Game of Thrones Allusion

Recently I have developed a slight obsession with the television series Game of Thrones. (I may or may not have finished the whole series in less than 2 weeks…) For those who don’t know about this fantastically amazing series, Game of Thrones is based off George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. As with most things, Biblical allusions can be found in this TV show, even if they aren’t completely obvious at first.

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For those of you who haven’t watched the series, here’s a quick summary of first two seasons:

The Whore of Babylon

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Revelations 17:1-4

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Melisandre, or the Red Woman, can be seen as a direct example of what most people refer to as the whore of Babylon, who is mentioned Revelations chapter 17. In the show, “Melisandre is a Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, a deity little-worshiped in Westeros. Hailing from Asshai, a county located in the far east of the continent of Essos, she claims to wield powerful magical abilities, particularly the power of prophecy. Some years ago she crossed the Narrow Sea and came to the court of Stannis Baratheon on the island stronghold of Dragonstone, to preach her faith. Stannis and the majority of his household have now converted to her religion, and she has become a close adviser to Stannis himself.” (Melisandre). Throughout seasons 2 and 3, she frequently uses her mysterious powers as a priestess to seemingly help Stannis Baratheon, the brother of the dead king. There are several instances where she does several questionable or outright terrifying things. One case is where she convinces that in order to win the war, Stannis must betray his wife and impregnate Melisandre in order for her to birth a mysterious shadow thing that will ultimately kill his other brother, Renly.  She also has many people burned as sacrifices to the Lord of Light that she claims to serve, convinces Stannis to arrest anyone who questions her, and kidnaps Stannis’ illegitimate nephew in order to use his blood to kill his enemies. In the series, it is clear that she has clouded Stannis’ judgment, although her true motives are not known at this point in time. But, if she has any connection to the woman mentioned in Revelations, she will more than likely ultimately betray Stannis at some point.

The Slaughter of the Innocents

“The Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” Matthew 2:16

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After the death of his “father” Robert Baratheon, Joffrey takes the throne, much to everyone’s dismay. As Joffrey begins his role as king of Westeros, it becomes apparent that his is cruel, ruthless, and merciless. After hearing rumors about his true parentage, Joffrey, afraid that he will lose his throne, orders the City Watch to murder all of Robert’s illegitimate children (Joffrey Baratheon). This can be seen as a direct allusion to Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents. This allusion goes even further, since one boy, Gendry, manages to escape the slaughter, as does Jesus. It is unclear at this time whether or not Gendry will be any threat to Joffrey.

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Judas

After reading through all four gospels, by this point we all know who Judas was and why he’s important. While there are several betrayals throughout the series, one of the most prominent ones is Petyr Baelish’s betrayal of Eddard Stark. After realizing that Joffrey is not Robert’s true heir, Eddard enlists the help of Petyr in order to install Robert’s brother Stannis on the throne instead of Joffrey. However, when Eddard makes his move after Robert’s death, Petyr, who is in control of the City Watch, turns on him, kills Eddard’s guards, and holds a knife to Eddard’s throat (Petyr Baelish). He then convinces Joffrey to imprison Eddard by telling him that he plans to take away his throne. This betrayal ultimately leads to Eddard Stark’s execution. Like Judas, Petyr betrays someone who seemed to be a friend in order to gain something. However, unlike Judas, Petyr betrays Eddard in order to have a chance with his wife, who was his childhood crush.

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There are several other Biblical allusions in the series other than the three I mentioned. From Melisandre as the whore of Babylon, to Joffrey’s version of the slaughter of the innocents, to Petyr’s Judas-like betrayal of Eddard, Biblical allusions add a deeper understanding to the plot of the series.

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Who was Joseph of Arimathea?

This week concludes our readings of the Gospels in the New Testament. Although they all have many things in common, one particular person stood out to me: Joseph of Arimathea. For some odd reason, this name seemed familiar to me; after doing some research, I finally figured out that Joseph of Arimathea was mentioned in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After learning this, I didn’t really expect to find anything else interesting. However, as I started reading more about Joseph, the more intrigued I became. This led me to this week’s blog question: who was Joseph of Arimathea?

