[Milton-L] Judaism and Christianity again

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 29 11:53:27 EDT 2006

Prof. Rudrum writes, in part:

"Lastly, the following from p. 132 of Telushkin’s /Jewish Literacy/ might
pique the interest of members of this list: “Finally, (the Pharisees)
believed in the somewhat paradoxical notion that human beings have full
freedom of moral choice even though God knows every detail of the future.”

I don't see any paradox here. I think I've said before on this list that the
way I explained foreknowledge to my students was with a simple domestic
analogy (the residual Puritan in me, I guess):

I see a child in my livingroom, sitting next to the draperies on the floor,
playing with someone's cigarette lighter. My foreknowledge that, if the
child gets close enough to the curtains with an open flame, they will be set
on fire doesn't in any causal sense affect his free will to keep spinning
the ignition wheel: I am simply able to foresee a likely chain of events,
given a predictable set of interactions. Similarly, for God (the ultimate
Psychiatrist) to know what is in Eve's and Adam's hearts, and to know what
Satan is plotting against them, doesn't necessitate the Fall: it only allows
him to foresee it. Milton's Son (pace Empson) even has free will to offer to
sacrifice himself, or to "let this cup pass from [him]"--and that reminds me
to clarify what I said earlier about his not becoming the Christ until his
resurrection, since a good and wise friend points out that, according to
Mark viii:27-29, "Jesus becomes the 'Christ' through his ministry; he has
proved himself as Man in the temptation and thus is anointed as the Man/God
after leaving his mother's house":  I should have been more explicit.

I meant, as I hope most correspondents understood, that the Son's--not
Jesus', or even the Christ's--full divinity is not revealed, even to him,
until the Resurrection. It *can't* be, for Milton's Christian mythology to
be valid--or Empson & company would be right, that God is dealing with a
stacked deck, when he gives his only son to suffer on the cross for man's
sins. (If he's
God, he doesn't suffer, and he doesn't die.) Until then, Jesus is a man--a
very enlightened man, obviously--but he can no more foresee the effects of
his mission (the Pauline engineering of "Christianity" proper) any more than
you or I can, though he clearly knows his parentage.

Best to all,

Carol Barton

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