Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

The Combat Myth and the Gospel's Apocalypse in the Harry Potter Series: Subversion of a Supposed Existential Given

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

The Combat Myth and the Gospel's Apocalypse in the Harry Potter Series: Subversion of a Supposed Existential Given

Article excerpt


The following study confirms the hypothesis that J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series finds its source of influence in the Gospels by identifying a convergence of content, structure, and meaning between the two. The Gospels are asserted here to contain an internal polemic of two opposing logics organized around the subversion of the traditional combat myth. Therefore, J. K. Rowling's monumental fiction is distinctly formed around the same plot and imagery of the combat myth, openly subverting it in terms of the two logics. The profusion of biblical content within Western civilization and beyond makes justifying or corroborating Rowling's particular influences unnecessary.

The argument that the Gospels and Harry Potter share similarities begins with the definition and explanation of the two types of Logos. The combat myth represents the Logos of violence. The Logos of love's subversion of the Logos of violence is a reflection narrative (Hebrew subversive parallelism), which is the subversive process Girard calls the scapegoat lens. Next, working from Girard's insights, I explore the way the Bible describes human culture as a metaphorical grave or tomb that comes by "life," and is thereafter sustained, through devouring victims. Finally, the complete symmetry of the two narratives is discussed under the heading "The Gospel of the Harry Potter Series."

J. K. Rowling has fashioned in the Harry Potter series a guide. She has laboured to restore the long scorned and abused word love and reinstated it in the mainstream consciousness (with 400 million books sold, and counting, since 1997) as the arch-rival of the violence that rules this world, and as equivalent with life, which I define as a Gospel concept. This central theme is a strong indicator of the fiction's Gospel affiliation. An instance of the recurring polemic between violence and love occurs in one of Dumbledore's "epilogues" debriefing Harry near the close of the fifth book, in which Harry laments Voldemort's apparently superior power:

"I haven't any powers [Voldemort] hasn't got, I couldn't fight the way he did tonight, I can't possess people or--or kill them--"

"There is a room in the Department of Mysteries," interrupted Dumbledore, "that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature ...Itisthepowerheld within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all." (Rowling 2003, 927)

The power held in the room, and so abundant in Harry, is love. The essential dichotomy in the Harry Potter series is violence versus love.

The present study is informed by the groundbreaking work of Rene Girard, whose contribution to the social sciences over the past several decades has been staggering with his anthropological theory of mimesis and scapegoating which explains the interrelationships of the universal phenomena of human violence and religion. Yet his is surely one among a host of profound and complementary offerings to our collective knowledge of what Girard terms the two types of Logos. I hope to show that Rowling has formed the Harry Potter series as the battleground of two opposing concepts of world order that Girard terms "the Logos of Heraclitus" and "the Logos of John" (1987, 263-280). Girard articulates his idea best in the context of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures from which, he asserts, the two ideas are first and most clearly developed, and by which Rowling was influenced with regard to the essential narrative framework of her bestselling fiction.

Two Types of Logos

The two types of Logos are present in the Judaeo-Christian canons in a polemical layering of the two by the writers and redactors. Eminent biblical apocalypse scholar John J. Collins has acknowledged these two types of God in Does the Bible Justify Violence?, where he writes, "The Bible witnesses not only to the innocent victim and to the God of victims but also to the hungry God who devours victims and to the zeal of his human agents" (2004, 30-31). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.