[Milton-L] "As by his Word . . ."

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Mon Feb 14 15:44:38 EST 2011

> In All the Names in Heaven: A Reference Guide to Milton's Supernatural 
> Names and Epic Similes (Scarecrow, 2002), Larry R. Isitt has traced the 
> naming patterns in Paradise Lost to conclude that it is indeed an Arian 
> text. I have always found Isitt's argument quite compelling.
> Jameela Lares

I am a literary critic, not a theologian, and so I enter this conversation 
with some trepidation, but I do think that commentators on both sides of the 
"was Milton an Arian?" debate tend to conflate two different questions:

1) Would Milton's contemporaries and predecessors have called him an Arian?
2) Would Milton himself have used that word to describe his own position?

Michael Bauman's authoritative study convinces me that the answer to 1) is 
an unequivocal "yes," and the fact that the other side were driven to the 
desperate course of denying Milton's authorship of DDC suggests that they 
were forced to tacitly concede that point.  But Harold Skulsky's phrase 
"defiantly independent" also rings true to me.  If Harold is right, there is 
something misleading about the formulation "is indeed an Arian text."

The important question, so far as PL is concerned, is whether Milton flaunts 
or tactfully understates the hard-won heretical views that he knows his 
contemporaries would label "Arian."

John Leonard 

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