Seeking the Imperishable Treasure: Wealth, Wisdom, and a Jesus Saying

By Steven R. Johnson

A revealing analysis of how a single saying of Jesus’ was adapted and understood within the various theological traditions of the earliest Christians.

ISBN: 9780227173244


In Seeking the Imperishable Treasure, Johnson tracks the use of a single saying of Jesus over time and among theologically divergent authors and communities. He identifies six different versions of the saying in the canonical gospels and epistles (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, James, and Colossians), as well as the Gospel of Thomas and Q.

After tracing the tradition and redaction history of this wisdom admonition, he observes at least two distinctly different wisdom themes that are applied to the saying: the proper disposition of wealth and the search for knowledge, wisdom, or God. What he discovers is a saying of Jesus – with roots in Jewish wisdom and pietistic traditions, as well as popular Greek philosophy – that proved amazingly adaptable in its application to differing social and rhetorical contexts of the first century.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 200

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Steven R. Johnson is Associate Professor of Religion at Lycoming College (Williamsport, Pennsylvania). He is a managing editor of the International Q Project and is the author and editor of Q 7:1-10: The Centurion’s Faith in Jesus’ Word and Q 12:33-34: Storing up Treasures in Heaven (forthcoming).


List of Figures

1. Introduction
2. The Synoptics and Q
3. John, Thomas, and Luke
4. James and Colossians
5. Inferences and Reconstruction of an Archetype
6. Conclusion

Appendix: Reconstructed Text of Q 12:33
Index of Ancient Documents


Endorsements and Reviews

An important and very readable contribution to Q and Gospel of Thomas studies by an experienced member of the International Q Project. With a careful historical-critical approach, Johnson examines how early Christians adopted and updated a saying of Jesus.
Cristoph Heil, Professor of New Testament, University of Graz, Austria

With studies like Steve Johnson’s, the study of the Gospel of Thomas is entering a new, more mature phase, where careful, thorough analysis of particular texts can begin to make substantive contribution to our understanding of the Jesus tradition and its early history. An exemplary piece of critical scholarship.
Stephen J. Patterson, Professor of New Testament, Eden Theological Seminary

Johnson’s detailed analysis and extensive knowledge of Q and Thomas scholarship produce an intricate narrative of one tradition’s development … Thomas scholars will find this work a provocative contribution to the ongoing discussion about the relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the development of the New Testament.
Christopher M. Hays, in Theological Book Review

This is a first rate study of a specific saying, but it also provides an excellent model for scholars engaged in discussing the tradition history of early Jesus material.
Paul Foster, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, in The Expository Times, Vol 122, No 11

Johnson follows the usage of one particular saying of Jesus Christ. Drawing from the gospels and epistles of the New Testament as well as the Gospel of Thomas and Q, Johnson examines six distinctly different versions of the saying. His examination exposes the saying’s roots in Greek and Jewish traditions as a universally adaptable one. This book, a reprint of the 2008 edition, is of value to those studying religion and biblical scholarship.
Reference & Research Book News, October 2011