[Milton-L] the problem of hell

Sara van den Berg vandens at slu.edu
Thu Oct 31 13:36:33 EDT 2013


Hi John,

This isn't interpretive (others will no doubt offer ideas), but prior to
the 18th century people would use "his" (or "her") where we commonly use
"its".  Use of the pronoun "its" was quite rare.  For example, according to
the OED, "its" does not occur in the 1611 Bible.  Although the OED mentions
some instances of "its" in the 17th c, generally "his" was used for the
neuter, and "her" at times helped distinguish between a possible male
antecedent and a non-gendered antecedent.  I can't check right now, but as
I recall Milton uses "her" in this way at least one other time in PL.


On Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 11:05 AM, Mulryan, John <JMULRYAN at sbu.edu> wrote:

> ** ** **
>
> Dear friends: I was asked a question by a student that I cannot answer
> intelligently. In book 3, line 331, why is hell described as female” (her
> numbers full). I have some theories, but await to be instructed by my
> learned colleagues Best, John Mulryan ****
>
> ** **
>  ------------------------------
>
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] *On Behalf Of *Richard A. Strier
> *Sent:* Wednesday, October 30, 2013 5:10 PM
> *To:* **John Milton Discussion List**
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] the problem of hell****
>
> ** **
>
> Everything Steve F says seems to me quite right.  But it doesn't really
> answer the question.  The question is whether the notion of hell is morally
> intelligible -- should anyone be punished eternally for a sin committed in
> time.   ****
>
> ** **
>
> The believers in universal salvation thought that this was an abominable
> idea, as do I.  The trouble with the protestant scheme is that in
> eliminating purgatory, it eliminated the possibility of guaranteeing moral
> improvement -- through whatever painful process of re-education -- for the
> wicked.  I know all the stuff about in hell the wicked re-perform their
> wickedness eternally, and therefore keep meriting their punishment, but
> that seems to me a nasty doctrine in itself.  The point is the ethically
> abominable status of the concept of hell.  A number of thinkers in the
> Christian tradition found it so (from Origen to young Thomas Browne on).
>  Even our penal system pretends that it values rehabilitation rather than
> mere punishment.****
>
> ** **
>
> To get out of the dilemma, ****Milton**** would have had to envision
> something like purgatory -- perhaps an ante-chamber to heaven in which
> purifying suffering took place (something a great visionary poet could do).
> ****
>
> ** **
>
> And to answer the (supposedly) knock-down question-- do I think Satan
> should eventually be saved (in a moral universe in which this question
> makes sense-- that is, in which there is such a thing as "salvation"), my
> answer is yes.  And then, of course, there is Hitler.  Again, I'd say,
> after enough salutary pain, and reeducation, yes.  ****
>
> ** **
>
> That seems to me what Christianity should look like -- a religion truly of
> love and grace.  Punishment and vengeance are not anything special.  Love
> is (and love only for the worthy is hardly impressive).****
>
> ** **
>
> Best,****
>
> the heretic****
>
> ** **
>
> ** **
>    ------------------------------
>
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of **Steve Fallon** [
> sfallon at nd.edu]
> *Sent:* Wednesday, October 30, 2013 10:57 AM
> *To:* **John Milton Discussion List**
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3****
>
> On Oct 26, 2013, at 6:49 PM, Richard A. Strier wrote:****
>
>
>
> ****
>
> Jeffery:  "Did ****Milton**** hold that all mankind would find grace?" ***
> *
>
> ** **
>
> RS:  He should have, but didn't.  Alas!  If he had, he could have been one
> of the heroes of D. P. Walker's wonderful *The Decline of Hell*.****
>
> ** **
>
> It all depends on what "all mankind" and "*find* grace" mean. I do not
> recall that ****Milton**** in his discussions of grace and predestination
> handles the question of those who have not heard of Christ, but setting
> that question aside he is clear in his opposition to the Calvinist
> doctrines of limited atonement and irresistible grace.  In other words, he
> is clear that grace is offered not only to the elect, but generally.  If
> the offer of grace to all is synonymous with all "find[ing] grace," then
> the answer would be that all do find grace. ****
>
> ** **
>
> In the epic, the Father promises that "Man shall not quite be lost, but
> saved who will, / Yet not of will in him, but grace in me / Freely
> vouchsafed."  With this grace, "lapséd powes" are "renew[ed]."  This points
> to the partial undoing of the fall, so that "yet once more" man will "stand
> / On even ground against his foe."  After the race is enthralled to sin as
> a result of the fall, God will allow each to choose.  One might argue that
> God does not specify explicitly all persons, but given the general language
> the specification would seem more necessary if God meant to exclude anyone
> from this offered grace.****
>
> ** **
>
> **Milton** is explicit in the *Christian Doctrine*: "God foreknew those
> who would believe, that is, he decreed or approved that they alone would be
> those for whom in Christ he should have regard—*all, certainly, if they
> believed " *(the new ****Oxford**** edition, 8.1:87; my emphasis).  The
> point is clear in the Latin (*"omnes utique si credidissent*").  The
> passage is in the Yale edition at 6.181-82 and in the Modern Library
> edition—slipping in a plug here—on pp. 1164-65).  Milton emphasizes the
> universality of offered grace a few pages later: "[I]f God rejects no one
> except the disobedient and the unbeliever, surely he imparts grace—if not
> equal, yet sufficient—to all, by which they may be able to arrive at
> recognition of the truth and salvation.... The reason, therefore, why God
> does not deem all worthy of equal grace is his own supreme will; the
> reason, however, for his deeming *all* worthy of sufficient grace is his
> justice" (my emphasis again, ****Oxford**** 8.1:101-03; in Yale,
> 6:192-93; in MLM 1168-69).  ****
>
> ** **
>
> So if to "find grace" means to accept it and believe, then the answer is
> clearly *no.  *If it means to have the benefit of grace enabling one to
> believe and be saved, the answer seems clearly to be *yes.*****
>
> ** **
>
> Steve F****
>
> ** **
>
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