Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

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Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Potteraholic on Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:02 am

On Sunday, July 10, 2011, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] posted the following on the Chat thread:
Journeymom wrote:Whereas Jesus gives his body and blood for the eternal life of many, Voldemort demands the bodily sacrifices of many for his own revival. In this way, he is quite literally the opposite of Jesus.
I have always thought Jo set up Voldemort as a sort of anti-Christ character ... contrary to what some believe. Does anyone else see other examples of Biblical symbolism in the books?




This post had been in response to something [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] had posted a bit earlier that same day:

Interesting essay my sister sent to me!

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Flesh -- of the servant -- w-willingly given -- you will -- revive your master ... B-blood of the enemy ... forcibly taken ... you will ... resurrect your foe (GOF, 641-2).

Few miss the connection when they then read Jesus' lines at the Last Supper: "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me" and "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant of my blood" (NRSV, Lk. 22:19-20). It seems as if Voldemort's words are quite literally the opposite of Jesus': Whereas Jesus gives his body and blood for the eternal life of many, Voldemort demands the bodily sacrifices of many for his own revival. In this way, he is quite literally the opposite of Jesus.
I had not noticed that before!



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Well, the central roles of love and sacrifice are well-known from the Bible.

Also, there has been a discussion about the hilltop scene as being a sort of "return of the prodigal son" scene, i.e., parallel with a biblical parable of loss and redemption. Snape has certainly "wasted his treasure", ended up in bad and degrading company and now he is back, trying to set his mistake right. He is on his knees in front of Dumbledore (the position of repentance), and Dumbledore accepts him back, and what he gives him is propably more than what Snape expects, just like in the biblical story. Later Dumbledore speaks about Snape as "returning" to the good side, which underlines this similarity to me, since Snape was not an Order member before this return, so he can only "return" to his "natural", original, "home", like the prodigal son.



So I thought this might be a good topic for discussion here in our new home. Let's see what happens!

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Steve Newton on Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:53 am

Just checking in so that I don't forget this. Can't find it without going to the chat thread, though.

I'm assuming that we have the same guidelines as we had at World Crossing.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Choices on Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:03 pm

I think this is a fascinating topic and certainly worthy of discussion. I think we could do so without offending anyone.
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  journeymom on Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:28 pm

If Voldemort is a literary anti-Christ then of course the Death Eaters were his apostles and Snape was his Judas. Bellatrix was his most faithful servant so we could draw loose parallels to Peter, though I doubt JKR intended to draw such literal parallels.

If Love is the God-figure in Harry Potter then is there a holy trinity? Ignoring the fact that no one in HP possesses omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence, then Luna Lovegood immediately comes to my mind to represent the holy spirit in Harry's world. Or would it be Hermione?? I think the holy spirit would be represented by a female character. Luna is certainly airy-fairy enough to be a ghostly spirit. Harry himself represents the son. So maybe Dumbledore, as the architect and ultimate planner of the battle against Voldemort, represents the father. I think it doesn't matter that Dumbledore was revealed to be a flawed mortal. I think in the microcosm of the battle of good against evil that was the battle against Voldemort, Dumbledore certainly was superhumanly intelligent and seemingly omniscient.





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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  journeymom on Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:38 pm

One of my very favorite themes from pre-Deathly Hallows, back when we still had the pleasure of speculation:

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  journeymom on Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Ah, someone else made a great point:

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This is the symbol that was mistaken for the “Peverell coat of arms” by Marvolo Gaunt. (HBP 207) The vertical line represents the Elder Wand, or Wand of Destiny, which is all-powerful. The circle represents the stone with the power of resurrection, and finally, the triangle represents the cloak with the power to make the wearer invisible. Thus, the three Deathly Hallows are that which is all-powerful, the power of resurrection, and the presence that is invisible. In Christianity, this could symbolize the Holy Trinity: the all-powerful Father, the resurrected Son, and invisible presence of the Holy Spirit.

Makes perfect sense!
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Steve Newton on Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:37 pm

I remeber reading the books the first time and seeing Voldemort's coming out party as being a strange Christian scene. Antichirst seems to fit better.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Choices on Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:48 pm

I have always seen Dumbledore as the Father or God, Harry as the son or the Savior and Fawkes as the Holy Spirit. If I remember correctly, John Granger in his book "Finding God in Harry Potter" viewed the three in this way.

I am going to look for some things that I printed out that Round Pink Spider put out with some Biblical comparisons that just blew me away. I hope I can find them and will post them here.
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Solitaire on Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:03 pm

I don't know that I see Luna as a Holy Spirit character. I don't believe there will be a counterpart to every single character, really.

In some ways, I see Harry as very like the Apostle Peter, who goes charging in like a bull in a china shop in so many ways. We see Peter loudly promising that he will never deny Christ, yet he does. In the same way, we see Harry talking about being DD's man through and through, yet he hits a point during DH where he is angry with DD and feels DD has betrayed him.

Lily, Dumbledore, and Harry all function in some ways as Christ figures, IMO.

