Milton and Scriptural Tradition: The Bible into Poetry

By James H. Sims; Leland Ryken | Go to book overview

The Gospel of John and Paradise Regained: Jesus as "True Light"

Stella P. Revard

Milton's extensive use of the Gospel of John in Christian Doctrine and Paradise Lost is well documented, and in view of the transcendental concerns of these works it is hardly surprising that Milton depends so heavily in them on the gospel that most fully describes the relationship of the divine Son to the divine Father. Yet, as critics such as Ira Clark have recognized, we must not neglect the influence of John on Paradise Regained because this poem more directly concerns the Son preparing himself for an earthly ministry than it does the operations of the divine Logos.1 Neither should we dismiss John's influence on Paradise Regained because it, alone of the gospels, does not recount the temptation in the wilderness that is the main subject of Milton's brief epic. Milton had to elaborate greatly on this biblical episode, and, as critics have pointed out, he uses language and allusions from other parts of the Bible to describe this episode as well as to create those sections of Paradise Regained that are without direct biblical authority: Jesus' soliloquies, his conversations with Satan, and his responses to the Satanic offers of Parthia, Rome, and Athens.2 Throughout major portions of Paradise Regained, therefore, Milton had the opportunity to draw extensively from the Gospel of

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1
For the citation of John in Paradise Regained, see Ira Clark, "Paradise Regained and the Gospel according to John," Modern Philology 71 ( 1973): 1-15; James H. Sims, The Bible in Milton's Epics ( Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962), pp. 274-78; Louis L. Martz, "Paradise Regained: The Meditative Combat," ELH 27 ( 1960): 238.
2
James Sims has illustrated how Milton's phrasing in Paradise Regained often suggests sections of the Bible other than the one that appears to be his principal source. Sims cites the fact that the thief's words from the cross ( Luke 23:39) underlie Satan's plea in the first temptation to "save thyself and us" ( The Bible in Milton's Epics, pp. 154-55).

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