Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

by Mikhail Bulgakov

Moderator: Liz

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby Liz » Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:18 pm

What was the role of Levi Matvei? What did he represent?
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 28976
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby nebraska » Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:48 pm

I don't really know the answer. But searching for something about him on line I came across even more essays about this book which will probably confuse me more than enlighten me. :banghead: The Gnostic devil in Bulgakov's Master and Margarita


My short answer is that Levi was meant to be PIlate's conscience. He wanted to make things right in Yeshua's situation, but he could do little more than report the terrible events in the end. Maybe he reflects Bulgakov's role more than it appears at first glance. :perplexed:

User avatar
Buster
Posts: 810
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:07 am

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby Buster » Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:58 pm

Maybe he reflects Bulgakov's role more than it appears at first glance.
I think you are on to something, nebraska!

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3239
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby fireflydances » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:20 pm

I've haven't a lot on Levi Matvei myself.

But here goes. It's in the first story of the Passion that Levi is described as entering Yerushalaim with Yeshua. Later, he climbs Bald Mountain intent on stabbing Yeshua to prevent his future suffering, curses God for allowing the suffering to continue, and finally he is the one who takes down Yeshua's body, attempts to hide it, and ends up before Pilate. At this point he advises Pilate he's going to kill Judas. He is also described as a 'former tax collector.' So for me, Levi represents a generic version of the traditional disciples of Christ.

His discipleship is confirmed again, near the end of the book, when Woland is standing on the stone terrace high above Moscow, and Levi shows up.

"Hah!," exclaimed Woland, looking mockingly at the man who had entered. "You're the last person one would have expected to see here!" What brings you here, uninvited, but expected guest?"

"I've come to see you, Spirit of Evil and Sovereign of the Shadows," replied the man, looking sullenly at Woland from under his furrowed brows.

They argued, had the conversation about the importance of the Shadow to the Light. And then, Woland asked:

"Well, tell me briefly, without tiring me, why have you appeared?"

"He sent me."

"What did he order you to tell me, slave?"

"I am not a slave," replied Levi Matvei, becoming more enraged, "I am his disciple."

"We are speaking different languages, as always," rejoined Woland, "but that doesn't change the things we talk about. So?..."

"He has read the Master's work," began Levi Matvei, "and asks that you take the Master with you and grant him peace. Is that so difficult for you to do, Spirit of Evil?"

"Nothing is difficult for me to do," replied Woland, "as you well know." He was silent for a moment and then added, "But why aren't you taking him with you to the light?"

"He has not earned light, he has earned peace," said Levi in a sad voice.

"Tell him that it shall be done," replied Woland, and added, his eye suddenly flashing, "and leave me this instant."

"He asks that you also take the one who loved him and who suffered because of him," said Levi to Woland, imploring for the first time.

"We would never have thought of that without you. Leave."


The other thing I pick up I guess, is the quality of the relationship between God and Woland as the Devil. Levi is a messenger from God. Woland is in a subsidiary position: he is surprised that Levi isn't there to take the Master to the light. He receives the news as an employee does -- the latest instructions from headquarters -- or possibly, the relationship between Shadow and Light is tenuous, so that Woland never knows completely where he stands. He has his universe of Shadows, as God has his of Light.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby Liz » Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:42 am

So a lover of God, a disciple of Christ (Yeshua) and one who ultimately does make it right. Maybe because he did the right thing by Yeshua he was granted the honor of breaking the news to the devil, in the form of an order.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

RamblinRebel
Posts: 609
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:24 pm
Location: Chicago or thereabouts

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:12 am

Buster wrote:
Maybe he reflects Bulgakov's role more than it appears at first glance.
I think you are onto something, nebraska!
Absolutely agree!! :cool:

The Levi character is one that really fascinated me, in part because of his historical counterpart.
fireflydances wrote:He is also described as a 'former tax collector.' So for me, Levi represents a generic version of the traditional disciples of Christ.
I interpreted that as not just any disciple, but specifically Levi the tax collector, aka Matthew, as in the Matthew generally credited with writing the gospel bearing his name.

What I found particularly interesting, and I think speaks to Bulgakov’s intent, is that in the novel he is depicted as, well, not so bright. In the passage above that firefly quoted, in the bit that was omitted when Woland and Levi argue about the need for shadows, Woland calls him stupid. Twice:

“… Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and from living things just because of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You’re stupid.”
“I won’t argue with you, old sophist,” replied Levi Matvei.
“You can’t argue with me because of what I just said – you’re stupid.”


