A Biblical character from the Gospel of John, Lazarus
is a man dead for four days and placed in a tomb. When Jesus arrives in town and is told of Lazarus’ death, he asks God for the ability to raise Lazarus in order to demonstrate his (and God’s) power, and to convince those in the surrounding area that he is indeed the Messiah. Raskolnikov
to read this passage to him from her New Testament, and Porfiry
asks whether Raskolnikov believes in God, and whether, specifically, he believes in the truth of the Lazarus story. Lazarus’s return from the dead echoes Raskolnikov’s own “living death”—the madness that closes in on him following the murder, which eventually causes his confession and eight-year sentence in a prison camp. It is there that Raskolnikov uncovers Sonya’s same copy of the New Testament. And like a man raised from the dead, he becomes truly penitent, realizing that his remaining years in the camp are not so long, and that he will be sustained by the power of Sonya’s love and “reborn” into a new life.