Jesus in every book of the Bible

In Luke 24:27 Jesus reveals to two of his disciples that all Scripture is about him and then proceeds to show them from the books of Moses and the prophets (the Old Testament). In Hebrews 1:1-2 the voice of Scripture is expanded to include the New Testament (which speaks of all that Jesus said, did and continued to do through the mission of the Church). All Scripture really is about Jesus. Here’s a quick overview of how you can find Jesus in every book of the Bible…

  • Genesis: He’s the Serpent Crusher
  • Exodus: He’s the Passover Lamb
  • Leviticus: He’s our High Priest
  • Numbers: He’s the Pillar of cloud/fire
  • Deuteronomy: He’s the Prophet greater than Moses
  • Joshua: He’s the Captain of our alvation
  • Judges: He’s our Saving Judge
  • Ruth: He’s our Kinsman Redeemer
  • 1 & 2 Samuel: He’s our Forever King
  • 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles: He’s our Perfect King
  • Ezra-Nehemiah: He’s the Rebuilder who reverses the devestation of sinfulness
  • Esther: He’s our Guardian like Mordecai
  • Job: He’s our ever-living Redeemer
  • Psalms: He’s our Shepherd-King
  • Proverbs: He’s our Comprehensible Wisdom in life
  • Ecclesiastes: He’s our Incomprehensible Wisdom in faith
  • Song of Songs: He’s our Loving Bridegroom
  • Isaiah: He’s the Suffering Servant
  • Jeremiah: He’s the Righteous Descendant (branch) who restores God’s people
  • Lamentations: He’s our Weeping Prophet
  • Ezekiel: He’s the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord
  • Daniel: He’s the one like a son of man, the fourth person in the firey furnace
  • Hosea: He’s the Faithful Husband who persues his unfaithful wife
  • Joel: He’s the one who pours out his Holy Spirit in power
  • Amos: He’s the one who will come on the Day of the Lord
  • Obadiah: He’s the Saviour on Mount Zion
  • Jonah: He’s our Foreign Missionary who dwelt for three days in the grave
  • Micah: He’s the Ruler who comes out of Bethlehem Ephrathah
  • Nahum: He’s the Avenger of God’s elect
  • Habakkuk: He’s the Righteous One in whom we live by faith
  • Zephaniah: He’s the Mighty One who will save
  • Haggai: He’s the Restorer of God’s House
  • Zechariah: He’s the Fountain that cleanses us from sin and impurity
  • Malachi: He’s the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in his wings
  • Matthew: He’s the King of the Jews
  • Mark: He’s the Servant Son of God
  • Luke: He’s the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost
  • John: He’s the Word of God
  • Acts: He’s the only Name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved
  • Romans: He’s the Righteousness of God
  • 1 Corinthians: He’s the one who gives us victory over death
  • 2 Corinthians: He’s the one who reconciles us to God
  • Galatians: He’s our Freedom
  • Ephesians: He’s the Head of the Church
  • Philippians: He’s our Joy
  • Colossians: He’s the Fullness of God
  • 1 & 2 Thesselonians: He’s the one we wait for in hope
  • 1 & 2 Timothy: He’s the one that we preach and serve
  • Titus: He’s the Truth of sound doctrine
  • Philemon: He’s our Advocate before God
  • Hebrews: He’s the Author and Perfecter of our faith
  • James: He’s the Work of our faith seen in our lives
  • 1 Peter: He’s the one who died for sin once for all
  • 2 Peter: He’s our Life and Godliness
  • 1 John: He’s how we know God’s love
  • 2 John: He’s our Example to follow
  • 3 John: He’s our Pattern to immitate
  • Jude: He’s the Source of our salvation
  • Revelation: He’s the first and last, the living one, the lamb who was slain – the coming forever King of God’s people

Adapted from Jesus throughout the Bible, by Jack Stockton.


Teaching the Bible seminar

Here are my notes from a recent seminar on teaching the Bible at a Crosslinks SMILE training conference.

