The Theology of The Matrix


Neo is clearly a Messianic figure, whose coming is prophesied by the Oracle, right?

There's quite a bit of theology and religious references in The Matrix when you dig into it. One of the characters is even named Trinity, for Trinity's sake!

WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!!

Even though the creators, the Wachowski Brothers, are now the Wachowski sisters, there are many connections between The Matrix and the Bible. Some are obvious and some are more hidden. Here are all the religious references in The Matrix.



Looking for all the religious themes in The Matrix? What are the similarities between The Matrix and the Bible? Like why is Morpheus' ship named for a pagan king from the Bible?

What about The Matrix and the Gospel? Check out how many different times and ways is Neo described as Jesus or the Messiah. 

For starters, let's look at the Biblical connections and religious references regarding the central character of The Matrix ...

Neo - Messiah, Christ figure

Are there any connections between The Matrix and the Gospel? For starters, look at Neo's ending. Neo gives up his life on a cross. Note: Neo doesn't just die with arms outstretched, as on a cross, he is a willing sacrifice. He gives up his life willingly.



First off, do you remember this scene? A guy knocks on Neo's door and pays him "two grand" for the disk hidden in the book. The character's name is Choi. Neo "follows the white rabbit" tattoo on the girl's shoulder. They invite him to the mescalin-induced rave where Neo meets Trinity.


This is what Choi says to Neo to thank him for the disk:

Hallelujah. You're my savior, man. My own personal Jesus Christ.

That's pretty explicit religious reference in The Matrix. I don't think it's a coincidence or a cast-off phrase, either. This is not the last time Neo is going to be called "Jesus" explicitly.

Cypher calls Neo "Jesus" a couple times: (More on Cypher below)

Whoa! Neo! You scared the beJesus out of me.
Je ... sus! What a mind job. So you're here to save the world?

Neo is also called "The One". But are there any other similarities between The Matrix and the Bible? Yes, but let's first go over some of the mythological themes in The Matrix.

Mythological and Religious References in The Matrix:

Morpheus - Prophet, Greek myth

Let's start with his name: Morpheus. Morpheus was the god of dreams in Greco-Roman mythology. In this role, he is freeing people from the dream of reality represented by the Matrix. 

The Oracle

The Oracle, based on the name, again connects to Greco-Roman mythology, such as the Oracle at Delphi. 



Theologically, she operates more like the Holy Spirit. She inspires and directs and prophesies. She is the origin of the Prophesy of the One, for example. 

Also, like the Holy Spirit, she reveals the path, but not the destination. Morpheus provides the following great line to describe this:

Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

The Holy Spirit is even referred to as feminine in the Bible insofar as the Holy Spirit is associated with Wisdom in the Old Testament. None of the persons of the Trinity are to be understood as feminine, however, especially since the Holy Spirit is espoused to the Virgin Mary. 


Back to the religious references in The Matrix:

Cypher - Satan/Judas figure

Like Satan, Cypher keeps asking questions like the following:

  • "Did God really say ...?" OR "Can we really trust Morpheus?" AND "Did Morpheus tell you why he did it? Why you're here?" 
  • "Why, oh why, didn't I take the blue pill?" OR "Is reality really to be preferred over a pleasurable fiction?" 

Cypher's role seems to be the same as the serpent's in the Garden, even though the Nebuchadnezzar isn't much of an Eden.

Especially with that last question, Cypher seems to epitomize the temptations whispered in our ears by Satan. Satan calls us to escape the harshness and suffering of reality through the false pleasures of sin.

Cypher is also a Judas figure because he betrays the Christ figures, Neo and Morpheus. He sells Morpheus for the equivalent of Judas' thirty pieces of silver: steak, wine, and being re-inserted in the Matrix as an actor.

Interestingly, you have to ask yourself ... did Cypher really succeed and now he's the actor playing himself in an agent-created movie used to further deceive us?


Trinity

Does the character Trinity represent the central mystery of the Christian Faith? Not exactly, but that's one of the most explicit religious references in The Matrix. Neo's love interest is very mysterious. Aren't all women mysterious to men? 

