The heretical eschatology of Paradise Lost has never before been recognized because it deviates from the orthodox position on eternal torment expressed in De Doctrina Christiana. Though masked by a consistent strategy of ambiguity and omission, the apocalyptic passages in the epic suggest the heretical belief in the final dissolution of Satan, of the men and angels he perverted, and of hell itself, as contrasted with the exclusive resurrection of the just to eternal life. Other passages which seem to support a belief in eternal torment are seen to embody two special strategies: the identification of this belief as a Satanic doctrine, or the suggestion of its questionable effectiveness as a deterrent to sin. A study of the Enoch reference (XI, 701–10) reveals scriptural and pseudepigraphal sources of this heresy, but a closer source is the eschatology of the Socinian sect and its Italian Anabaptist antecedents. Milton's knowledge of Socinian works and agreement with other Socinian heresies has long been established. His further agreement with Socinian eschatology in Paradise Lost, though covertly expressed because of the peculiar social dangers thought to attend dissemination of this heresy, had many parallels in Interregnum England, including not only Hobbes, as previously recognized, but also Overton; and it illuminates the ethical contrast between Adam's reverent choice of life and Satan's “heroic” choice of death, an end which informs Milton's critique of conventional heroism.

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