The Brothers Karamazov

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Table Five: Miracle (The First Temptation)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.  The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”  He said in reply, “It is written:  One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”   (Matthew 4 : 1-4)


A very thoughtful man strokes his beard and ponders what the Grand Inquisitor said about the first miracle.  “To me, Christ’s refusal to be tempted by the devil has always been a triumphant moment.  But Ivan’s argument makes me think.  In refusing the devil, Christ intends to signify to his followers that faith should not be determined by miracles.  But the Grand Inquisitor argues that in rejecting the devil Christ forced man to do the difficult – to believe in what he cannot see.  In asking man to believe without proof, Christ was unloving.  How did he put it?   ‘…you chose everything that was unusual, enigmatic, and indefinite, you chose everything that was beyond men’s strength, and thereby acted as if you did not love them at all…Instead of taking over men’s freedom, you increased it and forever burdened the kingdom of the human soul with its torment…It was impossible to leave them in greater confusion and torment than you did, abandoning them to so many cares and insoluble problems.  Thus you yourself laid the foundation for the destruction of your own kingdom…’ (254-255).   The Inquisitor challenges Christ when he says, ‘Feed them first, then ask virtue of them!’(252-253).


Why did Christ elect not to feed us?  If he loved us, why would he insist that we take a path that most of us would not be able to follow?

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