Snape is interesting here. Julia mentioned the Prodigal Son analogy, and I think that was very appropriate. I would also like to say that I see parallels to the Apostle Paul, as well. As we know, Paul was a persecutor of Christians when we first meet him ... as Snape was a persecutor of Muggles and those who did not support Voldemort. Paul was a citizen of Rome and a Pharisee, ties that would help him in several situations after his conversion to Christianity. In the same way, we see Snape using his prior connections to further the good cause in the HP novels. Like Paul, Snape would die at the hands of those to whom he once owed allegiance. Just something to consider ...

Choices, I definitely see a parallel between Fawkes and the Holy Spirit. The difference, I think, is that Christians see the Holy Spirit as remaining after Christ has left the earth rather than leaving with him. Hmmmm ... I'll have to think on that one a bit.

Thanks for the new thread, Potteraholic! I like it! Smile

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Mona on Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:53 am

Soli, I like the connections you see between Severus and the apostle Paul.

Once long ago on the Snape thread I posted a parallel I'd found between Saul on the road to Damascus and Snape on the windy hilltop.

"As he [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground ...[cut]..." (Acts, Chapter 9, Verses 3 & 4)

"Then a blinding, jagged jet of white light flew through the air...[cut]... Snape had dropped to his knees...[cut]..." (DH, Chapter 33)


This is Severus's true Road to Damascus moment, much more than the moment when he first discovered that Voldemort was targetting Lily. At that time he was solely and selfishly concerned with protecting the life of a woman whom he loved. It took the meeting with Dumbledore to make him realise the error of his ways.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Solitaire on Tue Jul 12, 2011 3:21 am

Mona, I don't remember your post, as I completely missed some of the Snape threads, but that was connection I made--Saul on the road to Damascus and Snape on the hilltop. And as Paul was always aware of the "thorn in his flesh," Snape had the Dark Mark as his "thorn," I think. I don't think these connections are coincidental.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Julia H. on Tue Jul 12, 2011 3:46 am

I still don't think wanting to save Lily was "selfish", but anyway. The parallel with Paul is very convincing.

I don't think these connections are coincidental. (Solitaire)

I don't think they are coincidental either, but I also wonder to what extent they are really conscious (on Jo's part) and to what extent they stem from a cultural background where these concepts and images are so deeply rooted that they may surface even when the author is not absolutely conscious of them.

Lily, Dumbledore, and Harry all function in some ways as Christ figures, IMO. (Solitaire)

They make me think of "Imitatio Christi", the concept of "following Christ" in one's everyday life and way of living. (Not so sure about Dumbledore: He seems more like a father figure to me.)

I think in one of the interviews (sorry, I don't think I will look it up right now), Jo was asked about Harry ending up at "King's Cross" when he "dies", and she essentially said she would leave that detail to everyone's personal interpretation.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Puck on Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:05 am

Journeymom, thanks for those links! The articles were wonderful!

It seems there are too many parallels for it to be coincidence, or subconscious on JKR's part. Right down to some of the names we see similarities.

I was fascinated to read that Hitler lost the war and the Spear of Destiny the same year Grindewald fell. That the "Hallows" of Christianity do indeed include a spear which would make one invincible as well as a resurrection stone. And that British mythology includes as it's 13th Hallow a cloak of invisibility. Honestly, I find the way she pulled it all together even more impressive now.

I like the St. Paul idea, but the Judas article had me thinking on that as well.

I have seen/read other things where I was offended at the portrayal of the "Christ" character. I was not with Harry, though it seemed obvious to me that was his role. Yes, he died and was resurrected in order to save others, but it was all done so beautifully. Had Harry needed to AK Voldie I think it would have taken away from that. But he never raised is wand to kill, despite is occasional desire to do so. He even tried to save Tom by his suggestion for remorse/redemption. That made all the difference, kept him "pure", and therefore acceptable as the Christ character. (I had once seen a movie where the "Savior" toted a machine gun which he had no trouble unloading into enemies. I was horrified when this man was put on a cross for several days before going on to save the world. I have since been sensitive to how such characters are betrayed.)
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Julia H. on Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:15 pm

Yes, the articles were fascinating.

Puck, I understand your sentiments. It is very important that Harry's hands remain clean of blood, and that he defeats evil through sacrifice and love rather than by greater physical (or magical) power. Harry gives Voldemort a last chance by trying to make him see the weakness and inevitable failure resulting from his selfish, inhuman goals. I also find it symbolic in this sense that Harry pronounces the "last word", i.e., the final judgement about Snape before the duel and after Snape's death, after, in fact, a thorough examination of Snape's heart: Snape was not yours, Snape was Dumbledore's.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  journeymom on Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:15 pm

I don't know that I see Luna as a Holy Spirit character.
Solitaire, I don't think I do either, anymore. I have to remember that Rowling's big interest was in Alchemy, and the English Hallows, two related themes that are rooted in Judeo-Christianity. In any case, Luna represented all sorts of important alchemical symbols in Harry's story. And that's what I picked up on when I cast around looking for a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Harry's story.

