Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

English

Supervisor

Dr. John Leonard

Abstract

Challenging consensus, I argue that John Milton never adhered to the politico-religious ideology of millenarianism, the belief that in the end times Christ would descend to rule the world with his saints for a thousand years. No definitive evidence for millenarianism exists in Milton’s English poetry and prose. Milton explicitly mentions the millennium only in De Doctrina Christiana, his Latin theological treatise. However, my research has demonstrated that even that brief reference is tentative and inconclusive. Consequently, the Oxford editors of De Doctrina (2012) have decided to revise a crucial sentence in their translation. I reveal the persistence of distortive, ideologically driven political criticism in Milton studies and help demonstrate Milton’s epistemological flexibility.

Throughout his career Milton focuses his eschatology not on Christ’s millennial kingdom, but on the final eternal kingdom of the renewed heaven and earth, wherein divine immanence is fully realized. Milton cares not for any earthly, fleshly, and coercive kingdom, future or past, even one personally ruled by Christ, but, rather, for the already existing, purely spiritual kingdom of Christ, through which union with God is imperfectly, but sufficiently and presently, attainable. As Paradise Lost demonstrates, the Son’s kingdom already began at the beginning of time and that beginning is eternally recurring. Moreover, we should take the title of Paradise Regained at face value. Paradise, the “paradise within” (PL 12.587), has, in fact, been regained. The Son’s kingdom has begun again and, like all previous recurrent beginnings, the faithful may already enjoy oneness with God.


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