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PRINT November 1981

OF MICE AND FOLLY IN “THE GARDEN OF DELIGHTS”

THE WORDS OF THE PSALMIST, For he spoke and they were made: he commanded and they were created (Ps. 32:9), written in Latin across the closed shutters of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Delights, ca. 1500, serve notice that this painting illustrates the allegorical meaning attributed to the word of God by His ministers. (A Catholic painter was entitled to do this on the strength of Saint Paul’s testimony that it is Jesus Christ Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life [2 Cor. 3:6].) To discover this allegorical meaning I consulted the works of Saint Augustine,1 the most prolific of the commentators on the Psalms. In his sermon on Psalm 101 this “able minister” of God claims that David’s words were pronounced “in the course of a commemoration of His works” (In Ps. 101). Augustine warns

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