[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Larisa Kocic-Zambo larisa at lit.u-szeged.hu
Wed Jul 2 02:01:00 EDT 2008


James, I believe that Milton regarded Christ as second Adam ("Our second
Adam in the wilderness", 11.383) and Donne writes beautifully about the
parallel between Adam&Eve's fall and the temptation of Christ, but for the
world of it, I can not find the citation right now.
When arguing that Adam and Eve did not see other people sinning, I don't
really get your point...? When you say that "Christ and your daughters have
a history to confront, and sin to observe in the people around them" do you
imply that, compared to Adam and Eve, it is harder for them to stand? Or are
you simply displaying a difference and, thus, the incomparability of the two
(I mean Adam&Eve and our, postlapsarian, state)? You see, I was thinking, is
it not paradoxical to see the requirement for perfect mental obedience (as
well as
Physical obedience) to be applicable on those who can not help but think
about/on/of sin, since it is all around them (your and mine daughters, to
stick with your example) and to exempt from it the only two, who could have
fulfilled it, if nothing else, by the mere fact that they were not exposed
to it by examples in others, etc.? 
As for your question - if Adam and Eve were not commanded not to think about
eating the fruit, not to resolve to eat the fruit, not to touch the fruit,
not to discuss the fruit, etc. -- only commanded not to eat the fruit -- how
can they be said to have sinned before they actually ate the fruit? - I
think the "if" is relevant, because the prohibition, in Eve's recollection
(and dare we assume a faulty memory in unfallen Eve, when Aristotle assumes
females to have a better memory <wink>) sounds like this: "Ye shall not eat
/ thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die" (11.662-3, see also 11.651;
cp. Gen. 3.3). 
There are indeed multiple commands, multiple principles, and far more
complex contexts as prior to the fall, but the gist of them could still be
encompassed into one - "For this is the love of God, that we keep his
commandments" 1.John 5.3 - i.e. if we keep the commandments (plural), we
love God, meaning also, if we love God (one sole command), we keep the
commands, so to say, automatically. Or as Fish puts it, "in effect, the
'whole law' as it is given by Moses and multiplied as situations multiply is
no more that a single command: obey God" (Surprised by sin, 2nd ed. 158).
Hence, also, Milton's question: For what sin can be named, which was not
included in this one act?"
As for the question of regeneration, yes, I believe Milton thought it to be
instantaneous "with perfect and complete results upon reception of the Holy
Spirit" BUT with effects lasting only as long as man maintains the same
attitude he/she had whilst receiving the Holy Spirit. Raphael's warning is
applicable here too, I think: "that thou art happy [regenerated], owe to
God; /that thou continu'st such, owe to thyself, / that is, to thy
obedience; therein stand, etc." (5.520-22) - sounding almost a bit pelagrian
in the process, but for the words of Father on regeneration: "Upheld by me,
yet once more he shall stand / On even ground against his mortal foe, / By
me upheld, that he may know how frail / his fall'n condition is, and to me
owe (erase/modify Raphael's "that thou continu'st such, owe to thyself") /
all his deliv'rance, and to none but me" (3.178-182).
Once again, thank you all for this great thread.
Larisa

Oh, and one more, personal note to James. I am so happy to know that you are
a Blake scholar. I have been translating chapters from W.J.T. Mitchell's
Blake Composite Art into Hungarian, and been through hell and back, and
would love to have a chance to ask you a few questions on Blake, if you
don't mind, that is.

-----Original Message-----
From: James Rovira [mailto:jamesrovira at gmail.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, July 01, 2008 11:16 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Michael and Carol: I tried to explain these distinctions from my
divorce example in my previous post, but perhaps I was not clear.  The
primary distinction I see in the Genesis account is that prior to the
fall, there was only one command, and all moral reasoning and
principles were embodied in that command, while after the fall there
were multiple commands, multiple principles, and far more complex
contexts.  Furthermore, prior to the fall, there was no sin to observe
-- Adam and Eve did not see other people sinning.

Consider the current extent of prohibitions and relevant moral laws.
Moses issued ten commandments (let's forget the entire ceremonial and
civil law for the moment); Jesus internalized them (although there's
an element of internalization in the Mosaic law as well, for example,
do not covet); Adam and Eve only had one rule which served as the
entire moral law: do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
How can there be a division between the rule of conscience, rule of
reason, and rule of law when there is only one rule?

As a result, I don't think it's relevant to compare prelapsarian Adam
and Eve to either Jesus or my own teenage daughters  (yes, I have
two), and what I considered as a possibility between reasoned
disobedience and blind obedience works only for Adam and Eve, not for
Jesus or my teenage daughters.  Both Christ and my daughters have a
history to confront, and sin to observe in the people around them (not
me! --ha)  -- Adam and Eve did not -- my daughters are fallen (Adam
and Eve were not yet), etc.  Now, when I say Milton may have been
Christianizing Adam and Eve, he may be having them act and think as if
they had this history, this knowledge, these divisions, etc. -- when
really, all they had was a single prohibition.

To put it more simply, if Adam and Eve were not commanded not to think
about eating the fruit, not to resolve to eat the fruit, not to touch
the fruit, not to discuss the fruit, etc. -- only commanded not to eat
the fruit -- how can they be said to have sinned before they actually
ate the fruit?  Yes, of course, mental acts precede physical ones, but
mental acts have not been forbidden -as of this point-, only a
physical act: eating the fruit.

Christ's teachings, on the other hand, clearly forbid mental acts such
as lust and hatred, and the Mosaic law forbids coveting.  To apply
these standards -- demands for perfect mental obedience as well as
physical obedience --  to Adam and Eve is therefore to "Christianize"
them.  So this leads me to my question again -- did Milton see a
difference between the Christian and the unfallen Adam and Eve, or did
he believe that to become a Christian was to return to the state Adam
and Eve were in before the fall?  Diane posted an interesting
quotation from OCD about regeneration, but it was unclear to me from
that short quotation if Milton understood regeneration as a process or
as something that happens instantaneously with perfect and complete
results upon reception of the Holy Spirit.

Jim R

On Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 11:02 AM, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:
> Jim Rovira, could you explain a bit more what you mean by Milton
> Christianizing unfallen Adam and Eve? I'm not following.




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