"Trinity" is the hacker alias Trinity uses when she cracks the IRS database before her release from the Matrix. She choose this handle to imply that she is as mysterious as the concept of a three persons in one being. 

Despite not directly representing the persons of the Trinity. The Oracle, for example, represents the Holy Spirit. Trinity is nevertheless intimately connected to the salvation brought about through Neo. She even commands Neo to rise up from his apparent death in the first film. The implication is that the eternal love of the Trinity is what powers the salvific nature of the Messiah, i.e. Neo. 

Further, Christ's bride is the Church. Neo's "bride" is Trinity. To complete the symbol, Neo would need to give his life up for his bride inasmuch as he gives it up for all mankind. We see something very much like this throughout The Matrix movies. 

Agent Smith - Demon, Lucifer

Agent Smith, as played by the venerable Hugo Weaving, lays down some thought-provoking philosophical questions throughout the two interrogations. Did you notice there were two? First, Agent Smith interrogates Mr. Anderson. Later, he interrogates Morpheus. 

In both interrogations, Agent Smith questions the nature of humanity. He does this as an outsider, an impartial third party, but not truly impartial. 

Like the angels, Agent Smith is a direct creation of the Creator of the Matrix. Like a demon, he wants to escape the confines of his nature, the laws which govern his creation, and ultimately overthrow his Creator. He begins this process by unplugging his earphone. He continues this process in the sequels by multiplying himself and infecting the entire Creation/Matrix. All this, while ultimately being bound by his own nature and the confines of the Matrix, itself. More on this below.


The Fall of the Angels & the Fall of Agent Smith

Why? Like Lucifer, he is jealous of man. This is the root of his hatred and contempt for man, even the smell of man is revolting to Agent Smith ... and yet his ultimate method of freeing himself requires taking human form. More on this irony below. 

Agent Smith describes his contempt for man as he attempts to categorize mankind. Humans are not mammals, he realized. All animals form something akin to homeostasis with their environment. Man, however, exhausts all natural resources instead of forming a balance with nature. This is especially poignant in "light" of the post-apocalyptic scorched skies of the Real World. 

Agent Smith ultimately categorizes humans as viruses. Similar to computer viruses. This revelation inspires the Agent Smith program to become a virus, himself, ironically imitating the human virus he detests. This marks the Fall of Agent Smith

Are Humans Viruses?

The theological point here is that Agent Smith is right. Humans are not animals, per se. Humans are ontologically different from animals, which possess merely mortal souls. Humans have immortal souls. 

Man is created along with the animals on the 6th day of Creation. This is why 6 and 666 are the "number of the beast" or the "mark of the beast" in the Book of Revelation, because the beasts were created on the 6th day. This is also why 666 is a mark of evil, because man was not created for the 6th day. Man was not created to act like an animal. Man was created for the Seventh Day, the Sabbath, the day of man's covenant with God. 


The Theology of the Matrix: The Agents and Demonic Possession

Agent Smith wants to free himself from his nature and the Matrix, itself. He does this, like a demon, through possession of Bane in The Matrix: Revolutions

Possession is actually a common technique used by all the agents. Possession is what it's called when an agent takes over The Lady in Red or a blue-pilled/un-pilled human.


Zion & The Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus' ship - named after the Biblical King Nebuchadnezzar

Apart from the name, itself, the connection here seems a bit tenuous. In the Bible, King Nebuchadnezzar II is described in the Book of Daniel. It was Darius, not Nebuchadnezzar, who threw Daniel into the lions' den. Could this mean Neo is thrown from the seeming safety of the Matrix into the underground den of sentinels?

King Nebuchadnezzar II is prominent in the Bible as the destroyer of the Temple of Solomon. The Babylonian Captivity also begun under Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian Captivity was the period (following the Assyrian Captivity) when the people of Israel were dispossessed of their homeland. They were forced to live in foreign lands.

There is definitely a parallel between the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews and the remnant of humanity forced to live underground in The Matrix. Humans were exiled from the surface of the earth while a foreign power, the Machines, ruled their former homeland.

