The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth: Images of Christ's Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings (Hansen Lectureship Series) By Philip Graham Ryken

Philip Ryken takes an in-depth look at the three main characters of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings as representing the Christ-like offices of prophet, priest, and king. It's a brief commentary broken into three sections of Gandalf (the prophet), Frodo (along with Sam as priests), and Aragorn (the king). Each section explores the biblical and historical definition of each office followed by examples of each Tolkienien character supported by passages in the books.

Ryken doesn't suggest a conscious or direct allegory on Tolkien's part of each character to the threefold of offices, instead he does states, If Tolkien is right, and Christianity is absorbed into his story, then we should expect to find Christ in many places--not allegorically but inherently... He makes the argument that Christ cannot and is not represented by any sole character in The Lord of the Rings, but can only be represented by many.

Probably my favorite character-focus was Gandalf. Gandalf is, prophetically, the beacon of truth throughout the story. Ryken discusses his foreknowledge and wisdom in Bilbo's pity of Gollum, which later changes Frodo and the fate of the Ring. Had Bilbo not spared him, and Gandalf not encouraged Frodo to take the same attitude toward him, the destruction of the Ring would not have occurred. More than telling the future--to whatever end--Gandalf sees the present in true perspective, and this too is a prophetic gift. Gandalf is crucial character in his wisdom, especially in his discernment of good and evil.

Ryken also goes into detail of the priestly sacrifice of Frodo and Sam; they gave up their lives knowing they might would lose them, for the good of Middle-earth. He also argues that Frodo's pity toward Gollum can be seen as a priestly virtue. Likewise with Aragorn, Ryken portrays him as the ultimate fictional representation of what the return of the real King will seem like. A rugged Ranger from the North rising to the task of ruling Gondor and Anor echoes images of Jesus, born in a lowly manger and being raised to the office of King.

Philip Ryken breaks down easily overlooked representations of biblical truths in Tolkien's work and gives them Scriptural background. My only criticism is the presence of so many passages applying his arguments to being a college president--it comes off a little exclusive and unnecessary. Overall, though, he does an excellent job of bringing to attention the integration of the threefold offices of Christ through Gandalf's wisdom, Frodo's perseverance, and Aragorn's love as an example for us to imitate. Kindle Edition In The Messiah Comes to Middle Earth, Leland Ryken explores how “the three central protagonists in The Lord of the Rings—Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn—offer us images of the threefold office of Jesus Christ as prophet, priest, and king. While Tolkien is clear about his disdain of allegory, Ryken shows that the connections to biblical truths and practical Christianity he sees in the novel are not forced upon the text but flow naturally from the pen of a practicing Catholic (Tolkien: “I don’t feel under any obligation to make my story fit with formalized Christian theology, though I actually intended it to be consonant with Christian thought and belief.”)

These real but sometimes “unintended” Christian themes are helpfully explicated by Ryken in these lectures with responses provided by others to round out the scholarship. The Messiah Comes to Middle Earth is a great example of Christian literary criticism and historical theology. Some parts (relating the text to university leadership, for example) and the responses were not as engaging to me, and I felt that the text became a bit repetitive, especially towards the end. But it is a fun read in general and well worth the time and effort.
Kindle Edition An extremely enjoyable, and surprisingly insightful, response/interpretation of Tolkien's magnum opus. As a huge fan of LOTR, I've read several books that are similar to Ryken's, and I found his clear, honest approach to be one of the most respectful. He emphasizes (rightly) that interpreting Tolkien's work is dangerous territory, as the author himself was famously and determinedly anti-allegory. But in so doing, Ryken lays respectful and nuanced groundwork for his own understanding of Tolkien's deeply Christian imagery, setting and characterization. I found his argument - that the prophetic, priestly and kingly biblical archetypes show up in Tolkien's characters - quite compelling. And more so, his explanations turned me back towards the original story with greater reverence and appreciation, not only for the rich symbolism Tolkien evoked, but even simply for the beautiful way he used language. Ryken's short chapters (once delivered as lectures) are replete with quotations from the original text, and they are soul-stirring. The chapter on the prophetic role of Gandalf is probably the best (in my opinion), though there are powerful insights to be found in every chapter.

This is an easy recommendation for fans of Lord of the Rings. Whether or not you consider yourself a Christian, Ryken's approach will certainly help you appreciate the deep ways in which Tolkien's imagination was shaped by the Christian story. Kindle Edition I enjoyed this book, largely because of my interest in Tolkien as well as messianic theology.

