The history and style of Christian Doctrine has created much controversy. Critics have argued about the authority of the text as representative of Milton's philosophy based on possible problems with its authorship, its production, and over what its content actually means. However, the majority of critics believe that Milton is author of the manuscript beyond any doubt.
Both Charles R. Sumner and John Carey have translated the work into English. Charles edition was first printed in 1825. This was the only translation until Carey's in 1973.
Because Milton was blind, the manuscript of De Doctrina Christiana was the work of two people: Daniel Skinner and Jeremie Picard. Picard first copied the manuscript from previous works and Skinner prepared the work to be copied for typesetting, although there are a few unidentified editors who made changes to the manuscript. After Milton died in 1674, Daniel Skinner was given possession of Christian Doctrine along with Milton's other manuscripts. In 1675, Skinner attempted to publish the work in Amsterdam, but it was rejected, and in 1677 he was pressured by the English government to hand over the document where it was then hidden.
There have been only two translations of De Doctrina Christiana. The first was the Charles edition was first produced in 1825 titled A treatise on Christian doctrine compiled from the Holy Scriptures alone. The original Latin text was included alongside of the English translation. However, the next translation produced by Carey was not in a dual language format. Both of these two original translations identified Milton as the author.
However, there is a minority line of criticism that denies Christian Doctrine as a work produced by Milton, but there have been no authors substituted by these critics in place of Milton. These denials are grounded in the fact that a blind Milton would struggle to rely on so many Biblical quotations and that the Christian Doctrine is the sole reason why Milton is viewed as having a heterodox theological understanding. In response to this argument, many critics have focused on defending Milton's authorship. Because of the overwhelming evidence supporting the Miltonic authorship of the piece, most editions of Milton's prose includes the work.
The first part of the work appears to be "finished" because it is free of edits and the handwriting (Skinner's) is neat, whereas the second is filled with edits, corrections, and notes in the margins. The Skinner's incomplete fair copy has stirred controversy over the work, because it does not provide critics with the ability to determine what the fair copy was based on.
The manuscript itself is patterned off the theological treatises common to Milton's time, such as William Ames's Medulla Theologica and John Wolleb's Compendium Theologiae Christianae Although Milton refers to "forty-two works", of them many were "systematic theologies", in his various works, Christian Doctrine does not allude to them in the same way as he does in his political treatises. However, the actual pattern of discourse found within the treatise is modeled after Ames's and Wolleb's works even if the content is different.
Where Milton differs is in the use of scripture as evidence; Milton relies on scripture as the basis of his argument and keeps scripture in the center of his text; whereas, many other theological treatises keep scriptural passages to the margins. In essence, as Lieb says, "Milton privileges the proof-text over that which is to be proven. Schwartz has gone so far as to claim that Milton "ransacked the whole Bible" and that Milton's own words are "squeezed out of his text. However, the actual "proof-texts" of the Bible used are various, and there is not one version used in Milton's Latin citations.
Milton's approach to Christian doctrine is not philosophical, and Milton does not attempt at "knowing" God. Instead, we have to find God "in the Holy Scriptures alone and with the Holy Spirit as guide." Milton grounds his message in Christian teaching when he says:
Milton's interpretation of God has been described as Arian. Kelley explains the actual usage of this term as he says, "Milton may be quite correctly called an Arian if he holds an anti-Trinitarian view of God; and it is in this sense that scholars have been calling Milton an Arian since the publication of the De Doctrina in 1825. In particular, Christian Doctrine denies the eternity of the Son, Jesus's pre-birth title. Such a denial separates the unity between God and the Son. However, some claim that the Son is eternal, since he was begotten before time, and that he represents part of the Logos. But this cannot be, as Kelley points out, "Milton concludes, the Son was begotten not from eternity but 'within the limits of time.' Although some have argued that the Son is equal in some respects with God, the Son lacks the complete attributes of God.
Another aspect of Milton's God is that he is material. This is not to say that he has a human form, as Milton states, "God in his most simple nature is a SPIRIT. However, such "spirits" to Milton, as with many of his contemporaries like Thomas Hobbes, are a type of material. God, from his material essence, is able to establish all other matter and then manipulate that matter to create forms and beings.
Milton's Arminianism and the authorship of "De doctrina Christiana".(17th-century British poet John Milton; Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius)
Jun 22, 1999; "That Milton's later theology is Arminian is not on the whole a controversial claim." (1) So Dennis Danielson wrote sixteen...