[Milton-L] The Gnostic Milton

John Rumrich rumrich at mail.utexas.edu
Wed Jan 7 13:20:39 EST 2009

Hi Jeffery

I lent out Nuttall's book some time ago and haven't got it back, so I  
can't check.  But my recollection is that he identifies the father  
with the Creator god (ignorant or wicked).  This alternative version  
of the trinity is in N's presentation implied by gnosticism, not an  
explicit part of it--an inferred structure that a reader bred in the  
Christian tradition might draw from what church fathers had written  
about gnostic tenets.

Sorry I can't be more confident in reply.


On Jan 6, 2009, at 11:33 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:

> I'm sending this again, for it has not yet posted to my computer.
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> John Rumrich posted an interesting review of A.D. Nuttall's book The  
> Alternative Trinity: Gnostic Heresy in Marlowe, Milton, and Blake,  
> and I've finally had a chance to blog on it:
> http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/2009/01/gnostic-milton-john-rumrich-on-ad.html
> I'll post my central question here on the Milton List. John writes  
> of Nuttall:
> Nuttall's . . . thesis [is] that gnosticism provided Marlowe,  
> Milton, and Blake with a refuge from oppressive Christian  
> orthodoxies. Perhaps no critic is so gifted as to make a coherent,  
> consistent argument out of gnosticism, a notorious thicket of  
> philosophical doctrine and theological attitude. To make matters  
> worse, until 1945, much of what was known about gnostic thinking  
> derived from hostile, fragmentary accounts written by orthodox  
> Chrisian writers. Nuttall, however, isolates a relatively simple  
> structure basic to the gnostic religious tangle -- that of the  
> alternative Trinity, "in which the Father is a tyrant, not  
> complemented but opposed by the Son" (p. 3). Informing this  
> antagonistic family relation, moreover, is the gnostic insistence on  
> the goodness of knowledge, an ethical-epistemological premise that  
> makes a villain of the forbidding Father portrayed in Genesis. It is  
> he who prohibits tasting of the tree of knowledge, while the  
> unfairly maligned serpent recommends disobedience in a noble cause  
> and may even be seen as an ally or alter-ego of the Son.
> While this is an interesting take on Gnosticism, the identification  
> of the "Father" with the ignorant 'god' derided in Gnostic myth  
> might be problematic, depending upon what Nuttall means by this. I  
> haven't read the book, but if he means that Gnosticism itself  
> depicted the "Father" as "a tyrant," then he would seem to have  
> misconstrued Gnosticism, for the ignorant 'god' of the Gnostic  
> genealogies is no Father to the Son. Perhaps, however, Nuttall means  
> that the Father as portrayed in Milton (as well as in Marlowe and  
> Blake) is portrayed as the equivalent to Gnosticism's ignorant 'god'.
> From John's review, I'm not sure what Nuttall was suggesting about  
> Gnosticism, but perhaps John could clarify this point for me.
> Jeffery Hodges
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