[Milton-L] Hell, Satan, Forgiveness, Origen, etc.

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Fri Jul 21 07:48:47 EDT 2006

My main reason for thinking Origen irrelevant is his exegetic reputation as
arch-allegorist. He is notorious, for example, for proposing that, in
Genesis, "trees" (or perhaps it is "rivers") means "angels." He thus serves
early-modern commentators as the prime example of how Catholic bible-reading
went astray, during its thousand or so years of darkness, from orthodox
Augustinian literalism. Now Milton, in my view, is a very strong literalist.
I therefore think it very unlikely that invoking Origen re: PL is
illuminating or plausible. 

Browne likes him (or rather, did, maybe, once, but not now, maybe, or
something) because Browne likes everybody (as before). A lovely position;
but not Milton's.

JD Fleming 

On Thu, 20 Jul 2006 21:28:12 -0700 (PDT) milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> To follow up on Richard Strier's recommendation of Walker's *The
> Decline of Hell*, it does seem that the seventeenth century brought a
> revival in Origen's critical fortunes. Two examples stick in my
> memory: 1661 saw *A letter of resolution concerning Origen and the
> chief of his opinions* (George Rust?), while 1662 saw *Lux orientalis; 
> or, An enquiry into the opinion of the eastern sages, concerning the
> preexistence of souls* (Joseph Glanvill). Each of these texts takes a
> positive view of Origen's notion of reincarnation, employed as a
> theodical device, with Glanvill cautiously considering, and seemingly
> quite reluctant about finally rejecting, Origen's notion of apocatastasis.

> Origen was definitely not off the table or out of the question for all 
> thinkers/writers of the period. Whether or not he was so for Milton is 
> another question, but I can't help but wonder if, in using the Pauline 
> phrase "All in All," Milton is deliberately putting both orthodox and
> heterodox ideas in play. To reject retribution as the highest and
> final expression of justice, to create a physical hell while somehow
> undermining that space by even more powerfully imagining hell as a
> psychological reality...well, those would be radical moves worthy of
> an Origen, and all helped along nicely by offering up the Pauline
> phrase of 1 Corinthians 15:28 as if it meant what it said (θεος
> τα παντα εν πασιν--God the all in all). A final return
> of all to its source in good Neoplatonist/Origen style? I think Milton 
> is considering the idea (like Glanvill), and though I am not sure that 
> he finally adopts it, neither am I certain that he ultimately rejects
> it, though I am cert!
> ain that others are certain. 
> Michael Bryson
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James Dougal Fleming, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713
cell: 778-865-0926

Laissez parler les faits.

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