[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Tue Jul 1 10:30:50 EDT 2008

Jim: I think the dichotomy you set up between "blind obedience" and 
"reasoned disobedience" is a false one: in PR, for example, Satan asks 
Jesus to feed the hungry--

 To whom the Son of God: -- "Who brought me hither
Will bring me hence; no other guide I seek."
     "By miracle he may," replied the swain;
"What other way I see not; for we here
Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inured
More than the camel, and to drink go far --               [340]
Men to much misery and hardship born.
But, if thou be the Son of God, command
That out of these hard stones be made thee bread;
So shalt thou save thyself, and us relieve
With food, whereof we wretched seldom taste."

The proposition is a reasonable one, and requests an act of 
mercy--certainly ethical, commendable, and something of which the 
Father under other circumstances would approve.
But Jesus understands (as Fish long ago pointed out) that both the 
request in this instance, and the later proffering of a banquet, come 
from an "unclean" source--and trusts in the Father to sustain him:

He ended, and the Son of God replied: -- 
"Think'st thou such force in bread? Is it not written
(For I discern thee other than thou seem'st),
Man lives not by bread only, but each word
Proceeding from the mouth of God, who fed               [350]
Our fathers here with manna? In the Mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat nor drank;
And forty days Eliah without food
Wandered this barren waste; the same I now.
Why dost thou, then, suggest to me distrust
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?"

I don't know if you have a teenage daughter yet, but if you do, you 
will understand the example I gave my (adult) students: if you told 
your 14-year old that you didn't want her dating a 21-year old man, 
you would want her to trust that you had her best interests at heart, 
believe that you wouldn't maliciously deprive her of anything that 
would make her happy, and obey you without demanding an explanation of 
your seemingly (to her) "arbitrary" command. Reason dictates--or 
should--that the clear and unambiguous guidance of a loving parent 
should be followed--whether you understand it or its motivations or 
not. Yet both Adam and Eve reject that kind of logic in favor of what 
they *want* to do--and when confronted by their angry "Parent," give 
the standard adolescent response to "Why'd you DO that?"--"I dunno--he 
made me--she made me."

Given the premise that she knows herself to be subordinate to Adam 
(her secondary "creator") from the start, Eve is  anxious to prove her 
equality.  The serpent offers her universal adulation--nah, she 
doesn't need it. Adam's love is enough. None of the other 
"temptations" appeal to her (cue Gawain) so they're easy to resist. 
But then the Serpent offers her the equivalent of the Green Knight's 
lady's kirtle: "I was a beast, and could neither reason or speak. But 
now that I have eaten of the fruit, I am able to do both--I, a beast, 
am now like Man. Obviously, you who are just beneath the angels would 
by the same logic move up a notch in the Great Chain if you ate it, 
too . . . and you would be smarter than Adam" ("sometime superior"). 
Now that's something that she's interested in. Now, the clincher:

"Oh, and by the way: God said 'in the day ye eat thereof, ye shall 
surely die,' right? Well, I ate it--and I'm not dead!"

  a.. Eve ignores Satan's false attribution of the power to elevate 
the stature of the serpent to a rational creature; there is actually 
no causal connection between the two, but she accepts his assertion on 
faith (because she wants to believe that what he says is true--like a 
snake oil salesman's gull, or the people now who get suckered by all 
sorts of pyramid schemes and con-games).
  b.. She embraces Satan's "get rich quick" scheme, knowing that God 
has already told her and Adam that, according to his plan, they will 
be elevated to angelic stature when the time is appropriate
  c.. She doesn't ask if God told the serpent he couldn't eat of the 
fruit, or threatened him with punishment if he did
  d.. She assumes that "in the day" means "in the instant"--that is, 
you will die on the spot, as if you'd ingested arsenic--not that "in 
the day" means "on the day you do this, you will be condemned"
  e.. She knows, no matter what, God said DON'T
  f.. The "hungry" alibi doesn't work, either: first of all, she's not 
starving, and second, if she were, there are plenty of other things to 
eat in the Garden
Unless of course you mean the hunger for "promotion" (to be her own 
woman, and no longer subordinate to Adam)--which is Satan's sin, too. 
(Neither of them can abide the thought of a "boss" who is 
hierarchically "better" than they are). She demonstrates that this is 
her "hook" when she covets her new intellectual status for herself 
alone right after the Fall--before she does Adam a favor, and invites 
him to damnation with her.

I think the trick to understanding her is to compare her to Jesus. She 
doesn't want to wait to be "by merit rais'd"--she wants to take a 
short cut that will provide instant gratification, not wait for kairos 
to get a round tuit in God's own sweet time. She gets suckered in by 
the Serpent's logic because he's a better sophist and rhetorician than 
she is--like Hitler, centuries later.

Adam is just as bad. He could emulate his Saviour in a number of ways:
  a.. He could trust God enough to know that the Maker who loves him 
is not going to leave him "in these wild Woods forlorn"
  b.. He could intercede for her
  c.. He could offer to die in her place--
all while still obeying the commandment not to touch the Fruit--but he 
doesn't. He too pre-empts God's mercy, rejects his love, and tries to 
run the show himself, according to his schedule and his obsessions.

But to give credit where it's due: it's also Eve, not Adam, who is 
responsible for salvation, who finds the only means of redemption that 
will work: the admission of guilt, and the plea for forgiveness.

For all of our modern sophistication, like Eve, we get suckered in 
because we want to believe what we're hearing--we let our needs and 
desires overrule our rational minds, and convince ourselves that an 
action we know is wrong (or stupid) is justified.

And that, I think, was Milton's point.

Best to all,


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