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John 19:38 states, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission.”

So Joseph was the man responsible for properly burying Jesus. But why would Pilate listen to a supporter of Jesus? According to the BBC, Joseph of Arimathea was a “wealthy man who came from Arimathea in Judea,” and a member of the Sanhedrin (BBC). This shows that Joseph was an influential member of society, making it easy to believe that the Roman govern of Judea would grant his request. Other than his appearance in the Gospel accounts, there are no other mentions of Joseph of Arimathea (at least not in the Bible we’re using). Naturally, I was curious as to what he did after this scene in the Bible. This is what I found…

“Apocryphal legend…supplies us with the rest of his story by claiming that Joseph accompanied the Apostle Philip, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene & others on a preaching mission to Gaul. Lazarus & Mary stayed in Marseilles, while the others travelled north. At the English Channel, St. Philip sent Joseph, with twelve disciples, to establish Christianity in the most far-flung corner of the Roman Empire: the Island of Britain. The year AD 63 is commonly given for this ‘event’, with AD 37 sometimes being put forth as an alternative” (Britannia). Another source confirms this, and goes even further to suggest that Joseph is an ancestor of many of Britain’s monarchs (Early British Kingdoms). Along with this, it is also said that Joseph built the first church in England (or maybe the entire world) (BBC). So not only did Joseph play a prominent role in the spread of Christianity, he also was important to the British monarchy. It’s amazing to see how a man who appeared a total of four times in our reading could have been so influential.

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Along with Joseph’s importance in Britain, several sources seem to agree with another apocryphal legend, one that states that he is a not so distant relative of Jesus. One site states that the “Jewish Talmud records that Joseph was the great-uncle of Jesus, a younger brother of Mary’s father” (Joseph of Arimathea). This familial relationship with Jesus could have been another contributing factor to him using his prominent position to try to obtain Jesus’s body after the crucifixion.

Joseph of Arimathea is also a prominent figure in another type of legend: the legend of the Holy Grail. Yes, the very same Holy Grail that King Arthur sets out on a quest to find in both Arthurian legends and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Joseph of Arimathea is actually believed to be the original guardian of the grail (Joseph of Arimathea, Keeper of the Holy Grail). What is the Holy Grail you ask? Generally, the Holy Grail is believed to be the “cup that Christ used at the Last Supper and that Joseph held to collect Christ’s blood at the crucifixion” (Joseph of Arimathea, Keeper of the Holy Grail). According to legend, Joseph hid the Holy Grail in a well in Glastonbury, and to this day the well is called Chalice Well (BBC). However, there has never been any concrete proof of the existence of the Holy Grail, despite all of the legends that revolve around it.

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Another legend states that Joseph was in England before he went with St. Philip; on this early trip, it is said that he might have taken Jesus to England as a teenager (BBC). Personally, I find this hard to believe. The Roman Empire was massive, and although they had a fairly advanced road system, a trip from Galilee to Britain would likely take several months.

Although Joseph of Arimathea may seem like an insignificant character in the Gospels, historically he played a very influential role in the spread of Christianity. Many legends surround his existence; while some may seem a bit unbelievable, others seem like they could very well be true.

Lord of the Rings Allusion

So instead of a blog on Luke this week, I decided that it was time for an allusion, specifically a Lord of the Rings one. LOTR is one of my favorite movie trilogies, and I’m *hopefully* going to start reading the books soon. In case you didn’t know, The Lord of the Rings is a book trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien and consists of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. If you haven’t read the books or watched the movies, or if you just want to brush up on the plot, here’s a musical summary of the trilogy:

 

Now, there are several ways that LOTR alludes to the Bible, some more obvious than others. For this blog, I’m mainly going to focus on temptation and the transfiguration.

