In his introduction to Beowulf, the scholar Friedrich Klaeber explains the great Geatish warrior’s resemblances to Christ by concluding that “the narrative derived a superior dignity from suggesting the most exalted hero-life known to Christians” (li). Readers of another Beowulf scholar, J.R.R. Tolkien, have also noted echoes of that “most exalted hero-life” in his epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. However, answering the question “Who is Christ in Middle-earth?” isn’t easy: unlike his fellow Inkling, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien doesn’t insert a single, unambiguous Christ figure at the center of the narrative, like the Lion Aslan. Instead, Philip Ryken argues, what we find in The Lord of the Rings is “Christ … not [as] a single thread in the story but … deeply woven into the entire narrative fabric,” and visible particularly in images of His threefold messianic offices of prophet, priest, and king (3). By giving attention to these images of Christ in the Lord of the Rings, Ryken claims, we gain not only a deeper appreciation for our Lord but also for “the prophetical, sacerdotal, and regal dimensions of our own calling as Christians” (4).
In this episode of Christian Humanist Profiles, David Grubbs interviews Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, about his new book The Messiah Comes to Middle Earth: Images of Christ’s Threefold Offices in the Lord of the Rings (IVP Academic, 2017).