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Milton's Dichotomy of "Judaism" and "Hebraism"

Samuel S. Stollman
PMLA
Vol. 89, No. 1 (Jan., 1974), pp. 105-112
DOI: 10.2307/461673
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/461673
Page Count: 8
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Milton's Dichotomy of "Judaism" and "Hebraism"
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Abstract

Milton scholars have long been aware of inconsistencies in Milton's views regarding the Old Testament and the Jews. He shows, concurrently, "powerful judaistic motifs" and "anti-judaistic motifs." He advocated liberty of conscience but was silent during the debate on the Readmission of the Jews. Milton's views may have evolved or changed but he was doctrinally consistent. He dichotomized the Old Testament constellation of personae and concepts into "Judaic" motifs which he rejected and "Hebraic" motifs which he adopted. He took Paul's antithesis of the Law (the Flesh) and the Gospel (the Spirit) and applied it within the Hebrew Bible itself. The "Judaic" complex is that which is human, relevant to the Jews as a people inclined to servitude, and the "external" aspect of the Mosaic Law, also a form of bondage. The "Hebraic" complex is divine, universal, and the "internal" Scripture, equated with freedom and. ultimately, Christian Liberty. The "Hebraic" motif supplies a continuity for the Scriptures. The dichotomy accords with Milton's philosophy (Plato's and Aristotle's dualisms) and with his methodology of structural and imagistic contrasts. The dichotomy explains the presence of "judaistic" and "anti-judaistic" motifs as well as his "reluctance" to grant the Jews freedom of worship.

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