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Jesu Logia ("Sayings of Jesus")

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Found partly in the Inspired Books of the New Testament, partly in uninspired writings. The "Sayings" transmitted in works not inspired are also called Agrapha, i.e. "not written" (under inspiration).

The present article is confined to the canonical Logia Jesu. Even this title comprises a larger area than is technically covered by the term Sayings of Jesus. Strictly speaking, all the words of Christ contained in the Inspired Books of the New Testament are canonical Logia Jesu, while the technical expression comprises only the "Sayings of Jesus" of which Papias speaks in a passage preserved by Eusebius (Church History III.39.16).

The question concerning the Logia Jesu, taken in this restricted meaning, has become important on account of its connexion with the so-called "Synoptic Problem". Lessing (Neue Hypothesen über die Evangelisten, ed. Lachmann, XI, § 53) considered the "Gospel of the Hebrews" as the source of the three Synoptic Gospels canonically received. Eichhorn (Einleitung in das Neue Testament, 1804—) admitted a primitive gospel, containing the forty-two sections common to the Synoptics, as their source; composed by the Apostles shortly after Pentecost, in Aramaic, and later on translated into Greek, it gave a summary of Christ's ministry, and served as a guide to the early Evangelists in their preaching. Bleek and de Wette, in their "Introductions", substituted for Eichhorn's "Gospel of the Hebrews" a gospel composed in Galilee which was the source of Matthew and Luke; in our Second Gospel we have, then, a compendium of the First and the Third Gospel. A host of other writers endeavoured to solve the Synoptic Problem by the theory of mutual dependence of the first three Gospels; others again, by a recourse to unwritten traditions. It was at this juncture that Schleiermacher ("Ueber die Zeugnisse des Papias von unseren beiden ersten Evangelien" in "Studien und Kritiken", 1832, iv) tried to show that the texts of Papias concerning Matthew and Mark do not refer to our First and Second Gospels, but to a primitive Matthew and a primitive Mark. Shortly afterwards, Credner (Einleitung, 1836) found in the primitive Mark the source of all the historical matter contained in the Synoptics, and in the primitive Matthew the source of the discourses in the First and Third Gospels. Weisse ("Evangelische Geschichte", 1838; "Die Evangelien-Frage", 1856) agrees with Credner, but substitutes our canonical Mark for Credner's proto-Mark.

Credner's hypothesis was followed with slight modifications by Reuss ("Geschichte der heil. Schrift N. T.", 3rd ed., 1860), Holtzmann ("Die synoptischen Evangelien", 1863), Weizsäcker ("Untersuchungen über die evang. Gesch.", 1864), Beyschlag ("Die apostolische Spruchsammlung" in "Studien und Kritiken", 1881, iv), de Pressensé ("Jésus-Christ, son temps", etc., 7th ed., 1884), and others, all of whom accepted the Logia and the proto-Mark as the sources of the Synoptics. The Logia and our Mark have been considered as the sources of the first three Gospels, though with various explanations, by such scholars as G. Meyer* ("La question synoptique", 1878), Sabatier (in Encycl. des sciences religieuses, XI, 781 sq.), Keim (Geschichte Jesu, I, 72, 77), Wendt (Die Lehre Jesu, 1), Nösgen (cf. Stud. u. Krit., 1876-80), Grau (Entwicklungsgeschichte des N. T. Schriftthums, 1871), Lipsius (cf. Feine, "Jahrb. f. prot. Theol.", 1885), and B. Weiss ("Jahrb. f. deutsch. Theol.", 1864; "Das Markusevang. u. seine synopt. Parallelen", 1872; "Das Matthäusevang.", 1876; "Einl. in das N. T.", 1886).

As to the contents of the Logia, the work must have contained most matter common to Matthew and Luke, excluding that which these Gospels share with Mark. This material amounts to about one-sixth of the text of the Third Gospel, and two-elevenths of the text of the First Gospel. In these portions, the First and the Third Evangelists depend neither on Mark nor on each other; they must have followed the Logia, a document now denoted by "Q". When Eusebius (loc. cit.) copied the words of Papias that "Matthew composed the Logia in Hebrew [Aramaic], and each one interpreted them as he was able", he probably understood them as referring to our First Gospel. But the critics insist that Papias must have understood his words as denoting a collection of the "Sayings of Jesus", or the Logia (Q). This hypothetical document Q has been much written about and investigated by Weiss, Holtzmann, Wendt, Wernle, Wellhausen, and recently by Harnack ("New Testament Studies", II: "The Sayings of Jesus", etc.; tr. Wilkinson, New York and London, 1908), and Bacon ("The Beginning of Gospel Story", New Haven, 1909). A reconstruction of the Logia is attempted in Resch's "Die Logia Jesu nach dem griechischen und hebräischen Text wiederhergestellt", 1898 (cf. also his "Aussercanonische Paralleltexte zu den Evangelien" in "Texte und Untersuchungen", X, i-v, 1893-96), and in Harnack's work already quoted.

A number of questions has been raised in this investigation, but no altogether satisfactory answer has been forthcoming. Is it possible to settle the text of the Q source of the First and Third Gospels, seeing that one Gospel may have been corrected from the other? Did St. Matthew and St. Luke use the same translation or recension of Q? Did either Evangelist pay attention to the Aramaic original? In which of the two Gospels is Q best reproduced both in regard to extent and arrangement? How much of the material peculiar to either the First or the Third Gospel has been taken from Q? Again, was the original form of Q a gospel, or was it a collection of real Logia? These are some of the fundamental questions which the critics must answer. Then come the further questions as to the authorship of the Logia, the time and place of their origin, their relation to St. Paul, their influence on St. Mark, the cause, manner, and time of their disappearance, and other similar problems. The answer to many, if not to all, of these questions is thus far not satisfactory.

The student of the Eusebian record of the words of Papias will have his doubts as to the sense of logia advocated by the critics.

The Logia, or the document Q of the critics, rests therefore on no historical authority, but only on critical induction.


See literature under AGRAPHA; also the works quoted in this article.

About this page

APA citation. Maas, A. (1910). Jesu Logia ("Sayings of Jesus"). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Maas, Anthony. "Jesu Logia ("Sayings of Jesus")." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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