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Denison Journal of Religion

Abstract

Caryer examines the importance of symbolism to humanity's own understanding of itself. Caryer does this by examining the two famous triptychs, Haywain and The Millennium, of Hieronymus Bosch, an artist of the Northern Renaissance. A closer look at the context of the time during which Bosch created indicates that it was a time of "eschatological fervor," and this sense can be easily recognized in both of the triptychs. Haywain shows the progressive damnation of humanity, from Adam and Eve's initial separation from God, to a wagon carrying political and religious leaders that is pulled by demons. The Millenium is not as easy to interpret, but shows the creation of the world, the ministry of Jesus, and then a world where pleasure begins to turn sinful. People engage in a hedonistic free for all in a beautiful locale, before the final scene shows pleasure turned to torture as men and women are exposed to pain from such things as musical instruments. The triptychs, Caryer argues, are new interpretations of biblical narratives and humanity. What is less important, she claims, is the artist's intended meaning of the triptychs. More important is the symbolism provides a way for humanity to interpret its context and then respond to that reality. Religious symbols, Caryer states, gain a deeper meaning when thought of as a way in which people process and then contribute to their beliefs.

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