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The Gospel in Brief - Leo Tolstoy

The Gospel in Brief

Hardcover

Published: 1st March 2010
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Written in 1883, 'The Gospel in brief' is Tolstoy's harmonization of the four Christian gospels into one. So now we have Matthew, Mark, Luke, John - and Tolstoy. It is, he says, 'an examination of Christian teaching not according to the church's interpretations, but solely according to what has come down to us of Christ's teaching, as ascribed to him in the gospels.' That which Tolstoy retains from the originals, and that which he leaves out, tells us much about what he regards as essential Christianity. So here we find Tolstoy not concerned with events, but with the teaching; for it is the teaching that gives meaning to life. In his version, there is no place for the famous birth story; the healing miracles or Christ's resurrection. In Tolstoy's view, these were put there to persuade people of Christ's divinity, and are therefore superfluous. We should not be focusing on Christ the Son of God, but on Christ the teacher; and to this end, Tolstoy always refers to Jesus' disciples as 'pupils'. He also never misses a chance to place the Orthodox Church firmly with Christ's opponents. He calls the Scribes 'Orthodox professors' and refers to the teachers of the law, simply as 'Orthodox.' We also find expressed clearly here the 5 commands that Tolstoy regarded as the essence of the gospel: 1 Do not be angry, but live at peace with all men. 2 Do not indulge yourself in sexual gratification. 3 Do not promise anything on oath to anyone. 4 Do not resist evil, do not judge and do not go to law. 5 Make no distinction of nationality, but love foreigners as your own people. Will the church like this version? Tolstoy doubts it, and expects a response: 'If they will not disavow their lies, only one thing remains for them: to persecute me - for which I, completing what I have written, prepare myself with joy and with fear of my own weakness.' But Tolstoy was both too aristocratic and too famous to be seriously harmed.

Leo Tolstoy

Russian author, a master of realistic fiction and one of the world's greatest novelists.

Tolstoy is best known for his two longest works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, which are commonly regarded as among the finest novels ever written. War and Peace in particular seems virtually to define this form for many readers and critics. Among Tolstoy's shorter works, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is usually classed among the best examples of the novella. Especially during his last three decades Tolstoy also achieved world renown as a moral and religious teacher. His doctrine of nonresistance to evil had an important influence on Gandhi. Although Tolstoy's religious ideas no longer command the respect they once did, interest in his life and personality has, if anything, increased over the years.

Most readers will agree with the assessment of the 19th-century British poet and critic Matthew Arnold that a novel by Tolstoy is not a work of art but a piece of life; the 20th-century Russian author Isaak Babel commented that, if the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy. Critics of diverse schools have agreed that somehow Tolstoy's works seem to elude all artifice. Most have stressed his ability to observe the smallest changes of consciousness and to record the slightest movements of the body. What another novelist would describe as a single act of consciousness, Tolstoy convincingly breaks down into a series of infinitesimally small steps. According to the English writer Virginia Woolf, who took for granted that Tolstoy was “the greatest of all novelists,” these observational powers elicited a kind of fear in readers, who “wish to escape from the gaze which Tolstoy fixes on us.”

Those who visited Tolstoy as an old man also reported feelings of great discomfort when he appeared to understand their unspoken thoughts. It was commonplace to describe him as godlike in his powers and titanic in his struggles to escape the limitations of the human condition. Some viewed Tolstoy as the embodiment of nature and pure vitality, others saw him as the incarnation of the world's conscience, but for almost all who knew him or read his works, he was not just one of the greatest writers who ever lived but a living symbol of the search for life's meaning.

Visit Leo Tolstoy's Booktopia Author Page


ISBN: 9781907661181
ISBN-10: 1907661182
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 148
Published: 1st March 2010
Publisher: White Crow Books
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 14.0  x 1.2
Weight (kg): 0.33