How Is Harry Potter Different Than the Bible? — that’s a recent post by Christian-believing scholar James McGrath, and as one might expect from the title by such faithful convert the post is in effect an exhortation for people to read the Bible more seriously and diligently than they do their Harry Potter novels.
The majority of Harry Potter fans actually READ Harry Potter.
James McGrath continues:
In fact, they read it all the way through, paying close attention to detail, on more than one occasion.
Mmm, yeh, well . . . I happen to know many apologist jerks who can boast just that — having read the Bible right through, close attention to detail, several times.
Yes, yes, of course we all know the next line,
many Christians who claim to take the Bible seriously actually merely pay lip service to it
But isn’t there one little detail being missed here?
The Bible is NOT a single book by a single author like any Harry Potter novel. Unless one believes a supernatural mind was using human scribes to write it all in 66 chapters.
So what motivates a biblical scholar, a professional scholar, to compare the Harry Potter novels with a texts composed across centuries and cultures and compiled some time around the fourth century by a warring church council?
One does not get the feeling that one would be able to engage in a serious non-partisan academic discussion with such a scholar.
But to see the real relationship between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ one can’t go past Derek Murphy’s analogies in Jesus Potter Harry Christ.
This post covers the final chapter of Derek Murphy’s Jesus Potter Harry Christ. All chapter by chapter reviews are collated here and on the Jesus Mysteries discussion group. I will do one more overview review of the entire book, but that may not be on this blog, but on amazon or such. A special thanks to Derek Murphy for sending me a review copy. His book has opened up for me a broader perspective on the question of Christian origins than I had till now been used to. (Recent posts on the place of “astronomics” in the ancient world may have been prompted by questions Derek Murphy has raised in my mind.)
Having argued in the preceding chapters that Christianity began as another type of mystery religion, or really a spread of “interactive and heterogeneous communities”, and not with a historical Jesus, Derek Murphy in this final chapter explains why such “mystery” type religious communities were displaced by something quite different based on a belief in the historical truth of the Jesus narrative. Murphy shows that the rise and spread of what became the orthodox Christianity that we know had very practical political and psycho-social causes, and can hardly be said to be the result of any miraculous forces. One of the main sources Murphy draws upon for this chapter is the reputable The Rise of Christianity by W.H.C. Frend.
The message of the literalness of the Jesus story was simple to grasp. Its message was uncomplicated: have faith in this historical event. Justin Martyr, for example, as Murphy points out, describes his conversion to Christianity explaining that its attraction lay in it being a much simpler set of understandings than other complex philosophies of his day. Continue reading “Jesus Potter Harry Christ, ch. 10: From Mystery to History . . . .”
In this chapter Derek Murphy offers an explanation for how and why the original teachings of Christianity, and Paul in particular, were lost and replaced by the narrative we are familiar with today, that Jesus was a literal flesh and blood historical person. Having begun with a spiritual message, Christianity eventually emerged with a teaching of a physical Jesus and even of a physical resurrection.
Paul’s Mystery Initiations
What Murphy describes as a “Jewish mystery cult” (addressed in the previous chapter) was a two-edged sword.
The Jewish mystery cult, a greater spiritual synthesis than even the mighty and popular Serapis, was immediately successful. It was fueled by both the desires and needs of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, and the lust for a greater and more powerful magical name. It also allowed Jews to integrate more fully into their cosmopolitan pagan environment. But there was an inherent and powerful conflict in this new religious practice. Jesus was the anathema of everything the Jews believed in; he was a repugnant, crudely constructed, pagan mystery god dressed up as the Jewish Messiah and appropriating Jewish scripture for his own. (p. 338)
In this chapter of Jesus Potter Harry Christ Derek Murphy argues that Christianity began as a mystery religion formed as a Jewish synthesis of Greek and Egyptian mystery cult traditions. It had different levels of meaning, with only the higher initiates being given full understanding of their faith.
