God’s Influence Over Adam
In the same manner as the two previous invocations of the muse, Milton’s invocation of Urania fuses classical allusion with Christian belief. Milton reconfigures Urania and likens her to the Holy Spirit, placing a corrective, Christian spin on an old mythological figure. The cumulative effect of Milton’s allusions to and corrections of classical culture is to convey the impression that Greek and Roman civilization was indeed great, but misled in its philosophy and religion. Thus Milton can claim to build upon the achievements of classical authors while replacing their religious beliefs with Christian ones. Being born before Christ, most classical authors do have a good excuse for not professing Christian beliefs. In this respect, Milton’s stance toward antiquity is not unlike that of earlier Christian poets such as Dante or Spenser, who were similarly steeped in classical literary culture.
Raphael’s account of the world’s creation closely follows the biblical account of creation in the first few chapters of Genesis. Milton takes some of his language directly from popular English translations of the Bible. By using biblical language, Milton gives Raphael’s account more authority and renders the invented details of his story more credible as well. Raphael’s extended explanations about the world and about God and Satan are lengthy, but their length demonstrates Milton’s beliefs concerning the absolute importance of conversation, knowledge, and thought. Book VII presents a curious Adam who seeks knowledge and an agreeable Raphael who disposes his knowledge in human terms. Their evolving interaction in this book differs from their interaction in earlier books, as Adam becomes more aggressive in his attempts to gain wisdom from Raphael. Throughout their conversation, the desire for knowledge is expressed through metaphors of hunger, eating, and digestion. Adam’s craving for knowledge begins to surface in this book and foreshadows his potential temptation to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
The Son is given a more significant role in Book VII than he has in previous books, illustrating that he is the instrument through which God acts. Milton actually departs from the Bible in having the Son create the world, as Genesis says nothing about the Son. But according to Christian teaching, God and the Son are manifestations of the same entity. Milton begins with the orthodox Christian premise of a three-part God and then elaborates on the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. By having God send the Son to defeat Satan and create the universe, Milton shows how God and the Son can work separately yet still work as one God. Even though they appear as separate characters, Milton believed that the Son represents the living, active, almost human likeness of God.
Challenge Chapters: Book 8