The Brothers Karamazov

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Table Seven: Authority (The Third Temptation)

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”  At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away Satan ! It is written:  The Lord your god, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”  (Matthew 4: 8-11)


A young man, eager to find his place in the conversation, speaks animatedly.  “The final temptation offered by the devil was the sword of Caesar – in other words, all earthly power.  Christ refuses, on the grounds that earthly power is not his goal. He has His sights on the kingdom of heaven – setting an example to his followers.  But the Grand Inquisitor challenges him on this point, too:  ‘And yet you could have taken the sword of Caesar…  Why did you reject that last gift?  Had you accepted…you would have furnished all that man seeks on earth, that is:  someone to bow down to, someone to take over his conscience, and a means for uniting everyone at last into a common, concordant, and incontestable anthill – for the need for universal union is the third and last torment of men…’ (258).   The Inquisitor is right!  We will have universal union only when man bows down before one value – before one idea!  That Christ failed to unify us is good reason to reject him and his God.  We must find a new idea to unify us – one before which we can all bow!”

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