(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Paradise Regained is poet John Milton’s sequel to his great epic poem Paradise Lost (1667, 1674), in which he began his history of sin and redemption by telling the story of the fallen angel Lucifer (Satan) and the loss of innocence through Adam and Eve’s original sin and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Whereas Paradise Lost consisted of ten books (twelve in its 1674 revised version) of blank verse, Paradise Regained consists of only four. In the poem’s induction, Milton announces that he will complete the history of sin and redemption begun with Paradise Lost. Thus, Paradise Regained retells Luke’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert by Satan.

Milton begins his story with Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. At this event, a voice from Heaven announces that Jesus is the Son of God, a term whose meaning is crucial to the story as Jesus grows in knowledge of himself and his role as the Messiah. Jesus, returning to his mother Mary’s house, hears from Mary the story of his miraculous birth, announced by the angel Gabriel. Jesus then wanders in the desert for forty days and nights as he ponders how to begin his mission.

Meanwhile, Satan has observed Christ’s baptism and heard the announcement that Jesus is the Son of God, though he is unsure of what the term “Son of God” means. Calling a council of devils, Satan resolves to corrupt Jesus as he did Adam. God the Father views all these characters from Heaven and tells the angel Gabriel that Jesus’ time in the desert will be his trial period, which he will pass just as Job did. In the wilderness, Satan, disguised as an old man, confronts Jesus. Posing as Jesus’ friend and adviser, Satan tempts Jesus (who now feels the pangs of hunger after his forty days in the wilderness) by telling him to turn the stones into food. Jesus, however, sees through Satan’s disguise and says that man lives by God’s Word, not by bread. During Jesus’ absence, Andrew and Simon, Jesus’ followers, search for him and meditate on his significance, while Mary keeps her faith in God’s promise.

Satan calls another devils’ council to debate how to...

(The entire section is 897 words.)