Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM
cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Sat Apr 5 18:16:24 EDT 2014
That's an old storm. Empson beat you to it.
And if the Trinity is co-omniscient, God foreknows that the Son will volunteer--just as Satan foreknows that he will volunteer--so Empson's charge that he "stacked the deck" has merit. (Not only that, but the Son knows that ultimately he will triumph--that death cannot claim him--while Satan has no idea what the consequences of his infiltration of Eden will be, should he be caught.) That anti-parallel and its logical consequences has always bothered my far more than the Tree of Life or what kind of fruit grew on the Tree of Knowledge--and I don't see how Milton (or theology) can resolve it.
It's the sort of thing my old priest would have frowned at me over his glasses for inquiring about, intoning, "If you can ask that, you have no faith."
From: Richard A. Strier
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 6:06 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion
Well, here goes! I'll say it, and let the storm follow: Milton could hardly care less about the crucifixion and still be any sort of Christian.
The Son's "heroism" in Book 3 is entirely adventitious, since, after the proem, the action of the Book OPENS with God's decision to pardon man on purely moral/rational grounds (he was misled -- but then, so were Satan's followers-- but that's another problem). In any case, "Man therefore shall find grace" is determined, absolutely and definitively, before the whole drama of sacrifice takes place. The critics who think Satan's heroism false and the Son's true have it backwards. Someone had to do what Satan did, if his plan was to succeed (and it is not clear that anyone else was going to volunteer); the Son's Great Act is strictly unnecessary -- it's Milton trying to look orthodox, as if he believed in Anselmic atonement theory, when in fact he has already worked things out in his purely rationalistic way.
And of course, the crucifixion is notoriously difficult to find in the account of history in Bks XI-XII. It takes up 3 lines (XII: 411-13), and even there, Milton finds the abjection intolerable, and immediately makes the event a military triumph and reversal of torture -- "But to the Cross he nails thy Enemies."
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