Looking for a Messiah? - New Superman Movie "Man of Steel" Messianic Themes

In the time leading up to Christ, there were 70 or so would be Messiahs. Of course, most all of them were brutally struck down by the Romans (with no resurrection), proving that they were not the Messiah. Still, it is striking how many people clearly were looking for a Messiah in that time (and 70 or so were delusional, thinking that they were he).

The idea that Superman was a Messianic figure is not novel. A man from the heavens who is raised in a humble place (Kansas) by humble parents, who grows in his realization of who he is as he grows older, discovers his super powers, and saves the world against other world evil forces who rebelled against the authorities (General Zod).

Originally, however, Superman--a GI generation hero and creation--was as much of a veneration of the power and might of the United States (Superman was an American, after all) and humanity during a time of "can do" optimism. The original Superman was as much Super-American as it was Messianic.

But in watching the trailers for the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, it is striking to me how incredibly overt the Messianic themes are for Christopher Nolan's Superman--and how utterly human he is as well (despite his powers). Note:

  • He will be an outcast.
  • He is hunted: "You believe your son is safe?" General Zod screams.
  • He is filled with anger and doubt. 
  • He is the son of "Jor-El." El is the Canaanite and Hebrew name for God.
  • He will be a god to them.
  • He was sent to Earth for a reason.
  • He will give the people of earth "an ideal to strive towards."
  • In time they will "join you in the sun" and they will "accomplish wonders."
  • He will "save them [humanity] all."   

Obviously, the Messianic theme is in American culture due to the influence of Christianity, even if we are becoming post-Christian in this nation. And Israel in the first century and surrounding decades was looking for a Messiah due to the Scriptures. But she was also looking for a Messiah due to her oppression and hopeless situation.

This makes me wonder if we do not have within us some innate awareness of the need for a Messiah. And if perhaps this comes out during troubled times. If so, then the re-booting of the Superman series shows that this world is in trouble, and it needs a true Messiah/Savior, Jesus, more than ever.

What messianic themes do you see in Superman/"Man of Steel?" Do you think that the world today is worse off or better than when the first Superman debuted in the 1930s? The movies of the 1970s and 1980s?

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Comment by Phyllis Jane Ryser on June 7, 2013 at 10:30am

I strongly agree.  America and the world are looking for a Messiah to save them from evil.  Popular stories, movies, and art in any culture always reflect the views of the popular culture of the day.  It is a circle.  The artist (arthur, movie maker, sculpturer) manifest the thoughts flowing from a society and the people agree and follow. 

It is becoming more evident every day people want God and a Messiah. Today's paper has a story about how Norweigens, who live in the most secular culture in the world, caught many by surprize by the run-away popularity of a film called "Bibelen." Although the film, reportedly is "a non-traditional interputation of the Bible," Norweigens are demonstrating a strong desire to experience religion through art.  They are hungry to know about the Bible and God.  But they must be reached with non-traditional methods.

The same seems to be true in this increasingly secular American society.

How about a professionally, artistically produced movie depicting the real Messiah and the real meaning of man's Redemption and Salvation?  I can envision a movie depicting the Spiritual, behind the scenes drama of God (Jesus & the Holy Spirit) verses Satan as they struggle for the souls of men.  Wouldn't people want to know how they, as human beings, each fit into the plan of God's redemption?  Would they be awed to know about Jesus sacrifice for them?

Oh I know, you talk about that every Sunday morning, and the faithful, who already know the story listen attentively. If you want millions who have never heard the story to listen shouldn't it be put into a format they relate to? Most people will eagerly spend 2-3 hours watching a movie, but will not spend 20 minutes listening to a sermon.  That's no reflection on you or any other of the other wonderful Christian preachers and teachers who work so hard for the Lord.  It is just a  sign of the times and the way television and films have changed our way of life.

I would very much like to see Biblical movies and film clips of Bibical material available for teaching puroses. 


Comment by Tom Virtue on June 7, 2013 at 5:56am

Jor-el is his father, General Zod is the bad guy. I agree the country is looking for something even if most of us don't realize it on a conscious level. My prayer is that like Israel did so many times we will realize our need for God's guidance and turn back to Him.

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