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Christian Religion Theme in “Paradise Lost” by John Milton Essay

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Updated: Mar 12th, 2020


John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost is one of the most read epic poems in history (Kean 34). The poem is religious and focuses on the relationship between man and God. To be specific, the poem sheds light on how man’s fate was decided at the Garden of Eden. Precisely, this poem is a Christian poem that seeks to justify the actions of God, which may be unclear to man.

The poem has thousands of lines in the poem’s verses. The poem has been written in over twelve books, not mentioning the original ten book version that was initially written. The review of Book 1 of the poem will highlight the age of the poem. Moreover, the review will provide information about the poet and a thesis statement. A substantive summary of the book will be done with a conclusion.

Age of the poem

This poem was published in the year 1667, but was first initialized by the poet in the 17th century (Lewalski 686). This was the first edition of the poem, which consisted of ten books. Later, the poem was redone as a second edition in the year 1674 and consisted of twelve books.

An in-depth analysis of the book reveals that the poem is ancient and was done, when the need to emphasis the validity of the Christian faith was questionable. This can be justified by the poem’s insistence in illuminating the Christian faith from a traditional point of view, particularly by focusing on God, Satan, first creations and man.

The poet

John Milton is a renowned poet, who is sometimes regarded as a polemicist. The poet was born on 9th December 1608 (Milton XI) and has written several religious and political materials in his career. Born in London, the young Milton oversaw a shift of his religious views after being abandoned by his father. This was because, the young Milton who was brought up as a staunch Catholic converted to Protestantism.

However, Milton started to write poetry in the 1630s, while undergoing his studies. Much of Milton’s poetry can be traced in the various literary materials that focus on Christian religion and politics (XIV). Until his death on 8th November 1674, the English author was known of his contribution to British partisanship, which is still a contentious issue in modern Britain.

The poetic style known as the Miltonic blank verse style is named after John Milton’s poetic style, which is still relevant in both epic poetry and contemporary poetry.

Thesis statement

The poem Paradise Lost is an epic encounter that illuminates the significance of the disobedience of man to God. The poem’s emphasis on God, Satan, angels, and other godly creatures is of importance for man to understand God’s actions. The poem validates Christianity and offers relevance to the Christian religion.

Book Summary

As indicated earlier, the poem is an epic encounter of the Christian faith. The poem trends along with the story of the fall of man as a creature endowed with free will, but weak in faith. This is evidenced in the poem’s first lines, which introduce the subject of the poem. The first lines of the poem indicate the disobedience of man, the cause of the disobedience, the consequence and man’s redemption.

“Of man 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 restore us….” (Milton 1-5).

The mentioning of the muses in the sixth line of the first verse is an indication that the fall of man may have been pre-planned for a greater significance in the future. A focus on the mentioning of the muses would reveal that Milton is referring to the Holy Spirit.

“Sing heavenly muse/ that on the secret top of Oreb/ or Sinai, didst inspire” (Milton 6-7)

The poet also mentions the aspects that define man’s failure in the presence of God. For example, the poet asserts his presence to hell with Satan. He refers to hell as a burning inferno, where there is chaos in the middle of nowhere. It is in the first book of the poem that the poet introduces the universe structure.

In this regard, the universe is created by God and consists of the earth, the stars, and other planets. The poet implies that the earth is beautiful to the extent that Satan is amazed by such creation, once he falls from heaven.

From the poem’s first book, the reader is introduced to the poem’s characters. Some of these characters are deeply mentioned in Holy Scriptures. An example of such is the mention of angels, archangels and Satan. It seems that the fall of man started from heavenly wrangles between God and Satan. This is attested by the poet who describes Satan as bewildered, once he is thrown out of heave and notices Beelzebub.

Together and some other angels, Satan also recounts on how they should attack God after losing in their first ordeal. In this occurrence, the disobedience of man to God is premeditated, once Satan and his counterparts want to revenge against God through man.

The poet description of Satan is that of a powerful evil that still posses some of the angelic features, such as feathers and monstrous physique. At one point, the poet describes and compares Satan’s shield to a big moon and his pear to a huge mast of a big ship. The rise and reign of evil begin at this moment when Satan summons his fellow fallen angels and counterparts and organizes them into various responsibilities.

The mentioning of the pagan deities in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament is likened by the poet to the leaders of the organized satanic angels. Such deities can be likened to the idol worshipping by the Israelites as numerously mentioned in the Old Testament.

Some of the pagan deities mentioned by Milton include the Chemos worshipped as a non-Hebrew god, soon after the Israelites came from Egypt. Another deity was Moloch popular in Syria and Jordan. Another deity was the Ashtoreth worshipped by the Phoenicians. Milton mentions a lot of deities that were part of the fallen angels.

As mentioned earlier, the fall of man may have been premeditated. However, such would not come easy considering that God had already created man. By using fraud, man could be used as the means to an end. The poet tries to show how Satan and his legions still deceive man through the greed of the material wealth.

From another perspective, the poem Paradise Lost is initialized by a focus on the beginning of the world, which was intended to be a paradise. God intention was to make the earth a paradise for his creations. However, such was lost along the way after the fall of Satan from heaven. Nonetheless, the poet tries to be truthful by using the Holy Spirit to imply his allegations as truthful.

The Holy Spirit is described as the muse, which is intended to keep the information truthful. This is revealed by Milton’s mentioning of the fallen angels by their names. This is an exemplary way of ensuring that his poem does not pass as a myth like any other epic poem with a Greek or Latin origin.

