[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Wed Jul 2 09:32:21 EDT 2008

Multiple responses here, starting with the shorter ones:

Carol: I don't mean to say that Adam and Eve were Christians, but that
perhaps Milton was "Christianizing" them.  This would mean the point
of PL is not the representation of prelapsarian innocence, but purely
allegory for the 17thC Christian.  We seem to agree about the nature
of the command, however.  I'm beginning to think that perhaps some of
these differences are differences between, say, Jewish approaches to
Genesis (in which, we should emphasize, it is the first book of the
-law- and not just a creation story) and Christian approaches to
Genesis.  Understanding Milton would be to understand his specific
Christian approach to Genesis.

Kim: I see language so closely bound up with subjectivity that in
order to represent an unfallen state, one would (conceivably) need an
unfallen language.  What I really think is that all thinking about the
nature of an unfallen state is speculative.

Larisa: I would love to talk to you about Mitchell's work.  Email me
any time you like.  If we're considering the possibility that Milton
was a Pelagian, however, the availability of examples of sin to Adam
and Eve is very important.  Something  has to give them the idea of
sin in order for them to choose sin -as sin-.  I don't think it was
possible for them to make fully informed choices.  When they chose
sin, they chose the unknown -- necessarily, since the tree and its
fruit imparted knowledge of good and evil, not anything else.

Michael: Yes, you do correctly identify the key point between us, but
that is the point I've been trying to address:

<<Now, where you and I are talking past each other is that I am
persistently denying that the forbiddance of the fruit is the only
rule for A&E. It is rather the only rule that needs to be spoken,
because they already know, or have the ability to discern, the other
rules. >>

Yes, but what I have been arguing is that in the state of innocence
all these other rules, whatever they are, are bound up in the
prohibition not to eat of the tree.  Adam and Eve were not commanded
to love God; they simply did.  They were not commanded to love one
another; they simply did.  They were not commanded not to hate, not to
sleep with animals (Adam was shown the animals were not suitable for
him; he did not need to be commanded to stay away from them), not to
lie, etc.  They did not need to be.  Again, a little Blake goes a long
way here, whose Christ acted on impulse rather than rules.  Perfect,
unfallen humanity does not need a multitude of rules; being perfect,
they follow by nature that which is embodied in the ten commandments
and subsequent teachings today.  Redemption moves us back to this
state -- Christ is the "end of the law for everyone who believes."
Law serves an intermediate function of helping to restore unfallen
subjectivity through obedience to its commands.  My argument is that
for Adam and Eve there is only one possible prohibition: do not learn
about evil.  So what is a multitude of rules for us is only a single
rule for them.

But I think you make a good case that Milton thought otherwise.

Jim R

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