Selden and Milton on Gods and Angels
Zephon and Satan
This chapter examines the influence of Selden’s De Diis Syris (1617; rev edn, 1629) and Maimonides’ principle of normative inversion on the catalog of pagan deities in book 1 of Paradise Lost and on the false oracles in the Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity (December 1629). In an act of transumption, Milton daringly invents the angel Zephon as a sacred original, who predates his idolatrous opposite, the Baal-Zephon of Exodus 14:2. Philology and intercultural theology merge in De Diis, where the translatability of biblical names of God hints at a proto-Deist conception of a single divine essence that manifests itself in the totality of revelations granted to humankind. Selden’s lists of ancient gods deriving from a single source attest to his great interest in the nascent field of international law.
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