The Gospel in Brief

The Gospel in Brief

Leo Tolstoy, Darton, Longman and Todd

Mention the name Leo Tolstoy to your average person and they will remember him for his epically complex historic drama War and Peace — and possibly his lesser known (but greatly regarded) work Anna Karenina.

At the peak of his fame, a sense of meaninglessness overran him and he turned his focus to religion.

A growing dissatisfaction with institutional Christianity led him to study scripture on his own and he gradually synthesised exactly what he believed their true meaning was.

Similar to Eugene Peterson’s The Message, The Gospel in Brief is Tolstoy’s interpretation of the gospels.

His interpretation is interesting as it clearly clarifies parables and events, providing a cultural and historical context, which makes his gospel-reading more like novel-reading.

However, Tolstoy’s interpretation has its problems.

While understanding Tolstoy’s motives, there appears to be a noted lack of emphasis on the concept of the Trinity.

The chapters seem to diminish the divinity of Christ, portraying him as God’s model human rather than God himself. The writing also seems to put a massive emphasis on the Spirit, while seemingly not acknowledging that indeed the Spirit is God, or that the Spirit existed prior to Jesus.

Callum Iles

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