Download the handout sheet
Download the Bible preparation lead sheet

What is the Bible?

Luke 24:27
The Bible is, from the very first word to very last full-stop, about Jesus and our salvation by grace that comes through faith in him.

Hebrews 1:1-2
The Bible is a combination of…

  • wisdom, history and prophecy in OT that point us forward to Jesus.
  • witness statements and pastoral letters in NT that point us back to Jesus.

Ultimately it is how God has chosen to speak to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
As Christ’s ambassadors, we have his authority in the Bible…

  • because God has spoken it.
  • he has spoken all of it.
  • and he never speaks in error.

Which means we can know precisely what Jesus wants to say to us and we can know precisely what Jesus wants to say to others. This means we believe in…

  • verbal (the Bible is God’s word).
  • plenary (all of it is God’s word).
  • inerrancy (that it is without error and is reliable).

This is why it is much better to work through chunks or entire books of the Bible, instead of picking topics.

  • it is how God has given it to us.
  • all scripture is useful – even the order things appear in the various books and letters.
  • besides, you’ll be surprised how many topics come up as you work through the text.

The Bible is a carefully God-inspired man-written blend of different genres, written by over 40 different people, spanning 2500 years of history, all wrapped up into 66 books and letters which all speak of Jesus and our faith in him.

How should we use the Bible?

Okay, so we have Jesus’ authoritative words right here. So how should we wield that authority? How should we use the Bible? Just because the Bible is without error, does that mean how we use it will be without error?

Obviously no, and Bible tells us that. In Titus (must study this and Timothy letters, if undertaking any ministry) we see…

  • there are people who oppose sound doctrine and teach falsehood.
  • we must be people who ‘hold to trustworthy message’ and ‘teach what is in accord with sound doctrine’.

Illustration: Imagine being given finest, sharpest sword that has been passed down in your family from generation to generation. That is what we have in the Bible (Ephesians 6, Hebrews 4).

  • imagine sword in hands of a child or idiot/fool.
  • compare with sword in hands of trained warriors.

We need to be working towards being trained warriors rather than inexperience children or fools.

What we’re going to do now is…

  • see how the original authors set about using the word of God as they wrote it.
  • think about how we can follow their pattern as we set about using the word of God today.

Thankfully God, in his wisdom, included this in his word!

Ecclesiastes 12:9-12

  • v9 the writers of the OT taught people, with great care.
  • v10 what they taught/wrote was truth, and they made sure that the truth was reliable in every way.
  • v11 but this teaching affected lives, directing their actions and keeping their hearts fixed on Jesus.
  • v11 and this teaching was ultimately given by Jesus, through his Holy Spirit.
  • v12 lastly, a warning against turning to other teaching besides or in addition to the Bible.

2 Peter 1:15-21

  • v15 the NT writers made sure their teaching could be recalled and passed on.
  • v16 what they taught/wrote was truth, because they were eye-witness accounts.
  • v19 we should pay attention to this teaching: live by it, believe it, trust it – keeping hearts fixed on Jesus.
  • v20 no word of Scripture (OT or NT) came from the will of man, but from God through Holy Spirit.
  • v21 warning of teaching that comes from man alone.

So, key principles…

  • we are to teach faith in Jesus – communicate and pass on knowledge of who he is and what he has done.
  • we are to teach truth and teach it reliably.
  • we should teach truth that changes lives.
  • we should teach in the power of the Holy Spirit, prayerfully asking for him to be at work in us as we prep and speak/lead.
  • if you’re not teaching in Jesus and on Jesus, quit and go home. Seriously, stop.

Note: there is a Big difference between us and them.

  • Revelation is now complete (Hebrews 1:1-2).
  • so no need for Holy Spirit to inspire us in the same way with new revelation.
  • Instead, Holy Spirit speaks to us what has already been said (John 16:13-14).

Three steps to preparing to teach the Bible

Step 1: Pray!

Teaching the Bible is from first to last a work of God through us by the Holy Spirit, so we must depend on him in prayer.

  • pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work.
  • pray for repentance and faith in Jesus.
  • pray for your hearers.
  • pray for yourself.

Step 2: Spend time on content

Remember, we are to teach faith in Jesus truthfully and reliably, being wary of anything in addition to Scripture (includes our own understanding as well as books, websites or commentaries).

What does it say?

  • spend ages in the Bible: scribbling, note taking, cross-referencing, meditating, talking, etc.
  • context (Bible timeline, flow of the book, immediate context).
  • pay attention to specific words (logic, connections, similies/metaphors, even ‘a’s and the ‘the’s (eg John 1:1 and Jehovah’s Witnesses).
  • so try to use a literal translation (ESV best for this, NIV good middle ground, NLT good for easy hearing).
  • pay attention to the general flow (themes, ideas, arguments).

What does it mean?

  • is it descriptive or prescriptive?
  • exhortation or warning?
  • use the rest of the Bible as a commentary (Bible software/websites are great for this).
  • only then use commentaries, reference books, etc.

What is the point?

  • what is the surprise, turning point, hook, big deal? Look for a key word / image / phrase / doctrine / emotion / person.
  • if someone were to ask your hearers what it says, could they say? What would they say?

Why is this important?

  • what difference does this make (head, heart, hands).
  • what needs to change in us (start, stop, alter).

How do we suppress this (Romans 1)? (more for when speaking to adults/teenagers)

  • personally, then our hearers.
  • do you need to tackle this resistance?

How is Jesus the hero?

  • remember, Bible is about Jesus. He is the hero!
  • Example: David and Goliath – not about David, it’s about Jesus (the victor for his people). David points us to Jesus.
  • make sure you talk about Jesus – use his name, even in OT texts (eg, Cain & Abel cf Hebrews 11)!

Step 3: Spend time on communication

Remember, we’re teaching truth but we need to make sure the truth is heard.

Who are you communicating to?

  • Christians, unbelievers, works-minded, assurance-starved?
  • what needs explaining/clarifying?

What are you communicating?

  • is the text narrative, wisdom, letter, apocalyptic?
  • try and use what’s already in the text.

How are you going to communicate it?

  • what do you need to say/ask in order to
    1. teach the truths of Jesus
    2. clearly make the point about Jesus
    3. change hearts and minds to love and follow Jesus
  • how are you going to buy people’s attention (how are you going to keep it interesting without selling out to entertainment)?

ESV Word Cloud

Ever wondered which words were used most often in the Bible? Well, this word cloud above gives a snapshot of the most common words in the ESV text of the Bible.

I think it is amazing that apart from God’s titles of ‘Lord’ and ‘God’, the most common words are ‘said’ and ‘people’. God is definitely a God who speaks and reveals himself to his people (Psalm 19, Hebrews 1:1-2).

If you want to see the image full size, just click on it.

Brand New Heavies and Jesus

Brand New Heavies and Jesus

Q: What connects the Brand New Heavies with Jesus?
A: Apparently nothing.

Apparently Nothing was a single released in 1999 by the funk acid jazz group, The Brand New Heavies.

“What has this got to do with Jesus?” I hear you ask. Let’s take a look at Romans 8:37-39…

In all these things [various hardships] we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

Well known and often quoted as favourite verses in the Bible, this bit of Romans take us plumeting through the very fabric of our universe in search of anything that can keep us from the love of God in Jesus. Starting with the sheer absolute certainty of life and death we descend rapidly into the heavenly realms of angels and forces of evil. From there we traverse the space-time continuum as we consider the areas of time, phyical laws and geographical expanses. Last of all, we’re left only with a quick run through every species of animal, every type of plant, every object and created thing there has ever or will ever be.

What can keep us from the love of God in Jesus Christ?

Apparently nothing.

Family Bible time

5 top tips: pastoring your family

Most Christian parents know that they have a unique role in pastoring their children. The majority of these parents also know that they are the primary pastors of their children. How do you pastor your family, though? This is the question that most parents struggle with. What do we actually do to bring our children up to know and love Jesus?