I have often thought about the prophet, priest, and king motif in the three primary heroic characters in LOTR. Gandalf and Aragorn were always quite clear to me, and I can see Frodo in a theologically priestly sense. It was a bit surprising, though, to see that the discussion of the hobbits focused primarily on the priesthood of believers rather than the priestly office of the Messiah. I understand that the priestly work of the Messiah makes possible the priesthood of believers, but the emphasis in this treatment of the priestly role seemed to detract a bit from the argument of the book, which is to focus on the threefold office of the Messiah.

Also, the format of the book sort of forced it to be quite repetitive in a number of places.

At the end of each section, there is a practical application that is primarily directed at the role of a college president. This seemed about odd since so few of the people who read this book will be college presidents.

In the end, there’s a lot of good stuff in this book. While it is been well documented that Tolkien clearly states that he disliked allegory, he also acknowledges that it was impossible to avoid including key elements of the Christian faith in the new world he created.

Kindle Edition A terrific mix of literary study, biblical theology, and church history. A great read for both LOTR fans and students of theology. Only downside were the “response” essays, which didn’t really add anything to the discussion and felt more like filler. Kindle Edition


summary ë eBook or Kindle ePUB ✓ Philip Graham Ryken

How can we grasp the significance of what Jesus Christ did for us? Might literature help us as we seek further understanding of the Christian faith?
Since at least the fourth century, with church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, the threefold office of Christ as prophet, priest, and king has served as one way for Christians to comprehend the gospel narrative of his life, death, and resurrection.
Another story that has generated much reflection is J. R. R. Tolkien s classic, The Lord of the Rings. It is well known that Tolkien disliked allegory. Yet he acknowledged that his work is imbued with Christian symbolism and meaning.
Based on the inaugural Hansen Lectureship series delivered at the Marion E. Wade Center by Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth mines the riches of Tolkien s theological imagination. In the characters of Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn, Ryken hears echoes of the one who is the true prophet, priest, and king. Moreover, he considers what that threefold office means for his service as a college president as well as the calling of all Christians.
Guided by both Tolkien and Ryken, things of first importance come alive in a tale of imaginary prophets, priests, and kings. The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth: Images of Christ's Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings (Hansen Lectureship Series)

Enjoyable read. A few critiques: Due to the three-fold lecture format, there was a good bit of repetition. Also, limiting the application to college president's was an odd choice, in my opinion. It would not have taken much more work to draw general leadership principles that would have been more widely applicable to his audience. I particularly appreciated the responses of Richter and Struthers. Kindle Edition Fantástico! Kindle Edition I found this book immensely enjoyable to read, but am giving it only 3 stars because I disagree with a major part of the premise and some of the conclusions that Ryken reaches. I enjoy Tolkien's Middle Earth books (I've read all of the major ones at least once, some several times), so I picked up this book by Ryken. The book itself consists of three lectures by Ryken, followed by brief responses. The format of the book was a little clunky; the responses added little to the overall topic. Ryken's lectures were fascinating and engaging, but I disagreed with some of his conclusions. Ryken compares the three main protagonists of the LOTR (Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn) to Christ's three offices of prophet, priest, and king. The comparison between Gandalf and the office of prophet works fairly well, as does the connection between Aragorn and biblical kingship. Where Ryken begins to stretch things, though, is in relating Frodo to the office of priest. There's not much to go on, so eventually Ryken tries to settle for the Hobbits portraying the priesthood of the believer. This comparison is still a bit much; in addition, it's entirely off topic for a lecture about Christ the great High Priest. Also, Ryken makes application at the end of each lecture to his own office as a college president, but application there seems either unnecessary or misdirected.

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed this book because of its engagement with Tolkien's literary themes. If you enjoy Tolkien, you will get something out of this book. I received a digital copy of this book for free from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are entirely my own. Kindle Edition Um deleite. Ryken nos leva de volta à Terra-Média e nos mostra como a cosmovisão cristã em Tolkien se derrama em três personagens que apresentam características dos ofícios de Cristo. Muito bem escrito, com ótimas citações dos livros de Tolkien e ótimas explicações sobre o entendimento bíblico e histórico acerca do ofício tríplice do profeta, sacerdote e rei Jesus. Kindle Edition Retornar à Terra Média guiada por Ryken me permitiu relembrar e refletir sobre algumas de minhas passagens preferidas, além de descobrir a riqueza de outras que, em minha primeira leitura da trilogia, passaram despercebidas.

(Achei as introduções aos capítulos um pouco repetitivas, mas não a ponto de me desanimar da leitura.) Kindle Edition