[Milton-L] Abdiel

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Wed Jun 25 13:33:27 EDT 2008

Yes, Peter. (Under James II, I believe: he was terrified of 
assassination.) But--

pace Bill Hunter's blessed ghost, if we factor in Milton's definition 
of "sin" in DDC, the thought alone is not enough. Even sin itself "is 
not properly an act," if I recall his argument correctly. (It's the 

Best to all,


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter C. Herman" <herman2 at mail.sdsu.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 1:28 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel

>I do not have the precise referents at hand, but I wonder if the 
>changes in early modern treason law might be applicable to this 
>discussion. If I am remembering correctly, the law was changed to 
>include "compassing" the king's death. In other words, whereas all 
>other crimes required a guilty act and a guilty intention, treason 
>required only a guilty intention. Simply thinking about it was enough 
>for conviction. Perhaps that is the case in PL as well. Sin may not 
>necessarily involve an act: merely "approving" would be enough.
> pch
> At 10:10 AM 6/25/2008, you wrote:
>>James Rovira suggests Adam and Eve could only sin by acting against 
>>the sole
>>commandment, not by thinking. If we take Adam's statement as 
>>-- "Evil into the mind of god or man / May come and go, so 
>>unapproved, and
>>leave / No spot or blame behind" -- doesn't that mean one could sin 
>>approving a wrong thought? If so, Adam sins with the thought, 
>>"Certain my
>>resolution is to die." Also, Satan gives birth to Sin before he 
>>takes overt
>>action. Having sex with her would then be taking "approval" up a 
>>I don't find any OED senses of "approve" that quite mean "act upon," 
>>some are close.
>>Could there be "spot or blame" short of the big fall and its 
>>As Millicent Bell says, Milton had to endow Eve and Adam with some 
>>degree of
>>human weakness in order to motivate their actions, as God apparently 
>>did in
>>order to leave them "free to fall."
>>On 6/24/08 9:06 PM, "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > Might want to be careful about importing Christian notions of
>> > fallenness into the Garden of Eden.  Thought and desire can be 
>> > sin
>> > even as of the Mosaic law (do not covet), and sin in thought and
>> > desire is emphasized in the Sermon on the Mount, but the only 
>> > command
>> > available to be broken for Adam and Eve was not to eat the fruit. 
>> > I
>> > don't think it's possible for them to have sinned until they
>> > physically acted.  It's also possible to commit wrong acts out of
>> > "right" motives -- the Genesis account ascribes the desire for 
>> > wisdom
>> > (a positive motive) to Eve in her motivation to eat the fruit. 
>> > NT
>> > commentators claim that by thinking this Eve was deceived. 
>> > Adam's sin
>> > is worse, then, in that he deliberately chose to sin to remain 
>> > with
>> > Eve.
>> >
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