Now that we have surveyed the various parts of Bosch’s painting, “The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things,” we are ready to examine its meaning. The primary metaphor of this painting is the concentric circles in the middle. Altogether, these circles represent the all-seeing eye of God.
What is it that God sees? First, he sees people’s sinful acts. In the outer ring of the circle, or the iris of the eye, Bosch depicts the seven deadly sins. Each vignette makes two points. First, there are few people depicted in each scene. Why individuals and not large groups of people? I think Bosch’s point is that God sees each one of us individually and personally. Second, each scene is set in common, everyday life. Our sins, whether we admit to them or not, are more apart of us than we care to confess.
Secondly, God sees the resurrected Christ. In the center, in the pupil of the eyes stands Jesus Christ from a tomb. He is pointing to the wound in his hand and in his side. There is an ancient figure of speech that if someone is special she is “the apple of your eye.” Literally that means, she is reflected in your pupil. The answer to the problem of sin is the very gospel itself.
As we focus on the eye of God, we are seeing what is reflected in his eye. Thus, as we gaze into his eye, we are confronted with two things: our own sinfulness, and the resurrected Christ. Considering our sinfulness should make us also consider judgment or discipline—negative deterrents against sinning. On the other hand, the higher motivation is also present. Whenever we are tempted to sin, we focus our attention on the risen Lord wherein we find grace to overcome temptation.