[Milton-L] pre-fallen knowledge of sin

richard strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Tue Jul 1 18:18:27 EDT 2008


It is simply not true that "prior to the fall, there was no 
sin to observe."  It is true that "Adam and Eve did not see 
other people sinning," but I take it that the whole point of 
Raphael's narration of the war in heaven is meant to inform 
Adam (and Eve, whether or not she hears the thing directly or 
indirectly) about what sin is, and in some detail. Many  
negative things can be and have been said about Milton's God 
(some of them by me), but that He intended to keep Adam and 
Eve ignorant of sin and Satan is not one of them.

---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2008 17:15:55 -0400
>From: "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com>  
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)  
>To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-
l at lists.richmond.edu>
&gt;Michael and Carol: I tried to explain these distinctions 
from my
&gt;divorce example in my previous post, but perhaps I was 
not clear.  The
&gt;primary distinction I see in the Genesis account is that 
prior to the
&gt;fall, there was only one command, and all moral reasoning 
&gt;principles were embodied in that command, while after the 
fall there
&gt;were multiple commands, multiple principles, and far more 
&gt;contexts.  Furthermore, prior to the fall, there was no 
sin to observe
&gt;-- Adam and Eve did not see other people sinning.
&gt;Consider the current extent of prohibitions and relevant 
moral laws.
&gt;Moses issued ten commandments (let's forget the entire 
ceremonial and
&gt;civil law for the moment); Jesus internalized them 
(although there's
&gt;an element of internalization in the Mosaic law as well, 
for example,
&gt;do not covet); Adam and Eve only had one rule which 
served as the
&gt;entire moral law: do not eat of the fruit of the tree of 
&gt;How can there be a division between the rule of 
conscience, rule of
&gt;reason, and rule of law when there is only one rule?
&gt;As a result, I don't think it's relevant to compare 
prelapsarian Adam
&gt;and Eve to either Jesus or my own teenage daughters  
(yes, I have
&gt;two), and what I considered as a possibility between 
&gt;disobedience and blind obedience works only for Adam and 
Eve, not for
&gt;Jesus or my teenage daughters.  Both Christ and my 
daughters have a
&gt;history to confront, and sin to observe in the people 
around them (not
&gt;me! --ha)  -- Adam and Eve did not -- my daughters are 
fallen (Adam
&gt;and Eve were not yet), etc.  Now, when I say Milton may 
have been
&gt;Christianizing Adam and Eve, he may be having them act 
and think as if
&gt;they had this history, this knowledge, these divisions, 
etc. -- when
&gt;really, all they had was a single prohibition.
&gt;To put it more simply, if Adam and Eve were not commanded 
not to think
&gt;about eating the fruit, not to resolve to eat the fruit, 
not to touch
&gt;the fruit, not to discuss the fruit, etc. -- only 
commanded not to eat
&gt;the fruit -- how can they be said to have sinned before 
they actually
&gt;ate the fruit?  Yes, of course, mental acts precede 
physical ones, but
&gt;mental acts have not been forbidden -as of this point-, 
only a
&gt;physical act: eating the fruit.
&gt;Christ's teachings, on the other hand, clearly forbid 
mental acts such
&gt;as lust and hatred, and the Mosaic law forbids coveting.  
To apply
&gt;these standards -- demands for perfect mental obedience 
as well as
&gt;physical obedience --  to Adam and Eve is therefore to 
&gt;them.  So this leads me to my question again -- did 
Milton see a
&gt;difference between the Christian and the unfallen Adam 
and Eve, or did
&gt;he believe that to become a Christian was to return to 
the state Adam
&gt;and Eve were in before the fall?  Diane posted an 
&gt;quotation from OCD about regeneration, but it was unclear 
to me from
&gt;that short quotation if Milton understood regeneration as 
a process or
&gt;as something that happens instantaneously with perfect 
and complete
&gt;results upon reception of the Holy Spirit.
&gt;Jim R
&gt;On Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 11:02 AM, Michael Gillum &
lt;mgillum at unca.edu&gt; wrote:
&gt;&gt; Jim Rovira, could you explain a bit more what you 
mean by Milton
&gt;&gt; Christianizing unfallen Adam and Eve? I'm not 
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Richard Strier
Department of English
University of Chicago
1115 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

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