Top 10 Ways Superman is Just Like Jesus
“What?” We hear you say, there is no way the blue flying man with underpants issues is anything like Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of the World. We can see why you might think that as at first glance they are very different characters. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and worship him as part of the holy trinity. Filmgoers and comic book readers might enjoy reading about Superman and his adventures in the pursuit of ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’, they might even admire him but he is not worshiped.
If you go beyond the surface level, however, and look a little deeper you will see that there are a number of striking similarities between the two characters. Superman may not be God or even a god but he comes pretty darn close. How close? Well when you sit down and really think about it you would be surprised so to help you along the way here is our top 10 list of reasons why Superman is just like Jesus.
10Neither Superman nor Jesus are from Earth
Superman was born on the planet Krypton and named Kal-El. His father, Jor-El sent him to Earth to save him from the disaster that was about to befall their dying planet. At the time Jor-El specifically said that Superman would look human but his mother confirmed that ‘He won’t be one of them’. Jor-El later confirmed this to Superman during a holographic meeting when he told him ‘You have been raised as a human being, but you are not one of them’. Many of the human beings Superman meets during the course of his adventures acknowledge that he is something different including his adoptive parents, the other kids at his school and Lex Luthor.
Jesus was also not wholly of the Earth, although born to a human mother he is the son of God who, although he made humanity in his image is not himself human. Jesus himself acknowledge this when he said to his followers ‘ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.’
So Superman is from another planet and Jesus is ‘not of this world’, a striking similarity in origin!
9Superman and Jesus are both inexorably linked to a heavenly star
Superman escapes Krypton as a baby swaddled in blankets and laid in a manger-like space ship. The ship itself is made of many crystals set in a starburst pattern not dissimilar to the way that Christ’s halo is painted in some older paintings. As the ship travels through space it looks very like a Christmas star.
While Jesus did not travel to earth on a star (he was born from Mary a human woman) his birth was heralded by a wandering star. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Magi knew that Jesus had been or was due soon to be born because they had ‘seen his star in the east’ and the star ‘went before them til it came and stood over where the young child was’.
The similarities between the imagery are significant and show us that Superman is intended to be an allegory for Jesus, a savior for all mankind.
8Like Jesus, Superman hides his real identity
Jesus, grew up as the son of a humble carpenter, an extraordinary man hiding in a cloak of an ordinary life. He became a simple Rabbi but as time went on he started to perform ever more impressive miracles. Every now and then, however, in his early life something of his special nature shows through. At the age of 12 he visited the temple and the Rabbis there were amazed at his detailed knowledge of scripture.
Like Jesus Superman is raised by an ordinary human family, he goes to school and enjoys an ordinary life although at times he cannot help but show off and run faster than a train. When he grows up and starts to answer his calling to help humanity, his actions are frequently described as ‘miraculous’.
The similarities do not end there. Like Jesus Christ the son of God who appeared on earth as the carpenter and itinerant rabbi Superman hides his identity as Clark Kent. Just as Jesus was friends with the men who later wrote the Gospels, Clark Kent kept close company with journalists who wrote about the exploits of Superman. For both Jesus and Superman the alternative identities they chose were diametrically opposed to the reality. The humble carpenter was, in reality the Son of God and omnipotent and powerful beyond belief; Superman, capable of feats of unimaginable strength and intellect hides as the mild mannered, bumbling Clark Kent.
7Superman and Jesus were both brought up by a human family
While Jesus was the Son of God he was ‘incarnate of the Virgin Mary’ and was ‘made man’. He was brought up by his human mother and his stepfather, Joseph, who protected him from the wrath of Herod by escaping with the family into Egypt. He continued to care for the young Jesus, teaching him his trade until Joseph died, probably before Jesus started his work of ministry.
Like Jesus Superman was raised by a loving human family. Jonathan and Martha (the names are surprisingly similar to Joseph and Mary) Kent adopted Superman when they found him at the site of his spaceship crash. They loved and nurtured him during his childhood and Jonathan Kent, understanding that his son had special powers even told him that he had another father who had sent him to Earth ‘For a Reason’. Jonathan Kent dies of a heart attack before Superman truly comes in to his powers and destiny.
Both Superman and Jesus are nurtured and cared for by earthly parents. Their adoptive fathers die before they see their son truly develop their power and live up to the legacy of their biological fathers. Their human mothers watch as their sons grow, helping them understand their destiny and guiding them through life before seeing them grow into the divine/superhuman men they were always meant to be.
