Paradise Regained is the sequel to Paradise Lost by John Milton published in 1671. Composed of only 4 books, it is a much shorter work than Paradise Lost and considered to be of much lesser value.
Even so, it offers valuable insights into the temptation of Christ and helps to give us answers to the enticements still offered by the world today. Pope Benedict XVI writes about Christ’s temptation in the wilderness in his book Jesus of Nazareth. His meditations are surprisingly similar to Milton’s story and the same can be said of writings by Bishop Fulton Sheen.
This is a collection of some of the best lines and arguments from Paradise Regained. It is the story of the man who undid the work of Satan, not with destruction and violence, but with obedience.
Men generally think me much a foe,
To all mankind. Why should I? By them
I lost not what I lost; rather
by them I gained what I gained,
Satan has been wandering the earth since the fall of man. He happens to be near the Jordan when he witnesses the baptism of Jesus and hears the Father’s proclamation that this is the Son of Man. Upon hearing this he decides to watch Jesus and eventually follows him into the desert where he confronts him. This is not The Temptation, but rather introductory banter between Christ and Satan with the promise of something greater to come. Satan begins by trying to convince Jesus that he is a friend and that his bad reputation is undeserved.
It is no surprise that Satan uses this approach with Jesus. After all, who, after being presented with the facts, wants to appear unreasonable? We use this approach every time we sin. Once there is a good argument for committing a sin it doesn’t even feel like a sin anymore. Satan’s argument that he is a friend of man because man gave him his power is a good one. But Jesus sees through it immediately and rebukes him as the father of lies. Satan is never grateful and his destructive purpose is never complete.
This wounds me most (what can it less?) that Man,
Man fallen, shall be restored, I never more.
Satan continues his speech to Jesus advancing the argument that he is not the enemy of man. He answers the possible objection that perhaps he is envious of man by saying he has learned over time that both angels and men have fallen, but fellowship in pain does nothing to ease the torment. Satan’s fall is total and eternal and he has nothing to gain by harming man.
Beware of the man who tells you he’s harmless. If Satan can convince you that he’s harmless or that he doesn’t exist then you will undoubtedly let your guard down. You will not fortify yourself against a threat you can’t perceive.
… I summon all
Rather to be in readiness with hand
Or counsel to assist, lest I, who erst
Thought none my equal, now be overmatched.
After the brief banter between Satan and Jesus, Satan returns to Hell to take counsel with the demons. His first impression of Christ has him worried. He is concerned that the joy of success over his victory in Eden might cause him to underestimate this new man who has been adorned with gifts from Heaven.
Satan is willing to do whatever he has to in order to obtain his goal of destroying man. He will even humble himself before the other demons if it means finding a more effective way to achieve his plan. We have to be equally diligent to fight him. If we become complacent and think we know what form a temptation will take, then we are at a disadvantage. Satan is careful not to underestimate Jesus and we have to be just as careful not to underestimate Satan.
Nature ashamed, or, better to express,
Troubled, that thou shouldst hunger,..
Jesus has spent forty days fasting in the wilderness when Satan confronts him with the three temptations. The first temptation is to satiate His hunger by turning rocks into bread. Satan argues that nature itself is troubled that Christ, who has a right to all created things, is going hungry. The food Satan offers is not unclean and has not been offered to idols. In refusing to eat, Jesus is refusing nature’s honor that is due to Him.
It is interesting to note that Jesus was only tempted after his forty days in the wilderness. Satan comes at a time when most people would probably be feeling a sense of pride at having completed such a rigorous fast. He arrives with an offer at the time when Jesus could have eaten bread anyway; a time he could have said, “I’ve earned it”. People often give up “guilty pleasures” for Lent without the intention of keeping the fast any longer than necessary. How often then does Easter become the day to fall back into the sins that plagued a person before Lent began? Is this really appropriate on Easer? Satan doesn’t care how faithful the fast was kept if he can undo do it as soon as its been completed.