CHAPTER III
THE FATHERS

THE elements of the tale of the Fall were put together and more or less worked out by the Fathers. Yet most of the Fathers, before Augustine, seem to the modern reader hopelessly backward and chaotic. It is only Augustine who gives a coherent tale. The astonishment of the modern reader at the eccentric ideas of the early Fathers was fully shared by Milton, who, consequently, frequently looks upon them with open contempt.


I. MILTON'S OPINIONS OF THE FATHERS

In 1641, in the pamphlet Of Prelatical Episcopacy, Milton expressed picturesquely his feelings about the Fathers, thus:

. . . when men began to have itching ears, then not contented with the plentiful and wholesome fountains of the gospel, they began after their own lusts to heap to themselves teachers, and as if the divine scripture wanted a supplement, and were to be eked out, they cannot think any doubt resolved, and any doctrine confirmed, unless they run to that indigested heap and fry of authors which they call antiquity. Whatsoever time, or the heedless hand of blind chance, hath drawn down from of old to this present, in her huge drag-net, whether fish or seaweed, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen, those are the fathers.1

Further on,2 Irenæus is sharply rebuked, and called "the patron of idolatry" to the papist for having said that

____________________
1
Prose Works, II, 422.
2
Ibid., II, 430.

-264-

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Milton, Man and Thinker
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Man xix
  • Chapter I - The Elements of Milton's Character In Youth 1
  • Chapter II - The Man of Action and of Passion 21
  • Part II - The System 109
  • Chapter I - Ontology 113
  • Chapter II - Cosmology 134
  • Chapter III - Psychology and Ethics 149
  • Chapter IV - Religion 172
  • Chapter V - Politics 181
  • Chapter VI - Conclusion: a General View Of Milton's Philosophy 198
  • Part III - The Great Poems 201
  • Chapter I - Faith, Philosophy, and Poetry In Milton's Work 203
  • Chapter II - Paradise Lost 213
  • Chapter III - Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes 233
  • Part Iv The Sources 245
  • Chapter I - Hebraic Sources 251
  • Chapter II - The Christian Era 259
  • Chapter III - The Fathers 264
  • Chapter I - The Zohar and the Kabbalah 281
  • Chapter II - Robert Fludd (1574-1637) 301
  • Chapter III - The Mortalists, 1643-1655 310
  • Conclusion 323
  • Appendices 327
  • Index 353
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