Harry Potter and The Holy Bible: A Comparison
Abstract: The author illustrates the many literary ties between “Harry Potter” and the “Holy Bible.”
It is widely known that The Holy Bible is the most-printed book in the world. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling tops the New York Times list of best-selling book series of all time. One reason that these two popular books have reached such high levels of recognition could be that they deal with universal themes in all great works of literature: the internal struggle of good and evil and the message that love will always triumph in the end. Interestingly enough, when broken down, the two books also seem to share similarities in plot. Although the Harry Potter series and the Bible are two very separate works of literature, they have several comparable features.
Parallels can be found between the actions and motivations of those in the Bible and book series. These comparisons exist between Dumbledore and God, Jesus and Harry, and Satan and Voldemort. The virtue of good is exemplified in the character of Dumbledore, while God is the embodiment of what is good in the world. Throughout the novels, there are moments in which Rowling hints at Dumbledore’s omnipresent power, which is beyond the ability of any other wizard. At several instances, for example, Harry believes that Dumbledore can see him when he is under his invisibility cloak. While in Hagrid’s hut in Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron hide under Harry’s cloak. Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, then enter and, for a second, Harry was almost sure Dumbledore’s eyes flickered towards the corner where he and Ron stood hidden (COS Rowling 225). The invisibility cloak, a tool unlike any other, renders its wearer completely invisible. For a moment, Harry feels certain that Dumbledore looks right at him, seeing past the invisibility cloak. It is extraordinary that Dumbledore can see through the cloak, proving he has power beyond that of any other wizard. Dumbledore’s almost God-like abilities are repeatedly demonstrated throughout the novels. He has accomplished great achievements throughout his life that have helped the Wizarding World tremendously, meriting him the Order of Merlin, First Class. He also possesses magical skill unparalleled by any wizard. Dumbledore often seems to know what is going on around him and is aware of news before it has even been released. When Harry has to make an appearance in court, his trial time is unexpectedly moved up. Dumbledore is still on time to the surprise of many of the jurors of the Wizarding Court. He exclaims that “by a happy coincidence, I arrived at the Ministry three hours early” (OOTP 52).
According to the Bible, God is present in our hearts, and His spirit remains with us always. The Bible describes God’s words to his followers: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (2 Tim 1:7). God promises never to abandon us just as Dumbledore tells Harry that he will never leave him. When Harry worries about Dumbledore leaving the school, Dumbledore replies, “I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me” (COS Rowling 266). Even after his death, Harry remembers his old headmaster’s words and feels comforted.
Dumbledore is also known as the greatest defender of Muggles as God is known as the greatest defender of the weak. In the Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel, God promises that those who are poor in spirit will be rewarded, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Throughout the Bible, readers witness God’s love for the humble, poor, and broken. He promises them the riches of heaven once they leave this world. The Wizarding world is quite aware of Dumbledore’s love for Muggles. He continuously works for their protection against Death Eaters who believe that witches and wizards should rule and common folk should be the subservient class. In his time on the Wizengamot, or wizard’s jury, Dumbledore instilled laws calling for the protection of Muggles – again proving his love for them.
Fawkes the phoenix is inextricably linked to Dumbledore as the Holy Spirit and God are one. After Dumbledore’s death, Fawkes’ phoenix song of lament is described as something within, comforting the mourners and connecting them all to Dumbledore. Its phoenix song is a “stricken lament of terrible beauty. And Harry felt, as he had felt about the phoenix song before, that the music was inside him, not without: It was his own grief turned magically to song … it seemed to ease [his] pain a little to listen to the sound of [his] mourning” (HBP Rowling 614).
Fawkes acts as the embodiment of the Holy Spirit, which descends upon God’s followers and grants them wisdom to spread His word. After hearing the phoenix song, Harry feels comforted and empowered to continue Dumbledore’s mission after his death. The flame of the Holy Spirit is comparable to the flame in which the phoenix is reborn. When Dumbledore escapes the unjust summons from the Ministry of Magic to be sent to Azkaban in the fifth book, he disappears in a cloud of Fawkes’ flame.
During the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, also called Holy Ghost, descends upon the apostles as fiery tongues and grants them wisdom, protection, and healing. Harry sees Fawkes descend and speed through the air “like a ghostly bird” towards him. It brings Harry healing when it uses its tears to close his wound. After being bitten by the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry slowly beings to die as the snake’s venom spreads throughout his body. “Even the pain was leaving him….¨But was this dying? Instead of going black, the Chamber seemed to be coming back into focus. Harry gave his head a little shake and there was Fawkes, still resting his head on Harry’s arm. A pearly patch of tears was shining all around the wound, except that there was no wound” (COS Rowling 275). Phoenix tears have an incredible healing ability as the Holy Spirit can heal those who trust in its power. Fawkes also acts as protector to Harry. He blinds the basilisk, which can kill anyone who sets meets its eyes, in order to prevent it from harming Harry. Together, Dumbledore, Harry, and Fawkes form the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the Trinity.
Voldemort takes on the role of Satan in the Harry Potter series. Lucifer turns against God, his creator, in hopes of overpowering Him and usurping his role as ruler of the universe. Meanwhile, Voldemort turns against Dumbledore, who gives him an opportunity to become a true wizard and learn to use and control magic at Hogwarts School.
