Interview with Author Derek Murphy

Transcription of Radio Interview
Q: I’m here with Derek Murphy, author of Jesus Potter Harry Christ. Derek, briefly can you tell us what your book is about?
Well, mainly I’m trying to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is, like Harry a literary figure.

Q: You mean, not historical. So you think Jesus was purely mythical.
In a sense, yes – but I don’t mean myth as in “made up” or “lie”; the literature of Jesus Christ is very robust, full of powerful spiritual and astrological symbolism. People sometimes assume that if I think Jesus was mythical, it means I think he was worthless. That’s not true at all; in the same sense, nobody would argue that Harry Potter is worthless just because he’s a fictional character. People love Harry Potter – he’s had a profound, meaningful and inspiring affect on people’s lives. Literature can be very edifying and should be praised as such.

Q: But why use Harry Potter at all, what’s the connection between Jesus and Harry?
There are many precise similarities between Jesus Christ and Harry Potter – no really, I’m not just making them up or reading into the text. After the Deathly Hallows came out, not only J.K. Rowling but several religious experts and even priests began calling attention to the similarities between them.

Q: But I always thought Christians hated Harry Potter.
Not all of them do – but there has been, and continues to be a raging controversy over the series. Fundamentalists accuse Harry Potter of introducing Satanism and Witchcraft to children; there have even been book burnings. But at the same time, even before book 7 some readers were viewing Harry as a Christ-figure and guessed that he would die some kind of sacrificial death – which he does. But at the end of the series, he not only “dies” but comes back to life to vanquish Voldemort. Anyway, there’s a lot of shared symbolism between them. Not just the rising from the dead thing but lots of other symbols. The main point I’m making in my book is, if Harry Potter is obviously fictional and Jesus has so much in common with him, how do we separate Jesus from Harry? Why is Jesus considered to be historical, even his miraculous, supernatural feats, while Harry isn’t. This is the platform I start from.

Q: But hasn’t the idea that Jesus was mythical been put to rest? I mean doesn’t everyone agree that Jesus was historical?
Yes – they do. That’s part of the problem. Everybody agrees that Jesus was historical – but the historical figure at the center of Christian history, at least the one biblical scholars are looking for, has almost nothing to do with the figure of Christian worship. There is a very serious, fundamental incongruity between them that is completely ignored. And it’s not true that the theory has been “debunked” or disproved. Actually the theory that Jesus was mythical makes as much sense today as it ever did, and there’s just as much evidence to support it. The truth is it has just gone out of favor. For about a century academics everywhere universally proclaimed Christ a myth, and critical investigation into the historical Jesus was considered a complete failure. And in the last several decades, that’s all been forgotten – it’s in vogue right now to continue affirming a historical Jesus; maybe because biblical scholars are almost universally Christians these days, and anybody who didn’t believe in Jesus probably would be studying mythology or literature or history, rather than “Bible Studies”.

Q: So the reason you wrote the book is…
It’s frustrating to be told I have no case, no argument, that my research is outdated, that my claim is impossible, when all the evidence I come across keeps undermining, again and again, the historical Jesus. And it’s fascinating to me, really incredible, that this enormous wealth of relevant and exciting information is just unknown; that people have these really strong beliefs and opinions about Jesus Christ and they don’t know any of this information. I guess I just wanted to try- I’ve always been trying – to produce a logical, coherent, fully referenced and supported argument for the literary Jesus that is conclusive; that answers all the holes. Recently someone blogged in response to my book that everything important said about comparative literature has already been said by Joseph Campbell. That’s an incredible claim – it demonstrates the widespread belief that comparative literature or mythology studies is dead or outdated; despite the fact that we continue generating modern myths for ourselves based on classical examples. Not only did Campbell and other mythicists miss some very important issues (like the astrological symbolism in mythology), but to argue that their 50-year old concepts will be enough to cover the entire future of comparative mythology and literature is staggeringly imbecilic.

Q: Let’s talk about your background for a minute – how did you get into all of this?
Well I went to Malta after high school – Malta’s that little island under Sicily – to study art history and classical languages, but then I switched to a dual major in philosophy and theology. My mind was kind of blown the first couple years; everybody was teaching me completely different things about religion, faith, God, and Jesus. I started doing my own research, I even attended some prayer groups that were intended to bolster my faith, but I had these questions that nobody knew the answer to. And I had some very smart Christian friends who tried to support me but, well I guess I didn’t believe in the kind of God that wouldn’t be able to answer these questions. And these weren’t big, mysterious questions like “what’s the purpose of life”, these were specific, practical problems with Christianity. Why were the Europeans saved, and the Americans, and everybody else wasn’t? Why didn’t God send Jesus to Africa or Asia? That’s a huge, huge problem that cannot be resolved for Christianity. I still can’t get over it. Anyway, I moved to Taiwan and did my MA in Literature, my thesis was on Biblical Symbolism in the Harry Potter series. By this time I had a pretty clear plan of the book I wanted to write, and now I’m working on my PhD.

Q: Do you think studying literature gives you perspective in this field?
Well, in a sense it does; at least I can approach it a little differently and not produce just another one of the those “Jesus was a Myth” books. But research is tough; supporting everything you say and every claim you make is exhausting, and it’s difficult to be both a good writer and a good researcher. And organizing the material so that it flows and makes sense; it’s a huge challenge. But I’m definitely better at it than I was when I started, so I think I’ll get away from people claiming that I’m just an amateur or outsider.

Q: And you’re planning to write another book – but the title is really provocative ‘ Satan is my Hero’, right? What’s that about?
Well, ok the title is mostly for shock value. I’m not really a Satanist  – well maybe I am in a sense. To me, Satanism is the same as humanism. Jesus-ism would be thinking about the afterlife, accepting suffering, turning the other cheek; and those are great, spiritual values. But I like this life, I think it’s fine to want to preserve my life, my freedom, my health and happiness, to defend myself against violence, manipulation or injustice. And that’s what Satan represents to me. So I start from Prometheus and relate him to Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, then Ahab in Moby Dick, the Romantic poets, and the American Revolution and modern super-heroes. It’s really an investigation into the politics and ethics of rebellion or revolution; I’m excited about it, I think it’s going to be brilliant.

Q: Ok, well we’re out of time – anything else you want to mention?
Mostly I hope people will read my book before they criticize it or dismiss it. Because I do think my argument is strong and I think everybody will be able to learn some truly astounding things that they didn’t know before, and even if they can’t accept my conclusions I think they’ll be impressed with the project as a whole, and especially with the cultural significance of the debate and relationship between Jesus and Harry.