In Alcimus Ecdicius Avitus's sixth-century biblical poem De spiritalis historiae gestis, Satan boasts that after tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit he enjoys a better claim over the first couple than God himself:
En, diuina manet promissae gloria laudis!
Quicquid scire meum potuit, iam credite uestrum est:
omnia monstraui sensumque per abdita duxi,
et quodcumque malum sollers natura negabat,
institui dextrisque dedi coniungere laeuum.
Istinc perpetua uosmet mihi sorte dicaui.
Nec Deus in uobis, quamquam formauerit ante,
iam plus iuris habet: teneat, quod condidit ipsae;
quod docui meum est; maior mihi portio restat.
Multa creatori debetis, plura magistro.
Behold, the godlike glory of the praise I promised abides with you. Whatever knowledge was within my grasp, trust now that it is yours. I have shown you everything, have guided your senses through what was hidden, and whatever evil ingenious nature had denied to you, this I have taught, allowing man to join left and right, foul and fitting. And so your fate is sealed forever and I have consecrated you to myself. Nor does God, although He formed you earlier, have greater rights in you. Let Him hold what He Himself made. What I taught is mine, and the greater portion remains with me. You owe much to your Creator but more to your teacher.
This passage lacks a direct analogue in Paradise Lost, but its conception of the devil as a teacher resonates powerfully within Milton's epic, because education ranks among his most central and sustained interests: as Margaret Olofson Thickstun remarks, Paradise Lost is “a poem about the education of its main characters and at the same time dedicated to the education of its readers.” Having served as a schoolmaster himself during the 1640s, Milton knew firsthand the pleasure and perils of teaching, a vocation that he seems to have considered “parallel, if not quite equal, to preaching and poesy.” Over the past fifty years, many scholars have contributed to a deepening understanding of Miltonic learning, often employing his tractate Of Education (1644) as a framework for assessing the methods and success of Raphael, Michael, and the Father in guiding Adam and Eve's progress towards true knowledge in Paradise Lost.