This weekend marks the arrival of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to your local cinema. The second part of the same story is slated to arrive next summer, and with the eight and final installation of the Harry Potter series, the story that became a cultural phenomenon will finally reach its conclusion.
During the seventh and final book, Harry and Hermione (or perhaps, Hero and Heroine) discover an inscription on the tombstone of Harry’s parents: “The last enemy to be conquered is death.” Readers more familiar with the Bible may recognize the phrase; it comes from 1 Corinthians 15.26. As author J.K. Rowling made clear at the time of the book’s release, the phrase was not happenstance. Rowling, a church-attending Christian, remarked at the biblical influnce upon herself which inevitably permeated her writing.
Once upon a time, Harry Potter was eschewed by many Christian leaders at the gateway to witchcraft and normalization of the occult. Somewhere along the way, the cries of abject corruption faded, and now, the emphasis has turned toward understanding the parallels between the Rowling’s fantasy story and the biblical narrative. Not surprising to those familiar with both Harry Potter and the Scriptures, much overlay exists.
Both writings ultimately tell a tale of love and friendship. Harry Potter learns that his life’s course is set by the selfless act of his dying mother – an act that utterly eludes the embodiment (well, eventual embodiment) of evil, Lord Voldermort. Along the way, Harry discovers the love of his close friends (but not many classmates except for Dumbledore’s Army), teachers, and numerous other adults. The Bible, tells the story of God’s love for humanity. The Bible, ultimately, is story of redemption. By the second page of most Bibles, the Fall severs the oneness that first existed between God and humanity. The rest of the story looks to restoring that relationship; it looks to a time when God can finally declare of his creating beings, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
The phrase “The last enemy to be conquered is death” seems especially apposite to Rowling in that the statement is nestled into one of the most detailed and lengthy teachings on the resurrection of the dead. Even among Christians, the beliefs about the resurrection tend to serve as a watershed for ascertaining the levels of faith. Those who deny the resurrection, and thus disdain the notion of judgment and life after death, look upon Jesus as a moral example – the pinnacle of human possibility. Such Christians tend to tacitly snicker at the deity of Jesus. Those who accept the resurrection as a reality that faces everyone, look upon Jesus Christ as fully God and fully human. They believe that through the atoning act of Jesus’s death on the cross and his ultimate return from the grave, he established the only path to God. For reasons not fully explained, the story of Harry Potter shrouds the gravestone of Lily Potter – the character who displays the act of ultimate love – with a biblical phrase that reeks of the resurrection.