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Quayle: 2021-2022 Exhibit


John Milton’s Influence on Religion, literature, and culture

Literature of Utmost Significance

Many Christians believe that Lucifer became a serpent and tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They believe he did so out of spite and jealousy of no longer being the favored creation of God. In his jealousy, he rebelled against God and the angels enacting a civil war in heaven. A third of angels that sided with him fell from heaven and became demons that would tempt humanity and inflict them with disease. With the exception of minor allusion, none of this is biblical. Most Christians continually believe this narrative because John Milton wrote it. Although these ideas were already popular in Christianity before the 1600s, Milton codified and canonized these ideas with his work. Milton was an interesting figure. He was an advisor and translator to the Cromwell government that was in place after the English Civil War, even writing a tract on freedom of speech. He was well traveled and was inspired by many Christian theologies and traditions, even though he primarily held Puritan sensibilities. And yet, Paradise Lost contains heterodox ideas such as Arianism, the belief that the Son was separate and subordinate to the Father. The text itself, regardless of theological contributions, is considered remarkable. As a result, Milton’s Paradise Lost is arguably the singular most important piece of English literature. More than Pilgrim’s Progress or the works of Shakespeare. To honor Dr. John Forbes, a previous curator of the Quayle Bible Collection, we acquired this significant piece of literature to fill in a much-needed gap to our collection. The 2021-2022 exhibit is in meant to honor Dr. Forbes and this piece of literature that changed Western Christianity.

In addition to the overview provided in each box below, you can use the arrow buttons to view collection items that were part of the exhibit.  If you click on the image or caption title, the image will be enlarged in a new tab with the option to zoom in further.

Milton’s Paradise

First published in 1667, John Milton’s work came at a time of religious division. Catholics, Anglicans, and Puritans debated religious issues, in a post-apocalyptic Britain following the English Civil War. Milton took ideas from his context and synthesized it into the fundamental Christian myth of the fall of Adam and Eve from Paradise at the hands of Lucifer. For many Christians, this event brought sin and death into the world, depicted in Paradise Lost as the children of Lucifer. Milton, like contemporary believers, was focused on the first humans and the proclaimed eschaton, which ultimately connected all of humanity together. Illustrated by John Baptist Medina, the edition in the next slide is 1688 is the first to include images. The following image is from an illustrated Geneva Bible. Given Milton’s Puritan sensibilities, he would have been well aware of the messages found in this type of Bible, such as the poem illustrated on the front. The Geneva Bible contained numerous explanations, with Genesis containing several attesting to the fall being a central part of Puritan belief.

title page

Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books, John Milton. London: Miles Flesher, 1688.

This copy of Paradise Lost was purchased in honor of Dr. John Forbes. Given that it is such a significant work to English Christianity and the Quayle did not own a copy prior, we felt it was an appropriate dedication. Paradise Lost with its focus on the fall of Adam and Eve opens with the lines:

Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe
With loss of Eden till one greater Man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat

geneva bible

[Bible] The Bible and Holy Scriptures Conteyned in the Olde and Newe Testament, Geneva. London : Deputies of Christopher Barker, 1592.

Although Milton’s Bible of choice was the King James, The Geneva Bible on the right contains a poem around the tree that seems to echo these opening lines.

The Bibles of Milton

Although Milton knew and used several Bible translations, including the Geneva, there were two Bible’s that he used more than any other. Like any good translator, Milton believed the best translation of the Bible was his own. He was well versed in Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. However, he preferred to use the Greek and Latin of the Bible found on the left. He used Theodore Beze’s Greek, but more often he used his English translation of the Latin of Immanuel Tremelius. Outside of using Tremelius, the most common book that he quoted was the King James Bible. Roughly 80% of all English translations came from the KJV. After Milton goes blind, almost all of his Bible references are from the KJV.

King James translation

[Bible] KJV. London : Evan Tyler, 1654.

Milton used the King James translation more than any other translation.

Tremelius Bible

[Bible] Biblia Sacra, tr by Tremelius & Junius, and Theodore de Beze. London : Evan Tyler & Anne Maxey, 1656.

This Tremelius Bible, previously owned by poet Robert Browning, was a favorite translation for Milton because Tremelius translated from the Hebrew. Tremelius was a Jewish convert to Calvinist Christianity.

King James Bible

[Bible] The Holy Bible conteyning the Old Testament and the New, King James Version. London : Robert Barker, 1611.

Although Milton himself held Calvinist-Puritan beliefs, he preferred the King James over the Geneva Bible.

