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Milton and Theology

Beginning as early as seven years of age and continually, throughout Milton's education, he was exposed to the teachings of the Church Fathers, specifically those of St. Augustine. As a result and not surprisingly, interwoven into the tapestry of John Milton's Paradise Lost is the theology of St. Augustine. Substantially Milton's version of the "Fall" is that of St. Augustine and a reader can find several similarities between Milton's Paradise Lost and St. Augustine's The City of God. In fact, clearly Milton depends, on Augustine's detailed account, concerning creation and the "Fall," in which, to compose Paradise Lost.

Both Milton and Augustine used the Genesis' narrative as a doctrinal source for their writings. The book of Genesis states that two conditions are necessary for the occurrence of transgression (i.e. the Fall): a command by God, whose authority is supreme; and an intentional and conscious infringement of that command. Augustine quotes Genesis: "thus, when God spoke about the forbidden food to the man whom he had placed in the garden, he said 'On whatever day you eat of it you will surely die' -- [spiritual death]." He explains that, in the "disobedience to God's instructions, the first human beings were deprived of God's Favor" (XIII 15). Augustine spells out these contingencies, in scripture, by saying "they [Adam and Eve] had violated God's command by an overt transgression" (XIV 18). Milton, too, clearly uses these two conditions in his epic. "Remember what I warn thee, shun to taste, / And shun the bitter consequence" (VIII.326327) knowing this "forth reaching to the Fruit, she [Eve] pluck'd, she eat" (IX.781782). Both St. Augustine and Milton zone in on these two key conditions surrounding and leading to the fall as means of supporting their explications.

By interpreting Genesis, in Paradise Lost, Milton's purpose – like that of St. Augustine in City of God -- in part, is to "justify the way...

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Milton and Theology. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:58, December 07, 2021, from