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Dostoevsky: the Grand Inquisitor: Home

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

Photo Credit: RasMarley via Compfight cc


The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor is an unwritten poem, told by Ivan Karamazov to his younger brother, Alyosha, a novice monk. It addresses fundamental questions about God, Christ, human freedom, the problem of evil and the purpose of the church. It can be seen as a perplexing story, but the kiss of Christ at the end provides an important clue to Dostoevsky's complex narrative.

Dostoevsky's value

“Dostoyevsky is to me both the greatest novelist, as such, and the greatest Christian storyteller, in particular, of all time. His plots and characters pinpoint the sublimity, perversity, meanness, and misery of fallen human adulthood in an archetypal way matched only by Aeschylus and Shakespeare, while his dramatic vision of God’s amazing grace and of the agonies, Christ’s and ours, that accompany salvation, has a range and depth that only Dante and Bunyan come anywhere near. . . . [H]is constant theme is the nightmare quality of unredeemed existence and the heartbreaking glory of the incarnation, whereby all human hurts came to find their place in the living and dying of Christ the risen Redeemer. ”

J. I. Packer, The Gospel in Dostoyevsky: Selections from his Works. Plough Pub. House, ©1988, vii.

The Legend's value

"The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor," a chapter in The Brothers Karamazov, is considered "the high point of Dostoevsky's work and the crown of his dialectic."

Nicholas Berdyaev, Dostoevsky, trans. D. Attwater, New York, 1957, 188.

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