Read More

Red herring of dignity

The red herring of dignity

Sir Edward Downes, a former leading British conductor, and his wife Joan Downes are the latest of over one hundred Britons to decide to journey to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland and end their lives in dignity (see the article in The Times). The issues raised by assisted suicide and euthanasia are complicated in both moral and ethical senses, and opinion on what is right and what is wrong is equally complicated, not to mention very diverse.

As the name of the Swiss clinic suggests, the heart of this issue is dignity. More and more people hold the dignity of life over and above the sanctity of life. This means that a dignified death is becoming more preferable than maintaining life. Rightly, many people are questioning who determines our mortality. The Bible is pretty clear on this issue – God, not Man, determines our footsteps and expects us to hold him as the only one able to decide when a life should end. However, there is a more serious yet less visible problem with choosing to place dignity of life over and above sanctity of life.

Refusing to face the inevitable

It is a difficult fact (but a fact nonetheless) that one of the ways God uses suffering for good is to make us aware or our frailty, mortality and, more importantly, our sinfulness so we turn to him for forgiveness and eternal life. Hosea 2:6-7 speaks of God putting thornbushes in the way of his rebellious people in order to make them aware of their rebellion and turn them back to him. In this way illness and suffering can be thornbushes to us, causing us to ask deep questions and seek profound truths that otherwise we would have remained ignorant of.

What greater reminder of our mortality is there than our very own death? What greater cause is there for seeking an answer to our meaningless existence than being presented with the end of our lives, knowing that we shall return to dust because from dust we all are formed (Genesis 3:19)?

In light of the ethical dilemma caused by assisted suicide, Ecclesiastes 12 takes on a whole new light:

1 Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come 
and the years approach when you will say, 
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light 
and the moon and the stars grow dark, 
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble, 
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few, 
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed 
and the sound of grinding fades;
when men rise up at the sound of birds, 
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when men are afraid of heights 
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms 
and the grasshopper drags himself along 
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then man goes to his eternal home 
and mourners go about the streets.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, 
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, 
or the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, 
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

This mixture of poetry and imagery charts the final days for all of us. v1-5 uses intricate metaphor to describe how our faculties start to fail us, our limbs become slow, our eyes grow dim, our hearing grows faint, and so on. With each step we find ourselves drawing closer and closer to the day we die. What advice does the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes have for us? v6-7 offer a simple yet eye-opening warning: Remember God before it is too late.

And this is the elephant in the room at every assisted suicide or euthanasia procedure. Having the choice of a dignified death is simply another way of putting our fingers in our ears and refusing to listen to the testimony of the world around us – the testimony of our own bodies, even – that there is a God who made us and we all have an appointment with him to keep.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Having a terminal illness or a degenerate disease is a terrible thing and I do not want to trivialise the agony of facing such scenarios or watching helplessly as the health of a loved one deteriorates. At the time of writing, my father has been diagnosed with Alzhiemer’s and vascular dementia. It is a difficult time for him and for the rest of our family.

However, instead of ignoring the fact that he will eventually die or worrying about maintaining his dignity as he approaches death, my father was spurred on by his illness to consider what will happen after he dies. When his body returns to dust and his spirit returns to face his creator, what then? Although it brings difficulty and suffering, my father’s illness is far from a total loss. It has brought into clear view the fact that he is a mortal being in the hands of a divine creator and that he must remember his creator before it is too late. Any thoughts of euthanasia would have simply distracted him from this reality.

What next?

So, what does happen when we die? Ecclesiastes 12 continues:

13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter: 
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

In the New Testament, Hebrews 9:27 says much the same thing: ‘man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment.’

Dying with dignity is a red herring. Whether we die in dignity or die ashamed, we still die. Whether we die rich or poor, full of life or on life support, on our own or with family around us – we all die.

Whether or not we die a dignified death is not important. Whether or not we have remembered God and dignified him, even in our death – that is what really matters.

