Sister M. Christopher Pecheux
The existence of classical precedents for the council scenes in Paradise Lost has long been taken for granted.1 Since Milton so often combined classical elements with scriptural, an inquiry into specific scriptural influences seems appropriate. The present study will examine the tradition of the divine council in the Old Testament and indicate some ways in which this tradition enriched Paradise Lost.
At first glance it might seem that the idea of a divine council would be entirely foreign to Hebrew monotheistic thought; yet the concept is stated or implied in a number of Old Testament passages. Probably the best-known example is found in the prologue to the book of Job: "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them" (1:6).2Most exegetes see the same idea behind certain plurals in Genesis, such as "Let us make man in our image" (1:26) and "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language" (11:7).____________________
Olin H. Moore, "The Infernal Council," Modern Philology 16 ( 1918): 169-93; Mason Hammond, "Concilia Deorum from Homer through Milton," Studies in Philology 30 ( 1933): 1-16; and Francis Blessington, "Paradise Lost" and the Classical Epic ( Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), esp. pp. 1-2, 14, 75, have dealt specifically with this topic.