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Theology of Superman: Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Justice League

    In this post you will learn

The recent reboot of Superman - Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Justice League - has really upped its references to Jesus. There are so many Biblical allusions to the Messiah. Some are oddly specific ... as if somebody really knew what they were talking about.  

Also, all the typical atheist arguments come from the mouth of Lex Luthor, the criminal mastermind and arch-villain. Finally, the BAD guys are saying the BAD things. Lex says the following, for example: "I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful." (... so spake the serpent)

So, here is a list of all the Messianic and Jesus references in Superman: Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League

Please comment below with any that I missed! Thanks!

Interested in the Theology of Superman? How about the Theology of all the Sci-Fi in the Galaxy? I have written the following book to cover exactly that. The Theology of Sci-Fi covers Star WarsDune, Asimov's Foundation Series, The MatrixSuperman, and the classics of science of fiction:

References to Jesus and the Messiah in Superman: Man of SteelBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League

Let's start off with some of the references on the "surface" (ha, that's an Aquaman reference):  

The Names of Superman: Kal-El

Superman has many names: Clark Kent, the name he is given by his "earthly" parents; Superman, the name he is given by the world; and Kal-El, the name he is given by his "heavenly father", Jor-El. 

Jesus also has these three categories of names. He is named "Jesus" by his earthly parents, "Christ" by the world or Israel, and He provides his proper name "I AM", the name of God (e.g. Exodus 3:14; Mark 14:62; John 8:58-59). 

What's interesting is that both Father and Son are named for God. "El" is a Hebrew word meaning "God". "El" means "god" in basically every ancient language of the Middle East. 

But what about the full Trinity? What about the Holy Spirit?   

The Trinity of Superman: the Holy Spirit

Both Father and Son, Jor-El and Kal-El, are described with the "El" epithet. That's two members of the Christian Trinity. So, where is the Holy Spirit? 

The ghost of Jor-El, Superman's father, is alive in the Kryptonian scout ship. As General Zod says, the hologram ghost of Jor-El contains his memories and conscience, almost a living image of the Father. Here is Jor-El, as played by Russell Crowe, actually talking about salvation:

Jor-El's "ghost" is also shown in Superman's "Fortress of Solitude" from the 1980s Salkind Superman movies, here played by Marlon Brando:

Superman and Jesus are Omnipotent

Superman's powers are vast and almost god-like. Superman's powers are on another level from the rest of the Justice League, too. 

Jesus is God and is, therefore, all-powerful or omnipotent, though He refrains from using these powers publicly, except on rare occasions, such as when He walked on water or multiplied the loaves and fishes.

Just as Jesus refrained from using his powers publicly, so, too, Superman keeps his identity and power secret. Or tries to. More on this to come ...

Baby Superman: Incarnation, Miraculous and Moses-like Birth

The Incarnation of Superman 

Superman is sent to earth from the heavens to live as a human man, like Jesus. Jesus is fully man and fully God. Superman is, of course, neither. He is fully Kryptonian, but the Kent family gives him something akin to a human spirit, if not ontologically. 

Superman also has close kinship with Earth's yellow sun. It gives Superman his power. Jesus, the Son of God, is frequently associated with the "sun", as well. 

The Miraculous and Pro-Life Birth of Superman

Superman's birth may not have been miraculous, but it was certainly unique. General Zod accused Superman's parents of "heresy" for procreating naturally: 

General Zod: What have you done? 

Jor-El: Krypton's first natural birth in centuries. And he will be free, free to forge his own destiny.

Zod: Heresy. Destroy it.

Krypton had instituted selective and eugenic-like breeding policies long ago. These policies sound similar to China's "one child" policy

All the children on Krypton, except Kal-El, were genetically engineered to a pre-determined purpose and thus artificially created through artificial insemination. 

General Zod even uses religious phrasing to condemn the natural birth: heresy. Again, the bad guy is saying the bad things, unlike most movies. Natural birth is truth and orthodoxy, as opposed to the heresy of artificial insemination.  