But who can say they have truly dignified God? Who can say they have lived a thoroughly good life? No one. Romans 3:12 puts it in stark terms: ‘there is no one who does good, not even one.’ The truth is, as we face death and remember God we are left with a terrible reality: we have not loved him as we should have. The final conclusion of the matter for us all is one of despair and eternal judgment.

However, through faith in Jesus Christ the final conclusion of the matter becomes one of hope and eternal life. Judgment has already taken place in Jesus on the cross, and so we can face the end of our lives knowing we return to our eternal home and life forever with Jesus.

This is the truth that my Dad is discovering. As his mind and body fails him, he has realised that he has not lived his life to please God by living for Jesus. Thankfully (and with much praise to God on my part!) he has come to Jesus and asked for forgiveness. His suffering opened his eyes to see his need for a saviour who will save him from his coming judgment before God.

I do not know how I will die. I hope it will be painless and peaceful. It might not be. Whatever end God has in store for me, I do not want to be ignorant of the reality I face: every step towards death is a step towards my eternal home with Christ. In the meantime I keep on living for Jesus. ‘For, to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Philippians 1:21).

Bible on holiday

Using rest times as God intended

This half term my wife, Kirsten, and I (with our son Joshua happily in-tow) were able to enjoy a fantastic break in Brittany with some good friends. Brittany is a lovely part of France and we were with great company enjoying great food and great weather. We had a fantastic time, not least because our walk with Jesus continued on holiday… all thanks to an accidental ‘stowaway’ in our car.

Alan on holidayAs you can probably see, I love holidays. In fact, I really love holidays. What is there not to love: no work (well, not the vocational type, anyway) and plenty of rest and play. Kirsten can read all day in the sun while I pootle, play and bundle Joshua ’till we’re all tired out from laughing and giggling. The normal pattern of life ceases and instead a new pattern – the holiday pattern – takes over.

Obviously, there are some things that we continue to do on holiday that we normally do at home: get up (albeit quite later than normal), brush our teeth, get dressed, eat, drink, etc. These things are essential to day-to-day living, regardless of whether we are on holiday or not. It stands to reason, then, that spending time with God in his word and in prayer will naturally be one such essential part of our day-to-day routines as Christians that we would carry over into our holiday routines. Hmm…

I’m sure I’m not the only one who often remembers to pack his Bible only when he is over 500 miles from home. The war against sin has indeed been won by Christ on the cross, but our daily skirmishes with temptations and sin carry on nonetheless. Making sure I don’t take a ‘break’ from my time with the Lord when I go on holiday is one such skirmish I often loose.

This half term however, by God’s grace, I remembered to leave our Bibles in the car on the Sunday before we left. Erm… no, wait a minute, that’s not true. I actually forgot to take them out of the car… and I’m glad I didn’t! Not only were we able to enjoy fantastic sunshine but we could also enjoy the benefits of Jesus death on the cross and a restored relationship with God by spending time with him each day. Plus, all of us on the holiday were Christians and so we enjoyed worshipping our great God together by reading a Psalm and giving thanks in prayer on the Sunday.

Rest (typified in the Bible by the Sabbath, the one special day of rest out of every seven) is a gift from God (Exodus 16:29-30) for our benefit, and holidays are superb opportunities for such rest. But rest is not just physical, it is also very much spiritual. Work wearies us physically because it is cursed spiritually (Genesis 3:17-19). Usually we only rest physically, enjoying spending time with our friends and families, but it is also essential that we rest spiritually, by spending time with our Father in Heaven.

Holiday BibleSo, as summertime approaches, I am learning the lesson of this half term and will be buying a family ‘holiday’ Bible to keep in our suitcases. That way, I can be sure that my family and I will be able to rest fully and properly as God intended whenever we go on holiday.

When middle ground is best

Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7-9

Generally speaking, the middle ground is something that the Bible doesn’t particularly encourage. You either believe Jesus is the Son of God or you don’t. You either love God and his people or you don’t, and so on. But when it comes to what we request of God regarding money, the Bible does point us to sit neatly in the middle of two opposing positions.

