In book 2 part 5 chapter 1, Pierre laments the failure of the masons mission. He says "We all profess the Christian law of forgiveness ... but yesterday a deserter was knouted to death and a minister of that same law of love and forgiveness, the priest, gave the soldier the cross to kiss before his execution." How does this event relate to hypocrisy?

I'm reading the Rosemary Edmonds translation.

Edit: I wrote "knouted" as "knotted" when copying the text from my book.

1 Answer 1


To begin with, Pierre is describing a particularly brutal method of execution. Being "knouted to death" means being whipped until your body literally cannot take any more. Hanging would be preferable.

In Pierre's opinion, executing a deserter in this way is incompatible with "the Christian law of forgiveness"; the deserter should be given mercy, not torture. Therefore, anyone who calls themselves a Christian should object to such an act. And yet, not only does the bulk of Russian society (which is professedly Christian) accept or approve of such executions, but the church itself plays a role in the execution ceremony without objecting to it or protesting against it.

To put it differently, Pierre doesn't object to giving a condemned man a cross to kiss, per se. He objects to the fact that, after the cross is kissed, the priest stands back and allows the knouting to go forward.

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