General Zod as King Herod ... and Pharaoh ... and Satan

Note how General Zod finds new purpose in killing the baby. It is a purpose which will propel him on a journey across the stars. This is much like King Herod who searched for Jesus. Herod slaughtered the innocents of Israel to find and kill the baby king, Jesus.

General Zod is also the Satan figure. Zod is the angel who was cast down or exiled from Heaven (Krypton) for making war in Heaven. St. Michael the Archangel, however, would be the general of heaven's forces, not Lucifer.

Superman Set Adrift Like Moses

Jesus is, of course, the new Moses. Moses was set adrift in the river by his mother to save him from Pharaoh's order to strangle the babies of the Hebrew slaves, for they had become too numerous. Moses was found and adopted by new parents and raised as their own. 

Likewise, Superman is set adrift in the universe to be saved from the destruction of Krypton, as well as the pharaoh-figure, General Zod. Super-baby is also adopted by new parents, the Kents, and raised as their own.

This makes sense since Superman's original creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were Jewish. Here's an article from FoxNews making this exact point: 

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created their iconic comic book hero Superman in 1938, their character wasn’t just a representation of “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” but for many, a metaphor for Jewish immigrants in 1930s America. Created by two young Jewish men, Superman was an allusion to the Jewish faith and history, from his baby Moses-like origins to his golem-esque invincibility, to his outcast status, and his ultimate struggle to assimilate in a new land. 

Superman is like Moses and Adam: the Skull Codex

This may be the coolest connection between Jesus and Superman in all of Man of SteelBatman v. Superman, and Justice League ...

Jesus wasn't just the New Moses. Jesus was also the New Adam. Adam was the forefather of the entire human race by blood, likewise Jesus, by his blood, redeems the whole human race. 

Remember the skull that Jor-El steals from Krypton? 

That skull is the Kryptonian citizen registry growth codex (or simply the codex). The skull was the remains of an ancient Kryptonian that contained the potential genetic information of all Kryptonians. The skull bore the genetic blueprint of the entire Kryptonian race.

It was the skull of the Kryptonian Adam! The codex was to be used in conjunction with Kryptonian GENESIS chambers. Yes, Genesis, as in the Book of Adam and Eve. 

The Codex held the genetic attributes of all artificially incubated infants before their inception. Jor-El stored all the Codex's information in the body of Kal-El, the last known survivor of Krypton. 

... Therefore, Superman was the New Adam of Krypton, just as Jesus is the New Adam of the human race. This is an amazingly deep connection between Superman and Jesus. 

One more thing ... 

There is also a connection between Jesus and Adam's skull. Where was Jesus crucified? Golgotha, the "place of the skull" in Hebrew. Mt. Calvary, or "skull", in Greek. Whose skull was it? 

... It was ADAM's skull!

For the full explanation of the connection between Jesus and Adam's skull, I have written this article:

Similarities in the Life of Superman and Jesus

The Age of Superman

What is the age of Superman when he begins his "public ministry"? 33 is the age of Kal-El when he performs his first public miracles. Of course, that's not the age Jesus began his public ministry, but the year of his crucifixion. 

Jesus' public ministry likely lasted three years, so 30 would have been the more Jesus-like age, BUT a lot of things happen in Man of Steel. Superman basically begins his public ministry and gives up his life all at 33, so it still works.  

The Hidden Years of Superman and Jesus

Superman, like Jesus, had a Messianic secret. Jesus often implored people to keep his gifts of healing and his Messianic mission a secret. Take the following the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8:

"Who do men say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Eli′jah; and others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." And he charged them to tell no one about him.

Likewise, Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner below, told young Clark to keep his powers a secret. Jonathan Kent, below, is telling Clark not to save him from the oncoming tornado. Superman's foster father dies to protect Superman's Messianic secret. 

Speaking of Jonathan Kent ...

Superman's St. Joseph: Jonathan Kent, His Adopted Father

Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), Clark Kent’s adoptive father, is like Jesus’ adoptive dad, Saint Joseph. Both foster fathers are tradesmen. Saint Joseph is a carpenter. Jonathan is a farmer and a mechanic, working with his hands (and reminding me of Field of Dreams). 