For centuries the symbol of the snake has been thought of as evil and thus associated with Satan, who even takes the form of a snake when tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is fitting that Lord Voldemort is a direct descendent of Salazar Slytherin, founder of the Slytherin House of Hogwarts, whose symbol happens to be a snake. Ironically, Voldemort can speak directly to snakes, which is known as the language of Parseltongue. One of Voldemort’s Horcruxes (that is, a common object in which one can entrap pieces of one’s soul by committing the ultimate act of evil and murdering) is his pet snake Nagini, which is inextricably linked to him in that she contains a part of his soul. At several instances in the novels, Voldemort possesses his snake in order to harm others. Voldemort takes on the role of Satan in the series. He commits acts of unspeakable evil with no remorse and does not comprehend the concept of love that is so present in the characters of Dumbledore and Harry.
Dumbledore’s message to the world is that love conquers all. He often states that Harry will have powers that Voldemort will never be able to comprehend. That is the power to love. He tells Harry to pity those who have never known love rather than the dead, for they are the ones who are truly suffering. God is the embodiment of love: “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). His message is that by serving others out of love, we are serving Him. John’s Gospel is one of the many that states God’s love for us: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16).
Dumbledore and God act as foils to Voldemort and Satan. Dumbledore is the only wizard Voldemort has ever feared just as Satan has always feared God. Both evil characters try to match and overcome the power of their opposites, only to have their attempts thwarted. Satan falls from God’s grace just as Dumbledore knows not to trust Voldemort. Voldemort craves power above anything else. He believes it will stem from his invincibility. Voldemort begins his quest at an early age, by committing the ultimate act of evil and taking a human life in order to create a Horcrux. By the seventh book of the series, Voldemort devotes all of his time to finding the deathly hallows in order to conquer death, which he believes will make him all-powerful.
The lives of Jesus and of Harry Potter parallel each other in several respects. Both Jesus and Harry are targeted even before their births due to prophecies of them being the “chosen ones” to bring peace to the world, but both ultimately survive due to their parents’ protection. Before their births, both were fated to become the saviors of their world. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she will bear a son who will become the savior of the human race. Likewise, the prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney predicts that a child with unknown powers born at the end of the month of July will challenge Voldemort. Harry is then targeted as the destined child. Voldemort immediately begins to take action and visits the Potters in order to kill Harry. Peter Pettigrew betrays his closest friends, much like Judas, one of the trusted twelve disciples, betrayed Jesus in giving away the location of their secret hiding place. Voldemort is then able to kill Lily and James Potter, fulfilling the prophecy in giving Harry a reason for vengeance. Similarly, the Magi bring news of old prophecies from the Old Testament to King Herod. They tell him that a son of David will become the King of the Jews. Out of fear that his power will be usurped, Herod orders all young sons to be killed. Upon hearing this, Mary and Joseph immediately flee to protect their newborn son.
Throughout his schooling, Harry is disliked by those who do not wish to believe that he is the one destined to defeat Voldemort. He is also ridiculed at times for being a supporter of Dumbledore. Likewise, Jesus is hated for being God’s follower and spreading His word. Harry is often tempted by the possibility of ignoring his duties of defeating Voldemort and living a normal life.
Lord Voldemort regenerates to a human form in Goblet of Fire. He taunts Harry several times, saying that Harry is not strong enough to resist the pull of the dark side, and that he and Harry could rule the Wizarding world if they would work together. In Sorcerer’s Stone, Voldemort tells Harry that if Harry would give the Sorcerer’s Stone to Voldemort, he, Voldemort would be able to bring Harry’s parents back. Despite the longing Harry feels for his parents, he rejects Voldemort’s offer. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke recount the story of The Temptation of Christ. After his baptism, Jesus goes to the desert to meditate and fast for forty days and nights. During his fasting, Satan visits Jesus in a human form, tempting Jesus to worship him and offering him bread to relieve his hunger. Jesus, however, continuously resists the Devil’s temptation.
In Deathly Hallows, Harry dies and escapes all of the suffering and pain he has endured. However, he soon wakes up to find himself in a dream-like cloudy white place, which bears a strong resemblance to the modern-day depiction of heaven, where he meets Dumbledore. Free of all worry and pain, he asks Dumbledore if he is to stay there forever or if he will have to come back. Dumbledore replies that it is Harry’s choice whether or not he should go back, saying that if he should so choose, he could board the train at King’s Cross (which is later revealed to be the place) that would take him ‘on.’ Harry again chooses to act selflessly and returns to finish off Voldemort and save the world from the evil of the Death Eaters. Jesus also dies on the cross to save humankind from sin. He is reborn to give his believers everlasting hope. Both Harry and Jesus sacrifice their lives to bring hope to the world and later resurrect from the dead to come back and save humankind.
The book series and The Bible are the books most translated in the world. Their universal messages have granted them such a high degree of popularity. Themes relevant to our lives, such as the struggle to do good in the face of adversity and the idea that love is the supreme power have made them both such great works.