[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 15 13:20:46 EDT 2006

Some days ago, Michael Bryson wrote:

>>I do wonder why Milton would go to so much trouble
to "justify" the ways of "God" (and I have written
elsewhere on justification as a combination of
accusation and eventual acquittal) if there were not
serious questions that needed to be addressed. The
position of Lewis (Milton as Aristotelian on authority
and Augustinian on theology) is so nice and tidy (and
efficient in the way that it smoothes away
difficulties) that, viewed in its light, it is a
wonder that Paradise Lost was written at all.<<

I believe that you're referring to: "'That be far from
thee': Divine Evil and Milton's Attempt to 'Justify
the ways of God to men'"
Milton Quarterly, May 2002, vol. 36, no. 2, pp.

It's a fascinating article that my graduate class read
and went over point by point, checking your argument
carefully (more on that in a moment).

The basic problem that I had with your argument was
that I thought that the validity of part of your
argument depended upon limiting the meaning of the
Hebrew "ra" to "evil" in the sense of moral evil, but
the word has a range of meanings in Hebrew. Even in
English, the word "evil" had a broader range of
meanings in the time of King James than it generally
does today and was used in the King James Version to
refer to divine punishment for sin (though I'd have to
check again for the biblical sources).

(I also wondered if you had clearly established that
Milton was bothered by "ra" being attributed to God.)

Be all that as it may, my class was baffled by one bit
of evidence cited in your argument that the Bible
itself shows God committing evil, specifically, the
evidence that God deceives:

Ezekiel 13.9: "If a prophet is deceived and speaks a
word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and
will stretch out my had against him."

We looked and found that this verse in Ezekiel reads:

Ezekiel 13.9: "My hand will be against the prophets
who see false visions and utter lying divinations;
they shall not be in the council of my people, nor be
enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor
shall they enter the land of Israel; and you shall
know that I am the Lord God."

I checked the Hebrew and the Greek (Septuagint) to see
if your reading was possible, but it wasn't, so my
class wondered how you had come by your reading, and
we thought that this was a weak point in your argument
... until I noticed that there was a typographical
error. You wrote Ezekiel 13.9, but you meant Ezekiel

Ezekiel 14.9: "If a prophet is deceived and speaks a
word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and
will stretch out my had against him."

When we finally figured this out, we realized that
what we had taken as a weak point was actually a very
strong point.

I've been meaning for some time to point out this
typographical mistake, just in case you hadn't
noticed, and now seems an appropriate time.

Jeffery Hodges

University Degrees:

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Email Address:

jefferyhodges at yahoo.com



Office Address:

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea

Home Address:

Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
Sehan Apt. 102-2302
Sinnae-dong 795
Seoul 131-770
South Korea

More information about the Milton-L mailing list