Why does Raphael metamorphose in his descent to Eden, and why does Milton initially disguise the metamorphosis as a simile? Though the episode is traditionally considered more Virgilian than Homeric, it is its Homeric dimension that answers these questions. Milton intervenes, I suggest, in the ancient debate on whether Hermes transforms into or merely descends like a gull. But by suggesting and then correcting the simile-reading, Milton also instructs his readers not to read the Bible's metamorphoses like Calvin, whose hermeneutics often resemble those of pagan grammarians, particularly those who read Hermes's likeness to the bird figuratively. By exploring the debates on two descents, that of Hermes and that of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels, I demonstrate how Milton employs Homeric imitation to contest Calvin's theory of accommodation and to present history as more marvelous than myth.

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