Temptation                                                          

“One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them” – J.R.R. Tolkien

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The One Ring mentioned in this well-known passage is essentially all powerful, and has control over the other 19 Rings of Power forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. This ring has the ability to give the wearer an unnaturally long life, but unfortunately wearing/having this ring for too long has detrimental side effects, as we can see with Gollum:

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In The Fellowship of the Ring, the current owner of the One Ring, Bilbo Baggins, gives the ring to his nephew, Frodo Baggins. After learning of suspicious events occurring in Mordor, Gandalf entrusts Frodo with the task of destroying the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Along the journey to Mount Doom, Frodo, as well as his companions (specifically Boromir), are tempted by the ring.

The temptation of the ring begins in the movies when Bilbo is reluctant to leave behind the ring as he journeys to Rivendell to finish his book. It’s apparent in this scene that the One Ring has a negative effect on his personality, especially when Gandalf begins to insist that Bilbo leave the ring behind. After Gandalf assures Bilbo that he does not want the ring for himself, Bilbo finally relinquishes the ring and begins his journey to Rivendell. Later, Frodo is tempted to put the ring on his finger while hiding from a Ring-wraith. If Frodo gives in and puts the ring, he would be revealed to the Ring-wraiths, which would lead to his capture. Although not in this instance, Frodo does eventually give in to the temptation (multiple times), and as a result he eventually sees the Eye of Sauron, which is Sauron’s way of seeing where the ring-wearer (Frodo) is, along with alerting any nearby Ring-wraiths of his whereabouts. Boromir’s temptation by the ring occurs near the end of the movie, when he tries to convince Frodo to give him the ring. Boromir wants the ring so he can use it to restore his homeland, Gondor, to what it once was and to defeat Sauron once and for all. He even goes as far as threating to kill Frodo, but quickly realizes what he has done and asks for forgiveness, and ultimately sacrifices himself for the others.

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Just like Jesus was tempted during his forty days in the wilderness, Bilbo, Frodo, and Boromir, (along with many others), were tempted by the power of the ring. Each character faces the temptation in their own way, and has different results. As we all know, Jesus manages to resist the temptation, as does Boromir. For the most part, Bilbo manages to resist the power of the ring, although he does use it irresponsibly so he can end his 111th birthday/going away party with a bang. As for Frodo, he fails to resist temptation, and although he ultimately ends up destroying the ring, he must suffer the consequences, like when he is dealt an almost fatal wound by a Ring-wraith. In this series we can see how powerful temptation can be, even to those who have no desire of power.

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The Transfiguration

“And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” Luke 9:29

This verse really stood out to me as I was reading, especially since we had discussed the LOTR transfiguration in class Monday. During this scene from the Hebrew narrative, Jesus, along with his disciples Peter, John, and James, travel up a mountain and is recognized by the Protagonist as the chosen one. While on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, as seen in the verse above.

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Likewise, Gandalf the Gray also undergoes a transfiguration of sorts. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf sacrifices himself so the rest of the Fellowship can escape the Mines of Moria. As the group is trying to flee from orcs and a Balrog (fire/shadow demon) hidden in the mines, Gandalf turns and shouts “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” He then falls to what you would think would be his death as he battles the Balrog. However, in The Two Towers, he makes his return as Gandalf the White, with the purpose of defeating the other white wizard in the series, Saruman, who has become corrupt and is in league with Sauron.

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Both Jesus and Gandalf must go through a transfiguration in order to step into their full power and potential. For Jesus, it serves as a confirmation of who he really is. For Gandalf, it is proof that he is still needed in Middle Earth.

While there are several more allusions to the Bible in this amazing trilogy, these are the two main ones that seemed to really connect with what we’ve read so far. Like Jesus, Bilbo, Frodo, and Boromir all face temptation and must either overcome it or learn how to overcome the consequences of giving in. Gandalf and Jesus also must undergo transfigurations in order to step into their full potentials. It’s amazing how one book can have such far-reaching effects, even in this day.

(All specific information used in this blog came from The Lord of the Rings wiki)

Also, here’s a completely irrelevant and funny Legolas video 🙂