Tolstojs theologische Abhandlungen stehen im Schatten seiner berühmten Romane und sind heute weithin vergessen. Anlässlich des 100. Todestages des Schriftstellers machen die Herausgeber eine Auswahl von ihnen in neuer Übersetzung und teils erstmalig in deutscher Sprache zugänglich. Enthalten sind vollständige Traktate wie »Kirche und Staat«, »Religion und Moral«, »An die Geistlichkeit«, »Das Wesen der christlichen Lehre« sowie einzelne religiöse Briefe, Tagebucheinträge, Aphorismen, Gebete, Gleichnisse und Auszüge aus längeren Schriften.
In einem zweiten Teil werden Tolstojs theologische Entwürfe von Fachleuten aus Theologie, Slavistik und Philosophie neu bewertet und kritisch gewürdigt. Das verbreitete Urteil, dass Tolstoj ein unbegabter Laientheologe gewesen sei, wird ebenso widerlegt wie die gängige Trennung zwischen dem Künstler und dem Moralisten. Kunst und Theologie gehen in Tolstojs OEuvre eine unauflösbare Einheit ein. Der Graf von Jasnaja Poljana erweist sich als ernst zu nehmender theologischer Denker, dessen Konzepte einflussreich waren und ihre Sprengkraft bis heute behalten haben.
The volume was sent by V&R through ISD for review. And what a volume it is. Consisting of two major divisions the first of which excerpts from a wide range of Tolstoy’s works and the second a series of analyses of that work.
Accordingly, in the first division excerpts from such things as Beichte, Kirche und Staat, Mein Glaube, Was ist Kunst?, Gebet, Drei Tage and dozens of others are translated afresh from Russian into German. The publisher has provided the full table of contents and list of authors contributing to the collection in a flipbook available here.
A visit to that link will provide readers with the basic essentials and aims of the book as it also includes the Foreword and the Introduction. The authors and editors of the volume have done a very fine job of rendering into German what must surely be somewhat difficult Russian. The sentences are clear and precise and communicate the author’s thought doubtless quite correctly.1
Tolstoy’s work is well enough known, I think, so that it comes as no surprise to many that he was a tremendously gifted and artistic writer. What may not be so familiar, though, is the fact that he was an immensely impressive theological thinker: a man who delved quite deeply into theological themes. Indeed, who has read ‘The Grand Inquisitor’ and not recognized that fact. That fact is displayed in glittering splendor in this collection. Tolstoy writes, for example, in the opening sentence of Die Lehre Christi und die Lehre der Welt2
Nach Christi Lehre zu leben ist schwer.
A small enough fragment and yet large enough to indicate the musicality and preciseness of Tolstoy’s voice.
After the reader makes her or his way through the stunning array of excerpts said reader is treated to an amazing analysis of Tolstoy’s theological ideas. This segment is comprised of three sub-segments: 1- Kernkonzepte; 2- Tolstojs Auseinandersetzung mit der Philosophie und den religiösen Traditionen; and 3- Rezeption und Wirkung der Theologie Tolstojs. Again, a look at the flipbook linked to above will provide the interested reader with all of the details in particular.
As with the first division of the volume, the second too is extremely helpful both in setting Tolstoy in his historical context and with shedding light on his theological conceptions. Conceptions, it has to be said, which are very, very intriguing in numerous aspects. Martin Tamcke’s essay, for example, explains Tolstoy’s connection to Protestant theology and his notion that the Christian life is lived best in love and service to the other.3
The volume is excellent. It only suffers one deficiency, and this is, from my point of view, quite a serious one: it is not yet available in English. It is such a helpful volume for anyone wishing to understand Tolstoy’s thought that it should be available for persons for whom German is not their native language. Theologians and literary critics alike, as well as those who would wish to learn a good portion of theology ought to read the volume. Students of Russian history ought to read the volume. Even Biblical scholars ought to read the volume because, as all great books do, it opens otherwise unopened windows into ways in which the Bible has been understood. Additionally, Biblical scholars are a somewhat territorial group, seldom foraging in other plots of woodland and consequently missing out on a large amount of good ‘food’.
Furthermore it is an exceptionally timely volume, as the criticisms which Tolstoy aimed at the Church of his day are still relevant to our own. His faith was characterized as ‘a churchless religion.’4 simply because he found its practices so problematic. If he had known of Mars Hill or Joel Osteen he might well have exploded in rage.
This book is commendable. This book is exceptional. This book is enjoyable. This book is affordable, because, theologically speaking, it is a pearl of great price. If need be go and sell all the NT Wright that you have and obtain this volume. It will do you far more good than the Bishop’s work can.
Quartz Hill School of Theology
1Not knowing Russian I can only speak in broad terms about the quality of the translation
3 P. 608ff.