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Virtual Museum of Canada

Dostoevsky and the Raising of Lazarus

Raising of Lazarus

Martyn Pepyn © AGO

… Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." … [Jesus] cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out …

John 11:39, 43-44

Whereas Enlightenment thinkers had tended to discount the veracity of miracle stories, many Romantic and post-Romantic artists saw the miraculous not only as a possibility, but as a truth with profound spiritual and personal significance. This belief in the miraculous is forcibly expressed in the great scene in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment in which Sonia reads to Raskolnikov the tale of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. To be sure, it is a strange scene: the harlot reading to the murderer from holy writ. Yet the scene communicates, with incredible poignancy and tension, the meaning of faith in the inexplicable. The belief in Lazarus' resurrection leads Raskolnikov to an understanding of the possibility of cleansing and rebirth, of a re-unification with the earth that he has defiled and the spiritual nature from which he has been estranged.

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Date Modified: 1999-12-31

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