[Milton-L] crucifixion

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sat Apr 5 19:10:56 EDT 2014


I should have added, as I tried to make clear the first time around, that Milton is trying to APPEAR orthodox in the body of Book 3.  He wants the central "action" of the Book, through some powerful writing, to lead us to forget the position of the opening monologue, to bracket it, as it were.  He really does want to appear orthodox-- perhaps even to himself (though I'm not sure whether or not to go this route [a semi-Freudian one] or to take a hard [semi-Straussian] line here on self-protection and purposeful deception).  I am very curious how others who see the contradiction would go here.

Richard Strier
Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus
Editor, Modern Philology
Department of English
University of Chicago
1115 E. 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Richard A. Strier [rastrier at uchicago.edu]
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 5:56 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

I'm afraid that I know Smith's work and don't find it, gasp, convincing.

RS
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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of David Urban [dvu2 at calvin.edu]
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 5:50 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion


​I hope Richard and everyone else will read Samuel Smith's outstanding forthcoming essay in *Christianity and Literature* entitled "Milton's Theology of the Cross," which demonstrates convincingly the (gasp) orthodoxy of Milton's presentation of the Crucifixion and the Son's Substitutionary Atonement.

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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>
Sent: Saturday, April 5, 2014 6:35 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

My apologies. I thought I was amplifying the point. Forgive me for intruding.


From: Richard A. Strier<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 6:27 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List<mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

I'm afraid that you are missing the point.  God's speech gives a full and coherent rationale -- ON STRICTLY MORAL/RATIONAL GROUNDS -- for forgiving man.  Not only is the crucifixion not mentioned, it is not needed -- that's the point (my point).  The grounds for man's salvation are clearly laid out in this speech; nothing further is needed.

I believe that this is different from Empson's emphasis on the barbarity of the whole atonement idea; I don't think that Empson made the above point.  But if he did, and I am forgetting this, great.  He's my hero.  But the point still needs making (and if Empson made it, please cite).

RS
________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM [cbartonphd1 at verizon.net]
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 5:16 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

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<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 6:06 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List<mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
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."

RS


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