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Robert AparriRELS 20028 January 2018Dr. Claudia SetzerTheatricality in the New Testament and Its Effect on the Contemporary Fiction Every aspect of New Testament writing has been analyzed over the centuries. The story of Jesus described by the Gospel writers are the most influential works in history. Since the Gospels were first written, the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have had prominent effects on the world and on people’s minds. When examining popular contemporary works of fiction, many biblical or New Testament themes can be identified. Tropes and themes in the Gospels continue to appear in some of the largest and most influential fictional works 2000 years after the writing of the gospels. The most common themes which are borrowed from the New Testament are usually associated with the life of Jesus. A few common tropes that appear in literary or cinematic works are: angelic or supernatural messengers, coming from humble beginnings, long forced journeys, virgin birth, performing miracles, raising the dead, gathering followers, betrayal and temptation, facing ones death willingly, sacrificing oneself for the greater good, rising from the dead, and ascension without death. The Gospel of Mark is thought of to be the first written gospel and that the Gospel of Luke and Matthew were used using the Mark’s Gospel as the source material These themes can be seen even in other New Testament stories, such as the life and death of St.Peter and St.Paul whose stories very closely parallel Jesus’.Since Christianity and the Bible played a prominent role in the development of the world after the death of Jesus, it makes sense that the themes of the Bible would be in a similarly prominent position when referring to the development of the arts. Important to note is that not all of the common themes were invented by the writers of the Gospels, but they were certainly popularized by them and authors today will often name the New Testament as their inspiration when using similar themes source for hp, lotr, narnia. Some of the most successful fiction stories of the 21st century take inspiration or borrow elements from the life of Jesus described in the Gospels.Many stories will have their protagonist be purely good in a flawed world, with the antagonist being in a position of power. Once the protagonist has gained too much power or has influenced people in a way which the antagonist does not approve of, and the protagonist then must face their death, then they are resurrected. In the case of Paul, he was empowering women which was not liked by their husbands so he was unfairly sentenced to death and later rose from the dead. This kind of self sacrifice and resurrection can be seen in many other influential literary works such as J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and George Lucas’ Star Wars. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings takes place in the fantasy world of Middle Earth. It is centered around a ring which grants the wearer immortality and invisibility. The ring, called the One True Ring, is a symbol of power and temptation. While it grants the wearer power, it also causes the wearer to crave it’s power above everything else. If kept for long enough, or if the wearer did not have good moral standards, they will do whatever they have to to keep the ring including murdering friends and family. It is also the creation of the supreme evil in the world, the Eye of Sauron. This almighty evil which is fueled by temptation and greed is the symbol for the devil in Middle Earth. The journey which the protagonists must undergo to destroy the ring and the Eye of Sauron is similar to the story of Jesus’ death and sacrifice to save the world from sin. The group tasked with destroying the ring is known as the Fellowship of the Ring and has a wide variety of unique characters of different races. While he does not use a single character to take on the same persona that Jesus had in the New Testament, he attaches different aspects of innate goodness and self-sacrifice with several different characters. Three characters in particular stand out as the most Christ-like. The wizard Gandalf dies fighting a monster so that the Fellowship can continue their journey. Gandalf later rises from the dead and reappears with a face that is blindingly bright, paralleling to Jesus’ resurrection and transfiguration. The hobbit Frodo is the one specifically tasked to carry the ring because hobbits are more resistant to the temptations of the ring. Frodo’s hardfought journey to destroy the ring parallels Jesus’ suffering before death. The hobbit Samwise resembles a loyal disciple because he is always following Frodo to the next leg of the journey no matter how dangerous and making sure that Frodo can complete the task of destroying the ring. Tolkien does not call his story a direct allegory for the life and death of Jesus but that his work was written in the Christian traditioncitation needed. Lewis offers a more direct allegory to the life and death of Jesus in his novel: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In his hugely popular fantasy novel, four siblings find themselves transported from 1940’s England to the world of Narnia where they meet a wide variety of mythical beings. There are two forces at odds in Narnia, the White Witch Jadis, who wants to plunge Narnia into eternal Winter and Aslan, the lion King of Narnia. The symbol for good in the world of Narnia is the Aslan. Jadis, on the other hand symbolizes evil and temptation in the world. She convinces one of the children to betray his siblings by offering him gifts and friendship. Jadis then betrays him and threatens to kill him and makes an offer to Aslan that she will spare the boy if Aslan surrenders himself to be killed instead. Aslan sacrifices himself to her to save the child and returns from the dead because of an ancient