Superman’s ship or flying "manger", if you will, is even kept in the Kents' stable.

By the time of Jesus' public ministry, we no longer hear about St. Joseph. As in the case of Jonathan Kent, many Biblical scholars believe that St. Joseph has already died. 

Jesus and Superman are both the Salvation of Mankind

Both of Superman's fathers, Jor-El and Jonathan Kent, talk about Superman's salvific mission and destiny. Here is Jor-El speaking about this in Man of Steel:

Here is another quote from Jor-El on the salvation to be wrought by Superman:

You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Jonathan Kent speaks to how Superman will lead humanity to new heights by his example, as well:

You're not just anyone. One day, you're going to have to make a choice. You'll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, he's going to change the world.

The Justice League and the Apostles of Jesus; Batman as Saint Peter

The Justice League is like Superman's apostles. Superman's powers are extraordinary, even among the Justice League. 

Batman, of course, is the one who actually goes around gathering up the other meta-humans, like Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman. Batman, however, speaks of Superman in Messianic terms. 

Batman is like St. Peter, gathering the Church together after the death of Jesus (and the death of Superman).

Aquaman is even a "fisherman" of sorts like Saints Peter and Andrew. Of course, he also wields a trident like Poseidon, even made from the "Poseidon metal", as we are told in the Aquaman movie. This makes a connection between Superman and Zeus. 

Similarities in the Deaths and Resurrections of Superman and Jesus [SPOILERS]

The Sacrifice (Passion) of Superman

Superman is always being called on to sacrifice himself, as Jesus did on the Cross. There are several moments through the Man of SteelBatman v. Superman, and Justice League when Superman is depicted in a cruciform or cross-like posture: 

[SPOILER ALERT] Superman wields a spear against Doomsday. Conversely, a spear is used to pierce the side of Jesus on the Cross. 

Both Jesus and Superman and Resurrected

[SPOILERS] After Superman's death in Batman v. Superman, the Justice League resurrects Superman using the "Mother Box" in an amniotic chamber aboard the Kryptonian ship. Jesus is also resurrected, obviously, but by the power of God, not his friends. 

Superman does a number on his friends after his "Pet Sematary" Resurrection:

There is a giant burst of energy following Superman's resurrection. This is similar to the giant burst of energy that created the Shroud of Turin when Jesus was resurrected and still laying in the tomb. 

Here's a link to the Catholic Nerds Podcast when we talk about the huge amount of energy required, even by today's terms, to create the image on the Shroud of Turin:


Some Last Notes on the Superman Jesus Connections:

Superman and the Bullies

The Gnostic Gospels, written long after the actual Gospel, depict Jesus striking down a bully and then healing him. I believe something like this is also depicted in the Protoevangelium of St. James

Superman is Catholic 

From FoxNews article: "When things get tough, Clark Kent seeks advice from a priest. Visible in the background is a large painting of Jesus so you can see Supes and Christ side-by-side."

Jesus and Superman's Doomsday

Jesus' Second Coming will coincide with Armageddon or "Doomsday". Also, one of Superman's chief villains is "Doomsday". This is the Lex Luthor-created "big bad" of Batman v. Superman.

General Zod Admonished Like St. Peter 

Jesus admonishes Saint Peter after Peter cuts off the ear of the temple servant Malchus: "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword". Likewise, Jor-El says to General Zod:  

You've taken up the sword...

...against your own people.

Did You Notice Anything Else? Any More Connections Between Jesus and Superman in Man of SteelBatman v. Superman, and Justice League?  

Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading. 

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  1. You may have to check me on this, but in the original screen run of Batman vs. Superman, Superman is killed (with a spear) while lying in cruciform. In the background were three girders standing on a hill, all in the form of crosses (much like the 9-11 cross at the WTC rubble pile). I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw this, knowing that this was a scene of Superman's self-sacrifice on behalf of mankind, a direct allusion to Jesus. I shared this with my kids on our way home, along with many of the points you bring out. However, on the DVD version we later watched, those three crosses were not there. Thanks for your work on this.

    1. Whoa! That's awesome. Please do email me if you find a screencap of that. scottsmith 81 at gmail.