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Encyclopedia > The Grand Inquisitor
Standalone copy of the chapter "The Grand Inquisitor"
Standalone copy of the chapter "The Grand Inquisitor"
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The Grand Inquisitor

The Grand Inquisitor is a parable told by Ivan to Alyosha in Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880). Ivan and Alyosha are brothers; Ivan is a committed atheist, but Alyosha is a novice monk. This image is a book cover. ... This image is a book cover. ... Image File history File links Wikisource-logo. ... The original Wikisource logo. ... // A parable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. ... Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (Russian: Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский, IPA: , sometimes transliterated Dostoyevsky or Dostoievsky  ) (November 11 [O.S. October 30] 1821 – February 9 [O.S. January 28] 1881) is considered one of the greatest writers of Russian and world literature. ... The Brothers Karamazov (Братья Карамазовы in Russian, ) is the last novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, generally considered the culmination of his lifes work. ... 1879 (MDCCCLXXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... Year 1880 (MDCCCLXXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar). ...

The Grand Inquisitor is an important part of the novel and one of the best-known passages in modern literature because of its ideas about human nature and freedom, and because of its fundamental ambiguity. It was recently published as an independent text by Continuum Books. This article is the second in a series of The History of Literature. ... See also : Human nature (disambiguation) Human nature is the fundamental nature and substance of humans, as well as the range of human behavior that is believed to be invariant over long periods of time and across very different cultural contexts. ... Mohandas K. Gandhi - Freedom can be achieved through inner sovereignty. ... Look up ambiguity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


The parable

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The tale is told by Ivan with brief interruptive questions by Alyosha. In the tale, Christ comes back to earth in Seville at the time of the Inquisition. Jesus performs a number of miracles (echoing miracles from the Gospels). The people recognize him and adore him, but he is arrested by Inquisition leaders and sentenced to be burned to death the next day. The Grand Inquisitor visits him in his cell to tell him that the Church no longer needs him. The main portion of the text is the Inquisitor explaining to Jesus why his return would interfere with the mission of the church. NO8DO (I was not abandoned) Location Coordinates : ( ) Time Zone : CET (GMT +1) - summer: CEST (GMT +2) General information Native name Sevilla (Spanish) Spanish name Sevilla Founded 8th-9th century BC Postal code 41001-41080 Website http://www. ... Inquisition (capitalized I) is broadly used, to refer to things related to judgment of heresy by the Roman Catholic Church. ...

The Inquisitor frames his denunciation of Jesus around the three questions Satan asked Jesus during the temptation of Christ in the desert. These three are the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptation to cast Himself from the Temple and be saved by the angels, and the temptation to rule over all the kingdoms of the world. The Inquisitor states that Jesus rejected these three temptations in favor of freedom. The Inquisitor thinks that Jesus has misjudged human nature, though. He does not believe that the vast majority of humanity can handle the freedom which Jesus has given them. Thus, he implies that Jesus, in giving humans freedom to choose, has excluded the majority of humanity from redemption and doomed humanity to suffer. The temptation of Christ in Christianity, refers to the temptation of Jesus by the devil as detailed in each of the Synoptic Gospels, at Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13. ...

Ivan indicates that the Inquisitor is an atheist. After a lifetime of pursuing God, he has given up in frustration. He is nevertheless left with his love of humanity and desire to see humanity not suffer. Despite declaring the Inquisitor to be an atheist, Ivan also implies that the Inquisitor and the Church follow "the wise spirit, the dread spirit of death and destruction," i.e. the Devil, Satan, for he, through compulsion, provided the tools to end all human suffering and unite under the banner of the Church. The mulitude then is guided through the Church by the few who are strong enough to take on the burden of freedom. The Inquisitor says that under him, all mankind will live and die happily in ignorance. Though he leads them only to "death and destruction," they will be happy along the way. The Inquisitor will be a self-martyr, spending his life to keep choice from humanity. He states that "Anyone who can appease a man's conscience can take his freedom away from him." Satan frozen at the center of Cocytus, the ninth circle of Hell in Dantes Inferno. ... For other uses, see Satan (disambiguation). ...

The segment ends when Christ, who has been silent throughout, kisses the Inquisitor on his "bloodless, aged lips" (22) instead of answering him. On this, the Inquisitor releases Christ but tells him never to return. Christ, still silent, leaves into "the dark alleys of the city." Not only is the kiss ambiguous, but its effect on the Inquisitor is as well. Ivan concludes, "The kiss glows in his heart, but the old man adheres to his ideas." The kiss that Christ plants on the lips of the Grand Inquisitor is the equal of Christ's whispered words to Judas (John 13.27) "that thou doest, do quickly." Just as Jesus in no way condones Judas' betrayal, so Christ's kiss does not excuse the Grand Inquisitor.

Not only does the parable function as a philosophical and religious work in its own right, but it also furthers the character development of the larger novel. Clearly, Ivan identifies himself with the Inquisitor. After relating the tale, Ivan asks Alyosha if he "renounces" Ivan for his views. Alyosha responds by giving Ivan a soft kiss on the lips, to which the delighted Ivan replies, "that's plagiarism!" The brothers part soon afterwards. Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as ones own original work. ...

According to Dostoevsky's own letters, even the author struggled with the questions posed in the Grand Inquisitor and wondered and worried how they might affect even the faith of the reader. Dostoevsky himself could not come up with a straight answer, but rather put forth the life of the Elder Zossima, which follows almost immediately this chapter, as his "answer" to Ivan's questions. Therefore the Grand Inquisitor cannot be fully understood without reading it with the chapters on the life of the Elder Zossima and subsequent chapters.