The first two sections of this book have attempted to demonstrate that much of the symbolism and motifs in the Bible were appropriated by early Christian writers from external sources and added into the story of Jesus Christ. The material provided so far, however, while noteworthy and significant, may still be dismissed as speculative research or inference . . . .
Therefore we have to show that Christians did interpret, in the beginning, their savior and his ministry in identical terms; i.e. as spiritual allegory rather than historical fact. We will need to respond to the objection that Jews would never have become involved in pagan mystery cults or idolatry. More importantly, we have to demonstrate how the story of Jesus was created, for what reason, and by whom. We will do this in Chapter Eight. (pp. 177-8)
This chapter, titled Jesus the Handsome Prince: Reuniting With the Higher Self, surveys the way ancients appeared to interpret many of their myths as symbolic of spiritual processes common to all humanity. The central mythical idea he explores in this chapter, and one with clear links to the Christian myth, is the one that tells the tale of a descent into a world of matter, often accompanied with torment, and a desire to return to an earlier blissful state, often accomplished through another who descends for the purpose of rescue, ascension and reunification.
Murphy is aware of the danger of over generalizing and explains that
not every myth should be interpreted strictly in this manner, and many have other cultural or historical meanings. Still, it is relevant to understand that Greek and Roman myths were usually intimately tied with ethical and spiritual teachings, and intended to hide esoteric truths. The myth of Demeter and Persephone, for example, which is often taken as a simplistic vegetation story describing the changing seasons, was also the foundational myth of the Eleusinian mysteries . . . . (p. 258) Continue reading “Jesus Potter Harry Christ, ch. 7 — Review”
Continuing my review of Jesus Potter Harry Christ. All review posts are archived here. (Updated 1 hour after original posting)
I found this chapter one of the most interesting so far because of the questions and possibilities it raises. In my youth I was a keen amateur astronomer but knew much less about the northern than the southern sky. Since those days I have become much more interested in ancient cultures and beliefs, so I was especially interested to learn that the constellation of Draco (= Dragon) marked the northern celestial pole and appeared to be eternally turning the cosmos around that pole. Another serpentine constellation, Hydra, surfaces and submerges along the horizon. Derek Murphy writes an interesting chapter suggesting how the movements of these constellations could have given rise to a number of our famous myths, and have been the basis for certain religions making symbolic use of them. Continue reading “Jesus Potter Harry Christ, ch.6: Meeting Satan Again for the First Time”
This post belongs to a series of chapter by chapter reviews archived here.
I have yet to read the pioneering Christ myth arguments of the eighteenth century French savants Dupuis and Volney who, I understand, argued that Jesus Christ was based on astrological, in particular solar, myths. So I looked forward to Derek Murphy’s chapter 5 where he (re-)introduces astrological arguments purportedly underlying the Gospel Jesus myth.
This chapter of Jesus Potter Harry Christ turned out to be a mixed bag for me. I’ll give the good stuff first. This is from the second page of the chapter, with the underlining and bold being my own emphasis:
While I will not claim that Jesus Christ is just a sun myth or solar deity, I hope to demonstrate that certain symbols and motifs found in Christianity can only be fully explained after exploring this ancient tale of the sun’s journey. I will also establish that at least some early Christian communities associated Jesus with the sun (or previous solar deities) and deliberately incorporated astrological symbolism into their texts, rituals and practices. (p. 186)
Chapter four of Jesus Potter Harry Christ is predominantly a survey of pagan deities and heroes whose stories contain echoes of the Jesus Christ story: Gilgamesh, Dionysus, Pythagoras, Orpheus, Asclepius, Osiris, Tammuz (Adonis), Attis, Mithras. Derek Murphy is not arguing that the Jesus story was a direct borrowing of any of these or that these pagan gods and heroes are the same thing as Jesus. What Murphy does argue is that it is important to understand the cultural and ideological background from which Christianity emerged. To this end, the very clear similarities between these pagan figures, and certain practices associated with the worship of some of them, are significant, and especially so in an age of unprecedented religious tolerance and syncretism.
