The Greatest Metaphor Ever Mixed: Gold in the British Bible, 1750–1850


Given the frequency of negative references to gold in British allusions to filthy lucre, it emerges as an historical puzzle that Britons resorted to biblical metaphors of gold so often in describing heaven and their aspiration to be purified in God's crucible. This article provides evidence for the prominence of these two metaphors in British religious and secular discourse between 1750 and 1850, and argues that Britons tried to resolve the resulting tensions by celebrating their uniquely abstract valuation of gold, in contrast to less "civilized" connotations of gold in Catholic and non-Christian cultures.