Correct. Q's (from the German "quelle" for "source") very existence is itself inferred from the fact that Matthew and Luke both clearly have most of Mark in them as "repeats"--in fact oftentimes word for word in the original Greek--as well as a lot of things common with each other that are not in Mark; mostly sayings of Jesus. It's believed that Q was a "sayings gospel" rather than a narrative of Jesus's life and deeds, similar to the Gnostic gospel of Thomas that was discovered a few decades ago (and not believed to date back as closely to Jesus as the synoptics do).
What's interesting about this is that although we do not have anything close to the original manuscript of Mark (the oldest gospel we have access to today),we sometimes can know what it said, simply because we do have other authors (the writers of Matthew and Luke) who quoted him a couple of decades later! If they both quote Mark a certain way, but our present day copies of Mark don't read that way, we conclude that Mark used to read that way and was changed. I can't remember where, but this has been used to argue in favor of some readings of Mark that would (frankly) be mildly embarrassing to some Xians (and that's probably why they got changed in the first place).
Incidentally, old manuscripts of Mark have three endings. Some end in the middle of 16:8, ("...and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid") [which of course makes one wonder how the story came to be written down, if they told no one!] Others finish the verse as follows: "And all that had been commanded them theyt told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation" and that ends Mark. The third longer ending is today's verses 9-19, telling of things the resurrected Jesus did. Looking at it as a secularist rather than a believer, you'll notice a process here of progressive embellishment. The chopped off ending only appears in some of the very oldest manuscripts, and it shows that people were building up a legend around an older story. There are signs of this all over the place in the Gospels, just for instance two independently made up nativity tales that go out of their way to explain an awkward fact... Jesus is portrayed as being from Galilee but was supposed to be the Messiah... but the Messiah had long since been prophesied to be someone born in Bethlehem. Frankly, it was awkward for Jesus to be from Galilee, and Matthew and Luke had to explain this away with their nativity tales. The problem is they didn't consult each other.
So even though the nativity tales are bullshit, we can learn something from them. In fact, we can learn something from the very fact that they are bullshit. We learn that the real Jesus really was from the Galilee region.
One thing I have never heard a mythicist explain (from the standpoint of someone who thinks Jesus is completely made up) is why the supposedly made up Jesus was alleged to have been from Galilee... going back to our oldest sources. If he was made up completely out of whole cloth, why not make him up being from Bethlehem in the first place?
Another thing that was awkward for early Xians trying to convince people that this dude was the messiah was his getting himself up and executed in a style reserved for criminals. The Messiah was supposed to be a powerful king who'd make Israel a great power, even greater than Solomon's Israel was described. Yet this guy simply got executed. Embarrassing. They really had to shuck and jive to get around THAT. But we conclude the real Jesus probably did manage to get his sorry ass crucified, maybe even for sedition. And (I go out on a limb here, my own speculation) perhaps the body did mysteriously disappear due to some shenanigans, resulting in the short and early version of our earliest gospel.
RE: "If he was made up completely out of whole cloth, why not make him up being from Bethlehem in the first place?" - this is the only thought that prevents me from lumping him in with all of the other entirely legendary characters throughout hominid history, including the latest reincarnation of The Lone Ranger.
There was a reason why it was crucial for the "Messiah" to have been born in Bethleham, I've posted it before, but it might be good to repost it here.
The tower of the flock (Hebrew: ‘Migdal Edar’) was a watch tower located on the road at Bethlehem. This tower was used by shepherds to keep watch and protect their flocks. The flocks in Bethlehem were raised for very special purposes. The shepherds that cared for these flocks would have been specially trained for their job, because their task was enormous. The sheep that were born here were destined to become sacrifices to the LORD. Bethlehem was the birthplace of these lambs, and since their final destination was being offered to the LORD in the temple at Jerusalem, special care had to be taken that they were not blemished. Only a perfect lamb would be acceptable.
Temple ritual would have required the birthing place for these lambs be ceremonially clean, so a lamb used for sacrifice would likely not be born in a dirty environment as we would think of a stable in our Western mindset.
According to historic writings, underneath the watch tower itself was a cave-like lower portion. This is where the ewes would be taken to be protected and cared for while they delivered their newborn lambs. When the new babies arrived, they were wrapped in swaddling clothes (described historically as strips of cloth), and placed in a manger (sound familiar?) to keep them from injuring or otherwise blemishing themselves. At some point, the newly-born lambs would be inspected to make sure they were fit for sacrifice.
A manger indeed. Perhaps that's why, when Luke made up his nativity story, it referenced a manger (Matthew seems to assume Mary and Joseph lived in Bethlehem in the first place without bullshit about a census we have no Roman historical record of).
....though "lamb of god" type imagery seems more "John"-ish. (No doubt someone will correct me if I am wrong here but I thought John was the one who came up with that.) Incidentally the author of the gospel of John probably shifted the date of the crucifixion to the day before Passover (contradicting the synoptic gospels in a way that's really hard for fundies to weasel out of) in order to draw a parallel between the lambs being slaughtered and the lamb [in whose blood we are supposed to be washed... ewwwww] being crucified.
RE: "John"/ "contradicting the synoptic gospels"
We know that all four of the Gospels were written anonymously, and only a hundred or so years later, attributed to Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. But let's pretend for a moment, that we're blissfully unaware of that fact.
Even so, we DO know that neither Mark nor Luke were apostles, which means that neither were actual witness to anything they wrote, even if they were the "real" Mark and Luke. "Matthew" was the Greek name for the Hebrew name, "Levi," and we know that a certain Levi, a tax collector, was in fact an apostle, but the fact that the Gospel's "Matthew" copied Mark's story, makes it clear that even if this Gospel writer's name were actually Levi, it wasn't Levi the tax collector (Levi is a common name, as both Moses and Aaron were descendants of the original Levi, Abe's son) as the Apostle Levi would have had his own story to tell, from his own perspective, and would have had no reason to copy Mark.
