Tweeting the Meeting: Week of October 2, 2021
Tweeting the Meeting: Week of October 11, 2021

When Did Satan Go Bad? According to John Milton

What is mortal man that you keep him in mind?” the psalm says. “You made him a little lower than godlike ones [angels]” Psalm 8:5

The fallen angel from John Milton’s 1667 poem, Paradise Lost, plots revenge with his fellow fallees. All of them are smarting at being cast out of heaven. He tells of a rumored secondary creation of God, only “somewhat inferior” to themselves, only a little lower. ‘Maybe we can sabotage them,’ he suggests at the supernatural counsil. It’s pure revenge. What better to get back at the God who cannot be outpowered? That new human creation God says will be made in his image, so that when he looks at them he sees himself? Maybe it can be made into Satan’s mutinous image instead.

Does the Bible state the Devil was already cast out from the heavens at this point and was thereby plotting his revenge? Or was it his ruining the human race that caused his ousting? The Book doesn’t rule out the first, through it doesn’t specifically say it either. Since it doesn’t specifically say it, Watchtower publications play it safe. They confine themselves to what it does specifically say and indicate the ousting came after the fall in Eden. John Milton, however, speculates that Satan, chief of the outcasts, had been outcast for some time. Their rebellion against God, and punishment, was a done deal prior to Adam’s creation.

In Paradise Lost, Satan’s scheme to ruin Jehovah’s newest creation wins wide approval with the debased horde. They have nothing much up their sleeve anyway. One of the more warlike fallen angels bearing the name of a warlike deity wants to counterattack and fight till the probable death; anything is better than the place of torment they have been banished to. One of the more timid fallen angels suggests that they should just do nothing, for if they fight further against God maybe their punishment will be even more severe. Nobody thinks they can defeat God. His almighty status his accepted by all.

There’s plenty of speculation in Paradise Lost. If you’re going to dramatize Bible accounts, you have to do that to some extent; the Book is scarce with details in many a place. That’s why the ‘bad attitude’ kid in the new Daniel movie catches the apple from that hussy and his expression all but says, “Whoa—They don’t do that back home! I could get used to this!” while Daniel and loyal friends continue grim-faced in their resolute march. It’s filler. Make it consistent with the overall theme and you should be okay.

But can you do it to the extent Milton does? The Witness organization speaks favorably of John Milton. He is one of the “good guys.” He knows God’s intention was [and is] for a paradise earth. He also sees through the Trinity doctrine. He knows that when a person dies, the soul dies as well. He gets all this because he is a diligent student of the scriptures. I don’t see where his “filler,” massive though it is, is inconsistent with the overall Bible theme.

His portrayal of the snake talking to Eve resounds to me even better than ours. ‘Like a ventriloquist throwing his voice’ is how JW publications have put it. Well, okay, but don’t you think coming across a talking snake would really confound a person? Everything is new to Eve in those early days, so maybe she just takes it in stride, but even so… I like Milton’s account better—even if you can’t go beyond what is written.

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Don’t worry, I won’t be starting a new sect over it. Exactly when rebellion began is not something you start a sect over. But I like it better that Satan ruins the first human pair as an act of revenge rather than a package of little premeditation. Yes, I’ve explained that James 1:14-15 passage of “being drawn out and enticed by his own desire,” [in Satan’s case, a desire for prominence, even worship]. “Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death.” It gets the job done. But there is not the prerequisite hatred in that explanation as there is in Milton’s poem, and the ruining of Adam and Eve seems such a hateful act.

Milton relates that in response to Eve’s surprise the snake attributes its speaking ability to eating from the tree of knowledge! Formerly, it was just a dumb snake. Now it can speak! And he dangles the prize before her that ‘If eating off that tree did this for me, just think of what it will do for you!’ No temptation could be more enticing.

He is a liar and the father of the lie. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition. (John 8:44) There is a lie right within his first question, a recent speaker pointed out. It is a lie calculated to engender discontent: “Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” so as to implant the idea of, “Wow, he won’t let you guys do anything!” It finds its counterpart today in those who carry on about what those in the faith won’t do, stretching it to convey that they can’t do anything, as though the guard rails of the highway are in reality a strait jacket to stifle human freedom.

 

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