[Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 9 16:23:45 EDT 2009

I didn't think of the 'God' question as simply "rhetorical" if that means that no answer would be offered. I don't actually recall using the term "rhetorical," for that matter, though one could also provide an answer to a rhetorical question. But perhaps you're referring to my recent remark about Milton raising the question as a "devil's advocate"?
At any rate, I'm not a Gnostic, I don't think that Milton was one, and I take it that we now understand each other.
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Wed, 9/9/09, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 3:01 PM

Jeffery --

You did say this in your Sept. 8th post of 6:13 PM:

<<Rather, I was simply noting that Milton does raise the question of whether or not the God who placed the tree of knowledge in the garden is the true God -- and that Milton raises this question through Satan's temptation, which Eve falls for.>>

Which implies a question about the nature of the creator of the -tree-, at any rate, although I don't know that in any Christian theology any being can create something out of nothing but the main monotheistic deity.  No one can make a tree but God.

You also said this previously:

<<But it's an assumption that Satan questions, and brings Eve to question, so Milton must be raising the issue, too. Satan and his fallen companions are shown openly questioning whether or not the God who has defeated them is truly God -- or merely a superior angel who happened to come into being before the rest of them and thereby had an advantage.>>

Which asks if the God who defeated Satan in the war in heaven was the true God.  From a traditionally Christian point of view, this question would not even be asked.  However, suggesting that Satan was defeated not by God but by a superior angel or emanation of some sort does lean toward Gnostic readings of the Genesis text.  

At the time, I saw no reason to read these questions as rhetorical.  Really, in context, I still don't.  But as rhetorical questions, they would assume a positive answer, wouldn't they?  Then what would be the sense in calling them rhetorical?  The point then would be to present the phenomenology of rebellion and reject it, which I think was Milton's intent.

These are not, I think, questions that Milton thought were up for debate.  He assumed -- safely, I think -- that his readers would share his assumptions.  Even Blake didn't ascribe intent to Milton if he did have a preference for Satan, saying that Milton was of the devil's party -but didn't know it-.  

Jim R

On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 3:42 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:

Could you show me where I've affirmed those "Gnostic" views? I believe that I've merely asked what Milton's answer to Satan's question is.
Perhaps you misunderstood when I said that since Satan is raising the question as to whether the Christian God is the true God, then Milton is raising the question, too.
I think that Milton is raising the question in a devil's advocate manner by having Satan bring Eve to ask herself the same question -- which means that Milton is also presenting the question to us.
Does he answer it . . . or simply expect us to answer it ourselves?

Jeffery Hodges

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