6Jesus and Superman share a mission to help humanity
This is one of the strongest similarities between the Man of Steel and the Son of God. Jesus came to Earth to fulfil the Hebrew prophecy of the Messiah, the name Jesus Christ is a literal translation into Greek from the Hebrew Jesus the Messiah. His birth and life fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. Jesus himself was aware of his divine origin from a young age. When, age 12, his parents chided him for worrying them for sneaking off to talk with the elders in the temple he told them “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’.
Jesus preached his message, not for his own self-glorification saying ‘I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seekth and judgeth’. His message was primarily concerned with divine love and the potential of redemption for all. He exhorted people to be aware of their own shortcomings and compassionate of the shortcomings of others saying ‘he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone’. He was also capable of being very angry when occasion demanded such as when he had to throw the money lenders from the temple.
Like Jesus, Superman has a mission to use his powers for greater good. His earthly father knows that he is put on Earth for a reason, when he is about 18 he travels to his Arctic Fortress of Solitude where he is able to meet with a holographic version of his biological father Jor-El who tells him all about his background and that he was sent to earth to be a light to show them the way to a path of good. Superman never seeks to use his powers for his own benefit but rather to help the people of Earth, he never seeks to make people feel indebted to him, instead he talks down his contribution and talks up that of others, for example when he delivers Lex Luthor to prison he tells the warden that they are all part of the same team’. Superman always keeps his promises even when they cause him personal pain, such as when he diverted the Hackensack missile as promised to Miss Tesmacher as opposed to saving his friends in California.
Like Jesus in the Temple Superman is capable of becoming and of showing his anger. He becomes particularly angry with Lex Luthor and chastises him in strong terms calling him a ‘warped brain’. His alter ego Clark Kent also exhibits many of the traits associated with Jesus such as when he turns the other cheek during a violent street mugging.
God cast the angel Lucifer (who later became the devil Satan) from heaven, at the start of the Superman origin story Jor-El is a key player in the decision to exile the three criminals (an unholy trinity) from Krypton and into the phantom zone.
5Superman looks and behaves like Jesus
In his superhero persona Superman dresses in a bright blue costume and Clark Kent likes to wear blue suits. The color blue is inexorably linked with Jesus and his human family. In paintings and in statues his mother, Mary, is almost always shown as wearing a blue dress. Blue is also seen as a heavenly color (because the sky is blue) and a symbol of purity. Most of the actors who have played Superman (and many of the actors who have played Jesus Christ or Christ like figures) also have blue eyes.
When Superman’s spaceship is found by his human parents he emerges from it and stands in the pose of Christ crucified, holding out his arms, not towards his new parents as a child might naturally do if they were looking to be picked up but wide to the heavens.
Jesus started his ministry at 30 years of age and spent a period of time in the wilderness. Superman travelled to the arctic wastes to use the crystal from his spaceship to build his fortress where he could communicate with and learn from the hologram of Jor-El. He spent 12 years there, emerging to begin his work on Earth when he was 30 years old. The training given to him by the holographic representation of his father is similar to Jesus receiving the guidance or ‘ministry’ of angels and the fact that Jesus was taught ‘things’ by his Father.
Jesus talks often of the relationship between him (the son) and God (the father) saying ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.’ In the most touching scene of the 1978 Superman movie, as Jor-El puts his son Kal-El into the spaceship destined for Earth he tells him ‘You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son. This is all I… all I can send you, Kal-El.’. The language is surprisingly evocative of the biblical relationship between Jesus and God.
Jesus, like God has Satan as his nemesis, Satan was originally known as Lucifer whose name sounds very similar to Lex Luthor, arch nemesis of Superman.
When faced with crowds trying to hold him up Superman is able to escape by flying away or drilling through a pavement. The Bible tells us that Jesus passed through crowds that were trying to prevent him from completing his ministry.
4Superman’s real name is reminiscent of God
Superman’s real name Kal-El means ‘Star Child’ in the Kryptonian language. Jesus’ arrival was heralded by the arrival of a travelling star and he was known as the ‘bright and morning star’, Lois Lane calls Superman her ‘Friend from another star. The name for God in Hebrew is El which is used in the names of both Superman and his Kryptonian father Jor-El.
Jesus was the Alpha and the Omega while Superman can only be tracked by alpha wave detectors. The Superman films are full of characters who make holy references when they meet Superman, a taxi man who sees him drill through the street exclaims Gee (slang for Jesus) and a train driver faced with a collapsed track calls out ‘Holy Mackerel’ summoning assistance shortly before Superman arrives to save him.