prophecy. With Aslan resurrected, he is able to lead an army to defeat Jadis. The story clearly depicts Aslan’s death as a parallel to Jesus death, and Aslan is similarly resurrected to lead his followers to salvation from Jadis. Lewis has stated that the story of the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an allegory for the life of Christ.Rowling has used New Testament themes throughout her eight book Harry Potter series, but her final novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows contains the most clear references to central New Testament themes such as accepting death, resurrection, the direct confrontation between good and evil. In addition to using the themes as storytelling devices, Rowling also includes a direct quote from Matthew 6:19-24 in her novel, relating the entire novel up to that point to the passage:Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. This passage creates a clear distinction of two different kinds of people. There are people obsessed with worldly treasures and people who are laying up their treasures heaven. The world of Harry Potter is split between a hidden world of wizards and witches who use magic in their everyday lives and normal non-magical people, called muggles. Within the magical world, there are wizards and witches who can peacefully coexist with the muggles and malevolent wizards and witches called Death Eaters who wish to take over the world of muggles. The leader of the Death Eaters is a powerful wizard named Voldemort who is obsessed with taking over the world and being immortal. The leader of the “good” wizards is Harry Potter, who was raised by muggles and who makes it his mission to stop Voldemort from achieving his plan and saving the magical and non-magical rule from being taken over by Voldemort’s army. In the final book, Rowling’s use of the quote the explain the divide between good and evil within the novel. There is a final confrontation between Voldemort and Harry where Voldemort and his army have Harry and his “followers” surrounded and calls for Harry to surrender himself to spare his followers. Harry offers himself despite his “followers” objections and Voldemort kills him. Shortly after his death, Harry comes back to life and rejoins with his friends to defeat Voldemort.These stories are incredibly popular works of fantasy writing and are enjoyed by Christians and Non-Christians alike. The widespread enjoyment of these works of fantasy shows how prolific the works of the Gospels are and how the writings transcend the realm of the purely religious and how relevant the Gospels are to modern culture. These stories were written in the Christian tradition with direct correlation to characters in the Gospels, other popular works borrow themes from the Gospels without directly relating them to a specific story. In George Lucas’ massively popular Star Wars film series, the origin of Anakin Skywalker, one of the main characters for the second trilogy, is a virgin birth. Other elements that Lucas borrows are the idea of temptation with power, pure good vs pure evil, ascendance without dying, and a invisible powerful force that is ever present.Star Wars revolves around a futuristic, space-aged universe where good and evil are at odds. Usually, the overarching story is that evil has a great presence in the universe where the  antagonist wants to rule the universe and the protagonist is tempted by evil’s great power. Lucas uses New Testament themes more loosely than Tolkien and Lewis, opting to use them as storytelling elements instead of writing a story which is an allegory for any particular biblical passage. The major mystical force in Lucas’ Star Wars universe is simply called “The Force” and it is often supernaturally connected with certain individuals in the universe. This force is how characters invoke supernatural abilities, such as interacting with objects without touching them, speaking to people across the galaxy, and ascending to the afterlife without dying. All three of these abilities were seen in some form in the Gospels: the Angel speaking to Mary, Lucas is a master storyteller, one of the most influential and successful storytellers in the last century. The accessibility and popularity of Star Wars is unmatched by any other science fiction work. His work influenced the science fiction genre more than any other work ever. His use of biblical elements in a story about knights using laser swords and travelling in spaceships is perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for the influence of the New Testament on contemporary fiction.Roald Dahl is another author who uses biblical elements to augment his story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His story centers around a diverse group of children who win a tour of Willy Wonka’s world famous and extravagant Chocolate factory and a chance to win a grand prize of a lifetime supply of candy. Over the course of the novel, at varying parts of the tour of the Chocolate factory, each of the children breaks a rule or is incapable of completing the tour and is disqualified from the grand prize. Charlie is the only child remaining at the end of the tour, but had broken a rule earlier in the tour, leading Wonka to explain that he is disqualified and ineligible for the grand prize. Once The exposure to New Testament themes in literature or cinema is almost unavoidable. Star Wars, Lord of The Rings, and Harry Potter have earned a combined 23 billion US dollars and all three place in the top five highest grossing movie franchises of all time. Tolkien, Rowling, Lewis, Lucas, and Dahl all take themes from the New Testament and use them to a enrich a story which takes place in vastly different settings. This application of New Testament themes to compelling stories with different characters shows how timeless the Gospels are.Comparison to other influential works


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