Question: "Is 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton biblical?"
Answer: “Paradise Lost” is an epic poem in 12 books based on the biblical story of Satan's fall from heaven, and Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. Milton's strong Puritan faith is evident in all his work and comes to its greatest height in the epic poems. The opening lines of “Paradise Lost” give the “argument” for the piece in which he invokes the heavenly muse to help him write:
"Of Man's first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man (Christ),
Restore us and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, O heavenly Muse…”
Like John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Milton “fills in” details of what may have taken place between God and Satan, Satan and Adam and Eve, Satan and his demons, etc., using imaginative poetic license and lyrical expression. Nothing in “Paradise Lost” directly contradicts the Bible. But, Milton's poetic license should not be understood as biblical fact. Perhaps the most famous line from the poem is Satan’s rebellious declaration, “Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.” So often has that line been repeated that it is often mistaken for a quote from the Bible.
It should be noted that Milton’s poetry can be difficult for the modern reader, what with the rhythms and idioms of 17th century English, as well as his many allusions to Greek mythology and Renaissance Italian, Latin, French, and English writers, many of whom are unfamiliar to the modern reader. But from a theological, as well as literary, standpoint, his work is first-rate. Amazingly, Milton wrote both poems while completely blind, having to dictate them to his secretary.
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