Influence on Milton

There are several influences on Milton’s life. Living a hundred years after the Protestant Reformation, many of the after effects are felt on Milton as a “Renaissance Man.” Milton was heavily influenced by English Calvinism, not only found in his theology but also his sensibilities towards Humanism. Milton aligned well with Calvin’s ideas of Predestination and Grace; however, through his travels, he absorbed much of European thought. While Calvin would disagree with including Greek myth, Arianism, and Catholicism, Milton combined all. After finishing university Milton took a “grand tour” and traveled throughout France and Italy, meeting scholars along the way including Galileo. One of Milton’s biggest influences was Dante’s Divine Comedy. During his travels to Florence he visited the birth place of Dante. In reality, Milton was no theologian, and many of his beliefs would have been heretical, but it required his love of Calvinistic Humanism and his travels to bring together the thought that created Paradise Lost.

Two and Twentie Sermons of Maister John Calvin

Two and Twentie Sermons of Maister John Calvin, tr. by Thomas Stocker. London : Thomas Dawson (for John Harison and Thomas Man), 1580.

This book is Calvin’s sermons on Psalms. As said before, Milton was heavily influenced by Calvinism as was other British Christians, evident in the translation of this text into English.


Selections of Paradise Lost, ed. by Albert Perry Walker. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath & Co., 1897.

The text above was owned by Baker University alum (1917) and German lecturer Clara Alice Beach. The maps show places described in Paradise Lost some of which Milton visited on his “grand tour.”

Dante’s Inferno

Dante’s Inferno, Dante Aligheri, tr. by Rev. Henry Francis Cary, illustrations by Gustave Doré. New York: Cassell & Co, 1885.

The text above is Dante’s Inferno, which holds a similar place in Christianity, with its non-biblical descriptions of Hell, as Paradise Lost.

Cromwell’s Republic

One of the biggest influences on John Milton was Oliver Cromwell. Milton believed in the concept of freedom and the republic. He was appointed by Cromwell as the “Secretary of Foreign Tongues,” where he composed defenses of the Commonwealth in Latin, some of which involved defending Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth from 1653 to 1658. In that time, Milton praised Cromwell for his revolutionary ideas, although Cromwell would backslide from them. Cromwell was influenced by radical Puritanism shown through ideas of freedom and democratic government, including democratic ecclesiastical structures. As a result, Cromwell believed Catholic and Anglican “high church” was not scriptural and went against his Puritan notion of the primacy of the Bible. On the next slide, is the London Polyglot, a text originally dedicated to Cromwell when it was published. It contained texts in several languages, most of which Milton could read. On the following slide is a Cromwell Pocket Souldier’s Bible. Cromwell’s soldiers were supposed to carry this text over their heart, sing Psalms, and pray before battle. On the third slide is the Book of Common Prayer. Since this was a text that dictated the role of priests in Anglicanism, Cromwell banned it during his reign. Lastly, below is a copy of Bishop Quayle’s Poet’s Poet. In one of the chapters the Bishop discusses the greatness of “King Cromwell.” He looked up to Cromwell as someone who advocated for freedom, democracy, and the Bible.

London Polyglot

[Bible] Biblia Sacra, polyglot, ed by Brian Walton . London : Thomas Roycroft, 1657.

Oliver Cromwell pushed for a Puritan/Republican view of both religion and society. Each person should be able to interpret the text in their own right. As a result, the London Polyglot (above) was originally dedicated to him, but later dedicated to Charles II.

Book of Common Prayer

[Liturgy] Book of Common Prayer. London : Robert Barker, 1631.

Cromwell banned the Book of Common Prayer, such as the one on the above.

The Poet’s Poet

The Poet’s Poet and Other Essays, William A. Quayle. Cincinnati: Curtis & Jennings, 1897.

These ideas were very influential on Milton, as well as Bishop Quayle who wrote about him in The Poet’s Poet.

Cromwell’s Soldier’s Bible

[Bible] Soldier’s Pocket Bible. NY : American Tract Society, nd.

The small soldier’s Bible seen above was a reprint from Cromwell’s Soldier’s Bible. Like the apocalyptic English Civil War, this one was carried by a soldier in the American Civil War.

Satan in the Old Testament

The Hebrew word satan occurs over 27 times in the Old Testament; however, it is not translated into English as “Satan” all of those times. In fact, a few occurrences appear where the angel of the Lord refers to God using the term, such as Numbers 22. The meaning of the word here seems to refer to “accuser” or even “obstruction.” In the most familiar appearance of Satan in the Hebrew text is in the book of Job. What is odd about that appearance is that the word contains the definite article “the” and should translate as “the satan” instead of Satan (the Hebrew is ha-satan). This gives the appearance of a job title that an angel holds in the heavenly court. What is even more confusing is that we do not know when and how this evolution occurs. What is even more influential to Milton is where Satan does not appear, but has classically been read into the gaps. Depicted in the next slide is Adam and Eve talking to the serpent, which has a human head alluding to the fact that this is Satan. The word satan never appears in Genesis. On the following slide, we have Isaiah 14:12, containing the word Lucifer in most English translations. However, the word Lucifer is Latin and does not appear in the Hebrew. Instead, the word is Morningstar. Some attribute this to a different mythic reference, where the translators of the Vulgate took this to mean the brightest angel who fell from the heavens.

