[Milton-L] apostasy and apology

Matthew Stallard ms493101 at ohio.edu
Sun Dec 30 11:48:41 EST 2007


> Oh, and since we're on the topic of these things, a Jehovah's Witness
> recently left a message at my blog and said that he thinks that Milton
> would have rejoiced in knowing of the JWs. He also claimed that Milton's
> works had inspired the 19th-century founders of the Witnesses. I wonder
> if that's historically the case.
> Jeffery Hodges

Dear list,

There is no "direct" evidence that JWs were influenced by Milton.

If Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract 
Society in 1879,  read PL, he doesn't mention it in his writings. The 
Witnesses, do however, share several striking doctrinal similarities, and 
they certainly would have found a place among the disparate voices of the 
17C dissenters. They are mortalists (for JWs the implications being no 
burning hell or purgatory)and reject the trinity doctrine. Although they 
accept a kinda-sorta-Augustinian version of "original sin," they do not 
practice infant baptism. "Foreknowing" is distinguished from 
"foreordination," and "free-will" is emphasized. Their annual plain style 
observance of "the Lord's Evening Meal" is nothing like a "high mass," and 
they stress the emblematic and symbolic nature of the unleavened bread and 
wine (no transubstantiation or consubstantiation here). The notion of 
anything being a "sacrament" is foreign to Jehovah's Witnesses. JWs 
anticipate a future millennial reign of Christ that will originate in 
heaven but restore paradisiacal conditions on earth. In contrast with PL, 
the Witnesses place Satan's defeat and subsequent confinement to tartarus 
and earth chronologically well after the fall of Adam and Eve. In terms of 
ecclesiology, they reject the notion of a clergy class.

Although they are not "antinomian," the role of an individual's 
"conscience" in matters of personal choice is inviolate. They consider the 
political world to be irredeemably corrupt, and they declare their 
politically neutral status in any country in which they may live. They 
refuse military service and are often incarcerated for this stand in many 
parts of the world. For example, 12,000 were imprisoned in Nazi 
concentration camps and 2,000 died. The will not salute the flag of any 
nation nor will they stand for a national anthem, considering these 
practices to be forms of idolatry.

I recommend the documentary that recently aired on PBS about them entitled 
_Knocking_. Interestingly, one of the principal teaching books of JWs, no 
longer in print, was _From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained_ published in 
1958. Milton does not receive a byline.

Cheers,
Matthew

__________________________________
Matthew Stallard
Ohio University
Department of English
347 Ellis Hall
Athens, OH 45701
matthew.s.stallard.1 at ohio.edu
Office: 740-597-2926
Home: 740-698-3409
Cell: 740-591-4273


More information about the Milton-L mailing list