On pg 16, in chapter 2 (Pontius Pilate), Yeshua is much gentler, using the word “ignorant”.

“Those good people,” began the prisoner, and after hastily adding, “Hedgemon,” he continued, “are ignorant and have muddled what I said. In fact, I’m beginning to fear that this confusion will go on for a long time. And all because he writes down what I said incorrectly.”
Silence ensued. Now both paned eyes gazed at the prisoner seriously.
“I will tell you again, but for the last time: stop pretending to be crazy, villain,” said Pilate in a soft monotone. “Not much has been recorded against you, but it is enough to hang you.”
“No, no Hegemon,” said the prisoner, straining every nerve in his desire to be convincing, “There’s someone who follows, follows me around everywhere, always writing on a goatskin parchment. And once I happened to see the parchment and was aghast. Absolutely nothing that was written there did I ever say. I begged him, ‘For God’s sake, burn your parchment!” but he snatched it out of my hands and ran away
.”

So my take on this is that Bulgakov is using the Levi character to question the accuracy of the gospels. The 9th and 23rd tidbits gave us some background on what might have inspired this thinking – the gnostic gospels, the search for the historical Christ, etc. I kind of think Bulgakov is saying, “Hey, maybe atheism isn’t right, but then again, maybe the Church doesn’t have it right either. Open your mind. Consider the possibilities.”

fireflydances wrote:The other thing I pick up I guess, is the quality of the relationship between God and Woland as the Devil. Levi is a messenger from God. Woland is in a subsidiary position: he is surprised that Levi isn't there to take the Master to the light. He receives the news as an employee does -- the latest instructions from headquarters -- or possibly, the relationship between Shadow and Light is tenuous, so that Woland never knows completely where he stands. He has his universe of Shadows, as God has his of Light.
Still trying to figure out this relationship myself. Is Levi a messenger from God, or from Yeshua? Or maybe with the Holy Trinity are they one in the same? I'm kind-of of the opinion that Yeshua and Woland are on equal footing, but both taking orders from God, and that Levi follows Yeshua as Korovyov, Azazello, etc. follow Woland. :perplexed: But yeah, Woland does seem to be receiving instructions from headquarters here. :yes:

There are also some interesting parallels between Levi and Ivan, but I really have no idea what they mean. They are both writers, writing about Christ, and they are both being told, in essence, that they’re getting it all wrong. Levi is told this by Yeshua, and Ivan by Berlioz. The Master also refers to Ivan as his disciple when he visits him in the asylum before leaving... Anyone want to take a guess as to what that’s all about?

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby Liz » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:32 am

RamblinRebel wrote: Still trying to figure out this relationship myself. Is Levi a messenger from God, or from Yeshua? Or maybe with the Holy Trinity are they one in the same? I'm kind-of of the opinion that Yeshua and Woland are on equal footing, but both taking orders from God, and that Levi follows Yeshua as Korovyov, Azazello, etc. follow Woland. :perplexed: But yeah, Woland does seem to be receiving instructions from headquarters here. :yes:

I was thinking it was a Holy Trinity thing (Yeshua and God being one in the same), but that's only 2. :perplexed: But your comparison of Levi to Korovyov, Azazello, etc. sounds intriguing too.

RR wrote: The Master also refers to Ivan as his disciple when he visits him in the asylum before leaving... Anyone want to take a guess as to what that’s all about?

That was something I was going to explore in a later question about Ivan.

This book has been a huge challenge to discuss because everything seems to be connected, and one thought or speculation leads to another thought, or character or incident in the book, and they all keep bringing us to the ending.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

RamblinRebel
Posts: 609
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:24 pm
Location: Chicago or thereabouts

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita #17 - Levi Matvei

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:53 am

Liz wrote:
RR wrote: The Master also refers to Ivan as his disciple when he visits him in the asylum before leaving... Anyone want to take a guess as to what that’s all about?

That was something I was going to explore in a later question about Ivan.

This book has been a huge challenge to discuss because everything seems to be connected, and one thought or speculation leads to another thought, or character or incident in the book, and they all keep bringing us to the ending.

:lol: Yeah, all roads lead to the end, don't they? Let's save this for another question then.


Return to “The Master and Margarita”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest