The Theology of “Paradise Lost” -- By: Earle E. Cairns

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 106:421 (Jan 1949)
Article: The Theology of “Paradise Lost”
Author: Earle E. Cairns

The Theology of “Paradise Lost”

Earle E. Cairns

(Continued from the October-December Number, 1948)

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 30–61, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–32 respectively.}

Any consideration of Milton’s theology in his great poem must take into account his doctrine of angels both good and bad. All good and bad angels, including Satan, were created by Christ before the creation of man to form an ordered hierarchy of celestial servants.

Such I created all the ethereal powers
And spirits, both them who stood and them who fail’d:
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell. 3:100–103

Thyself, though great and glorious, dost thou count,
Or all angelic nature join’d in one,
Equal to him, Begotten Son? by whom,
As by his word, the mighty Father made
All things, even thee; and all the spirits of heaven
By him created in their bright degrees. 5:833–38

In the Christian Doctrine he also suggests that these spirits or angels are indestructible: “…If all things are not only from God, but of God, no created thing can be finally annihilated.”1 The function of the good angels is to act as messengers of God and to be guardians of mankind. Milton believes that spirits were all about us and each had one who acted as his guardian angel.2 This is emphasized in the lines—

Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard angelic placed. 8:558–59

To tempt or punish mortals, except whom
God and good angels guard by special grace. 2:1032–33

Some of the good angels are named and have special duties assigned to them. Michael was leader of the armies of God, and led them against Satan and his rebels when they turned against God in heaven. He was also sent to Adam after the fall to send him from the garden and to tell him of the future of man.3 Uriel was appointed to be regent of the sun. From Uriel’s encounter with Satan it appears that Milton felt that the hypocrisy of evil angels could deceive the good angels.4 Gabriel with his subordinates, Uzziel, Ithuriel and Zephor, are to guard the garden to protect Adam and Eve from Satan and after the fall to prevent them from returning to the garden.5 Raphael is sent to warn Adam of the danger of the fall and to strengthen him against...

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