[Milton-L] Re: "tasteless" Milton (response)

Nairba Sirrah nairbasirrah at msn.com
Fri Dec 17 11:57:20 EST 2010

Mr. Rovia -
I think you're not fully grasping what I grasp. It's frustrating when people publicly make assesments of your intelligence and conceptual understanding.
Your point is essentially my point, sir. "Christian tradition" is, unfortunately, a series of interpretations where - collectively - anything goes, as long as you always say Jesus was the son of god. The fact is that all those varied concepts cancel out each other's validity when they are all accepted as "Christian doctrine." No, they cannot co-exist.
I meant specifically comparing Milton's main events with the main events of the Bible. It's more than poetic commentary. It's complete re-invention.
You're right about Satan's fall taking place at different times in Biblical narrative. But Milton's narrative is not in the Bible even slightly. To the classic ignoramous who goes to church their whole life, but never sits down to read the Bible, this kind of thing is very misleading and damaging.
What throws off everything is the book of Revelation, which is so different from anything else in there, it's amazing it was included. But of course, scaring people into submission was priority #1 in the Rome of Constantine. 

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2010 09:49:05 -0500
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: "tasteless" Milton (response)
From: jamesrovira at gmail.com
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu

Nairba --

I think you're not fully grasping the diversity of Christian thought.  There are Christian narratives in which the fall of Satan takes place after the creation of the earth, and narratives in which the fall takes place before.  There are Christian narratives that affirm freedom of the will, and Christian narratives that do not.  

Those who deny the existence of free will identify God's foreknowledge with God's decrees.  

Those who affirm the existence of free will picture time as a line draw on a chalkboard, and God/eternity as the chalkboard.  Every event, therefore, at any point on the line is equally "in the present" from the Divine point of view.  What is future tense to us is continually present tense to God.  So it's only "foreknowledge" from the point of view of time, not eternity.  Therefore, there is no need for God to foreordain what he foresees.  

The more important point is that both of these traditions as well represented within orthodox Christian belief. 

Raphael's warning is a significant, non-Biblical addition, but I think it serves the purpose of laying guilt even more squarely at Adam and Eve's feet in Milton's narrative.  More importantly, though, we need to distinguish between adding details that aren't present and contradicting a narrative.  As you've pointed out, there's not a lot of detail in the Biblical account.  Saying that Raphael visited Adam and Eve is not a contradiction of the Biblical account unless the account explicitly states that no angels visited Adam and Eve prior to the fall.  

And as Jameela pointed out, many details traditionally associated with the Genesis account are  provided by other Biblical literature, such as the identification of the snake with Satan, etc. 

I think much of Milton's detail comes from commonly accepted readings of Genesis.  The question we usually need to ask about most British literature is not, 'How does this work stand in relationship to traditional Christianity?' -- which always mistakes traditional Christianity as a single thing -- but rather, "With which Christian traditions does this work have the most affinity and from which does it face the most opposition?"  

Frame the question that way and consider a broad range of Christian traditions, and then you'll be in a position to see where your author is truly diverging from all or most Christian traditions.  

It will be very hard, though, to find any doctrinal stance that's not already been articulated by someone somewhere. 

Jim R  

On Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 1:59 AM, Nairba Sirrah <nairbasirrah at msn.com> wrote:

Essentially saying "if god forsees the future, then there was no chance that Eve had a choice...so why forbid her from doing something fate dictated she wwas going to do anyway."
I realize the Pandora's Box this opens. But again, in defense of my point, Milton's reworking of the essential narrative is quantum and, I dare say, wrong. He might as well have just made up a whole new religion. At what point does a Milton emmendation become too ridiculous? Saying Raphael warned them is HUGE. Why not say Adam ate the fruit first?
The license Milton took is too far out of bounds. The main reason it's not talked about is hardly anyone ever reads the whole poem.
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