Phi Fic #9 “The Grand Inquisitor” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Within The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky penned a passage, considered one of the best known in modern literature: “The Grand Inquisitor.” The character Ivan uses this tale to question the existence of God to his younger brother Alyosha, a monk. In the older brother’s story, Christ returns to earth during the Inquisition, is arrested and sentenced to death by burning, and then is confronted by the Grand Inquisitor in his cell.

Oh, we shall persuade them that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us.

Join us as we try to deconstruct this struggle between religion and faith as it explodes in this clash between the Inquisitor and Christ. Mary doesn’t believe that the Inquisitor ever planned to burn Christ but can’t resist the opportunity to criticize his treatment of humanity, Laura bemoans living in a world of such destruction with a theoretical God of mercy. Cezary and Daniel discuss the existential ramifications of the radical freedom the Inquisitor slams Christ for granting to humanity, highlighted by Nathan echoing the Inquisitor that Christ abandoned us and didn’t return for 15 centuries—that humanity needs “earth bread,” not “cloud bread.”

We also discuss John Gielgud’s riveting 1975 performance as the Grand Inquisitorwhich we highly recommend:

 The full text is also available online:  

Although if you’ve never read The Brothers Karamazov, we highly recommend reading the entire book.

Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.

Disclaimer: This is one of the first discussions we had, so please excuse the wonky sound quality here and there. But it’s an important episode about freedom, faith, and the church. So, please partake and enjoy! And Happy New Year to everyone!

If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via

One thought on “Phi Fic #9 “The Grand Inquisitor” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  1. Really great discussion guys! I’ve always been perplexed by the kiss by both Jesus and then imitated by Alyosha, not really sure any solution was reached on that question. It was impressive how you managed to discuss this without falling into the trap of utilizing examples from the rest of the novel to support any portion of your arguments. I’ve often seen the Grand Inquisitor sold as a standalone piece and referenced as such, your analysis helped justify its existence as a standalone poem/thought regardless of whether or not its contents fuel the greater narrative of the Brother’s K.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s