Jesus has (at least) three names, his earthly name, Jesus, his divine name of Emmanuel which can be translated as ‘God With Us’ and his title Christ meaning Messiah. Superman also uses three names, his earthly name of Clark Kent, his Kryptonian name of Kal-El and his superhero name – Superman.
3Superman’s ability to fly evokes Jesus’ ability to walk on water
One of Superman’s most obvious super talents is his ability to fly. This enables him to move from place to place very fast and to complete amazing feats of rescue. This skill is very similar to Jesus’ ability to walk on water. Jesus allows his disciple Peter to walk with him on the water but Peter starts to doubt Jesus and sinks into the water, Jesus stopped him from sinking. When Superman takes Lois Lane flying she also slips and starts to fall before he grabs her and holds her safe.
2Superman brings people back from the dead
During his ministry Jesus saved three people by bringing them back from the dead, the Widow’s son, Jarius’ daughter and, perhaps most famously, Lazarus. Jesus himself dies but is brought back to life three days later in the resurrection. He tells his followers that those who believe in him will never die but will have eternal life.
Like Jesus Superman is able to bring people back to life although he finds it a little more difficult. When Lois Lane is killed in the Californian earthquake, a distraught Superman flies into space and performs a number of very fast west to east orbits in order to reverse the planet’s spin. This enables him to turn back time just enough to enable him to save Lois.
1Like Jesus, Superman died and was resurrected more powerful than before
Annoyed by Jesus’ ministry which they saw as undermining their position and teachings the leaders of the Jews brought Jesus before the court and tried him. Jesus knows his fate and at no stage tries to escape. The Jewish leaders petitioned Pontius Pilate to permit his death by crucifixion and he was subsequently forced to carry his instrument of death to the hill of Calvary where he was crucified with two common criminals. After he died, Joseph of Arimathea and a number of female followers including Mary and Mary Magdalene arranged for him to be buried. When the women went to his tomb on the third day they saw that he had been resurrected and ascended into heaven. It is believed that in the time between his death and resurrection that Jesus descended into Hell.
Superman goes willingly to meet with his nemesis Lex Luthor and when he refuses to participate in Luthor’s plans he is swathed in a chain of kryptonite and thrown into a swimming pool (reminiscent of the Christian tradition of baptism). The kryptonite leaches all his powers and prevents him from breathing underwater. Superman is only saved by the intervention of Miss Tesmacher, a fallen woman (reminiscent of Mary Magdalene) who drags him from the pool and removes the kryptonite from around his neck. It is only after his resurrection that he is able to accomplish his most significant feat yet by reversing time and saving the life of Lois Lane.
Even more significantly the comic book version of Superman dies in the story Death of Superman after battling Doomsday before returning in the later comic Reign of the Supermen. Although he was initially weak following his resurrection his powers subsequently grew.
There are other parallels between the deaths and resurrection of Jesus and Superman. When Jesus died the veil of the temple was torn in half and the area around Jerusalem was shocked by earthquakes. When Superman dies the nuclear weapon that hits the San Andreas fault sets of a spectacular earthquake. After he is brought back to life Superman has to literally descend into the hell fires of the fault to save California from a catastrophe of tremendous proportions.
After Jesus has revealed himself to his followers he leaves them and ascends into heaven. After saving his friends from the potential disaster in California Superman also bids them farewell and flies off into the heavens.
So, on reflection there are a number of surprising similarities between the life and death of Jesus and the story of Superman. Is this a co-incidence?
Superman’s Christ like parallels go back even earlier than the films. He was created in the 1930s by two Jewish comic book writers who saw him as the embodiment of a ‘Super Jew’. Even his home planet Krypton was named to sound like ‘Tikkum Olam’ the Jewish concept of restoration of wrongs.
The script for the original Superman films was at first designed to be a modern take on a Greek tragedy. The film director, Richard Donner asked for changes in the script. At the time the film was released he denied that these changes were to bring in parallels to the life of Christ, possibly because he received death threats as a result. Some years later, however, he admitted that the film was an allegory with Jor-El sending his ‘only son’ to Earth in the same way that God sent Jesus saying that Jesus was ‘The Ultimate Super-Jew of his day’.
Whether you are a Christian who believes that Jesus was divine, the son of God and therefore more than human or someone who believes that Jesus was no more than a real life character around whom an extensive myth has been constructed it is not hard, when you know where to look, to see the parallels between the story of Jesus and the story of Superman.