While Greek and Latin mythology focuses on heroic figures like Achilles, Milton’s story of the Paradise Lost is a journey for all mankind. Milton’s epic story is about the good against the evil, which is the most horrific battle that continues to date.

The large part of book 1 of the Paradise Lost poem is a description of the satanic character. The poet tries to explain the struggles of Satan and the eventful deception of man by Satan. At this juncture, the reader may be swayed to think that Satan is the hero of the story or the protagonist of the story. Satan whispers into the year of Eve and deceives her into eating the forbidden fruit.

The success of Satan’s deception may be likened to a character of a protagonist. Most protagonists struggle and emerge successful in their ambitions. The introduction of Adam and Eve in the story does not shift this perception that Satan might be powerful than man. This is evidenced when Satan is described not to have wavered in his evil quest. In fact, he takes pride and delight in evil rather than good.

“Falling Cherub, to be weak is miserable

Doing or suffering, but of this be sure

To do ought good never will be our task

But ever to do ill our delight…” (Milton 157- 160).

Satan becomes more optimistic of his plans, and at one point he envisions himself becoming the king in hell. Satan is powerful to understand the power of the mind. He knows that the mind can be corrupted to make a heaven out of hell or vice versa.

Nonetheless, Satan powers are unmatched to that of God. God demonstrates his immense great powers by lifting up the fallen angles from the burning inferno and unites them with Satan. God must have had a greater plan than Satan.

Perhaps, God had premeditated the fall of man and wanted to demonstrate his powers to redeem man from Satan’s evil plans. This can be evidenced by God choosing his son Jesus Christ to save man by grace. However, Satan does not seem to understand this plan and continues with his pride and thinks his intellects matches that of God.

Ironically, the poet description of Satan has certain shortcomings. The initial intent of the poet was to describe a powerful satanic force. The poet does so by using similes of the burning lake, the pandemonium, the big mast, and a hill.

“Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge/ as whom the fables name of monstrous size…” (Milton 196-197).

Such use of similes indicates that the size of Satan is relative. This description makes the reader to believe that Satan may not be that powerful, big or mysterious.

The book 1 of the poem Paradise Lost portrays Satan as a loser who was incapable of killing even a single angel in their initial heavenly battle. The poem also portrays Satan as a hero of destruction and only excels in acts that bring forth war and atrocities. In this context, mankind is advised against gong into war with Satan without God’s help.

The poet leads the readers to question their admiration of martial strength and the character of heroes who exist in literature. In so doing, the reader is prompted into understanding the virtues of the Christian faith. These Christian virtues entail being obedient, humble and patient in persevering temptations.

It is important to acknowledge that Milton’s description of Satan is not to provoke admiration from the reader. Milton does not expect empathy from the reader.

However, the poet wants the reader to notice the irony that surrounds Satan success. In fact, the poet wants the reader to understand that Satan only succeeds because God wants him to, but just for a while. It seems that Satan efforts and actions are also premeditated by another superior power, which is God.

The poet through symbolism creates the city of hell known as pandemonium, which Satan wants to perfect as hell’s capital. The city, which is made of gold, represents the worldly desires harbored by man. Nonetheless, the city is later revealed to be a sinful place that is full of confusion and disorder. This is a perfect representation of illusions of both Satan and man.


Three main themes are traceable in book 1 of the poem. The first theme is the significance of obedience to God in the Christian faith. The first book of the poem describes the disobedience of man as a succession of Satan’s rebellion against God. At one point, man is warned by angel Raphael that Satan is a threat to mankind. This depicts that obedience is a moral principle that depends on free will for its execution.

When free will is unable to counter against disobedience, mankind is doomed to continue into sin and moral degradation. The significance of disobedience to God has its own significance, since through repentance man is forgiven by God. The lack of acknowledgment of sin and repentance leads to eternal condemnation by God. To date, the significance of seeking forgiveness from God and repentance is a fundamental principle in the Christian faith.

The second theme depicted in the poem is the structure and nature of the universe. The poet gives a layout of the universe in his poem by depicting how God is positioned above all other things. In this context, heaven, hell, and earth are given various proximities in the universe. In this universal hierarchy, the poet positions various creations about God’s proximity. With each level of proximity, certain aspects of power are given to the same creations.

Above all, God is the Supreme Being of all and the creator of all other beings positioned in the universal hierarchy. God’s son Jesus Christ is amongst the top in the hierarchical commands, followed by angels and then a man and ultimately animals.

The positioning of Jesus Christ as superior to all angels prompted the rebellion of Satan and other fallen angels. In this respect, it is important to note that man can only remain obedient by respecting this hierarchy. To this very day, the Christians give allegiance to the Son Jesus Christ in respect to being obedient to God.

The final theme depicts disobedience to God as partly fortunate. After the revelation of the savior of humankind, Adam is happy and sees man’s fault as a means to a happy ending. Through the fault of man, God can show his mighty power in redeeming the sinner.

Moreover, his love is depicted to be forever unending. Such Christian values are the foundation of the Christian faith that salvation comes from the Son of God. Basically, the fall of man is a plan of God to reveal his powers and love for mankind.

Works Cited

Kean, Margaret. John Milton’s paradise lost: A sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Lewalski, K. Barbara. The life of John Milton: A critical biography. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost, Books 1 and 2. California: CUP Archive, 1958. Print.

Milton, John. Paradise lost: A poem, in twelve books. The author John Milton. Oxford: Oxford University, 1746, p. 1-798. Print.

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