q.’ as an abbreviation for Quelle. Then from the 1890s onward it was used without the dot.

But the use of Q as an abbreviation for Quelle is common in the decades before the 1880s, even though it does not appear to have been applied to the double tradition in this way. Rather, it occurs especially in geography books as an abbreviation for a well, spring or source (Quelle).

A few examples:

Carl Kreil, Magnetische und geographische Ortsbestimmungen im österreichischen Kaiserstaate, vol. 3 (1850), p. 26:

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 22.52.51

Friedrich Wilhelm Walther, Topische Geographie von Bayern (1844), p. xxiii:

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 22.53.12

Johann Georg Heinrich Hassel, Geographisch-statistisches Handwörterbuch, vol. 1 (1817), p. 461:

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 22.54.15

Christian Gottfried Daniel Stein and Ferdinand Hörschelmann, Handbuch der Geographie und Statistik für die gebildeten Stände, vol. 1 (1833), p. ii:

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 22.54.50

L. Wilhelm Meineke, Allgemeines Lehrbuch der Geographie von Europa (1824), p. 2:

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 22.55.21

And on it goes. So might it be the case that Simons is actually borrowing a well-established abbreviation from the field of geography and applying it to the synoptic gospels?


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  1. Q in Wellhausen’s pre-1880 OT Scholarship | David Lincicum

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