Die Gantze Bibel

[Bible] Die Gantze Bibel, tr by Leo Jud. Zurich : Christoph Froschauer, 1551.

The Bible above shows one of many depictions of the serpent of Eden with a human head. This can be interpreted that the snake had a human head, which is why it could talk. But more often than not, this was interpreted as being Satan even though the text never says so. Other depictions often have arms and legs, and sometimes the snake is depicted as a woman.

The Whole Byble, tr by Myles Coverdale

[Bible] The Whole Byble, tr by Myles Coverdale. [Zurich] : [Christopher Froschover], 1550.

The translation of Morningstar to Lucifer above, is commonly found in English Bibles in Milton’s time period; however, it first appeared in the Latin Vulgate given the fact the word does not exist in Hebrew.

The Devil in the New Testament

The New Testament was written in Greek so the word satan had to be translated as well. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) used the term diάbolos, or “devil” in English, and the New Testament kept the tradition. The word itself can mean “accuser” but also could be translated “to throw.” While the Old Testament has an ambiguous nature to the word, it seems in the New Testament the figure was a very specific person. The more famous area where this figure appears is the temptation of Jesus, as seen on the next slide. Unlike many aspects of Jesus’ life, this scene is detailed in every Gospel. The other major area where the Devil appears is the Apocalypse of John, also known as the book of Revelation. In this iteration, the Devil appears as a great dragon who is bringing destruction to the world. Unlike other ambiguous metaphoric images and beasts in the Apocalypse, the dragon is named as the Devil. In Revelation 12, we get the appearance of the war in heaven. These images set up the basis for Paradise Lost that the Devil fought the angels but also is enemy of Christ. We see how the tradition of translation influenced the idea of a multiplicity of names for the figure. Hebrew gives us Satan; Greek gives us Devil; and Latin gives us Lucifer. All are synthesized into the main character of Paradise Lost.

L’Ancien et le Nouveau Testament

[Bible] L’Ancien et le Nouveau Testament. Paris : Theodore De Hansy, Claude Herissant, Guillaume Desprez, 1756.

Most of the Bibles in the exhibit are from times just before Milton or just after. The text above is a reprinting of images of various artists, some of which came from Milton’s time, although the text was not published until 1796. Interestingly enough, while the idea of the Devil tempting Jesus is famous, the scene itself is not widely depicted.

History of the Bible

[Bible] History of the Bible, by Nicholas Fontaine, tr by John Coughan. London : Samuel Roycroft for Richard Blome, 1688.

The text above was published at the same time as the 1688 edition of Paradise Lost earlier in the exhibit. Although the engravings were from different artists, the style is strikingly similar.

Artists of Paradise: Blake

There were several artists known for depicting Paradise Lost. The following three are the most famous. This box deals with William Blake who was a British poet, artist, engraver, and printmaker who lived from 1757-1827. Many of his works involved biblical themes such as evil in the world, the devil, and oddities found in the biblical text. His depictions of the book of Job (as seen on the next slide) are famous for the depiction of Satan but also for depictions of Leviathan and Behemoth, which drew inspiration from Albrecht Dürer. Blake was especially inspired by Milton and Paradise Lost considering it dealt with themes such as the fall of Adam and Eve and the role of Satan in the Bible. He felt that many of the illustrations of previous artists had failed. Blake created 12 images, one for each book, that encapsulated what he felt was the purpose of each text.

Illustrations of the Book of Job

Illustrations of the Book of Job. 1825. William Blake, London: 1825.

William Blake was a poet and an artist, but in many ways, he was also an inventor and a master engraver. He invented and experimented with engraving styles. He often used intaglio, which was the process of incising an image on a copper plate, but he also used a method that he called stereotype. He was draw an image using an acid resistant substance and then pour acid on the plate, creating a relief. Many of his works seen here, used that topic. Pouring acid as a method of art almost seems fitting considering his works usually dealt with evil, darkness, and Satan. Above is his illustrations from Job of Satan killing Job’s children.

Twenty-seven drawings, by William Blake

Twenty-seven drawings, by William Blake. McPherson, KS : Carl J Smalley, 1925.

The image above is a facsimile from Blake’s works on Milton.

Artists of Paradise: Fuseli

One predecessor that Blake felt needed improvement was Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), who was a contemporary and major influence on Blake. Fuseli was a Swiss artist who lived much of his life in Britain. Like Blake, a large part of his work dealt with biblical themes and focused on the supernatural. Fuseli was interested in dark elements and evil, which drew him to doing several pieces on Milton and Paradise Lost, including the depiction of Milton dictating to his daughter later in this online exhibit. The following drawings show a few of his works found in his Bible illustrations.

