In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, what is the purpose of the “certificate”?
When Ignorance gets to the gates of the Celestial City, he is asked for a "certificate" needed for entry, which he does not have. The King, then, orders that he be bound and cast into hell.
At the very end of the original version of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Ignorance approaches the gates of the Celestial City. He assumes that he will easily be admitted, but when he is asked to produce a “certificate,” he is unable to do so:
Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King; so he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, Have you none? But the man answered never a word.
When the King of the city learns that Ignorance has no certificate, he refuses to meet Ignorance but instead commands that he be tossed into hell.
The “certificate” demanded of Ignorance has been interpreted in various ways, including the following:
- As evidence that he is one of the “elect” and is thus worthy of admittance to heaven. In other words, the “certificate” is a symbol of his predestined salvation.
- As evidence that he truly knows God.
- As a symbol of scripture (although this interpretation has been disputed).
- As a symbol of assured salvation, of already being saved.
- As an allusion to the Bible, specifically to Rev. 20:15 and I John 5:10. See also I John 3:24, I John 3:9-10, and 5:1.