[Milton-L] Naming in Hell

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Wed Jan 6 12:28:14 EST 2016

Assuming that all these epithets refer to the same person (and I think they do), the following lines support the traditional assumption that that person is the Father:
                                         How oft amidst
Thick clouds and dark doth Heav'n's all-ruling Sire
Choose to reside, his glory unobscured,
And with the majesty of darkness round
Covers his throne (2.263-7)
This must be the Father, since the devils have seen the Son enthroned just once (not "oft"). The echoes of Ps. 18 and II Chron. 6.1 also point to the Father. Beelzebub also uses periphrases of the Father a few lines later when he recalls the oath that shook Heaven's whole circumference in response to the words of "him who rules above". The Son had not yet been begotten (exalted) when the Father uttered that oath, so "him" must be the Father.
My vote is therefore for the traditional view that all those "epithets referring to power and cruelty" point to the Father, whom the devils cannot bring themselves to call "God" (though Beelzebub does let slip a mocking reference to "their God" when he imagines how God will treat his new creatures). This is not to deny the Son's relevance and importance. The fact that the devils cannot bring themselves even to acknowledge his existence in the early books (let alone name him) is evidence not that he does not matter to them, but that he does. Their studied silence is an aggressive response to God's erasure of their original names ("blotted out and razed from the books of life"), which are of course not the names the narrator uses of them. We never hear their original names and they never address each other by name (though Sin will eventually call Satan "Satan", just before he speaks the name for the first and only time at 10.386).  
John Leonard
On 01/06/16, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote: 
>   It's obvious that the fallen angels name the divinity through epithets referring to power and cruelty, such as "the Torturer," "the Thunderer." But are they referring to the Father or the Son, and why do they not distinguish the two, or say "they" instead of "he"? I suppose most readers assume that "he" in Books 1 and 2 is the Father, but it was the kingship of the Son that provoked the rebellion and that seems to be the referent for "the Tyranny of Heav'n."
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