I have to admit I'm not familiar with the story of Saul on the road to Damascus, so I'll have to look it up.
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Puck on Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:42 pm

I like the idea of Fawkes representing the Holy spirit. Remember that Jesus would befriend those who were considered outcasts by the society in which he was raised. He saw the good in them that others usually didn't. Now think the scene on the train in HBP, where Harry chooses to sit with Neville and Luna, because he thinks they're "cool", no matter what the others say.

One thing we can all agree on, Cousin Dudley was no John the Baptist paving the way.
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Solitaire on Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:17 pm

One interesting thing that just occurred to me--I've never even thought of it before--is Dumbledore drinking the potion in the cave. Remember Christ's prayer in the garden, when He says, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."

Dumbledore certainly suffers when he "drinks the cup," as it were, and we can be sure he would have foregone that step if it had been possible. Yes, it's probably reaching ...

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Puck on Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:56 pm

I don't think it's reaching. He does suffer for the sake of others. He doesn't want to do this -he tries everything else he can think of before drinking the potion.

How much can we say for Regulas doing the same? He also "takes the cup". Hardly a Christ character, but again the reoccurring theme of suffering/facing death to protect others. Lily, James, Regulas, DD, Harry.
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Choices on Thu Jul 14, 2011 5:08 pm

My daughter Joy sent me this -

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Solitaire on Thu Jul 14, 2011 8:56 pm

I don't know that Jesus would be in Hufflepuff. He certainly ministered to the misfits and outcasts of society. I'm not sure, though, that I would consider Hufflepuffs as misfits and outcasts. I guess I see Christ more as a perfect blending of the best qualities of all four houses. He obviously lacks the selfishness of a Slughorn or the arrogance of the Malfoys ... but those are negative qualities.

When I read the responses on the blog, I came across one by Rainicorn that included this comment: Gryffindors are arrogant jerks, Ravenclaws are smart alecs, and Slytherins are bigots, but Hufflepuffs are actually decent human beings. I wanted to say ... Hmmmm, Neville an arrogant jerk? Luna a smart alec? Snape (a Half blood in love with a Muggle-born) a bigot? I thought, Gee ... stereotype much?

I suppose I actually think that Christ would have had at least a few Slytherin/Ravenclaw qualities, because He was certainly able to see through the sneaky questions of the Pharisees. Even the author notes Christ's admonition (Matthew 10:16) that we should be shrewd (some versions say wise) as serpents when it comes to dealing with those who would seek to take us down. And, of course, I can't help thinking we see Gryffindor qualities when Christ cleansed the temple (Joh 2:13-17) and when He carried the cross to Calvary.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Puck on Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:26 pm

One of the most arrogant we see is Zach Smith, who is also a Hufflepuff. We learn that your house does not define you. And as DD said "sometimes I think we sort too soon." Zach may have made a great Slytherin, and obviously Peter didn't belong in the home of the brave.

Plus, we have seen that Gryffindors, while brave, can also be very excepting. Think of Hermione's fight for Elves rights, or Ginny's kindness. The Weasley's in general. Harry himself would have fit in any of the houses. His loyalty and friendship would have suited Hufflepuff, and the Hat point out "not a bad mind", and that his thirst to prove himself was a Slytherin trait. However bravery, well he had that in spades. I think that is what is comes down too. Many of us a traits of several or all the houses. Which would Jesus belong to? Well, which trait was strongest? I could absolutely see him as a Gryffindor. It takes bravery to stand up to those in power and change the world. Morality is not purely a Hufflepuff trait.

I wonder how carefully this author read the books. It mentions that a friend had to help her find the Sorting Hat's song. (Honestly I would have chosen the one from year one, as that was when the Houses were clearly described for the first time.)

Thanks for the article, Choices. Nice food for thought!
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Verity Weasley on Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:38 am

There are some very interesting points made here. Not being overly familiar with Christian writings, beyond the obvious, I haven't really felt that I have that much to say. However, I did just read this short article which I thought was kind of cool.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Puck on Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:45 am

Oh, Verity, I loved that one! She's the same author to the article that was linked to higher up on the page. In the other one she talks more in depth about some of the things they covered in the class.

I love that it ties in with a basic message about tolerance, the one we see in all the books. Our trio, a Muggle-born, and half-blood, and a pure blood. Male and female. Rich and poor. Studious and....not so much. All friends. The students in the article all so different, but brought together by a love of Harry Potter. Poetic, I think.

It's a female author, yet she calls herself a priest. I had never heard that before now. I know that there are female ministers, who go by "Reverend", but never heard one described as a priest before.
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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Verity Weasley on Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:36 am

Oh, so that's why the name sounded familiar!

I agree with you Puck. The article reminded me of the forum. What was once a disparate group of strangers from all around the world brought together solely by our love of Harry Potter, is now a cohesive, supportive community.

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Re: Examples of Biblical symbolism in the books

Post  Mona on Sat Jul 16, 2011 11:54 am

Ooh, Verity, that's such a nice thought!

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