When the movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" was released Beliefnet invited a group of experts to discuss the Potter phenomenon. One topic: Did Harry's creator, J.K. Rowling, intend the similarities our group found between Harry and Jesus?

Authors often give fictional heroes Christ-like attributes--Billy Budd's death on the yardarm, Hemingway's old fisherman shouldering his mast--to give them mythical depth. Is Harry a Christ figure? The answer may dictate how we think about him--and tell us what to expect from upcoming books.

The chart below details Rev. John Killinger's reasons to believe Harry is a Christ figure. Highlights of the debate follow.


Signs of Arrival An owl foretells Harry's coming. The Christmas Star foretold Jesus' birth.
Mark of Wounding Lightning bolt on his forehead. Nail scars on hands and feet.
Childhood Powers Talks to snake, leaps to rooftops. In apocryphal gospel, gives clay sparrows life.
Ancestry Linked to both Muggles and Wizards. Linked to God and humanity.
Enemies The object of Voldemort's wrath and attention. The object of Satan's wrath and attention.
Resurrection Spends three days in a coma after battling Voldemort. Spends three days in a tomb before being resurrected.
Nether Regions Descends to the Chamber of Secrets. Descended to hell while in the tomb.
Harry Saves? Exhibits constant willingness to engage Voldemort for the salvation of others. Died on the cross for the salvation of others.
Suffering Endures the pain of the Cruciatus Curse. Endured pain on the cross.
Father Figure Dumbledore God the Father

Selected Debate Highlights
(To read the entire discussion, click here. Login required.)

John Killinger, author of "God, the Devil and Harry Potter": J.K. Rowling has written the Christ story of the 21st century, and it's wonderful that she has attained such a magnificent following worldwide.

From this viewpoint, Harry is the hero of faith par excellence--a wounded hero, a very modest one, who is ready to sacrifice himself completely in behalf of others and who opposes Lord Voldemort, the personification of hatred and evil, with all his strength. Like most great Western literature, the Potter stories are founded on the mortal rivalry of good and evil, and Harry is the Christ-figure with both extraordinary (wizard) and ordinary (Muggle) credentials who becomes the focus of the conflict. Is he spiritual? Not in any self-concious way. But does his existence have spiritual consequences? Of course it does. Vast spiritual consequences. He is the very embodiment of spiritual meaning as we know it.