In our Bible study small groups we have been looking at the issue of money. Not only has this been encouraging and challenging in our current economic climate, but it has also been a helpful topic to study in the light of our current financial position as a church.

Last night was the last meeting of this current term. Our group took time to share what one verse or passage from God’s Word we have looked at this term has challenged us or encouraged us the most. For many in the group, it was Proverbs 30:7-9, quoted above.

The proverb is very honest about our hunger for material gratification. In it, we are urged to ask God to keep us from riches which so easily become the centre of our lives at the cost of denying our Creator.

Yet the proverb is also very real about our fear of poverty and the equally serious threat of turning against God for any downturn that may occur.

I suspect that many people find this proverb so helpful because it speaks directly to our attitude toward wealth and poverty in such a down-to-earth way, urging us to sit on the fence of contentment and satisfaction. And so we are to work hard and earn our keep, for that is generally how we keep ourselves from poverty (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Yet we are to be generous with what we do reap from our labour, for that is one way that we can express our hope in God. Besides, being generous with our money will certainly keep us from storing up unhelpful wealth (1 Timothy 6:17-19)!

However, the real kick with this proverb is when we find ourselves falling off the contentment fence. Implicit in this proverb are two serious challenges. If God should bless us with riches, are we going to denying him as the one to whom our wealth belongs, or are we going to humbly thank him and use our wealth for his Kingdom? And if God, for his good purpose, should permit us to fall into poverty, are we going to turn our backs on him and equally deny him as our Sovereign Lord, or are we going to fall on our needs and humbly call on his name?

Open Youth Ministry cycle

Open youth ministry is the opening of church youth groups to allow them to be places where young people can hang out in an implicitly Christian environment. The idea being that non-Christian young people will recognise something different about the group (the loving atmosphere, or the time devoted to the group by the leaders) and want to know more.

In my 14 years experience in youth ministry so far (at the time of writing), I have encountered several versions of open youth ministries, all of which appear to have repeating life-cycle, to some degree or another. In this article, I put forward my own observations on this cycle for comment and discussion.

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Cultural values of Harry Potter

Assess the values portrayed in the film ‘Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban’

Harry Potter. A simple name worth billions of pounds in books sales, movie franchises, merchandising spin offs, and so on. You cannot fail to be astounded at the success of what is in effect a simple idea: a story following a young boy as he discovers he is a wizard (‘and a bloomin’ good one at that!’) and his journey into the magical world hidden behind secret spells and enchantments that keep the ordinary world in blissful ignorance.

Such a simple story has created quite a complex dilema for Christian parents: what values do the Harry Potter books and films portray to their young readers? It is this issue that the following essay, submitted as part of my youth and children’s ministry degree, seeks to engage with.


When released in June 2004, Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban took a staggering £23m in box office revenue for the first weekend alone.  It then went on to remain in the list of top 20 films for a further 12 weeks, earning a further £23m1.

Classified as a PG film and built on the foundation of the equally successful books by JK Rowling, the film will be watched by literally millions of children and young people. Therefore, with such vast numbers of young people watching the film, this essay seeks to understand what values the film portrays and assess them against values held by scripture.  We understand values to mean principles or qualities that are desirable and worth emulating, and it is assumed that the reader has seen the film in question.

Values portrayed in the film

The occult

Any biblical assessment of Harry Potter will encounter the topic of the occult, for it is undoubtedly a key factor of the Harry Potter world and source of much controversy.

Yet, in The Prisoner Of Azkaban, is witchcraft actually presented as a value; that is, something to be upheld and replicated in our lives? Or it is merely a fictional platform on which the Harry Potter fantasy world is set? This is an important distinction given the view of witchcraft that scripture gives us 2 and the weight of criticism levied against the film as part of the whole Harry Potter series. This third film, unlike the first two, has ‘blurred the boundary between fictional and real magic’ 3; drawing upon occult practices that are more ‘mainstream’ – astrology, tasseomancy and other such forms of divination. Similarly, the boundary between an actual value and a sheer fantasy is equally blurred.

