Biblical Themes in Harry Potter(cont.)
Spoilers lie ahead
Revealed in the seventh Harry Potter book, but present throughout the entire series, is an idea Jesus introduces during the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:24a Jesus says:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”
This idea is very real, especially throughout the seventh book. During the seventh book many things are revealed about Dumbledore’s past, and one of these things is that Dumbledore had a sister who died under his care. We learn that she died mainly from Dumbledore’s neglect and carelessness and that this neglect stemmed from the fact that Dumbledore was so avidly searching for the Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore was attempting to serve both his sister and his greed, and his greed won out, with disastrous consequences.
The other key, and even stronger, example of this principle can be found in Severus Snape, the villain that everyone who has read Harry Potter has a serious love/hate relationship with. (I, personally fall more on the love end, but that post is for another time.) At the end of the seventh book, Harry enters Snape’s memory, and discovers that Snape was in love with Harry’s mother, Lily Evans, all throughout his life, even when he served Voldermort. When Voldermort decided to kill the Potter family, Snape’s two masters conflicted. Snape implored Voldermort not to attack Lily’s household, but Voldermort did not listen. Snape then turned to Dumbledore. This is another excellent showing of a servant attempting to serve two masters. Snape is most certainly one of the best characters in Harry Potter, and, in my mind, the entire landscape of literature.
Dumbledore also has a number of quotes that sound reminiscent of Christian ideas. At the end of the second book, Harry discovers he can speak in Parseltongue, the language of snakes. This is a talent normally held by dark wizards, and by Voldermort himself. Harry begins to question if having this talent makes him evil. Dumbledore responds:
“It is our choices, [Harry] that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
This is certainly a Biblical principle. At the end of the fourth book, Dumbledore gives a speech to the students informing them of Voldermort’s return. He tells them that in the coming days they must decide between what is right and what is easy rather than the oft used, what is wrong. This is much reminiscent of of what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to eternal life, and only a few find it.”
Dumbledore also quotes several Bible verses on the graves of loved ones. On the grave of his mother and sister he writes, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This is a direct quotation of Matthew 6:21(the Sermon on the Mount.) When Hermione and Harry see this grave in the book, little is made of this phrase, but Rowling says that Harry does not understand its meaning. Another Biblical quotation can be found on the tomb of Harry’s parents. The inscription reads: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Once again a Biblical quotation, this time from 1 Corinthians 15:26.
There are numerous other Biblical themes in Harry Potter, things such as Harry observing Luna spreading special herbs on the grave of Dobby the house elf three days after Dobby’s death (much like the women who came to put spice in the tomb of Jesus), but I have discussed some of the most significant.
So, can Christians read Harry Potter? Most definitely. Interestingly enough, J.K. Rowling revealed after the release of the final book that the books were written from a Christian viewpoint, but that she kept this a secret so as not to give away the series’ ending. Although there is some debate as to how religious Rowling is, these books are just as good Christian allegories as the Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings, although it does take more time and thought to reveal the allegories in Harry Potter.
The Harry Potter books are also one of the greatest literary works of all time. As already mentioned, J.K. Rowling studied classical literature at Harvard, and this certainly shines through in her excellent books. The genius of Rowling can be seen in everything from themes and writing style to the names chosen for her characters.(Which I may write a post on at a later date.)
One important attribute that Rowling would appear to have inherited from classical literature is the idea of the characters making the plot, rather than the plot making the characters. In many classical works, we are introduced to the characters first, and the story is slowly shaped around them, rather than the idea that has become popular today, of throwing characters directly into the thick of the plot, and allowing that plot to reveal the the character to us. Allowing the characters to shape the plot requires much more work and thought, as well as much more developed characters.
And Rowling has amazing, very real , excellently developed characters. All of Rowling’s characters make choices that are very real; and you feel that the only thing keeping you from these characters is an inch of paper and the words that fill the gap. While Rowling may not stay as completely true to this method of characters over story, she certainly opts much more toward it than the converse method of plot over characters.
Harry Potter is an amazing story, with, as aforementioned, many Christian themes. J.K. Rowling has created one of the most creative, imaginative world in all of literature. I would put the Harry Potter legacy only second to that of the Bible, and believe that it will be forever regarded as one of the great classics. These books are amazingly written, great allegories for the Christian faith, and show many truths about humanity that are so true we have lost sight of them. Humanity speaks its best and most profound truths through its literature, and the Harry Potter books are some of the best literature available. Not only can Christians read Harry Potter, but they should.