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Henry Fuseli Illustration

Artists of Paradise: Doré

The final artist is perhaps the more famous for drawing Milton’s work. Gustave Doré was a French artist, engraver, and comic illustrator living from 1832-1883. His engraving work in comics eventually led him to illustrating several major works of literature such as the works of Dante, Cervantes, and Byron. The exhibit as a whole contains his illustrations of Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno, and the Bible. By the late 1800s, most illustrated Bibles contained images produced by him. Most of Doré’s engravings contain elements of light piercing through resounding darkness, a trope that can be seen again and again in his illustrations of Paradise Lost or the Bible. Although the 1688 edition of Paradise Lost is the first to contain images, it is Doré’s 1866 publication that has the most influential images, which continually live on even in contemporary popular culture.

Paradise Lost, John Milton, Illustrations by Gustave Doré

Paradise Lost, John Milton, Illustrations by Gustave Doré. New York: Pollard and Moss, 1885.

Unlike Blake who primarily engraved on metal, Gustave Doré used woodcuts and wood engravings for his artworks. The image above from his illustrations of Paradise Lost is the famous scene where Satan surveys God’s creation. This image is often reduplicated in popular culture.

The Doré Bible Gallery

The Doré Bible Gallery, illustrated by Gustave Doré. Philadelphia : Henry Altemus, 1890.

The image above is from Doré’s biblical illustrations. One thing to note in both is the use of light, which often represents holiness and God’s light.

The Influence of Milton

Paradise Lost was immensely influential on writers and thinkers of the Enlightenment and Modern period of the 1700 and 1800s. Many authors alluded to the work or directly cited it. Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley not only depicts a hellish scene of workers during the Napoleonic wars of Europe, but the main protagonist of the story describes what Milton gets wrong in his portrayal of Eve. Having a reverend for a father, all of the Brontë sisters were well versed in the works of John Milton. Melville’s Moby Dick needs no description. His depiction of Ahab as flawed, anti-hero easily draws comparisons with Lucifer. George Eliot’s Middlemarch contains a direct comparison with its character Casaubon and Milton himself. Lastly, even the scientific realm was influenced by Milton as seen through the works of Charles Darwin. Not only did Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus own copies of Fuseli’s works on Milton, but Darwin himself took a copy of Paradise Lost with him on his voyages on the HMS Beagle. In fact, it was the only book he brought with him. Scholars frequently point to the theological language that he uses to describe his observations of the Eden-like Galapagos. It is hard to distinguish what of this is biblical and what is Milton.


Shirley, Charlotte Brontë. London: The Folio Society, 2004.

The text above is Shirley by Charlotte Brontë, whose reverend father made her read Milton at an early age.

Moby Dick

Moby Dick or The Whale, Herman Melville. London: The Folio Society, 1974.

Above is Melville’s Moby Dick, which is full of biblical and literary allusion.

On the Origin of Species

On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin. London: The Folio Society, 2006.

Above is On the Origin of Species by Darwin, who loved Paradise Lost and used it for inspiration.


Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, George Eliot London: The Folio Society, 1999.

Above is Middlemarch by George Eliot who takes exception to Milton’s depiction of Eve. All of the beautiful editions shown in this box were donated to the Collins Library by Jerome Brown and are normally available for check-out.

The Outcast and Anti-Hero

Like the previous case, the influence of Milton can be found throughout literature to modern comic books. One common trope found again and again is the association with Lucifer as the anti-hero. Frankenstein’s monster alludes to this in Shelley’s Frankenstein and states that he should have been considered like Adam, but instead was cast aside like Lucifer in Paradise Lost. In his autobiography, Malcolm X tells how he read Milton and alludes to the devil being cast out, only to use white society to try to regain his footing. In the popular medium of comic books, Milton’s influence is seen throughout. Whether it is an obsession with the anti-hero such as Hellboy or Thanos or the many “devils” that grace comic books, such as Marvel’s Mephisto, Milton’s depiction of Lucifer is retold throughout comic books. In the 1980s, British writers, such as Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, began to put more magic, occult, supernatural, and religious themes into works. Gaiman introduced his take on Milton’s Lucifer in the Sandman series. Lucifer would get a series of his own, written by Mike Carey, which would be adapted into a television show. While some of these influences are blatant, many go unnoticed by the reader. Regardless, it is evident that Milton’s influence lives on in contemporary pop culture.

For Further Reading

Special Thanks

Special thanks to those who contributed to the production of this exhibit including:

Jamie Pellikaan, Baker Alum ‘21

Dr. Lucy Price, Baker Emeritus Faculty

Dr. Lori Anne Ferrell, Claremont Graduate University