Parable of the Pearl

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The Parable of the Pearl (also called the Pearl of Great Price) is a well known parable of Jesus. However, it appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament. According to Matthew 13:45-46 the parable illustrates the great value of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It immediately follows the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, which has a similar theme and the parable has been depicted by artists such as Domenico Fetti. Finally it should be noted that a version of this parable also appears in the non canonical Gospel of Thomas 76 [1]

Contents

Narrative

The brief Parable of the Pearl is as follows:

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it."

Matthew 13:45-46, World English Bible

Interpretation

This parable is generally interpreted as illustrating the great value of the Kingdom of Heaven (pearls at that time had a greater value than they do today[2]), and thus has a similar theme to the Parable of the Hidden Treasure. John Nolland comments that it shares the notions of "good fortune and demanding action in attaining the kingdom of heaven"[2] with that parable, but adds the notion of "diligent seeking."[2]

The valuable pearl is the "deal of a lifetime"[2] for the merchant in the story. However, those who do not believe in the kingdom of heaven enough to stake their whole future on it are unworthy of the kingdom.[3]

This interpretation of the parable is the inspiration for a number of hymns, including the Swedish hymn Den Kos­tli­ga Pärlan (O That Pearl of Great Price!), which begins:

O that Pearl of great price! have you found it?
Is the Savior supreme in your love?
O consider it well, ere you answer,
As you hope for a welcome above.
Have you given up all for this Treasure?
Have you counted past gains as but loss?
Has your trust in yourself and your merits
Come to naught before Christ and His cross?[4]

A less common interpretation of the parable is that the merchant represents Christ, and the pearl represents the Church.[5] This interpretation would give the parable a similar theme to that of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son.

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