If we are clear that JK Rowling has created a super-reality (that is, a reality based on this world but extended into the realm of fantasy), witchcraft is not presented so much as a value but is instead taken for granted as a construct of the super-real world the characters occupy in JK Rowling’s creation. As Francis Bridger helpfully points out, the magic in Harry Potter ‘is simply there… it remains a literary device to thrill the reader, and to allow the author to create an alternative world unbound by the laws of physics.’ 4

This contention that the occult is not a value of this third film (using our definition) negates the topic for discussion in this essay. However, this does not undermine the importance this matter has in the wider assessment of the Harry Potter books, nor the need for wisdom and discernment when approaching the Harry Potter books as Christian parents and youth workers.

A loving family

Each film begins with a scene that gives us a glimpse into the oppressive home life that Harry is subjected to while away from Hogwarts and this third film is no exception. This backdrop of Harry’s life with the Dursley’s is set in contrast to the invitation by Sirius for Harry to live with him 5, an invitation that Harry relishes and replays over in his mind 6. Clearly, the chance to live in a loving environment with Sirius is placed over and above the existence Harry is forced to endure at the Dursley’s.

This value is entirely in line with biblical principles of family structures and purposes. God set families in place before the fall 7 and establishes them as the primary social structure 8. In the case of Harry Potter, however, the emphasis is not on complete family units but the provision for orphans. God, the ‘Father of orphans’ 9, makes clear that the family home is the outworking of this provision 10. On the other hand, God defines respect and honour from children to their parents (and guardians) above the parents responsibility to love their children 11. This is clearly different to the value held by the film.


For Harry, grasping an understanding of his parents is part of forming his identity as a teenager growing into a young adult. With every snippet of information he gleans about his family, another piece of his identity jigsaw is slotted into place. At the very end of the film Sirius remarks that ‘the ones that love us never really leave us, and [we] can always find them in [our hearts]’ 12, indicating that the heartfelt memories of loved ones are fundamental parts of our very person. This is indicative of society’s feeling of lack of identity and inability to achieve self definition.

Though our identity is indeed shaped by our ancestry and heritage, our identity is fundamentally linked to God our creator. We are formed in his image 13 and are ultimately defined by his purposes for us 14.

Working through pain and grief

The closing words of Sirius mentioned above are frustratingly airy and have no grounding in any truth whatsoever. However, they do conclude the film’s engagement with the issue of working through pain and grief. This very real aspect of life is played out in the struggle between Harry and the Dementors of Azkaban. The Dementors feed on our worst experiences and Harry is especially susceptible because of ‘true horrors in [his] past’ 15. To combat the Dementors, Harry must use a charm that creates a shield using his best feelings and happiest memories. Therefore, we are shown that our worst experiences – grief, anguish, psychological and emotional traumas – are overcome by our happy experiences such as joy, elation and feelings of love.

The subject of death and grief is rarely broached let alone tackled openly in today’s culture. JK Rowling’s efforts in The Prisoner Of Azkaban are good in part but fundamentally flawed by sin. Identifying that loss and grief should not be avoided is valid biblically 16 but scripture asserts that we are not able to fully cope in our own strength and that true relief is obtained through him 17. Furthermore, fully appreciating the realities of death and subsequent judgement 18 will drastically alter our perception of this life and the values we ourselves hold.

The greater good overcoming evil

Harry’s battle with the Dementors occurs because of their search for the fugitive Sirius Black. Following the revelation of Sirius’ innocence 19 Harry, Hermione and Ron desperately seek to restore Sirius’ innocence publicly. At very least, they attempt to grant his freedom temporarily in the hope of one day establishing that innocence once and for all.

It is this moral battle between good and evil fought that is commonly used to defend the Harry Potter books and films and, in part, this is a valid response to claims of the film’s depravity.

Firstly, in their attempts to liberate Sirius and Buckbeak, school rules and laws are broken to set forth the truth and execute justice. In one sense, this is not dissimilar to Jesus’ breaking of Sabbath laws to heal 20. On the other hand, God has set in place rules and governing bodies to exact justice. These authorities must be submitted to 21. In the film, the transgressing of rules, even with wholly good motives, is not addressed or judged as it should be 22.