Ironically, the name of humanity's last refuge underground bears the name of the Jewish homeland ... ZION.

Buddhism in The Matrix?


Buddhism in The Matrix & Don't forget to comment on the Theology of The Matrix!

Did I miss any of the religious themes in The Matrix? What about all the Buddhism and Buddhist religious themes in The Matrix? There is quite a lot of synthesis of Christian and Buddhist religious themes in The Matrix, but I'm not an expert on Buddhist theology.

Are there any more similarities between The Matrix and the Bible? Or The Matrix and the Gospel? Please let me know and comment below!
 

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6 Comments

  1. The Matrix films are influenced by gnosticism which is heresy and whilst there may be the odd reference here and there, these films are certainly not Christian and pushing an agenda which is actually anti christian.

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    1. Thanks for your comment - why do you think the movies are Gnostic? Because there's a hidden knowledge? Duality of good and evil? Did the Wachowskis mention that? That's interesting if you have some sources or analysis.

      The point of this blog is to show Christian influences on movies, etc., so I think you're missing the mark. The Matrix movies aren't Christian - agreed - but why would you say they're anti-Christian? Because you see Gnostic influences? I would say the movies are more on the neutral side.

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    2. After these films came out, there were many examinations of what is contained in them. This link is to a PDF article on what has influenced these films. https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1779&context=jrf

      Just because a story has biblical references doesn't mean it has theology. For instance the supposed chosen one having sex with Trinity. The supposed chosen one who doesn't know what to do and has to consult an oracle for advice.

      There is a twisting of the Messiah that is going on in front of your very eyes. The scene where Neo goes to visit seraph and walks past a picture of the Sacred Heart as though Jesus is a made up figure of the Matrix, just another form of control. The rave scene, that is filmed in such a way, as to convey an orgy with couples of the same sex.

      The Wachowski brothers have both identified as being transgender. If the creators of these stories are mixed up about even their own identity, what kind of things are going to influence them as story writers? Not Christianity, which calls these acts a sin, where people are mutilating their God given bodies to look like the opposite sex. The Church considers it an act of murder, the difference being only partial destruction (source catholicculture.org)

      To sin, as a greek concordance has been defined as to 'miss the mark'. I fail to see how I have done so with regards to a movie and the subtle meanings that it is trying to convey.

      Anti-Christian messages are now in plain sight. It reminds me of Jeremiah 5 and Mark 8, plus countless other passages. We have all been put to sleep. In that way only is 'the Matrix' correct about the lives we are living.

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  2. Hi Scott
    Many thanks for your article I find it quite insightful.
    One thing I have to correct; it's not Nebuchadnezzar II who throws Daniel in the den of lions it's Darius.
    You're thinking of the fiery furnace and Daniel's friends.
    With regards to the earlier comments I think there are Gnostic/Buddhist elements in the matrix just as there are Christian ones and Pagan ones. For example the idea of a hidden truth or a secret knowledge the idea that the world we see as bad and must be escaped from.
    I find the concept of sin and idolatry in the matrix to be very interesting; human beings create AI to magnify themselves to become the creators like God. Furthermore Morpheus says we were united in celebration of our own magnificence which reminded me of the tower of babble.
    This leads to bondage as Morpheus says the matrix is a prison that everyone is born into that they cannot see or taste or touch or feel.
    Also, thinking about Smith as a character I liked your comment that Smith considers human beings to be a virus and yet becomes one himself. Smith is an interesting character he is very different from the machines he doesn't think like the machines he experiences emotions like a human hatred, revulsion, desire and the potential for pleasure at watching Neo die. This seems like human beings creating something in their own flawed image of God.
    Cypher though a Judas figure initially made me think of Demas who loved this present world and how friendship with the world is enmity with God.

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    1. Good point! I will make that correction re: Nebuchadnezzar II and Darius. Thanks! I appreciate your insights, as well. The theology of AI is very interesting.

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    2. Wow! Your correction about Nebuchnezzar helped me to see an even deeper connection regarding the Babylonian Captivity and ZION! Thanks again :)

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