1. This extreme is not one to which all groups identified as “Gnostic” go, but it is recognizable, for instance, in Marcion. According to Hans Jonas, Marcion's demiurge was primarily conceived in terms of “pettiness” (The Gnostic Religion, 2d ed. [Boston: Beacon Press, 1991], 141) and was merely just as opposed to good. The Valentinian “'artificer' (demiurge) of the left-hand things” (190) is also recognizable as a devilish kind of anti-God whose main attribute is “ignorance … and [the] presumption in which he believes himself to be alone and declares himself to be the unique and highest God” (191).
2. Among those critics who see Milton as favoring heavenly kingship, I will specifically be engaged with three: Joan Bennett, Reviving Liberty: Radical Humanism in Milton's Great Poems (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989); Stevie Davies, Images of Kingship in Paradise Lost: Milton's Politics and Christian Liberty (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1983); and Robert Fallon, Divided Empire: Milton's Political Imagery (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995).
3. Neither of Milton's great biographers makes much of the phrase “great Taskmaster's eye.” William Riley Parker remarks merely that these lines reflect “a humble submission” and that the sonnet as a whole “is one of re-dedication” to “the service of God.” See Milton: A Biography, 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 124. David Masson speculates that the sonnet may reflect not only Milton's sense of belatedness in choosing a career, but also a growing diffidence about the prospect of entering the priesthood in the Church of England. See The Life of John Milton, vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 325–26.
4. This becomes especially obvious in Samson Agonistes. Michael Lieb has called the God of Milton's drama “our living dread.” See “'Our Living Dread': The God of Samson Agonistes,” Milton Studies 33, ed. Albert C. Labriola (Pittsburgh: University of Pitsburgh Press, 1997), 3–25.
5. There are numerous constructions of God in the Hebrew scriptures. The wrathful Yahweh of Exodus 32, for example, is just one construction. The portraits of God in Amos and portions of Isaiah—with the ethical concerns of those books —are radically different from the wrathful deity found elsewhere in scripture.