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The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth Paperback – October 31, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 169 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 1 edition (October 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664226108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664226107
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers and fans of J.R.R. Tolkien have long been aware of the Christian underpinnings of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Still, Tolkien has not been without his religious critics, including those who have read a fascination with paganism into the pre-Christian world of Tolkien's creation. Wood, a professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, responds to those critics with an academically sound retort of "Nonsense!" Acknowledging straight off that Rings is devoid of any traces of "formal religion," Wood offers countless pieces of evidence that support his analysis of the full-fledged, deeply Christian theology of the mythological culture of Middle-earth. And he does so convincingly. Even longtime fans of Rings who have never questioned the books' Christian elements will undoubtedly discover new insights, so rich is Wood's analysis of Tolkien's gospel. But be forewarned: This is not a book for the casual reader. Rather, it is a somewhat scholarly endeavor for those who want a more thorough understanding of the underlying themes that have made The Lord of the Rings novels, as well as Tolkien's other writings, such enduring treasures. Wood teases out those themes-life and death, good and evil, courage and cowardice, mercy and justice and of course, faith, hope, and love-to reveal the faith-filled nature of Tolkien's theocentric and sacramental, albeit fictional, world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Ralph Wood's The Gospel According to Tolkien will send readers back to Tolkien's work to see what they had missed, as well as to enjoy what they had seen before. --Mark A Noll, author of America's God; From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

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Customer Reviews

The book is very informative and easy to read.
Rosalinda M Haddon
This is why I stated that Ralph Wood's book is a good INTRODUCTION to the Christianity of Tolkien's books.
J. Colon
These later chapters deal with the themes of good and evil, and Tolkien's vision of the Kingdom.
Israel Galindo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 120 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have read a number of books that explore the themes of The Lord of the Rings. Some of these books have attempted to deal with alleged Christian themes in the story. Some of those books are ridiculously shallow and superficial. Others are quite insightful. Ralph Wood's book falls into the latter category - a very helpful and thoughtful exploration of the issues. [NOTE: The 1 star review by the person from NYC who could only manage to make it through the first chapters tells us more about the reviewer than the book].
Wood chooses to approach the material in a different way. His book is divided into five chapters, each of which centers on a major element in the Christian worldview: Creation, Evil, the Moral Life, the Redeemed Life, and final Consummation.
Using material drawn from the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion, and other less well-known stories, Wood examines the way that Tolkien handles these themes in the mythology of Middle-earth.
Contrary to what another reviewer below claims, Wood does not overstate his case, nor does he ignore passages in Tolkien's stories that might seem to contradict his thesis (this is particularly true in his handling of the virtue of hope).
The last chapter is especially interesting because it examines a little-known story buried in the multi-volume "History of Middle Earth" series (the specific volume is titled Morgoth's Ring) edited by Christopher Tolkien. This work entitled "The Debate of Finrod and Andreth" is set in the form of a debate between an elf and a human, and it contains a fascinating prophecy of the future incaration of Iluvatar (the one God of the Tolkien mythology) and the final eradication of evil and the renewal of all creation.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Israel Galindo on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
The plethora of books with a variant of the title "The Gospel According To ..." continues to fill bookshelves and entice the unwary buyer into reading some attempt to shoehorn popular culture into the biblical message. The earliest of this genre that I can recall was The Gospel According to Peanuts (still in print since 1965), after the popular cartoon strip by the late Charles Schultz. Being a confessing Christian, Mr. Schultz did on occasion openly present a Christian message through his syndicated strip-the most famous and endearing being the rendition by the blanket-hugging Linus of Luke's birth narrative in Schultz' animated Christmas television feature. Today we have our choice of The Gospel According to Dr. Seuz, The Gospel According to The Simpsons, The Gospel According to Harry Potter, The Gospel According to Disney, and The Gospel According to The Sopranos (I'm not making that last one up, really).

Ralph C. Wood, professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, has now added to that collection The Gospel According to Tolkien. It is arguably the only volume that can legitimately make a claim to that title, for as Wood ably demonstrates, Tolkien's corpus is implicitly, but authentically, Christian. Tolkien's Middle Earth trilogy has experienced a rediscovery, if not a revival, among a wider audience due to Peter Jackson's brilliant movie interpretation of The Lord of the Rings, so the timing of this publication could not have been more strategic.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. Colon on January 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
There are many books out there that are trying to Christianize works of literature and popular media these days. I am sure you have seen them. Books that claim you can find Christ in Harry Potter, The Matrix, and Star Wars. I think we can agree that in most cases these books are really IMPOSING Christianity on these works. But J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" is different. In "Letters", page 243, Tolkien himself states that the "Lord of the Rings" is a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work." These are Tolkien's very own words. He confirms the Christianity of his epic yet again on page 172 of "Letters" when he states that "The religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism." So, right of the bat "The Gospel according to Tolkien" is set apart from other books of the genre. Ralph Wood is not imposing Christianity on "The Lord of the Rings", he is exploring the Christianity that Tolkien himself integrated into his great work of literature.

Ralph Wood's book is a very good introduction to the Christianity of the "Lord of the Rings." He makes it clear that reading the "Lord of the Rings" with the eyes of faith will greatly enhance ones understanding of what Tolkien was doing in writing his great epic. The only problem for me is that Ralph Wood decided to write his book from an ecumenical perspective. The themes he explores in his book are those that are shared by all Christians. Now I realize that one can view this as a very good thing. But Tolkien was a Catholic, and the "Lord of the Rings" was deeply affected by his Catholic faith. So if one explores the Christianity of the "Lord of the Rings" without exploring the Catholicism of it, I feel we are left with a somewhat incomplete study.
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