Wednesday, February 4, 2004
The Q Document
When we went to the Monroe Surgical Hospital for Hollie's ultrasound the other day, I was pleased to find a stack of donated books, free for the borrowing and/or taking. I picked up a novel that looked interesting, The Q Document by James Hall Roberts (pseudonym of Robert Lipscomb Duncan; New York: William Morrow & Co, 1964), which I've been enjoying a great deal. Following is a lengthy quotation for the few who would like to read it, especially since I'm not sure how many libraries have the book on their shelves these days.
Set in Tokyo, the main character, Cooper, is an American scholar of the early Christian era, on an expired leave of absence. The son of a Presbyterian minister, his faith has also expired after the tragic death of his wife and daughter, and he is employed by a British dealer in prostitutes and rare manuscripts. (How's that for a combination?) Father O'Connor, a Catholic priest who teaches at St. Justin Martyr College in Tokyo, is one of Cooper's only true friends in Japan, although their Friday lunches are hit-and-miss and their relationship somewhat distant.
"I've missed our meetings," Father O'Connor said, apparently finding the explanation acceptable. "I've thought about calling you but I didn't want to disturb your work. Are you finding anything of interest in the Baum-Brenner papers?"Are any of you familiar with Hall/Duncan's other work?
"I don't know," Cooper said with a pause.
"Whether they're interesting or not?"
"Whether I should discuss it with you."
"Maybe because I'm in no mood to argue with you. To defend myself against a charge of heresy."
"I don't think you're a heretic." Father O'Connor smiled. "You're just in rebellion. But sooner or later you'll find that there's no sense in fighting and then you'll come around. And if you want to talk about your work, I promise not to give you any argument."
"I doubt that," Cooper said. "But I need your help, an Aramaic grammar if you have one."
"The documents are Aramaic?"
"Only the last one. The fourth document is Neo-Hebraic." He went on to tell Father O'Connor of the contents of the first three documents: the Roman soldier's letter which fixed the charge against Paul as murder, the letter from Paul to Timothy admitting it and rationalizing the act, and finally Luke's letter telling of the death of Paul and defending his actions. He added the results of the scientific tests run on the documents. To Cooper's surprise, the little priest did not seem the least bit perturbed. He poured his tea with a steady hand.
"That's very interesting," he said.
"You surprise me," Cooper said.
"I expected more of an outburst from you. You're not getting objective all of a sudden, are you?"
"Not in the least," Father O'Connor said. "And you may think I'm dogmatic but it's not that either." He sipped at his tea. "I suppose I'm like a lawyer who has been in so many courtroom fights that he really hears nothing new any more and therefore it's hard to really surprise him. That's something every young priest finds himself doing, acting as a defense attorney for Jesus Christ and the apostles and the Popes and everything he believes in, especially if he's in a position where he comes in contact with non-Christians. I've come in contact with some very bright atheists and I think I've heard all the arguments. Poor St. Paul is the most vulnerable of all because of his temper and his physical affliction. I've heard people call him an epileptic, a power-crazed madman, a rebellious Jew who created the Christ myth and founded a new sect all his own. I've read papers by scientists disproving the miracles and books by apologists trying to explain them away as parables and tracts by scholars proving that they were later interpolations put in by dedicated Christians who felt that Christ needed more deification."
"So you're convinced the papers I have are forgeries?"
"Even without seeing them?"
"And it doesn't worry you that they might not be?"
"Not at all," the priest said. "Because I know what the truth is and, if your documents contradict that truth, then they must be false. Now if they were in the hands of somebody else I might be worried, realizing that there are some people on the border line of faith who might be pushed backward if documents like this were advanced as authentic. But it seems quite clear that this is a perfect demonstration of God's methods, that these papers should be place in the hands of a man with complete integrity as a scholar and the skill to reveal the spurious. You might say, in a manner of speaking, that God has made you His advocate in this matter. It's quite perfect, don't you see? For instance, if I defended against an attack of this sort, nobody would pay any attention to me, but you're an impartial skeptic. And however cleverly these documents have been forged, you will find the weakness in them." He raised a hand for the waitress. "I must be getting back. I'm sure we have Dalman's Grammar of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. I'll see what else I can scrape up and have them sent to you." (110-112)
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