Which brings us to John, believed, along with his brother, James, to have been the son of Zebedee, the fisherman, and fishermen themselves. But the story most familiar to all of us, is the one where Yeshua, walking along the shore of Galilee, spots Peter, his brother, Andrew, as well as James and John, unloading their catch of the day, hoping to sell it to a Long John Silvers franchise, when Yeahua tells them to follow him, and he will make them fishers of men, at which, they drop their nets, leaving old Zebedee to toddle off to the employment agency in search of some temps.
John, the only one of the four who could conceivably have possibly been there, says (John, 1:35-45) it didn't happen that way at all!
"....though 'lamb of god' type imagery seems more 'John'-ish. (No doubt someone will correct me if I am wrong here but I thought John was the one who came up with that.)"
Though I don't have chapter and verse at my fingertips, I think you'll find that predated John considerably, going all the way back to the Messianic prophecies of Isiah, as did the reason behind the whole "Bethleham" fabrication, to make Isiah's prophecies appear to legitimize the Messiahship of Yeshua.
My understanding is that the four canonical gospels were written all before 130 AD, with the possible exception of John(I usually see dates of 90-120 AD for that one). I.e., within a century of the crucifixion. What we don't have is the original manuscripts, of course; the oldest thing we have is a tiny fragment of John. So if you are alluding to the dates of our manuscripts, sure they come from more than a century later. But generally we are after the date of authorship.
Just to clarify for onlookers, all four of the gospels are anonymous, making no statement as to who wrote them (and we'd have to wonder if it was a lie, if there was such a statement--such did happen and in the Bible no less). The titles were added much later as verbal tradition built up around the gospels as to who wrote them. (A verbal tradition about a document which is no doubt a transcription of a verbal tradition....oy!)
As a matter of convenience though it's customary to call the author of John "John" though for all we know his name might have been Lester. On the other hand, his name might actually have been "John" but not the John. (That may be what happened with the NT book James... it might have been written by a guy named James--so it's not a forgery--just not Jesus' brother.)
It's a bit of verbal shorthand that sometimes confuses people because it sounds like a concession that John the apostle wrote John, etc. (Much like an atheist complaining about how evil Yahweh is, and not saying explicitly that it's a fictional character, will get a theist to think the atheist really does believe in god and is just denying it to be cranky.)
So it's good to do what you did and regularly make the point that we don't know who actually wrote the gospels.
Though I don't have chapter and verse at my fingertips, I think you'll find that predated John considerably, going all the way back to the Messianic prophecies of Isiah, as did the whole "Bethleham" fabrication, to make Isiah's prophecies appear to legitimize the Messiahship of Yeshua.
I meant in another Xian gospel. Of course lamb, etc. are in the OT, that's why John hung that imagery around Jesus, because it meant something beforehand to his audience.
RE: "My understanding is that the four canonical gospels were written all before 130 AD" - I have speculative dates of 70, 75 and 85, for Mark, Matthew and Luke, respectively, and a range all the way to 150 CE (the first time any of his Gospel is ever mentioned by another author), for John.
Yes, I agree that from time to time, people need to be reminded - "Hey, those guys were never really there, they're just using hearsay and making up the rest as they go along!"
RE: "Of course lamb, etc. are in the OT, that's why John hung that imagery around Jesus, because it meant something beforehand to his audience." - in that regard, we also have to remember that these guys were writing for other Jews, deeply steeped in millennia of tradition, which included guilt and a mandate of total submission, never dreaming their influence would go further than the Jewish community at large. Much of their symbolism held far more significance for those people, than for the "outside world."
RE: "it might have been written by a guy named James--so it's not a forgery--just not Jesus' brother"
This one more response, then I've GOT to try to get something done today.
What most people don't realize is that plagiarism and forgery then, were not the heinous crimes they are today. Often, an unknown author, who felt he had important points to make, and knew that no one would otherwise listen to him, would forge the name of someone famous to his article, knowing it would more likely be read.
Many of these forgeries were considered and rejected for inclusion into the New Testament at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, but it has been concluded by many biblical critics, Bart Ehrman being one, that some were in fact included.
Indeed. People did still complain and warn about such forgeries back then (including Paul himself when he found out about some of it done in his name).
In fact almost no non-literalist scholar thinks Paul actually wrote 1&2 Timothy and Titus; there are far too many anachronisms. Other books where at least half of scholars think Paul's authorship is doubtful would be Ephesians, Collosians and 2 Thessalonians. (1 Thessalonians is considered genuine Paul, and if memory serves is the oldest piece of Xian literature still extant.)
Many Xians believe Hebrews was also written by Paul, though it doesn't say so (much like the gospels don't say who their authors were).
The most misogynistic writings attributed to Paul appear to have all been forgeries. That lets him off the hook but it sure doesn't let Xianity off the hook, which accepted those writings as part of canon.
I brought up the dates because of an earlier assertion that the gospels were written over a century after the events they purportedly describe, which isn't true.
"an earlier assertion that the gospels were written over a century after the events they purportedly describe, which isn't true."
With the possible exception - and I think we're not in disagreement on this - of John.
Since none of the originals are available, one way experts verify approximate dates of writings, is when they find mention of them in the works of other authors, whose works HAVE survived, e.g., Ireneus, Turtullian, Origen, etc., and one thing that I recently read (source not recalled), was that none of the Pauline letters are mentioned by any other authors until nearly the end of the second century, which, if true, could well remove the actual Paul, if there was one, from being the original author of those as well.