Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Studies in the Bible and Antiquity


Miranda Wilcox


The parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1–6 demonstrates the possibilities and limitations of constructing metaphoric models of salvation. It also exposes the inadequacy of applying human economic analogies to divine relations and invites its audience to consider the function and purpose of using metaphors to understand spiritual concepts. An anonymous fourteenth-century Middle English poem called Pearl retells this parable and questions whether terrestrial concepts of value and exchange should frame salvation as a transaction based on merit. The poem demonstrates in metaphoric models that heavenly relationships, particularly salvation and grace, operate on a different scale, not one of terrestrial binary or comparative value but of celestial fulness.