What parallels are there between Jesus and Superman?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

Several friends had told me how much they loved the new Man of Steel movie and commented about the many Christian themes present in the film. So I decided to drag my wife to the movie theatre last night and see the movie. It was definitely very different from the Superman movies I saw as a child. It was darker and had less humor, but contained a lot more action. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I too noticed some Christian themes in the movie. But in no sense do I think Superman parallels the biblical portrait of Jesus Christ, who He was, or what He accomplished.

In "Man of Steel," Superman's father is named "Jor-El" (meaning unknown) and Superman's original name is given as "Kal-El," which is explained to mean "of the house of El." Why is this significant? In Hebrew, the generic word for "God" is "El." "Kal-El" then essentially means "from God" or "of God."

Jor-El sending the baby Superman away from the dying planet Krypton was very reminiscent of the story of baby Moses in Exodus 2.

Superman's mom was worried that the people of Earth would hate Superman. Jor-El responded that he would be "like a god" to them and that he would give them "an ideal to strive for." This fits somewhat with one of the theories on the atonement of Christ, the "Example Theory." The Example Theory views Christ's life and sacrifice primarily as an example for us to follow. While setting an ideal to strive for is absolutely part of Christ's mission, it is not a comprehensive description of what He accomplished (see 1 John 2:2).

Superman reveals himself to the world at the age of 33, which is the age many Bible scholars speculate Jesus was when He died on the cross.

At one point, General Zod (the main villain in the movie) threatens to destroy the planet if Superman does not surrender. Even though he does not trust Zod, Superman agrees. In a sense, Superman sacrifices himself to save the world. Superman does not actually die, though, and thus there is no true sacrifice.

There is a comment by one of the villains that "evolution always wins," yet in the end, the "less evolved" individuals win the battle. The villains declare that a sense of morality is a weakness, yet it is his morality that gives Superman the strength to win in the end.

So, yes, there are definitely some Christian themes in the Man of Steel movie. Yes, there are some parallels between Jesus and Superman. But I did not find that the movie presented Superman as a Christ-figure. While he was willing to do so, Superman did not actually sacrifice his life to save the world.

Jesus "came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Superman is, in a sense, how a fictional superhero might follow the example Jesus set. If you go to the movie with that mindset, you just might find it enjoyable.

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Published 6-18-13