[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Watt, James jwatt at butler.edu
Tue Jul 1 13:06:19 EDT 2008

Dear Carol:

The joy in all this is not whether Eve or Adam (or both!) are 'responsible' for our situation.  Or whether they sin before they partake of the fruit.  It's that the agency responsible for existence itself is so generous that it has given us a poet, John Milton, who, confronted with an origin myth had the great good sense to remake it after his own best and honest effort and who, after having managed the task breathtakingly turned to the even more profound myth at the root of all our discussions, that of the embodiment of the divine in all its grief and happiness.  Not surprisingly most folks believe the Regaining of Paradise to be a lesser achievement than the 'Loss' of it!  Oh well, there must be a reason for it, but, for me at least it is an unconvincing argument that the poet of P.R. was operating at a less exalted level.

Jim Watt
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Carol Barton [cbartonphd1 at verizon.net]
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 7:54 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Michael, I think the distinction is between actually sinning, and engaging in behavior that is likely to lead one to sin. Eve doesn't confront evil when it seeks her out, as both Abdiel and Jesus do--she goes *looking* for it. That behavior is not in itself sinful, but it's not very prudent--and it's a type of pride (as I think I said earlier)--think of Sir Guyon in the Cave of Mammon (FQ), and even Samson's goading of Delilah (less prominent in the tale of Samson and Dalila, but still there).

One shouldn't (according to Milton) live a "cloister'd virtue"--one in which the opportunity for temptation never exists--but it's foolhardy to *seek* opportunities to "prove" oneself, too.

Adam--as you've noticed--doesn't make any effort to follow any dictate but that of his own desire . . . he doesn't even *pretend* to reason, as Eve at least attempts to do (though quite faultily, with disastrous results). I've always maintained that, despite the traditions, the story demonstrates that it's Adam, not Eve, who is responsible for Original Sin: had he refused to eat of the Fruit (on any number of the grounds available to him) only Eve--if even Eve--would have been cursed. It took *both* of our First Parents' disobedience to damn the rest of us--and since Adam was the second to disobey, it was he who was ultimately to blame for the ills our world contains--not Pandora Eve.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.   ;o)

Thank you for provoking such an interesting and lively discussion, at a time when most academics are too burnt out to argue about more than what they want to have for dinner!

Carol Barton

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