J.K. Rowling’s Use of Biblical References as Depicted in the Book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

December 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

In 1999, J.K. Rowling released her third book in the Harry Potter series, which has become a global sensation. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book out of a series of seven, and although it is not the middle book in the series, there is a certain turning point in the third novel and the series becomes darker and more serious. The themes of this novel are graver than the former novels, some of the prominent ones being deceit, time, good vs evil, and compassion/forgiveness. The characters grow up a little, and start to face problems that the older generations can relate towards. The Prisoner of Azkaban has many biblical allusions hidden in plain sight throughout the 435 pages. The events and characters in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban have many allusions to the biblical story of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion on the cross.

In the third Harry Potter novel, Harry receives information that an escaped prisoner –Sirius Black – who is accused of killing James and Lily Potter is hunting him down to kill him. In the end of the story, it is revealed to Harry that Sirius is his godfather, and he was also the original secret keeper of the whereabouts of James and Lily. However, Sirius did not believe he was fit for this responsibility, and the job was passed onto Peter Pettigrew. When James and Lily died, it was because Peter betrayed his best friends, and told Voldemort where their secret location was so they could be killed. This story is a biblical allusion to the story of Jesus’ betrayal. At the Last Supper, Jesus confides in his Apostles that he was to be betrayed that very night by one of their own. A few hours later, while Jesus and his Apostles were praying on the Mount of Olives, Judas approaches with soldiers, kisses Jesus, and in turn betrays him to the chief priest. Jesus was then sentenced to death, and was killed on the cross.

These two stories have many similarities that directly parallel them against each other. Peter Pettigrew and Judas were both responsible for protecting the secret of their friends’ location. However, they both deceived their friends, and revealed the information for the sake of their own good. Peter betrayed James and Lily out of fear, Judas betrayed Jesus out of greed. In the beginning, Peter was fighting Voldemort with the good guys, but as Voldemort began to become more powerful, Peter began to believe that good could not conquer evil, and that it would be best to join the dark side in the interest of his own life. Peter says “The Dark Lord… he -he has weapons you can’t imagine… he was taking over everywhere… w-what was there to be gained by refusing him” (page 374)? He chose his friends’ death over his own, which is the ultimate act of betrayal. Furthermore, Judas betrayed Jesus because there was a monetary reward for turning him over to the high priests. Matthew 25:16 states: “And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. Judas gave out Jesus’ secret location for a mere 30 pieces, showing that his main reason for betrayal was greed for money.

This biblical allusion shows that Judas is the parallel to Peter Pettigrew, and Jesus is the parallel to James and Lily. Peter Pettigrew fully represents Judas; and although their reasons behind the betrayal were different, in the long run they had very similar actions. After Judas betrays Jesus, he becomes consumed with guilt and hangs himself. Likewise, in the 7th novel Peter begins to feel what seems as a shadow of guilt or duty, and strangles himself. While Judas and Peter embody each other, the parallel between Jesus and James and Lily is not as absolute. They definitely have similarities, but James and Lily do not fully represent their biblical mirror. Jesus, James, and Lily all died for the greater good. They all wanted the world to be a better place, and they had to die in order for changes to be made. In Jesus’ case, he died so that the gates of heaven could be open. James and Lily had to die in the war against Voldemort so that their love and protection would give their son the power to defeat their murderer. However, Harry Potter is more of an allusion to Jesus, as he is “the Chosen One” who can be the only one to defeat Voldemort and bring light back into the world. Due to this parallel, it makes the allusion between Jesus/James and Lily less absolute.

The parallel between the biblical story of Jesus’ betrayal and death are very significant in not only the third Harry Potter book, but also the whole series. It adds a dimension to the books that allow for a deeper understanding to the reader. Jesus was betrayed and sentenced to death, but his death was a sacrifice to all of human kind. Likewise, James and Lily died for their son, who in turn saved the wizarding world. This parallel brings a dimension of the fight between good and evil in the Harry Potter series, as well as adds tones of human love, sacrifice, and the good of all humans.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has two characters who were very wrongly accused, but who were both sentenced to death. As mentioned earlier, Sirius Black was accused of killing James and Lily Potter, but was also believed to have killed Peter Pettigrew along with 12 muggles. Sirius had confronted Peter about the death of James and Lily, but Peter caused an explosion, which killed 12 muggles who were standing by at the scene. Peter than transformed into a rat (as an animagus) and Sirius was left to take responsibility. He was then sentenced to life in Azkaban, and after 12 years, he escaped and sought revenge. Sirius Black was a wrongly accused criminal, and was never able to prove his innocence while alive. Furthermore, Hagrid has a pet hippogriff by the name of Buckbeak who was also wrongly accused. Hagrid’s first lesson as a professor took a turn for the worst when Draco Malfoy improperly handles Buckbeak and is pawed by the animal. After speaking with his father, Lucius Malfoy pulls some strings and has Buckbeak sentenced to death. Buckbeak is a wrongly accused criminal because he did not permanently hurt Draco, and the accident was actually Malfoy’s fault because Hagrid had told the class how to properly handle a hippogriff. In the end, Sirius escapes on Buckbeak, and the two innocent criminals ride off into the sunset.

There is undoubtedly a huge biblical allusion of the betrayal of Jesus in the Prisoner of Azkaban. The parallel between the characters add depth and dimension to the story, and gives the reader intellectual clues into the personality of each person. Furthermore, the stories themselves are intertwined, and deception, betrayal, and lies are a driving force behind the scenes. This particular biblical allusion creates a pattern of dark and light, good and evil, and the obstacles one has to battle to reach salvation.

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