Secondly, the battle of good versus evil is won by the actions of the participants of that struggle. Therefore, there is a possibility that evil could win. Scripture is clear that the ultimate conquering of evil from created beings is not by the actions of other created beings but through the work of the uncreated, absolutely good God through his begotten Son 23. This victory was not by force, but by sacrifice, and not only was it wholly sufficient, it also did not transgress any of God’s laws.


The Harry Potter books and films continue to be the focus of examination for Christians and non-Christians alike. One can take the general view of Richard Abanes 24 and regard the Harry Potter series as being generally damaging, or one can travel the entire length of the spectrum and join Connie Neal 25 in identifying Gospel parallels within the books and films.

A careful, biblical analysis of the Harry Potter collection will show there are both scripturally asserted and scripturally refuted values being portrayed in each film. The task for Christian parents is to help their children grasp godly and reject ungodly values using the authority of God’s word; ultimately equipping them to make the distinctions themselves as they progress through teenage years into adulthood. In the context of the third Harry Potter film, this process of scriptural evaluation is even more important as it will begin to redress the consequences of the major flaw in the value system that it portrays.

The film attempts to engage with moral agendas in the absence of God. Thus, if moral agendas can be addressed independently from God, then all aspects of existence can exist apart from God. Therefore, we are led further away from our creator God who sustains our very existence and deeper into ignorance.


1 All statistics from UK Film Council, various Box Office Statistics listed under “UK Box Office Statistics Archive”, (15 April 2005).
2 Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Leviticus 19:26,31; Galatians 5:19-21.
3 Crook, Louise, “Harry Potter and the search for identity” 2004, content.php?type=5&id=390 (27 April 2005)
4 Bridger, Francis, A Charmed Life: The Spirituality Of Potterworld (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 2001), p20-21. The authors own emphasis.
5 Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban DVD 26-1:34:45 (0:25).
6 Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban DVD 30-1:52:45 (0:25).
7 Genesis 2:24.
8 Nehemiah 7:5.
9 Psalm 68:5.
10 Psalm 68:6.
11 Ephesians 6:1-4.
12 Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban DVD 32-1:59:00 (0:20).
13 Genesis 1:27.
14 Ephesians 2:10.
15 Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban DVD 16-0:55:30 (0:10).
16 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
17 Matthew 11:28.
18 Hebrews 9:27.
19 Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban DVD 24-1:28:50 (2:40).
20 Matthew 12:9-14.
21 Romans 13:1.
22 Romans 13:2.
23 1 Peter 3:18.
24 Abanes, Richard, Harry Potter And The Bible: The Menace Behind The Magick (Horizon Books, 2001).
25 Neal, Connie, The Gospel According To Harry Potter (Kentucky, Westminster John Knox Press, 2002).


Abanes, Richard, Harry Potter And The Bible: The Menace Behind The Magick (Horizon Books, 2001).

Bridger, Francis, A Charmed Life: The Spirituality Of Potterworld (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 2001).

Crook, Louise, “Harry Potter and the search for identity” 2004. (27 April 2005).

Cauron, Alfonso, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (DVD, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2004).

Neal, Connie, The Gospel According To Harry Potter (Kentucky, Westminster John Knox Press, 2002).

Rowling, JK, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 1997).

UK Film Council, “UK Box Office Statistics Archive”. http://www. (15 April 2005).

Wright, Jenn and Ray, Michael, “Harry Potter & The Prizoner Of Azkaban – A Film Review”. (29 April 2005).

Appendix I: Film Referencing

References to material from a video or DVD in this essay are made using a specific format as follows:

DVD Chapter – Time Code [hh:mm:ss] (Duration [mm:ss])

Hence, the reference 11-1:05:35 (2:50) indicates a portion of the film from chapter 11, at a point 1 hour, 5 minutes and 35 seconds into the film, for a duration of 2 minutes and 50 seconds.