The title of the book is an attempt to focus readers on the argument that literary borrowing is often a more subtle and complex cultural process than a simplistic, deliberate, one for one correspondence from earlier iconic figures and stories. The author is currently a PhD student in comparative literature so it is not surprising to find a wider range of literary models than the Harry Potter series sprinkled throughout the book. Continue reading “Jesus Potter Harry Christ, ch.4: Going Pagan — a review”
Chapter three of Derek Murphy’s book, Jesus Potter Harry Christ, discusses the evidence commonly cited for the historical existence of Jesus. In his view the arguments used to support the historicity of Jesus
are often a mixture of inferences, deductions and references to common knowledge and unfounded associations. (p. 68)
He uses Lee Strobel’s claims for “overwhelming evidence” for Jesus’ existence as his foil, beginning with the claim that gospels such as that of Luke are “so painstakingly accurate” in their historical details. Murphy knocks this argument out flat by comparing the many researched minute details and accurate facts in the tales of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Rowling’s Harry Potter.
So what has kept the mythicist controversy alive despite frustrated assertions among biblical scholars that the debate was settled long ago? Derek Murphy demonstrates in chapter two of Jesus Potter Harry Christ that the modern controversy over the historicity of Jesus “has a long and substantial history, and that, in effect, the jury is still out.” Derek Murphy is well aware that some of the works he uses have been questioned and disputed with the advance of academic research. His purpose is thus limited to showing the existence and heritage of the debate.
My goal is only to demonstrate that a modern controversy over the historical Jesus exists, that it has a long and substantial history, and that, in effect, the jury is still out.
I also want to show that certain claims regarding Jesus are not modern delusions of “fringe” scholars — in fact there are few claims made about Jesus today that were not made centuries earlier. (p. 47)
Although it is easy to accept that Rowling crafted the literary character of Harry Potter after the figure of Jesus, shouldn’t it pique our interest that Jesus — a monumental figure in modern world religion generally believed to have been historical — has so much in common with the obviously fictional fantasy world and character of Harry Potter? (Preface, p. viii, Jesus Potter Harry Christ)
It’s a good question. It appeals to me personally because I have a particular interest in the gospels as literature. I am convinced that they need to be understood as literature before we can decide if and in what manner we might seek to extract historical information from them.
This post is a first draft of a review I am preparing for the book, and covers so far only the first of the book’s three sections. I am posting this now for the simple reason that I fear too long a time gap before I will be in a position to post a completed review of the entire book. So serialization it is for now. Continue reading “Jesus Potter Harry Christ: Reviewing Part One (chapter one)”
I regularly argue on this blog for an appreciation of the literary nature of the leading characters, episodes and narrative structures in the canonical gospels. So I am looking forward to reading and reviewing Derek Murphy’s Jesus Potter, Harry Christ. My initial response to reading the title was that this was a joke of some sort. But I encourage anyone interested in the gospels and Jesus as literature to read the content below and see that it does seek to be a serious contribution to an understanding of the literary and mythical character of Jesus.
Neither is this a slur against Christianity. The author rightly explains that the fictional nature of characters does not detract from the positive influence that character can have on those who love them. The author also answers pertinent questions about his rationale for writing such a book, the status, history and grounds of Jesus-mythicism. I will introduce some of this discussion from the author’s perspective in this post.
I particularly like the main idea of this book: Our question then is not whether Jesus Christ existed, but whether the literary character recorded in the New Testament was primarily inspired by a historical figure or previous literary traditions and characters.
Not having yet read the book I can only present here material from the author. It certainly sounds like a different approach to the question of the origins of the Christ-myth, and though some details sound a bit strange I am certainly interested in reading and evaluating the arguments.
This post offers
an overview of the book,
an author’s identity statement,
an interview with the author,
a press release,
FAQs and links to online answers to FAQs about the book,
the book’s concept, how the book came about and a letter from the author,
and a link to several chapters that can be downloaded gratis.