A Jewish Reading of Milton Essay

3143 Words 13 Pages
A Jewish Reading of Milton

John Milton produced some of the most memorable Christian texts in English literature. Central pieces of Milton’s work, including Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes, specifically allude to stories that Judaism and Christianity hold in common. Historically, the anti-monarchical regime Milton supported, under the leadership of Cromwell, informally allowed Jews back into England in 1655 after Edward I exiled them in 1290 (Trepp 151). Additionally, seventeenth-century British Christians looked increasingly to Jewish texts to understand their own religion (e.g. Robert Ainsworth and John Seldon), with Hebraic studies from German scholarship and Latin translations of Jewish texts entering during the
…show more content…
Werman concludes from various linguistic inaccuracies in Milton’s work that he used the Greek or newly available Latin translations of all Jewish sources except actual Hebrew Scripture and its Targum, the Aramaic translation (Werman 30-33). While she concurs with Rosenblatt that halakhic (legal) information came from fellow Christian Hebraist John Selden, she argues that Milton received aggadic midrash (non-legal commentary and extra-biblical legends) from Jewish authors (6). Werman also marshals considerable evidence of Milton’s sharp selectivity with sources. He preferred Josephus and Philo while dismissing Talmudic midrashim as Pharisaic fables (38-39). Werman even claims that Milton’s acceptance of a particular commentary depended less on its content and more on the source from which it came, citing examples of Talmudic midrash that Milton accepted because they were explained in Josephus (39). My topic primarily concerns Milton’s incorporation of Jewish subject matter into his own work, not with the linguistic or physical availability of Hebrew/Aramaic texts, and since Milton’s secondary sources usually provide reliable information, I do not address the source debate unless problems do arise.

Before exploring Milton’s respect for Jewish commentary, however, readers should also appreciate the limits of this respect within its religious contexts. Some Miltonic agreement with Judaism

More about A Jewish Reading of Milton Essay

Open Document