The gospel of John begins:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (King James Bible)
This “Word” or the Greek, “Logos” refers to Christ and this passage is used as the primary evidence for the Trinitarian interpretation of God in the Bible. The Trinitarian (mainstream) interpretation holds that the divine essence of God is composed of the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When we consider the Gospel of John in interpreting the music of the Ainur in the Ainulindale, parallels between the cosmogony that Tolkien has given the Elves and the gospel’s opening lines become apparent. The influence of the Christian trinity on Tolkien’s cosmogony can be seen in the plural nature of Eru (“The One”) or Iluvatar (“All-Father”). The Ainur are extensions of Eru’s divinity. The line, “…and they were with him before aught else was made,” (Morgoth’s Ring; pg. 8) in particular seems to directly parallel the second clause of John 1:1 which refers to Christ’s existence alongside the Father. To suggest that Tolkien intended to imply that Iluvatar shared divinity with the Ainur is not my point here. Instead, I am merely revealing the Christian nature of Tolkien’s cosmogony and positing that he drew inspiration from the Gospel of John. There are significant differences. The Ainur are on a different hierarchical level than Eru and he has dominion over them. Furthermore, they arise from Eru rather than simultaneously with him. They are aspects of Eru and cannot comprehend the full purpose of his creation.
Iluvatar has created the Ainur and uses them as the instrument through which he expresses his theme: the music of creation. Like in Genesis, creation is brought about through speech. This is not to say that the music of creation and God’s creative process in Genesis are analogous. This is not the case. In Genesis, God goes about creation by literally saying what was to be, while in the Ainulindale Eru uses his Ainur to give create through music. However, the inherent divinity of the voice is important to note, particularly given the dearth of biblical allusion and almost complete absence of religion in Tolkien’s legendarium. Tolkien’s choice for creation to be a musical act is significant because it sets the character for the nature of Arda. It is sets his creation apart from our world. The implication of music is beauty, mysticism, and purpose and this is reflected in the nature of Middle-Earth, especially with regards to the importance of prophecy in the narrative (From Iluvatar's purpose in creation and the vision of creation of the Valar to Boromir's dream).
Iluvatar and the Aiunur are, if not distinct entities initially, are at least so after they enter into Arda as the Valar. They then, unlike Christ, cannot fully share the divinity of God/Eru. Furthermore, this act of entering into Middle-Earth in corporeal form cannot be compared to the manifestation of Christ on Earth. The Valar are not the saviors of humankind (Elves and Men) and predated their creation by Iluvatar. The fact is that there is no analogue to this in the Christian Bible. Tolkien’s cosmogony is not allegorical to the Bible, but that he was influenced by it is unarguable.
It is, though, entirely possible to take pieces of the Ainulindale and find comparable pieces in Genesis and the Gospels. The two lights that the Valar create in Middle-Earth are similar to the light that God calls forth in Genesis, but they are thrown down and the comparison, there, fails. Valinor is almost like Eden in that it exists as a paradise in Middle-Earth, but the Children of Iluvatar are not native to there, and so it cannot be like Eden. These comparisons almost never bear out, and the difficulties that one runs into when making such comparisons are the same as those that one runs into when trying to fit Tolkien’s narrative into the scheme of World War Two.
There does seem to me, at least, to be one enduring comparison. How similar is Melkor to Lucifer? The story of the fall of Lucifer, while not in the Bible, seems to have had a heavy influence on how Tolkien conceived of the creation of evil in Middle-Earth. Both Lucifer and Melkor were powerful servants of the God of their universe. Even the reasons for their fall are similar. Lucifer was jealous of man and believed that the angels should have dominion over him. While his fall precedes the creation of man, Melkor sought greater influence in the act of creation and dominion over the other Ainur. The parallel is most apparent when Tolkien writes, “…he desired rather to subdue to his will both Elves and Men, envying the gifts with which Iluvatar promised to endow them; and he wished himself to have subjects and servants, and to be called Lord, and to be a master over other wills.” (Ring of Morgoth; pg. 12) Both Melkor and Lucifer are jealous of creation and of the gifts given to humankind. Both are forced to retreat from the world by an alliance of their peers (Lucifer by Michael and the other archangels and Melkor by the Valar). Both are referred to differently after their fall; Melkor is thereafter Morgoth and Lucifer: Satan. This cannot be coincidence.
Here we see that, while Tolkien’s cosmogony is merely inspired by the themes in Genesis and John, the conception of evil in both the Christian and Elven cosmogony is the same. Their acts are different, and they are not of wholly the same nature, but the undeniable similarities cannot be unintentional. Tolkien chose to make Morgoth satanic in nature. He is the corruptor of creation and strives against its perfection; much like Satan does in the Bible. It is curious how Tolkien’s Christianity and his characterization of his own work as “Catholic” manifests most strongly in the villains of Middle-Earth; and I would ask if there isn’t some other, good counterpart to this manifestation that I have not considered yet.
Does this take me too close to looking for allegory?