pearl in oyster

A Pearl, a Penny, and Christ’s Infinite Grace

A medieval poem sheds light on the New Testament parable of laborers in the vineyard, showing us that the Savior’s grace can satisfy all who seek it.

Photo by focusshoot

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew, chapter 20, laborers and readers are left unsatisfied. The lord of the vineyard gives each laborer one penny, regardless of how long each has worked.

Miranda Wilcox, an English professor at Brigham Young University, explains that the poem Pearl, written by an anonymous Middle English poet, allows us to see past the traditional economic principle of payment based on amount of time worked. God gives us grace—no matter how long we’ve worked spiritually.

The poem Pearl follows a father mourning for a lost daughter. She appears to him in a dream, dressed with pearls in heaven. Happy but confused, the father asks her how she achieved salvation when her time on earth was so short. The daughter alludes to the parable of the laborers and the parable of the pearl of great price, reminding us that “the grace of God is enough for all.”

In the poem, the laborers of the parable are placed in a circle, rather than in a hierarchal line. They have equal relationships to each other spiritually. The poem describes the characteristics of a pearl: precious, pure, circular, and symbolic of eternity. In doing so, the poem transforms a two-dimensional penny into a three-dimensional—and infinitely more precious—pearl.

Read Miranda Wilcox’s full article, “Constructing Metaphoric Models of Salvation: Matthew 20 and the Middle English Poem Pearl”

Source: Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

—Sam Lund, Mormon Insights
Photo courtesy of LDS Media Library

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One Comment

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