[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Harold Skulsky hskulsky at email.smith.edu
Tue Jul 1 22:52:14 EDT 2008

It's worth noticing that Eve seconds Michael Gillum's view that before
the fall human beings are endowed with the wherewithal to make a fully
informed moral choice of whether to obey the apple command. 

Eve draws the standard distinction between two sorts of divine command:
(a) an arbitrary or  one-off edict like the apple command itself (in
Rabbinic parlance a "bath qol" or "daughter of God's voice"), and (b)
the moral universals dictated by reason, reason being the gift of moral
discrimination that enables Adam and Eve to be a "law to [them]selves"
("our reason is our law"). (Remember that "law to oneself" is the
standard Englishing of the Gk borrowing "autonomous.") One such dictamen
of reason is the debt of gratitude Adam and Eve owe to their supreme
benefactor, whose gift of life is celebrated in the hexameral narrative
that Adam (and Eve) get to listen to in PL 7; that benefactor is vividly
and unanswerably entitled to their obedience. (God's authority here is
not imposed by a mere display of power.) The notion that the "bath qol"
is the only divine command or moral principle that Adam and Eve are
privy to is belied by the whole tenor of almost every conversation Adam
and Eve are in, either with each other or (in Adam's case) with God.

Milton could hardly have had it otherwise; the subject of his theodicy
is a God who, as Creator, plays fair with his creatures — and, as
legislator, plays fair with his citizens.

So far, in my view at least, Michael's interpretation is pitch perfect.
My point here is just that the interpretation is sustained by a host of
crucial passages in the text itself, of which Eve's addendum to "sole
daughter of his voice" is only one example.

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