[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

Feisal Mohamed feisalm at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 11 14:16:12 EDT 2006

One has to draw the Iraq/Book VI parallels with caution: the last thing
needed below the Mason-Dixon line is encouragement to lend cosmic
significance to moronic foreign policy.  

Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a TV broadcast of John Hagee's sermon _The
End of an Age: Beyond Iraq_.  Pastor Hagee reminded his flock of San Antonio
Evangelicals time and again that "modern Iraq is biblical Babylon," a
coincidence not simply of geography, but also in Iraq's status as birthplace
of a false religion (Rev 17 Gen 10), and in Saddam Hussein's desire to
launch Scud Missiles into Israel, making him a sort of Nebuchadnezzar
redivivus.  Further evidence for this parallel is provided by Jeremiah's
prophecy of Operation Desert Storm: when Babylon was overtaken by a "a
company of great nations" (50.9), when CNN's non-stop coverage "Declare[d]
to the nations" that "Babylon is taken" (50.2), when Smart Bombs were "like
the arrows of a skilled warrior" (50.9), and the lighting of oil wells made
surrounding "nations weary themselves only for fire" (51.58).  The clear
implication of this view of biblical history is that Operation Iraqi Freedom
has brought about the permanent fall of Babylon described in Rev 18, and is
thus not only inevitable, but also desirable in indicating a step toward
Apocalypse. (See the ministry's official magazine on Iraq at

One of the features of Book VI that I don't think has been emphasized thus
far is how Milton invites consideration of it as the stuff conventional to
epic only to steer us in an entirely different direction.  Raphael tells us
after the first day that memorializing the combatants is not the point
(6.373-85), a statement that shows us that this is not at all epic battle in
the spirit of a Homer or Vergil.  Pope and Johnson were right to think that
the second day departs from decorum; they were wrong not to see this as part
of Milton's design.  The pointlessness and absurdity illustrated by the
first two days not only anticipate the triumph of the Son, but also the more
explicit critique of epic tradition offered in the proem to Book IX.

(Texas Tech)

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of gilliaca at jmu.edu
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 11:20 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven

I will be teaching our Milton course this fall, and as always, will probably
find teaching the War in Heaven contextualized by the war in Iraq.  

At JMU we have a large contingent of ROTC students, and we have a good
number of students with military family connections - siblings, uncles,
aunts, parents in the military and in many cases serving active duty abroad
- so that the reality of earthbound warfare is a present part of life to
many students. 

Cynthia A. Gilliatt
English Department, JMU
JMU Safe Zones participant
"You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people you
hate." Fr. John Weston _______________________________________________
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