Dostoevsky's notebooks show that he was inspired to use the figure of the Grand Inquisitor after he encountered it in a play by Friedrich Schiller, Don Carlos (1785-1787). Friedrich Schiller “Schiller” redirects here. ... This article refers to the opera Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi (and its revised Italian version, known as Don Carlo). ... 1785 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... Year 1787 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ...

Literary interpretations

There are a number of interpretations of The Grand Inquisitor.

  • George Steiner's Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in Contrast (London: Faber and Faber, 1960) interprets the parable of the Grand Inquisitor as "an allegory of an encounter between Tolstoy and Dostoevsky" (pp. 342-43).

(Francis) George Steiner, a prominent literary critic, was born in Paris, France, on April 23, 1929. ... Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: , IPA:  ), commonly referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy (September 9 [O.S. August 28] 1828 – November 20 [O.S. November 7] 1910) was a Russian novelist, writer, essayist, philosopher, Christian anarchist, pacifist, educational reformer, moral thinker, and an influential member of the Tolstoy family. ...

Influence on other literary works

  • The scene is the basis of the play Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy by Tony Kushner.
  • The third season finale ("Talitha Cumi") of the TV Series The X-Files borrowed heavily from this parable for an interrogation between Cancer Man and Jeremiah Smith (as the Inquisitor and Jesus, respectively).

Tony Kushner (born July 16, 1956) is an award-winning American playwright most famous for his play Angels in America, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. ... X-Files intro from first 8 seasons The X-Files was a popular 1990s American science fiction television series created by Chris Carter. ... Cigarette Smoking Man The Cigarette Smoking Man (sometimes called CSM, Cancerman, or, by some fans, That Black-Lunged S.O.B.) is a fictional character played by William B. Davis on the 1990s television series The X_Files. ... Throughout the nine year run of The X-Files, various characters have come forward to feed Fox Mulder or Dana Scully with top secret information regarding a secret conspiracy. ...

See also

The Brothers Karamazov (Братья Карамазовы in Russian, ) is the last novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, generally considered the culmination of his lifes work. ... Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (Russian: Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский, IPA: , sometimes transliterated Dostoyevsky or Dostoievsky  ) (November 11 [O.S. October 30] 1821 – February 9 [O.S. January 28] 1881) is considered one of the greatest writers of Russian and world literature. ... Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of several independent nations once a part of what was historically Russia or the Soviet Union. ... Existentialism is a philosophical movement in which individual human beings are understood as having full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives. ...

External links

Project Gutenberg, abbreviated as PG, is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive, and distribute cultural works. ...

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (Russian: Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский, IPA: , sometimes transliterated Dostoyevsky or Dostoievsky  ) (November 11 [O.S. October 30] 1821 – February 9 [O.S. January 28] 1881) is considered one of the greatest writers of Russian and world literature. ... Poor Folk was first novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which he wrote over the span of nine months. ... The name Netochka Nezvanova, which can be translated roughly as nameless nobody, is widely believed to be a pseudonym taken from the name of the eponymous title character in Fyodor Dostoevskys early unfinished novel. ... The Village of Stepanchikovo is a book written by Fyodor Dostoevsky and first published in 1859. ... The Insulted and Humiliated (also known as The Insulted and the Injured) is a novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in 1861, is a book about the huge contradictions present in life. ... The House of the Dead is a novel published in 1862 by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Notes from Underground (also translated in English as Notes from the Underground or Letters from the Underworld) (1864) is a short novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. ... Crime and Punishment (Russian: Преступление и наказание) is a novel written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. ... The Gambler is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky about a young tutor in the employment of a formerly wealthy Russian General. ... Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of The Idiot The Idiot is a novel written by the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1869. ... For the theatrical adaptation by Albert Camus, see The Possessed (play). ... The Raw Youth or The Adolescent (Russian: Подросток), is a novel of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. ... The Brothers Karamazov (Братья Карамазовы in Russian, ) is the last novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, generally considered the culmination of his lifes work. ... White Nights is a short story written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, originally published in 1848. ... A Christmas Tree and a Wedding is a short story by Dostoevsky. ... An Honest Thief is an 1848 short story by Dostoevsky. ... The Peasant Marey is a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky written in 1876. ... Synopsis Spoiler warning: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky written in 1877. ... A Gentle Creature, sometimes also translated as The Meek One, is a short story written by Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1876. ... Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (Russian: Родион Романович Раскольников) is the protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. ...

  Results from FactBites:
"The Metaphysical Meaning of the Legend" from "The Grand Inquisitor" - Antanas Maceina (3918 words)
The Grand Inquisitor is thus based on the belief that in Dostoevskii's poem, the legend of the grand inquisitor which he included in the Brothers Karamazov, there lies a metaphysics of history.
The whole legend of the Grand Inquisitor is one great and long speech by the old man. But this speech is nothing else than an analysis of the admonitions and warnings already mentioned, an attempt to show that Christ by not listening to them made an irreparable mistake.
The legend of the Grand Inquisitor is a poem, as Ivan titles it at the beginning, but a poem in the highest sense historical, for its object is the whole history of mankind.
Researching the Brothers Karamazov - Introductions: Anne Fremantle (2897 words)
The Grand Inquisitor promises man, as Satan promised Christ in the desert, everything in exchange for the one thing that makes man man: freedom, this terrible, absolute freedom of man's will to choose or to reject at any and every moment what his own conscience shows him to be a moral good.
Man, says the Grand Inquisitor, desires "not only to live, but to have something to live for." However, this "stable object" of an other-directed life must, according to Christ's teaching, be chosen by man's free conscience, aware of good and evil and always able to choose between them.
In this latter, the Grand Inquisitor and the King's confessor, the scoundrel Domingo, are contrasted with a Carthusian prior.
  More results at FactBites »



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